Is it possible to treat Candida with fermented vegetables? I believe so, as fermented vegetables contain a host of benefits! Candida is an overgrowth of fungus in the human body, usually in the digestive system and intestines. It’s a type of yeast that occurs naturally in the human body, and co-exists with the microflora of our intestines- basically, as long as they’re in balance, we are healthy. I’ll explain how to treat it, but first we need to know why the overgrowth occurs and how to identify it.
Why does an overgrowth of Candida occur?
This usually happens because the microflora of our body has reduced and Candida finds more free space to occupy. Some factors that lead to such an imbalance are antibiotics, some types of birth control and corticosteroids. The fact that we’re pasteurizing our foods and so often use chemicals to speed up fermentation processes doesn’t help either, as it kills most of the enzymes that could keep Candida growth under control.
The reason Candida needs to be treated is that, if left to grow, it can cause a wide range of symptoms and weaken the immune system, leaving us more vulnerable to the attacks of other diseases.
Symptoms to identify Candida overgrowth:
- digestive issues
- irrational behavior
- chronic fatigue
It’s important to note that Candida can be even more dangerous for people with autism and Attention Deficit Disorder.
There’s a natural way to deal with Candida and that involves vegetables and lactobacilli. It’s called lacto-fermentation and is the process of starting a culture of microflora on vegetables. The main bacilli present in lacto-fermentation are acidophilus and plantarum. The microflora feeds from the sugars found in the vegetables. The lactobacilli are partly digesting your vegetables for you, as they break down the sugar and starches. As Candida feeds mainly from sugars, the lacto-fermented vegetables are not very appetizing for it. The reason is that the lactobacilli have already used the sugar up, to fuel their own growth. Simply put, by eating foods rich in microflora you’re re-establishing the balance of beneficial bacilli with Candida.
Benefits of Fermented Vegetables
The consumption of fermented foods has many benefits, apart from treating Candida. For example, the microflora that lives in cultured (fermented) food, once ingested, creates a protective lining in the intestines and shields it against pathogenic factors (salmonella, E.coli, etc). It also leads to an increase of antibodies and a stronger immune system. It’s also a good choice for pregnant and nursing women, as it is a great way to transfer enough beneficial bacteria to the baby.
Fermented vegetables can help with weight loss. They regulate the appetite and they reduce the cravings for sugars and refined carbs, such as white bread and pasta. This is an extremely beneficial feature for people with type 2 diabetes, as it helps -with proper diet- eliminate sugar spikes.
The fermentation of vegetables is also a great way to preserve them for a longer period of time. It’s easy to understand that, if you look at how much longer yogurt and cheese last, in comparison to milk. And yes, they are cultured versions of it! Sauerkraut, the fermented version of cabbage, for example, can last for months in the fridge. This gives you the option to make a large batch of it and have a ready-to-eat dose of microflora at your disposal for a very long time.
If you’re new to the consumption of fermented vegetables, there is the danger of being overenthusiastic about it and this can lead to another type of imbalance. If you experience gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation and you have in general an upset digestive system, you might be overdoing it. You can start with half a cup of fermented vegetables per day, and built up from there.
It’s important to make it clear that “lacto-” in lacto-bacilli is short for lactic acid and does not imply that dairy has been used. Thus, vegans and lactose intolerant people can consume lacto-fermented products. In fact, for sauerkraut, the only ingredients you need is cabbage, salt and patience.
Other Natural Ways to Treat Candida
Eating foods with anti-fungal properties can help keep Candida growth under control, such as:
- coconut oil
- foods in omega 3 fatty acids
All these can help you keep a balance in your intestines. Also olives and olive oil can be helpful, as they contain a chemical compound called oleuropein which doesn’t allow Candida to thrive.
Foods to Avoid
As a general rule, to keep Candida population in check, you have to make sure that you stay hydrated, consume plenty vegetables, nuts, healthy fats such as coconut oil, foods with probiotic cultures and gluten free grains, such as quinoa. Stay away from soft drinks (!), foods with yeast and glutenous grains. Don’t forget that Candida loves sugars and starches and avoid honey, syrups, processed sweets and foods with additives.
Action Steps to Fight and Prevent Candida:
1. Avoid sugars, grains, yeast and gluten. Drink plenty of water and eat lots of raw vegetables and healthy fats (salmon, coconut oil, nuts).
2. Try a fermented vegetable recipe (My friend Jenny at Nourished Kitchen has some great fermented recipes here)