24 February 2010

Understanding Candida: Finding A Healthy Balance

 
Today I'd like to address Candida, a topic I see bandied about on many raw food blogs and forums. But first, a story. So grab yourself a green smoothie, get comfortable, and gather 'round.

Once Upon a Time...

It was pretty much always assumed in my family that I would enter into medicine. From the time I was a wee one, anytime I was asked, "What are you going to be when you grow up?" my response was always: A cowgirl and a healer. (Although sometimes I would say, An archeologist.)

After completing my undergrad, I went to work for a large health care system. And rather quickly became disenchanted with allopathic medicine. Surprise.

Enter Hanna Kroeger. Hanna was a 74-year-old spitfire with sparkly eyes and a German accent. She was a master herbalist and a healer, in every sense of the word. Someone had brought her into town and I attended her all-day workshop. She would become my teacher as I traveled back and forth to her Peaceful Meadow Retreat in Boulder, Colorado for further study.

Hanna believed and taught that we are ultimately responsible for our own health and that we each have the ability to heal ourselves given the right tools. I still refer to a number of her books regularly — God Helps Those Who Help Themselves, Ageless Remedies From Mother's Kitchen, Instant Herbal Locator, Heal Your Life With Home Remedies & Herbs. Each one a treasure, if you can get your hands on a copy.

Meeting Hanna was the beginning of a journey that would eventually lead me to study traditional healing methods with indigenous elders on four different continents over a period of twelve years.

Quite an unconventional life path. I guess you could say I grew up to become a cowgirl, an archeologist and a healer. *wink*

So Let's Talk Candida

Candida albicans is a fungus and it's present in everybody. In small amounts it's harmless, but when its growth increases drastically it can be devastating. The imbalance of excess candida is called candidaisis and it's an epidemic in our very SAD (Standard American Diet) culture. Sadly, it often goes unrecognized and untreated.

Candidaisis may be one of the primary causes of ill health and obesity today. It creates a rapidly downward health spiral as it becomes prevalent in the body.

The candida fungus releases wastes into the bloodstream that have a profound effect on  both the nervous system and immune system. Common symptoms and complaints include:
  • cravings for sweets, alcoholic beverages, carbohydrates
  • excessive allergies
  • skin rashes
  • chronic acne
  • vaginal infections
  • depression
  • food sensitivities
  • exhaustion
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • memory loss
  • obesity or excessive weight loss
  • gas and bloating
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • tender, swollen breasts
  • earaches
  • numbness
  • multiple chemical sensitivities
  • PMS
  • leaky gut syndrome

Balancing Act

In a healthy body, the friendly bacteria in the intestines compete against fungi to maintain a healthy balance. Antibiotics, birth control pills, cortisone and foods containing antibiotics – factory farmed meat, poultry, dairy – kill the bacteria population, upsetting the balance and allowing the candida to grow unopposed.

Unfortunately, the typical medical approach to alleviating many of the complaints listed above usually begins with administering more antibiotics, which just makes matters worse.

If any of those symptoms I listed are jumping out at you, you feel addicted to sugar, crave breads or other carbohydrates, chances are you're being affected by candida and it would behoove you to modify your diet.

Sorry to say, candida and fungi thrive on sugar, carbs and fermented foods. So, while trying to cleanse the body, it's best to avoid:
  • Sugars
  • Beer and wine
  • Vinegar
  • Pickles
  • Cheese
  • Mushrooms
  • Bread
  • Coffee
  • Dairy products (contain lactose, a milk sugar)
  • Acid-forming foods (fungi thrive in an acidic environment)
This change in diet is not simple. Cravings for sugar and carbs are extremely strong in someone with candida overgrowth, and may overpower any controlled approach to eating. This is why when folks write me to say that they "are addicted to cooked foods" and "keep falling off the raw wagon," I tell them that you have to eliminate the refined and processed foods from your diet first.

You're probably thinking, "So what can I eat?" Foods to include are:
  • Fresh vegetables (raw or lightly steamed)
  • Leafy greens
  • Sea vegetables
  • Unprocessed, cold-pressed oils
  • Coconut water
  • Raw almonds
For you omnivores:
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Eggs, lean meats and poultry (free of antibiotics and growth hormones)
After a few weeks or so, you may slowly add fresh fruits to your diet. Fruits must be eaten alone and on an empty stomach. You can also add in whole grains like brown rice, millet, amaranth, and yeast-free breads.

To have a successful candida cleanse, it's important to cleanse first and then rebuild healthy flora. Trying to rid the body of fungus and rebuild flora at the same time is counter productive because the bacteria do not stand a chance in the acidic environment the fungi create and the fungi just feed off the bacteria.

It's best to reintroduce and build healthy flora immediately after cleansing. There should be no gap between cleansing and rebuilding, otherwise the candida is likely to come back. One of the best ways you can rebuild healthy bacteria is by eating raw cultured vegetables – and lots of them. I talk about their benefits and how to make them here.

Helpful Herbs

Hanna Kroeger began working on candida in the early seventies, before anyone else acknowledged the issue. Her approach, as with all of her work, stemmed from hands-on experience with many thousands of people.

Realizing that fungi thrive in an acidic environment, Hanna's herbal formulations employ the use of bitter herbs to stimulate the production of bile and neutralize the acidity of the digestive system. She also liked to use blood purifying herbs to help clear the blood of toxins from fungi and candida. Hanna felt that it was important to supplement probiotics after cleansing to rebuild flora in the intestines to rebalance the body.
 

The Kroeger Herb® Candida Kit contains two bottles of Candida Formula #1™ (condurango bark, red clover, yellow dock), two bottles of Candida Formula #2™ (tansy, clay, milkweed, cramp bark, goldenseal leaf, blessed thistle), and one bottle of Taurin Dolphilus™ (acidolphilus, taurine). The Candida Kit addresses candida overgrowth by first cleansing the candida for four weeks to create an environment suitable to rebuilding the friendly bacteria, which keeps candida under control.

A Giveaway!

The lovely folks at Kroeger Herb® have graciously offered to send a Candida Kit to one TWO lucky readers of In The Raw.

So, here's the scoop:

You have until Midnight Sunday (EST), February 28th, to enter. I'll employ Mr. Random Number Generator to choose two winners and I'll announce those fortuitous folks here on Monday.

All you have to do is:

1. Visit Hanna's Herb Shop, browse through the many articles listed until you find a topic of interest. Leave a comment on this post, telling me something you've learned. Simple. (Note: if you receive In The Raw by email, please do not respond to me via email. You must leave a comment on this post or your entry will not be counted.)

Extra Entries: If you'd like to increase your chances of winning, please leave a separate comment for each extra entry. (If you do not leave a separate comment for each entry, Mr. Random Number Generator will not count you. He's funny that way.)

2. Follow me on Twitter AND tweet the giveaway with a link to this post (please include your Twitter ID in the comment). You may tweet once each day from now until midnight Sunday, so that's actually 5 additional entries! You may snag these tweets if you like:
  • Craving Sugar & Carbs? You May Have Candida - http://twurl.nl/pyvfjk - Win a Kroeger Herb Candida Kit from @rawliving
  • Understanding Candida: Finding a Healthy Balance - http://twurl.nl/pyvfjk - Win a Kroeger Herb Candida Kit
  • Woot! @HannasHerbShop & @rawliving are teaming up to fight Candida ➤ Win a Kroeger Herb Candida Kit:http://twurl.nl/pyvfjk
3. Blog about this giveaway and link back to this post (please leave the link to your blog post in the comment).

Thanks for entering and good luck! 

UPDATED 3-1-10: This giveaway is now closed.


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