by Carmel Reid, Somerset, UK
We can suffer from a number of different fungal infections in our bodies and two that are prevalent are ‘Thrush’ and ‘Athlete’s Foot’.
Many women experience occasional bouts of a common yeast infection known as vaginal thrush, caused by Candida albicans yeast (a single-cell fungus).
It causes itching, irritation and swelling of the vagina and surrounding area, sometimes with a creamy white cottage cheese-like discharge.
Vaginal thrush is fairly harmless, but it can be uncomfortable. It can also keep returning – this is known as recurrent (or complicated) thrush.(1)
We can buy creams over the counter at a pharmacist that help to suppress the symptoms, but my question is: Does it get rid of the underlying cause?
You can also get oral thrush: oral thrush is a yeast infection in the mouth. Symptoms of oral thrush include sore, white patches in the mouth, an unpleasant taste in the mouth, a burning sensation affecting the tongue and problems swallowing. Oral thrush can affect people of all ages, including adults with weakened immune systems.
Candida albicans is one of the ‘normal’ flora that live in our gut, but becomes a pathogen if there is a disruption in the balance of microorganisms in your gut. This balance of ‘gut flora’ is a crucial part of your immune system and digestive health, but it can easily be lost during periods of stress or after a course of antibiotics. When this balance is lost, the colonies of Candida albicans are able to expand rapidly until they involve a large portion of your gut, overwhelming the other flora and causing disease.(2)
If you’re wondering why a few extra pathogens in your gut are such a big problem, let me explain. Candida albicans releases up to 79 different byproducts, including uric acid and a powerful neurotoxin named acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde causes chronic headaches and brain fog, and was recently classified as a potential carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Uric acid can cause joint pain and lead to gout if an excess builds up. Meanwhile, the change in your gut flora can lead to digestive problems, food intolerances, yeast infections and oral thrush.
Another yeast infection is ‘Athlete’s Foot’.
Athlete’s foot is a rash caused by a ringworm fungus (tinea) that appears between the toes or on other parts of the feet.
The affected skin may be itchy, red, scaly, dry, cracked or blistered. It’s not usually serious, but should be treated to stop it spreading to other parts of the body or to other people. Treatment usually involves pharmacy-bought creams, sprays or liquids and good foot hygiene. The medical name for athlete’s foot is tinea pedis.(3)
Generally speaking, if you visit your doctor and Thrush or Athlete’s Foot is diagnosed, there will be a medical solution offered. There is no link made to the foods we eat and yet, eating fungus or yeast is a prime culprit, as is eating foods containing sugars, including starchy foods and alcohol, and many people who stop eating certain foods find that the symptoms disappear permanently.
Of course, a change in diet for some people will be too tough a challenge, so they will prefer to use the medication, and that’s fine, but let’s explore here what food groups some of those changes include.
Years ago when I suffered from these conditions, I was stressed but also eating a lot of marmite, sugar and bread, all yeasty foods. I was also drinking alcohol and taking a food-based vitamin B, which contained yeast.
I had painful cracks between and underneath my toes and was embarrassed by the vaginal discharge. I was visiting a natural therapist at the time and she recommended the ‘Candida Diet’, which meant cutting out alcohol, honey, and fruit as well as sugar. An effective Candida diet involves cutting out as many sources of sugar as possible, whether they are natural or added.
Amazingly the symptoms disappeared within 2 weeks.
When, a couple of years later, I again had symptoms, I approached my GP to confirm the diagnosis and he looked puzzled when I said, ‘Ok, time to change my diet again’.
I find it strange that such a simple solution is not known about or promoted by the medical profession – could it be that they don’t want to tell patients to stop drinking alcohol or eating sugar?
It has been over ten years now since I have had any kind of fungal infection. Two things have changed:
(1) I have taken care to develop a less stressful lifestyle and
(2) My diet no longer includes yeast.
I avoid alcohol, refined sugar, bread, honey, rice, starchy vegetables. I still eat some fruit but mainly green apples and blueberries.
Is it worth it? Well that depends on whether you would rather indulge your taste senses for a moment or two, or live with a healthy, vital body that does not itch, smell or discharge!