What you think is a normal reaction to your hyper-busy life may actually be signs of something bigger

By Valerie Berkowitz, R.D.
April 18, 2013

Many women are unfortunately familiar with fatigue, recurring sinus infections, irritability, and a stuck scale. You may blame it on anxiety, allergies, stress, or bad genes-but it could be something else.

Candida albicans-tiny yeast organisms like fungi and mold-may seem harmless, but yeast overgrowth (YO) packs a powerful punch and is responsible for issues that affect almost every body system. While vaginal infections are readily ID'ed, when yeast is prevalent on the skin or in gut and mouth flora and the symptoms are more general, it is not as easily diagnosed. After all, how often do you feel moody or depressed, lack focus, or suffer from headaches, post-nasal drip, rashes, or eczema that won't seem to go away?

It's not totally your fault: The environment we live in creates a breeding ground for yeast overgrowth. A weakened immune system due to the overuse or misuse of antibiotics, steroids, and antibacterial soap; use of birth control pill, chlorinated pools, and Jacuzzis; and a high-sugar, high-carb diet can all trigger yeast to get out of control.

Are You Suffering from YO?

While the symptoms may be a first hint of YO, there are a few methods to identify yeast.

A simple way is to look in the mirror and stick out your tongue-if you see a white plaque, it might be YO.

Or try a spit test: First thing in the morning, before you do anything else, get a clear glass and fill it with 8 ounces water. Spit in it, wait about 10 minutes, and look inside. Healthy saliva floats; if you see strings or cloudy specks or your saliva sinks, something is not right.

If you suspect yeast overgrowth, see your doctor and consider asking for a diagnostic candida test. There are a few labs (such as Genova Diagnostics and Immunosciences) that specialize in this, but these tests are not foolproof and can provide false positives and false negatives. The accuracy can increase, however, if you also do a stool test.

No Quick Fix

Taking a probiotic containing more than 5 to 10 billion live cultures on an empty stomach and using an anti-fungal (such as caprylic acid, oil of oregano, or tea tree oil) to kill the yeast can help restore balance between the good bacteria and the candida albicans. If you have trouble with digestion, you may want to also try a digestive enzyme or add a greens drink to help support the detox process.

Dietary changes might also help. Because yeast multiply in an acidic, moldy or fermented, and sugar-laden environment, it's best to avoid foods that have these characteristics, including:

  • Acidic: Anything with caffeine
  • Moldy: Peanuts, cashews, pistachios, mushrooms, cheese
  • Fermented: Vinegars, pickles, miso, alcohol, cheese
  • Sugar: Starches (potato, bread, cereal pasta, pretzels, anything made from flour), processed meats (bacon, sausage, lunch meats), most fruits, dairy

And to keep good bacteria going strong, try incorporating the following foods in your diet:

  • Organic, hormone-free (if possible) meat, eggs, kefir, butter, mozzarella cheese, cheese cream cheese
  • Fresh or cooked salad-type vegetables (all lettuces, tomato, cucumber, celery, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, edamame)
  • Limited fruits (berries, avocado, olives, lemon juice)
  • Some grains (oats, millet, brown rice, spelt, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth)
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Cold-press oils (virgin coconut, olive, safflower, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin seed, macadamia, almond, flax) and ghee
  • Water (with or without lemon and lime)
  • Tea (peppermint, ginger, cinnamon, clove, chamomile, Pau D'arco, licorice, lemongrass)
  • Tomato juice or V-8

No Quick Fix

As the yeast relinquish control and the healthy bacteria gain power, you may get flu-like symptoms that occur with the die off. Taking Tylenol may help relieve headaches, fatigue, and muscle aches, all of which should last no longer than a week. Within about three to six months you will feel and look better than ever as the symptoms subside and you shed the excess weight for good.