New Supplement and Lifestyle Tactics to Control Candida Levels Naturally
Candida is like us - it enjoys sugar.
Candida diets focus largely on removing sources of sugars and carbohydrates from the diet to “starve” the fungus - allowing healthier bacteria to increase their levels.
Candida killing protocols use medication or botanicals to physically kill the fungal cell, to detach the roots attaching the Candida to the intestinal lining, or to disrupt biofilm where the cells may be hiding.
Both of these strategies can be effective in the fight to rid the body of excessive levels of Candida, but as we learned in Parts 1 and 2 of this series, they often bring unintended consequences - and many times the eventual rebound of Candida overgrowth.
So how do you maintain healthy Candida levels naturally without using starving or killing strategies?
You control spikes in sugar availability.
The Importance of Glycemic Variability
To control Candida levels naturally, I focus on a concept known as Glycemic Variability (GV).
GV refers to how often you are spiking your blood sugar (glucose) throughout the day, and how efficiently your body can handle your sugar and carb intake - even if you’re skinny or if your diet is generally healthy.
Any time you spike sugar - it has to go somewhere. The body sees a spike in glucose as an immediate stress that must be dealt with before anything else. The body will use up energy to turn the fat into triglycerides, which then get stored as fat - often in the belly region. This is often why you get tired after a big meal like Thanksgiving.
You likely exceeded your carbohydrate tolerance - and the body is funneling its energy resources to turning the excess carbs into fat.
But eating sugar in excess also does something else - it feeds Candida.
The normal levels of Candida in your gut will feed on the excess sugar available. This leads to a bloom of Candida levels - which is associated with fatigue and inflammation.
What happens when you feel stressed and tired? You tend to eat comfort foods rich in carbohydrates - so it creates a vicious cycle of inflammation, stress, and disordered hunger signals.
This means that the same strategies that are used to support insulin sensitivity - and blood sugar management - happen to have supportive research against Candida too.
Two of my favorites include Berberine extract and Gymnema sylvestre.
Berberine is an alkaloid extract from herbs such as goldenseal, Oregon grape, barberry, and a few others.
Berberine is known for its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties - and more recently has been shown to be a great modulator of blood sugar.
Metformin is a common blood sugar drug that many have turned to as a long-term, anti-aging strategy. While metformin helps control spikes in blood sugar from a medical perspective, some research questions long term use due, in part, to its effects on key B vitamin levels.
I choose to take a berberine supplement prior to meals instead of metformin as a long-term anti-aging strategy. I take 500mg three times a day, using this strategy to help minimize glycemic spikes from carbohydrate intake.
By taking Berberine, you get a direct anti-Candida benefit, coupled with a reduction of glycemic variability following meals.
If that wasn’t enough, berberine may also work as a prebiotic - boosting levels of short-chain, fatty acid-producing bacteria in the gut (1).
While many companies now offer a berberine supplement in their catalogs - I most commonly use Berberine by Integrative Therapeutics.
Gymnema sylvestre is one of the most well-studied herbs for natural blood sugar management. It’s active gymnemic acids, along with a host of other plant chemicals, helps improve many measures of blood sugar control.
Gymnema has been shown repeatedly to help reduce sugar levels, boost insulin sensitivity, promote regeneration of the pancreas, and control sugar cravings between meals (2)
With improved blood sugar control - fewer “free” sugars are available to fuel Candida growth.
Research that plant polyphenols, like those found in Gymnema, also support mucosal health, inflammation, and have primary and secondary prebiotic effects in the gut (3).
They also help control Candida levels naturally, by inhibiting the growth of fungal roots and, as a result, reducing Candida virulence (4).
In separate analysis, Gymnema flavonoids were shown to strongly inhibit Candida albicans growth (5).
Because Gymnema supplements are most commonly known for their blood-sugar enhancing alkaloids - clinicians are pigeon-holed into thinking this is the only use for the plant.
The second highest group of active compounds found in Gymnema is its flavonoids - a subset of plant polyphenols which are being increasingly recognized for their positive effects on the gut microbiome.
The flavonoids in Gymenma are behind the direct anti-Candida benefits, which work alongside the blood-sugar enhancing benefits of the alkaloids.
More benefits will be appreciated by further investigation into this amazing herb and its unique chemical constituents.
Gymnema is often used in blood-sugar formulations. I like using it on its own too, so that I can isolate some of its unique benefits affordably in combination with personalized protocols.
I turn to Gymnema sylvestre by Pure Encapsulations.
Lifestyle Tactics to Reduce Candida Growth Naturally
You can control glycemic variability without relying on supplements. Here are some of my favorite strategies.
Exercise Bursts Prior to Eating:
30 seconds of exercise prior to a meal (such as jumping jacks, bodyweight squats or push-ups) is a quick and easy strategy to jumpstart your sugar metabolism.
The burst of exercise depletes your immediate sugar reserves - and your body looks to replenish this supply immediately. When you eat your meal, your body will first use any carbohydrate intake to efficiently replenish these reserves.
When at home and in more socially acceptable situations, I will do 30 seconds of exercise.
I am not too shy to do a quick round of squats in a restaurant bathroom prior to eating.
It may be weird - but the metabolic stress from eating is very real, and it’s an easy anti-aging strategy that I can do in private without fear of public judgment.
I like the new, non-flushing form of Niacin known as Nicotinamide Riboside or TruNiagen as an all-around metabolic support to minimize some of this metabolic stress.
It is well-researched and is being used by biohackers like myself to support healthy aging and protect brain health (6).
For larger meals, I will take a dropper of Bitters directly in my mouth or in a small glass of water to help optimize my glycemic variability. Yes, these can be the same bitters used in cocktail drinks - but a variety of options exist in the marketplace.
Bitters get the gears of metabolism churning by boosting the release of gastric juices - and they’re easy to use at home or bring with you to a restaurant. A few flavors are available and I enjoy the Orange Bitters by Herb Pharm the most.
Practice Intermittent Fasting Most Days of the Week
Intermittent fasting also helps prime your body’s insulin sensitivity - and will allow you to metabolize your food more efficiently in your eating window following your 12-16 hour daily fast.
You can be skinny and have a generally healthy diet - but blood sugar spikes from cheat meals, high-carbohydrate diets, and a high-stress lifestyle can still mean metabolic stress and occasional battles with Candida overgrowth.
Find Hidden Sources of Carb-Overload in Your Diet
I see carb-overload in healthy individuals who may have recently transitioned to eating gluten-free and dairy-free.
While eating gluten-free bread, pasta, and rice may not be causing an inflammatory response - they can still throw off glycemic variability when over-consumed.
Active individuals may still experience a lot of stress from work or over-exercise - and may have hidden issues with blood sugar management that will not show up on blood tests without deeper investigation.
I might see fasting sugar in the high 70’s or low 80’s in these individuals...or even in the 95-105 range. Not enough to trigger a conversation with their medical doctor - but enough for me to bring it up as “yellow flags”.
Often these individuals are prone to “hypoglycemic” episodes and may binge-eat, consume copious amounts of coffee, have trouble focusing, or feel they can get away with some unhealthy choices because it’s “gluten-free”, "dairy-free", or marketed as healthy.
These are the same individuals that may suffer from Candida overgrowth - which only acts as a multiplier to their fatigue, mental fog, inflammation, and gut irritability.
I believe these spikes in glucose - more so than the total glucose content - are closer to the root cause behind Candida overgrowth than anything else.
It is the spikes of sugar, from diet and stress, that quickly turn normal levels of Candida into its more pervasive and virulent forms.
Stress Management and Candida:
Stress management is more important for promoting healthy Candida levels than you might think.
First, stress suppresses the immune system - making it less equipped to deal with overgrowth naturally.
Second, stress hormones negatively influence blood sugar management.
Someone who is stressed out can be prone to “hangry” episodes, where they’re more likely to stress eat and their bodies are less equipped to handle spikes (or drops) in sugar optimally.
Meditate for at least Five Minutes a Day
Meditation sounds like too fluffy of a strategy to make a difference - but it has hard evidence behind it that says it can keep us balanced and reduce impulsive behavior.
Meditation practice is a staple, keystone habit for some of the busiest and healthiest people on the planet.
Some of the most successful people in the world routinely credit meditation as the most important part of their day.
It took one small piece of research to jumpstart my meditation practice. The insight came from reading The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. (which I’ve re-read three times and I listened to the audio version too!).
Dr. McGonigal describes how a meditation practice of five minutes a day for eight weeks significantly reduced the incidence of “impulsive behavior”.
The findings resonated with me.
Impulsive behavior underlies all of our bad habits.
We want to exercise, but we watch TV or Youtube instead.
We know we need to write that article, but we spend 30 minutes on social media.
We know the salad was a better choice, but we binge on the burger and fries.
Meditation boosts our willpower reserves. Think of willpower as a battery reserve - and meditation is the charger.
If five minutes a day can drastically reduce this root cause to 90% of our problems and boost our willpower reserves significantly, sign me up!
I hope the insight motivates you to give it a try.
Try Headspace or Calm. I find Headspace is more appealing to analytical minds and Calm to be more appealing to those who like more of s spiritual or musical relaxation. I have used both as I like the variety.
The immune and gastrointestinal systems function optimally when we’re more relaxed. Blood-sugar control and Candida growth inhibition are no exceptions.
Meditation has stood the test of time as the best strategy to get your stress back under control.
Stack Anti-Candida Strategies for Combined Benefit
I love the concept of “stacking” in the nutrition world.
By combining anti-Candida strategies together, you can often make 1 + 1 = 3+.
- Use antifungals like monolaurin and undecylenic acid and a carbohydrate-limiting diet over the initial 30-90 days.
- Add probiotics like Megasporebiotic, RestorFlora, and/or TruFlora to crowd out yeast naturally.
- Take advantage of Berberine and/or Gymnema sylvestre prior to meals to optimize glycemic variability and insulin sensitivity.
- Use digestive bitters and 30-second exercise bursts right before eating to boost the ability to process dietary carbohydrates.
- Practice intermittent fasting to optimize metabolic efficiency and enhance the gut microbiome.
- Use meditation for as little as five minutes a day to control stress and minimize impulsive eating. Try Headspace or Calm.
Five minutes of deep breathing where you exhale for double the amount of time of your inhale (ex. 4-second inhale, 8-second exhale) can be a great substitute - and something that can be performed safely during the AM or PM car commute. Start with five breaths, and work up to more.
- Read The Willpower Instinct and check out more of my Book Recommendations.
Go beyond a Candida protocol with Total Gut Restoration, share your information for full details and a special offer.
In Part One, I discussed the problematic nature of a long-term starvation approach to Candida overgrowth.
In Part Two, I discussed how to avoid some of the problems with a long-term killing strategy for Candida overgrowth.