Are you overrun by Candida?

Itchy, scratchy, and annoyed with the useless over-the-counter offerings? Experts recommend natural routes for resolving the situation and remedies that work.
Crossed-legs lady
Candida can make you wanna be cross-legged

Yes, we’re going there.

If you get back-to-back yeast infections, some practitioners and books on the topic may have you believe you’re as full of yeast as a loaf of bread, preaching that Candida albicans—which naturally exists in our bodies—can seep into your intestinal walls and suffuse your entire body.

But according to Deborah Coady, MD, an OB/GYN at Soho Obstetrics and Gynecology and clinical assistant professor at New York University Langone Medical Center, this theory is completely false. “The only time a total body infection really happens is if somebody is immunocomprised, in which case it’s a very serious, life-threatening condition,” says Coady. Phew!

Still, Candida overgrowth is a very real condition, usually caused when the body’s healthy bacteria is wiped out by antibiotics or other medications (including steroids, antacids, and even birth control pills). And it can often crop up in the gut, bringing with it such unexpected symptoms as gas, bloating, fatigue, and—why not torture us completely?—skin problems.

How to get rid of a yeast infection

Truly ridding yourself of the problem can require more than just an over-the-counter treatment, says Sarah Cimperman, ND, a naturopath practicing in Manhattan. You do have to increase the immune system, she says, and look at how the person is coping with stress. “But also key is ensuring the digestive system is functioning properly—is your pancreas making enough food-digesting enzymes, for example. And maybe even more important, making sure you have healthy levels of other bacteria.”

To knock out candida, Cimperman often prescribes an average of three months on a yeast-free diet—avoiding sugar, grains, dairy, and alcohol—while reintroducing healthy bacteria with probiotics, in order to rebalance your system. (Cimperman likes HMF from Seroyal, but any that contain at least 1 billion bacteria or CFU per serving should do the trick.)

Natural remedies that work

If a yeast-free diet sounds too difficult, there are other natural treatments that help: Caprylic acid, Pau d’Arco, olive leaf extract, and even fresh garlic cloves (thread them and wear them like a tampon), which all have anti-fungal properties. (We know a woman who’d nuke her panties in the microwave on the off chance that machine-washing them wasn’t enough.) One of us here at Well+Good swears by tea tree suppositories (available at health-food stores) and a glass or two of aloe water for flare-ups.

But before you start on a regimen you might want to consult a physician. As Dr. Coady says, “Everything that itches is not necessarily a yeast infection.” —Nina Pearlman

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