Dysbiosis, or an imbalance in the gut flora is one of the main causes (and effects) of the multitude of digestive disorders that are becoming the “norm” these days. Although many different issues can result from this imbalance, a fairly common disorder is the overgrowth of Candida Albicans. Candida is a type of yeast that although naturally occurring, can soon overpower the healthy bacteria in the body. This imbalance typically stems from a poor diet, sluggish digestion, toxic accumulation, and lowered immunity.
Once this yeast overgrowth begins, it is crucial to eliminate the causes of the flora imbalance and restore the bodies natural defense system as soon as possible. Without treating the Candida from its root source(s), one will likely be pacifying symptoms with little to no longterm relief. Therefore it is important to really evaluate the areas that will need to be shifted and utilize a well-rounded healing protocol that involves one’s diet, lifestyle and herbal treatment.
According to Ayurveda, all disease is initially caused by a weakness in the digestion which then results in the accumulation of undigested food (aka toxins) in the system. These toxins clog our vital channels which further hampers the digestion, eventually creating various diseases throughout the body. When it comes to Candida, weak digestion and toxic accumulation lead to a depletion of the good bacteria in the GI tract along with a weak immune system, which then creates an ideal environment for the Candida.
Of course there are other factors that can lead to this flora imbalance. Here is a list of some of the main causes for Candida overgrowth.
Common Causes of Candida Overgrowth
- Sluggish digestion (aka Manda Agni)
- Toxic accumulation
- Excessive Kapha in the system (this is the main dosha involved although other doshas can be simultaneously involved as well)
- Poor diet high in sugar and refined carbs
- Low immunity, depleted Ojas
- Excessive use of antibiotics
- Chronic stress
- Poor sleep habits
- Imbalance in pH levels
- Birth control and other medications
- Excessive alcohol intake
Candida will have different signs and symptoms depending on where the overgrowth is occurring and where the weak spaces (aka kavaigunya) of the body may be for each individual. If you suspect Candida but are not 100% sure, you may want to request a testing to verify your theory. This can be done through blood, urine, and/or stool samples. In the meantime, here are some of the more common symptoms to look out for.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth
- Digestive issues (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, etc)
- Weight gain
- Thick white coating on the tongue (often won’t scrape off with tongue scraping)
- Intense sweet cravings
- Oral thrush
- Recurring yeast infections and UTIs
- Chronic fatigue
- Brain fog (cloudy head, hard to concentrate, poor memory)
- Mood imbalance (anxiety, depression, anger, etc)
- Chronic sinus infection
- Chronic allergies
- Nail fungus
- Joint pain
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Sleep disturbances
- Hormonal imbalance
- Chronic rash, skin folds, or white patches on the skin
As many individuals with Candida know all too well, it is not an easy disorder to conquer. However with the proper patience, discipline and effort one can begin to restore balance back in the system, removing the negative symptoms the Candida manifests and regaining overall health and vitality.
When working to treat Candida with Ayurveda, there are a few key factors to focus on. Each one will be essential to treat this imbalance effectively. Here is a quick run down.
Key Elements for Effective Candida Treatment
- Kill off Candida
- Increase digestive fire
- Promote healthy elimination
- Increase healthy bacteria
- Reduce stress levels
- Reduce inflammation
- Heal the lining of the gut
- Increase immunity (aka Ojas)
Ayurvedic Treatment of Candida
The recommended treatment should be administered for 3-6 months depending on the intensity of the overgrowth. Each element of the treatment will be essential in order to establish a well-rounded protocol with effective results. If one expects to rid the system of the overgrowth through herbs alone, they will not be successful in their efforts, as diet and lifestyle also plays a key role in the elimination of this imbalance.
The anti-Candida diet in Ayurveda will focus mostly on reducing Kapha which is a main cause (and effect) of the yeast overgrowth. This will involve the strict elimination of various foods that the Candida tend to thrive off of, and introducing some foods that will help to increases one’s overall digestion, health, and immunity.
Foods to Eliminate Completely:
- Refined sugar and any food that contains refined sugar (please read ingredients!)
- Refined grains including basmati and other white rice
- Wheat and gluten
- Dairy (a small amount of plain, whole milk kefir is alright)
- Foods with high mold potential including peanuts, cashews, pecans, walnuts, and pistachios
- Fruits with high sugar content
- Fruit juices, fruit smoothies and all sugary drinks
- Fatty, hard-to digest meats such as beef and pork
- Deli meat
- Inflammatory foods such as nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc), hot-spicy foods, processed foods, additives, artificial sweeteners, unhealthy fats and oils, fried food, etc
Foods to Limit:
- Natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, molasses, fruit concentrate)
- Whole grains; non-starchy, non-glutenous grains are best such as quinoa, millet, amaranth and buckwheat
- Starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, corn, etc)
- Kombucha (contains sugar and yeast)
Foods to Include:
- Plain, whole-milk kefir
- Kimchi or sauerkraut
- Live probiotic capsules (I like the Garden of Life RAW brand)
- Bone marrow broth (see health benefits and recipe here!)
- Bitter greens (kale, collards, dandelion greens)
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Healthy, lean protein (mung beans, white chicken, salmon, eggs or egg whites, etc)
- Digestive spices (turmeric, ginger, coriander, cumin, fennel, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, fenugreek, etc)
- Coconut oil and ghee
- Healthy fats such as avocado, coconut, salmon, flax seeds, and chia seeds
- Anti-inflammatory foods (many are already on this list)
- Golden Spiced Lassi Recipe
- Simply Spiced Quinoa Porridge Recipe
- Healthy Breakfast Scramble Recipe
- Ayurvedic Red Lentil Dahl Recipe
- Quinoa Kitchari Recipe
- Coconut Curry Hummus Recipe
- Spicy Springtime Kale Chips Recipe
- Ayurvedic Summertime Salad Recipe
- Healing Ayurvedic Bone Broth Recipe
- Veggie and Quinoa Stir-fry Recipe
- Sautéed Kale with Golden Tahini Sauce
- Homemade Ghee Recipe
The lifestyle recommendations are focused on reducing stress levels, increasing immunity, promoting detoxification, and creating balance through a healthy daily routine. Together with the diet and herbal regimen, performing these regularly will have a great impact on ridding the Candida overgrowth in the system.
1. Create a healthy daily routine.
This is an Ayurvedic essential and for good reason. Our bodies and minds crave routine and sticking to a healthy, consistent schedule each day creates regularity and balance in the entire system (digestion, hormones, immunity, etc).
2. Create a healthy meal schedule.
As a main part of the daily routine, one must be diligent about eating each meal at healthy and consistent times. This practice will increase the overall digestion and sustain energy levels. Skipping meals or putting off meals too long often leads to unhealthy cravings, poor food choices, grazing and a sluggish metabolism. Here is a healthy schedule to follow:
- Breakfast: 630am-8am
- Lunch: 11am-1pm
- Dinner: 5-6pm
*Ideally snacking should be eliminated at this time. If a snack is necessary this should be small, simple, and inline with the anti-Candida dietary recommendations.
3. Create a healthy sleep routine.
Proper sleep plays a crucial role in hormonal balance, digestive health, immunity, mood, and energy levels. If we are sleeping well we make better food choices and have less desire for sugar, fats, junk food and caffeine. Our bodies are able to function at a higher level and fight off the Candida during this crucial time.
Healthy sleep habits not only include sleeping enough hours but also the proper times for sleep. The most nourishing and rejuvenating sleep has been shown to be between the hours of 10pm and 2am, so ideally one should be sound asleep by 10pm each night. Here is a general recommendation to follow:
- Asleep by: 9-10pm
- Awake by: 6-7am
4. Scrape the tongue each morning.
Scraping the tongue will help to remove the layer of toxins and dead bacteria that tend to be present with Candida overgrowth. Tongue scraping will remove this unwanted substance rather than allow it to absorb back into the system.
Directions: Each morning directly after getting out of bed scrape the tongue, ideally with a copper tongue scraper. Begin at the back of the tongue and scrape towards the tip 7-10 times, cleaning the utensil between each scrape.
5. Drink 16 oz of hot lemon water each morning.
This simple morning practice possesses many health benefits, most of which will be useful in the treatment of Candida. The hot water alone is essential for flushing out the system each morning and promoting healthy elimination. The added lemon helps to increase the digestive fire, boost the immunity, and strengthen the liver.
Directions: Each morning after scraping the tongue, but before all other activities, warm 16 ounces of filtered water. Squeeze in 1/4-1/2 of a fresh organic lemon (pitta types can use lime). Stir, sip and enjoy!
6. Perform an oil massage with Kapha Oil 2-3 times each week.
The Ayurvedic self-oil massage known as Abhyanga is well known for its ability to loosen toxins from the deep tissues of the body. The Kapha Oil is recommended in this context as it is warming, penetrating, promotes circulation, and removes stagnation (including stagnant toxins!). This massage should be done routinely throughout the treatment period in order to remove the toxins from the tissues and allow their expulsion from the system. **As an added bonus, this oil massage is equally beneficial for reducing stress, promoting sleep, and healing the nervous system.
Directions: Perform a full body oil massage using the Kapha Oil 2-3 days each week minimum. If Kapha Oil is not available, one can use coconut oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, or almond oil (although an herbal infused oil will be much more powerful).
7. Perform a cleansing sweating therapy 2-3 times each week.
Similar to the oil massage, sweating therapy (svedana) is used in Ayurveda to remove deep rooted toxins from the system and detoxify the body. A few other health benefits include increasing the digestion, reducing stress, alleviating inflammation, and promoting sound sleep.
Directions: Two-three times each week perform 15-30 minutes of the sweating therapy of choice. The most common of these would be a sauna, steam room, an epson salt bath or warm ginger-baking soda bath. For added benefits, one can perform the sweating directly before or after the oil massage.
8. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise, a minimum of 3 days a week.
Exercise should be a routine practice for each and everyone but if this is not the case, now is the time! Aim for 30 minutes of gentle to moderate movement each week, with an end goal of 30 minutes, 5-7 days a week. Exercise is a natural detoxifier of both the mind and the body. It induces sweating, gets the blood pumping, boosts the digestion, increases the metabolism, elevates the mood, reduces stress, promotes healthy elimination, and detoxifies the body… Need I say more?
Directions: Set aside 30 minutes for exercise, 3-7 days each week. Ideally this should be a routine that you write in your schedule and stick to each week. Some great options include walking, biking, hiking, weights, swimming, Yoga, body weight exercises, exercise classes or exercise videos.
Since Ayurveda is strongly based upon healing the digestion and detoxifying the system, there are naturally a long list of herbal remedies that will help in Candida overgrowth. Although the initial treatment will be more focused on killing off the Candida, strengthening the digestion, and flushing toxins from the system, eventually you will want to utilize more “building” herbs that will help replenish the Ojas and boost the immunity.
1. Mahasudarshana Churna
This powerfully bitter, cleansing herbal formula is a great option for treating Candida. It has a wide variety of Ayurvedic herbs that are specific for killing off unwanted microbes (including fungus/yeast), flushing toxins from the system, cleansing and strengthening the liver, reducing excessive Kapha, alleviating inflammation and boosting the digestion.
Directions: Take 1 tsp each morning on an empty stomach. Mix this in warm water, let steep for several minutes, and drink down quickly. You will most likely want to wash it down with warm water due to the bitter taste.
For more severe infections, take this formula as 1/2 tsp in warm water, three times daily before meals. Take this dosage for the first 1-2 months and then switch to the dosage stated above.
2. Triphala Churna
Triphala is another great option for the treatment of Candida. It cleanses the GI tract and promotes healthy daily elimination. It also is a very specific formula for strengthening and cleansing the liver. However, what makes these herbs stand out above many other detoxifying blends is the rasayana or rejuvenating property it possesses. This unique quality comes from the high amount of vitamin C and antioxidants available in Triphala. These nutrients make it a great choice for boosting the immune system, which is equally important in the treatment of Candida.
Directions: Mix 1/2 tsp of Triphala Churna in 1/2 cup of warm water. Take this each night before bed. If loose stools or diarrhea occurs after taking this, reduce the amount to 1/4 tsp.
For severe infections or severe constipation, increase this amount to 1 tsp and take for the first 2-4 weeks of treatment. Once the Candida symptoms have been reduced and elimination is regular, one can switch to the recommended dosage above.
3. Tikta Ghrita
Tikta Ghrita or bitter ghee, is a traditional formula for Ayurvedic cleanses. It contains herbs that will kill off the unwanted yeast, strengthen and cleanse the blood and liver, reduce inflammation and detoxify the system. The unique and essential element that this medicated ghee possesses is in its ability to loosen toxins that are stored deep inside the tissues. This comes from the lipid (fat) component, as it internally “oiliates” the body, releasing the deep rooted toxins lodged in the body.
Directions: Take 1 tsp each morning on an empty stomach. Melt this in 1/2 cup of hot water. For severe overgrowth, take this dosage again before bed.
4. Digestive Spices
It is essential in the treatment of Candida to increase the digestive fire. Without this, detoxing the body will only lead to more toxins being stored in the manner of undigested food. One great way to accomplish this is to add in digestive spice blends to your meals. It is simple, easy, and adds a great flavor to your recipes! Even better, spices just like their herbal counterparts, carry a multitude of hidden health benefits (read a full list here!) such as reducing inflammatory, increasing the metabolism, cleansing the blood and promoting circulation.
5. Herbal Teas
Herbal teas are a a great way to gently flush the system throughout the day. You can sip on them between meals for a soothing treat that also possesses numerous benefits in your Candida treatment. This includes increasing the digestion, reducing inflammation, calming the mind, promoting mental clarity, boosting the immune system and of course detoxifying the system. Here are some great options for this time.
- CCF Tea for digestion and detoxification
- Tulsi, Turmeric and Ginger Tea for digestion, detoxification, inflammation and immunity
- Ginger Tea for digestion, detoxification, inflammation and immunity
Directions: Drink 1 cup of the herbal tea of choice, 2-3 times daily between meals. *Since sugars should be limited, it is strongly recommended to avoid adding any sweetener (including honey) to any of these blends.
6. Ayurvedic Herbs
If you are looking to take single herbs or put together a formula, here are some beneficial herbs that will be useful for this time.
- Musta: Specific herb for treating Candida, anti-microbial, detoxifying, blood and liver cleansing, increases digestion, reduces inflammation.
- Neem: Specific herb for treating Candida, anti-microbial, detoxifying, blood and liver cleansing, increases digestion, reduces inflammation.
- Guduchi: Anti-microbial, promotes healthy gut flora, detoxifying, blood and liver cleansing, increases digestion, reduces inflammation.
- Kutki: Anti-microbial, best liver tonic, increases digestion, reduces inflammation.
- Vidanga: Best herb for treating parasites, detoxifying, increases digestion.
- Chitrak: Best herb for increasing the digestive fire, reduces inflammation, reduces Kapha imbalances.
Candidasis or the overgrowth of Candida is a severe infection and it takes much discipline and determination to be successful in treatment. In order to obtain effective and longterm results, one must follow the proper diet, lifestyle, and herbal regimen together, as doing any one on its own will not be enough. Once the candida symptoms are eliminated completely (typically after 3-6 months of treatment), one can slowly wean off of this regimen and return to a healthy, but more typical daily routine. Until then, the individual must be fairly strict in these areas.
This is not an easy treatment, but please take note of the improvements that you will experience even early on. Let these positive results shine light on your path as you move forward. In fact, you may even pick-up some life long healthy habits along the way!