The Causes of Candida and Yeast Infection

Learn how to recognize yeast infections caused by Candida albicans, and what causes them.

Living Candida Free Cover Image

"Living Candida Free," by Ricki Heller and Andrea Nakayama, includes helpful information on symptoms of candida infection, as well as a collection of candida-free recipes.

Cover courtesy Da Capo Press

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In Living Candida-Free (Da Capo Press, 2015), authors Ricki Heller and Andrea Nakayama discuss in detail the causes and symptoms of yeast infections from Candida albicans, as well as recipes and diet suggestions to lessen this fungus’ presence in your body. This section comes from the chapter “Candida-Related Complex.”

Candida has gotten a lot more attention in the last decade or so, and with good reason. As noted earlier, Candida—specifically, Candida albicans—is a yeast, a kind of fungus. We’ve always had some of the yeast present in our bodies at any one time, and everybody has some—regardless of age or gender. Candida doesn’t discriminate. And Candida isn’t the problem; the environment is.

In a healthy person, Candida is a harmless agent. Yet fluctuations in the internal bacterial environment that influence immune health enable the yeast to grow past its tipping point, past the point where its actions are kept in check by the host climate. In these circumstances, the same harmless strains of Candida can become pathogenic, invading the mucosa and causing significant damage.

Candida is an intelligent and networked organism. It’s considered a dimorphic fungus—meaning it can change shapes, oscillating between a bud and hyphae (the latter looking more like a little sperm), depending on its surrounding habitat. Dimorphic literally means “with two shapes.” It’s the longer filaments, the hyphae, that can burrow their roots through the mucosal barriers and into your tissues to initiate so-called leaky gut—a situation where one of the body’s most important boundaries and barricades between the inside and outside world has been breached. Without suitable restraint, any number of elements, including improperly broken-down constituents from the food you’ve eaten, can make their way into your bloodstream and wreak further havoc on your health. This may appear as inflammation, allergies, asthma, eczema, food intolerances, headaches, joint pain, and mind challenges, such as depression, anxiety, mood swings, and problems with memory or focus.

Within a suitably compromised mucosal atmosphere, Candida is tailored to gain power and proliferate. The environment that will support its growth is one where there’s a lot of undigested sugar and starch for it to feed on as well as a climate that has a lower pH, meaning that it is more acidic. Sugar, starches, and simple carbohydrates in the diet contribute to both of these generative factors, which is why diet is such an important part of an anticandida protocol—and why we’ve put together this food-based plan for you.

Because the yeast is a part of the microflora lodged in the mucosa, and much of this mucosa is situated in the gut, we’re brought right back to my very first belief: you are not what you eat, but what your body can do with what you eat. When a favorable environment for yeast overgrowth exists in the microflora, then what you do with that pie à la mode is make more yeast. And as you make more yeast, you put more strain on your immune system to try to gain back some balance. This leaves you tired and inflamed and can cause confusion among your immune cells as they try to discern “self” from “other.”

As the yeast “feeds” on the sugars in its environment, it begs for more. It’s like a growing child. Its need for more sugars manifests as your sweet tooth. I like to remind my clients that what feels like a lack of willpower when trying to avoid sweets or carbohydrates may be something much more sovereign to contend with—a growing and hungry pathogen.

As the yeast feeds it also metabolizes. The by-products left behind from the yeasts’ feast are perhaps more dangerous to your health than the yeast itself. These are toxic chemicals and dead yeast cells classified as mycotoxins (little fungal poisons) that can be released into your bloodstream. Some of these will undoubtedly leave you feeling fuzzy and hung over; others can interfere with your body’s abilities to produce key antioxidants and suppress the function of your immune system by thwarting the production of white blood cells.

Recipes from Living Candida Free

Anticandida-Friendly Grain-Free Granola
Fennel, Brussels Sprout and Edamame Salad
Quick and Easy Chard and Chickpea Soup
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles


This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Living Candida-Free by Ricki Heller PhD, RHN with Andrea Nakayama, CNC, CNE. published by Da Capo Press, 2015.