Candida overgrowth and parasite issues are a common problem many families unknowingly face.
Many health challenges are connected to gut issues, like leaky gut, candida overgrowth and parasites.
Mood and behavior challenges can be affected by candida and/or parasites.
Here is an interview I gave as part of the Nourished Living Healthy Child Summit, that addresses some oft-asked questions we receive about these common, but often hidden or misunderstood, health challenges.
KA: So, we’re talking about candida, parasites and how they could be affecting your family’s health today with Amy Love from Real Food Whole Health.com. Amy is a nutritional therapist, certified GAPS practitioner and inspired life coach. She works to empower families and help them take control of their health naturally. Thanks for being here, Amy.
Amy: Hello, thank you so much for having me!
KA: So, we’re going to talk about candida and parasites today. Tell me why this topic is important for parents to understand.
Amy: Well, I am thrilled to be addressing the issue of candida and parasites because it is something that is not talked about often enough. In my practice, the health effects of candida overgrowth and parasite issues are something we deal with every day.
I think it’s really a rampant issue right now and these sneaky problems can affect our health so immensely. We are starting to hear a lot about gut health and healing leaky gut, etc and addressing these secondary problems are a huge part of the healing picture.
KA: Exactly. I hear a lot about GAPS, gut healing and the problems caused by a leaky gut. It seems like healing your gut is really important. So this something you see a lot of in your practice?
Amy: Oh yes! I would say the vast majority of my clients have gut issues, even if they come to me for seemingly unrelated complaints like infertility support, behavior or mood challenges, skin issues, fatigue, food allergies or chronic pain.
When we uncover the root cause of many of these health issues, we find that the gut is time and time again a major factor and in many cases these folks were dealing with candida overgrowth and/or parasites as well.
KA: Wow, ok, so can you tell us a little more about what exactly candida overgrowth is and then we can move on to parasites?
Amy: Sure. So, candida is a fungus that naturally lives in our intestines.
It’s part of a normal, healthy gut, and, just like many other gut bugs, candida is kept in check by other bacteria and yeasts.
The problem comes when we experience an imbalance in our gut flora, like when large amount of bacteria are killed off by taking antibiotics or steroids, and the candida is allowed to grow unchecked.
This overgrowth overwhelms our body and the negative effects of candida really begin to show up. For instance, candida produces toxic by-products, or waste products, that our liver must deal with.
When candida grows, it can form long tube like projections that can actually puncture the walls of our intestinal lining, which contributes directly to a leaky gut, which in turn can lead to food allergies, upregulated immune response, systemic toxicity and inflammation, and eventually, autoimmune conditions.
KA: Yikes! Not good.
Amy: No, not good.
KA: And what about parasites?
Amy: When I talk about parasites, it’s sort of an overarching term for something that will use our body, specifically our gut, as a host, living off our nutrition stores and causing health havoc in some form- either through taking our nutrients, producing toxic waste products or inhibiting natural healthy function.
Parasites are generally divided into two main categories- worms (eww, I know) and protozoa.
Underneath those umbrellas are large numbers of specific strains of parasites, each bringing their own specific issues to us, but for the most part, we can talk in general terms about parasites because the symptoms and remedies are much the same despite their specific type.
KA: Eww, is right.
KA: So, you mentioned symptoms that someone might notice if they or their children are dealing with candida overgrowth or parasites. Can you speak more to that?
Amy: Sure. So, they have quite a few symptoms in common, and many of the symptoms can also be a part of leaky gut or overall toxicity, but eventually we start to see a pattern and/or some differences in the presentation of those symptoms.
For both candida and parasite problems, we may see digestive issues – such as gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, mood swings, foggy thinking and poor memory, behavioral issues especially in children, dizziness, headaches and joint or muscle pain.
But the divergence comes with candida overgrowth lending more towards the following symptoms:
*Food Cravings- especially those for starchy carbs (these are your real bread-loving people), sugar, chocolate, vinegar or alcohol
*Thrush or Vaginal Yeast Infections
*Finger/toenail fungus and athletes foot
*Skin rash/hives, eczema/psoriasis,
*Recurring infections- ear, bladder, sinus
*Uncomfortable at any temperature
*Feeling of floating, being “out of body”
*Indecisive, difficulty organizing, messy
*Narrowing of the diet to just a few foods, mainly starchy items and fruits like bananas, grapes and apples (these are my kiddos who usually eat only chicken nuggets, pizza and bananas)
KA: So those are more candida related symptoms?
Amy: Yes and Candida can also cause strange behavior issues like:
*Attention deficit disorder/ADHD
*Odd behavioral issues like maniacal laughter, acting out even after discipline (almost uncontrollable)
(A mom I’ve worked with just intuitively knew something was wrong due to strange behavior…like the child wasn’t controlling the behavior, and was sort of out of body, but acting out- definitely odd behavior)
KA: And what about parasite specific symptoms?
Amy: Parasite related symptoms would be things like:
*Teeth grinding- this is a biggie
*Waking up at night
*Rectal itching, especially at nighttime
*Behavioral issues like irritability and fussiness
*Bedwetting in older children past potty training age
Parents may notice these night time problems are even worse with the full moon.
KA: Oh, interesting, why is it worse with the full moon?
Amy: The life cycle of the parasite may be related to the phases of the moon, so when it’s a full moon, certain parasites may be more active, causing a symptom flare.
KA: How interesting! Wow, there’s a lot of symptoms to consider here. How can you sort out what’s related to candida, parasites, leaky gut or other issues?
Amy: Well, really it’s about the pattern. It’s not about having 1 or 2 symptoms out of a long, long list.
We work with clients to evaluate their overall health and start connecting the dots to symptoms they are regularly experiencing or those that are the most prevalent and troublesome.
And it’s really never just one thing. Honestly, we have to take a holistic view here and realize how it’s all connected.
Candida overgrowth, parasite infestation, leaky gut and other issues don’t exist in a vacuum and they don’t exist without other factors at play.
KA: Can you expand on that a bit?
Amy: Yes. It’s always about a pattern and it’s always along a continuum.
Many times, we can go back through the health history and really see one issue build on another finally leading to chronic and debilitating health challenges. Very often it’s seemingly normal events that add up to trouble.
Maybe a vaginal birth wasn’t possible, so you have a child that was born via C-section, maybe not breastfed, given antibiotics and steroids early and often in life, maybe the child didn’t respond well to vaccines, or had chronic infections of some kind like ear infections which brought more pharmaceuticals.
A conventional diet is very often full of gut-damaging elements like chlorinated water, pesticide ridden produce, GMOs, antibiotics and hormones in the meat, eggs and dairy foods, and very little in the way of probiotic or gut-replenishing foods.
Sadly we live and work in toxic environments, use commercial personal care and household cleaning products full of chemicals and are under great amounts of stress.
Each and every one of these things sets us up for gut damage on some level and really candida overgrowth and parasites are just consequences of our modern lifestyle and current state of health.
KA: So, it really is about all of the factors contributing to health issues over time.
Amy: Yes, exactly.
KA: So now that we know what these problems are, what they look like and how they may have come about, what do we do to correct these issues?
Amy: Well, it’s really a comprehensive solution. Just like it’s not one factor that caused the problems, it’s not one single pill or solution that solves our health challenges.
One of the first places we start is with the diet.
We clean up the sources, opting for organic foods whenever possible, animal products from grassfed or pasture-raised animals, adding in healthy fats, cultured foods to lend natural probiotics and remove the food stressors like packaged and refined foods, starchy and sugary foods and chemicals, additives and GMOs.
We work with our clients to optimize their digestion, adding supplemental support or superfoods where needed to make sure the stomach has the right amount of acid, the gallbladder is producing wonderful thin and free flowing bile to emulsify fats and that any food allergies are addressed.
Targeted protocols for candida include herbal antifungals, appropriate probiotics and a specific diet for the short term protocol, not the long drawn out anti-candida diets that might be popular in some corners of the web.
The most important thing that we address with candida overgrowth is that once the adult form of the fungus is under control, that we address the spores.
KA: Oh that’s interesting, can you explain more about the spores?
Amy: Yes, it’s very important. Candida is a fungus. We’re going back to Biology 101 here.
Remember when we learned about fungus in the wild and what they do when they are threatened (which is what happens when we are bringing them under control in the body) is that they send up spores, or seeds, to grow new fungus once the “threat” is over.
That’s why often people can fight candida over and over again without relief- they may have killed the adult form of the fungus, but the spores that were laying dormant, started to grow once the current “threat” (treatment, diet, etc) ended.
So, in our practice, we have a targeted candida protocol that includes spore-specific antifungals, as well.
KA: So that’s for candida, what about parasites?
Amy: For parasites, some of the trusted remedies are again herbs like wormwood, black walnut hulls, cloves, stemona, etc in conjunction with dietary change and digestion support like hydrochloric acid, enzymes and gallbladder support.
We have to clean up the terrain of the gut and make it an inhospitable place for the parasites and or candida to overgrow.
KA: So what can parents do today if they feel like their family is struggling with either candida overgrowth or parasites?
Amy: The first thing, by far, is to clean up the diet. Start reading labels.
If there is something on a label that you can’t pronounce, that you wouldn’t have in your home kitchen, or that your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food, then that item has to go.
Improve the sources as you can- going organic and pasture-raised, switching out your fats (using real, grassfed butter in place of highly processed and refined vegetable oils like canola and soybean), going to raw grassfed whole milk dairy in place of commercial pasteurized and homogenized skim milks.
Add living and cultured foods to your family’s diet, make homemade bone broths or chicken stock…all of this can be done on your own, using resources from around the web, books and online classes.
In some cases, these changes will bring about dramatic improvement and for those dealing with minor candida or parasite issues, dietary change might be enough to kick candida to the curb.
Other people will find that they need more support and I encourage them to do more research and work with a knowledgeable practitioner who can help guide them as to what protocols are best for them specifically, especially in the case of children.
KA: Great. Really great information and very do-able for parents to start making changes today. I appreciate your time and information, Amy.
Amy: Absolutely, so glad to be a part of this and get the word out about these common gut stressors.
KA: So if parents want to connect with you specifically about working together to support their family’s health, they can find you online at realfoodwholehealth.com?
Amy: Yes, that’s our website. We have a blog on the website with a lot of informative articles, gluten and grain free recipes for just about any occasion and information on our consultations and classes.
We are always working on providing new resources and building community for our clients and members. It’s so important to have a supportive community as you work to make changes in your family’s health.
KA: Absolutely. Well, thank you for being here, and again, we appreciate what you’ve shared with us.
Amy: Thanks, KerryAnn! Have a great day.
KA: You too, bye.