Yeast under microscope

Yeast Overgrowth: The Hidden Variable

Candida is a very common yeast found in the mucous membranes of the intestines, mouth and genitourinary system. Everyone has this type of yeast in and on their body. You wouldn't generally know it’s there when it is balanced, as it is benign. The issue arises when this yeast overgrows and creates problems in the gut and the immune system. This triggers an imbalance in beneficial bacteria and the not so good bacteria. Coincidentally, that's when trouble begins to brew.

There are several reasons this occurs:

Use and overuse of antibiotics - Even though antibiotics are given to fight infections and kill bacteria, they also kill the beneficial bacteria you have that keep your immune system in check. This bacteria aids in the absorption of nutrients and keeps you healthy. When beneficial microbes diminish, the overgrowth of yeast can wreak havoc on your health.

Corticosteroids - As mentioned, you have beneficial bacteria within your mucous membranes, especially your mouth. So imagine having asthma and using your oral steroid inhaler. This can contribute to overgrowth of yeast in the mouth, known as thrush.  Without proper care, this can also lead to candida overgrowth, not only in your mouth, but systemically as well.

Poor diet and high stress levels - A diet full of refined carbohydrates, sugars, sweet beverages and highly acidic foods are a breeding ground for yeast. They feed on sugar and grow exponentially. Couple this with high stress levels, which deplete minerals, B vitamins and causes digestive disturbances, which could jeopardize your digestive health.

Compromised immune system - We would like think that everyone’s immune system is functioning at optimal levels, but sometimes that just isn't so. Many individuals have a weakened immune system due to chronic long-term illness, viruses, cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation and autoimmune diseases. These disorders put you at a much higher risk for yeast overgrowth. Therefore, it's critical that these be addressed and an alkaline diet be taken into serious consideration so as to not fall ill.

Common symptoms caused by candida overgrowth include:

Brain fog
Joint pain
Gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea
Skin rashes
Nail infections
Cravings for sugary foods
Mood swings
Chronic sinusitis or post-nasal drip
Food sensitivities
Thrush (white coating on tongue)
Vaginal yeast infections

Although yeast overgrowth can cause serious issues, it can often be treated naturally, through diet, lifestyle, herbs and other specialized supplementation. Something to remember is that this condition does not happen overnight. It grows steadily over time and isn’t something that can be remedied quickly. Approaching it from the root cause allows for a healthier and stronger recovery.

Tired woman sleeping at desk

Fatigue: Why You Shouldn't Ignore It

It’s normal to feel tired from time to time, especially if you run around without stopping, but when long-term bouts of fatigue and exhaustion linger on, chances are there may be an underlying cause that needs to be addressed.

Some of these causes may include:

Adrenal fatigue. Your adrenal glands are responsible for secreting many hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. These aid in maintaining proper electrolyte levels, regulate blood sugar and control stress responses, such as the “fight or flight” response. When the “fight or flight” is constantly activated, it depletes the adrenal glands, leading to an imbalance in cortisol.

Symptoms such as allergies, muscle weakness, food cravings, depression, skin issues, autoimmune disorders and poor sleep quality are just a few signs that your adrenal glands are suffering. But adrenal exhaustion is not to be taken lightly. I recommend getting the proper testing done to determine the cause.

Hypothyroidism. This is quite common and affects approximately 8% of the population in the United States, affecting women more than men 8:1. Your thyroid makes hormones that impact every system in your body.

A few signs that your thyroid may be underactive include constipation, dry skin, fatigue, weight gain, depression, hair loss and sleep complications. Each individual is unique and should be treated as such. While thyroid medication may be necessary in some cases, I prefer to integrate a more holistically tailored approach in helping the thyroid restore itself back to health.

Mold & Biotoxins. Individuals who have been exposed to mold or mycotoxins can experience an accumulation of symptoms over time. It may take some people many years before getting a clear answer as to what causes their symptoms as many people are unaware they have mold in their home or work environments.

Molds grow quickly and the exposure can cause some serious issues like brain fog, gastrointestinal distress and chemical sensitivities. Furthermore, if your detoxification pathways are compromised you will have a more difficult time detoxing from mold and as a result, may be more prone to chronic immune issues. This also makes it a lot more challenging for your system to cleanse itself internally.

Food intolerances and sensitivities. These count for a large part of unexplained fatigue. Again, this is also difficult to diagnose because it can take up to 3 days for a noticeable reaction to occur from a food.

Standard testing is not the most accurate in this case as it only looks for immediate reactions to food and can easily miss delayed responses to foods. This can be very frustrating and time consuming. When seeing patients in my office I use several methods to help pinpoint which foods may be causing problems, so you can be clear on how to best manage your diet.

In order to restore your health:

Find a functional, integrative or holistic practitioner that can order the proper testing.

Remember that a healthy diet and lifestyle is imperative to restore energy levels.

Minimize stress as much as possible. Go for walks, go outdoors or do anything that helps you relax.

Try helping your body to detox by using infrared saunas, lymphatic massages and colon therapy.

If you're suffering from long-term fatigue and exhaustion, you can only heal if you find the underlying cause. Symptoms are pieces of a larger picture. Understand that it is not just one part of your body, but the whole body. Healing is a synergistic process that requires patience and commitment.

Kimchi and fermented foods

Why You Should Eat Fermented Foods Every Day

Probiotics are critical for optimal health. They help maintain a healthy immune system which in turn keeps the whole body in good health. However, in addition to supplementing with a capsule or tablet, you can also boost your beneficial flora by eating fermented foods.

Fermented foods are loaded with billions of good bacteria. They help to sustain the balance between the good and bad bacteria. If you have dysbiosis, an imbalance of bad bacteria, you may experience a host of problems such as digestive issues, immune dysfunction, allergies, possible skin conditions, food sensitivities and chronic yeast infections, just to name a few.

Consuming fermented foods on a regular basis benefits you in the short and long term.

1. Fermented foods assist with B vitamin production, sleep regulation, proper circulation and nervous system function, and aid in preventing heart disease. Fermented cabbage is also a great source of Vitamin K2.  This is very important as it helps with blood clotting, bone health and brain function.

2. Fermented foods can be more easily assimilated than some supplemental probiotic pills. They support intestinal and digestive health by providing enzymes that help with the breakdown of foods. They allow your body to produce antibodies that strengthen your immune system and help fight off potential pathogens.

3. In numerous studies, it has been shown that without the proper amount of good flora, individuals are more prone to weight gain, sugar cravings and diabetes.

4. Fermented foods and probiotics are very beneficial for those with compromised immune systems, autism and autoimmune disorders. They can aid in reducing systemic inflammation by preventing toxins from passing through a weakened gut lining and entering the bloodstream. This also assists in mitigating the risk of food sensitivities.

Naturally Fermented Food Sources

Fermented raw yogurt, milk and cheese
Braggs apple cider vinegar

When you decide to add fermented foods to your diet, start off slowly. You can begin with a few teaspoons per day with each meal, then increase as you become more comfortable with it.

If you don't like store bought fermented foods, you can make your own. This way you can choose the specific foods you would prefer to ferment.

If you don't like the taste of fermented foods at all, you can always supplement with a high quality probiotic capsule or powder. Each individual is different and one size does not fit all in this case. One of my personal favorites to recommend is Probiotic Plus. It has worked remarkably well for many of my patients.
Also, don’t be afraid to experiment with different brands. You need to find the right one that works best for your specific needs.


Beyond a Gluten Free Diet

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats (unless they are grown in separate fields). In that case, oats can be considered gluten free. Gluten is what gives breads and bagels its chewy texture. A Gluten-Free (GF) diet is free from these grains. So individuals diagnosed with celiac sprue, celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and gluten sensitivity need to avoid all foods made with these grains.

Classic symptoms for gluten related issues include:
stomach pain
joint pain
acid reflux
skin rashes
neurological dysfunction
vitamin deficiencies

Some people with gluten intolerance have little or no symptoms at all.

Now, GF diets not only help individuals with celiac and gluten sensitivity, they can actually be part of therapeutic diet treatments for many health conditions. Autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal issues, neurological disorders and skin conditions can all benefit from a gluten-free diet.

Yes, removing gluten from your diet can indeed improve your health. However, it’s not necessarily just the gluten that is the culprit. The problem is that, while gluten-free food has improved substantially over the years, food companies invented new ways to make gluten free food taste more like its gluten-filled relatives. As a result, many food manufacturers have added gums, fillers and starches to fill the void; Using ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, resistant corn starch, potato starch, and xanthan gum to name a few. These other ingredients may carry their own health risks and cause other health problems.

Focus on eating non-processed, organic and local foods. Farmers markets carry a great selection and so do many local health food stores. When selecting meats, pasture raised and 100% grass-fed is best.

Include a variety of vegetables and fruits and eat when they are in season. Beans, lentils, wild fish, and grass-fed meats are all healthier choices and are minimally processed.

The takeaway here is not only to avoid gluten, but to avoid all processed food, whether they are gluten free or not. Processed, non-organic dairy, factory farmed, antibiotic fed meats, cookies, cakes and refined flour are not going to contribute to your health, even if the label claims it will.

Fresh foods do not have labels and have short expiration dates. As Hippocrates once said, “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food”.

Woman scratching rash on back

Eczema: More Than Just a Skin Condition

If you have ever had poison ivy then you understand how extremely itchy it can be. Now imagine having poison ivy all the time, for years on end. That would be extremely frustrating and also very painful. That's sort of what eczema feels like; endless poison ivy, only worse.

Eczema is an inflammatory condition of the skin, but that's only part of it. The other part involves the immune system.  With traditional medicine, eczema is treated with hydrocortisone or steroid cream, applied externally, which only provides temporary relief. Furthermore, it is basically a toxic bandaid.  In naturopathic medicine, however, we believe that the immune system is involved and is actually in "system overload" mode.  When eczema flares up, this may be a sign of an underlying condition that needs to be addressed immediately. This system overload often overrides the everyday functions of the immune system and requires a reset.

Eczema can occur at anytime throughout childhood and adult life. It can linger on and off for many years.

Some factors include:
Environmental & external irritants such as pets, fragrances, cleaning chemicals, detergents and pesticides.
Food allergies such as gluten, dairy, soy, yeast, corn, nuts and chocolate.
Poor diet: processed foods, refined carbohydrates and sugars.
Parasitic infections.
Autoimmune disorders such as, Celiac disease, Fibromyalgia & Lupus.

It is important that the underlying causes be addressed first, in order to effectively treat eczema. When I see patients for the first time, I perform the initial allergy assessment to determine the cause. Sometimes treatments can include elimination or detox diets, homeopathy, herbs and nutrients, and sublingual immunotherapy. These therapies have worked incredibly well in treating eczema. In addition, stress reduction, rest and movement are greatly encouraged and will be very beneficial in the healing process.