One of the most persistent myths surrounding fermented foods is that somehow they are related to mold.
This was certainly what I thought prior to learning more about them. I now include a variety of fermented foods into my diet daily and my digestive and intestinal systems have never been better!
As people continue to joke that fermented foods are “rotting foods”, it is clear that there is a little science education needed to help clarify the matter. These foods are powerhouses of beneficial properties and should not be feared.
What is candidiasis?
First let’s discuss what Candidiasis (candida) is. We all have naturally occurring yeast in our intestinal system along with beneficial bacteria (good) and pathogenic bacteria (bad).
They all live as one big happy family as long as the good bacteria is in charge (the good outnumber the bad). Most of these yeast strains are harmless and some are even beneficial. One of them though, candida albicans, is particularly nasty and it is adaptable to its environment.
When the balance with good bacteria is disrupted, especially by antibiotics, the yeast has an opportunity to grow. Candida albicans are tricky because they can feed certain strains of bad bacteria, which they particularly like to do after a course of antibiotics, and this gives the bad guys a helping hand to regain their numbers.
But oddly, they don’t help the very beneficial lactobacillus family of good bacteria. Why? Because the lactobacillus family can inhibit them and lactobacillus are a key factor at keeping the candida numbers low and in control.
The other insidious thing about candida albican is that it can morph, like a shape shifter, into a fungal form and this is when it causes us a lot of various and troubling symptoms both in the intestines and throughout the body.
This is the subject of a lot of current research. Many MDs will tell you candidiasis doesn’t exist, yet this fungal form is known to be prevalent in several conditions such as yeast infections, sepsis and recently it was found in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients.
Some signs of candida overgrowth are:
- Food sensitivities
- Joint pain
- Brain fog
- Immune problems
- Fungal problems
These are just a few of the possible symptoms that are not recognized as connected to candida albicans, however, these symptoms go away when the candida albicans are brought under control and down to normal levels.
What about fermented foods?
This brings us back to fermented foods. Because people assume that fermented foods have something to do with mold or fungus, people are frequently told to not consume them when they are following a Candidiasis plan. This cannot be farther from the truth!
The truth is many fermented foods are extremely beneficial for helping the body get rid of excess yeast.
The beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods are anaerobic, meaning they live without oxygen.
Bad bacteria, mold and yeast need oxygen to thrive!
Most fermented food techniques seal out the oxygen, allowing carbon dioxide to be produced by a specific strain of good bacteria. This creates a vacuum inside the container while the good bacteria strains develop over time. Bad bacteria, yeast and mold cannot grow in a vacuum. Hence, no mold or unwanted bacteria are present.
Some might confuse kefir, kombucha and sourdough bread as examples of yeast and good bacteria thriving synergistically together. Surely, these foods must not be good for those with Candidiasis?
The truth is, the yeast strains in these foods are unique to them and are not the same yeast strains present in us. They certainly are not candida albicans – as candida albicans strains just don’t exist in foods.
What studies are showing
One study found that milk Kefir, in particular, is helpful at inhibiting candida albicans. It found that the kefir added to a sugar broth – that’s right, I said sugar broth, inhibited bad bacteria growth. In addition to candida albicans, several strains of bad bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli were added, and the kefir inhibited all of them!
Other studies of kombucha and sourdough have shown that they don’t contribute to the growth of Candida, however they don’t inhibit the growth the way kefir does.
Sauerkraut is another fermented food that research has found to inhibit candida albicans. There may be more foods eventually added to this list, but more research is needed at this time.
What we do know
What is known, is that all fermented foods are antimicrobial to some degree and are not connected to mold. More importantly, they can help support the health of the gut plus they all have major benefits for other aspects of our health. This is not to say that fermented foods are the only solution for Candidiasis.
The truth is, without including antimicrobials and antifungals such as oil of oregano or caprylic acid, along with other strategies, it will be difficult to get the bad bacteria back under control and in balance.
It also takes time for the body to restore the balance of the good bacteria. So, as with any aspect of our well-being, it is not just one thing but a combination of things that help us restore balance.
Everyone is unique
Depending on the degree of imbalance in the intestinal system, some people may react to many foods, including fermented ones. In this case, these individuals need to start with probiotics and antimicrobial supplements to give the intestines a jump start and improve digestion and then slowly introduce fermented foods.
Give fermented foods a try and see how they make you feel. Their benefits are just too numerous to not include them into your daily diet. Just start slowly with about 1 Tablespoon a day and work up slowly to ¼ cup once or twice a day.
Tip: Make sure to purchase unpasteurized fermented foods to ensure that they have beneficial live bacteria. They will be found in the refrigerator section.
As you know more about these amazing foods, not only will you want to include them in your diet consistently, you may even want to learn the simple techniques to make your own.
Just rest assured, that you are not ingesting mold or bad bacteria, and that fermented foods do not contribute to candida albicans and yeast overgrowth.
Find out if you have symptoms of candida by completing this simple quiz. Download it here.
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Antimicrobial activity of broth fermented with kefir grains., Silva KR1, Appl Biochem Biotechnol. 2009 Feb;152(2):316-25
Current trends in Candida albicans research. Datta A1, Ganesan K, Natarajan K., Adv Microb Physiol. 1989;30:53-88.
Fermented Sauerkraut Juice as an antomicrobil agent + invitro studyPundir Ram Kumar et al, Int. Res, J. Pharm 203, 4(12)
Candida albicans and Bacterial Microbiota Interactions in the Cecum during Recolonization following Broad-Spectrum Antibiotic Therapy Katie L. Mason et al, Infect Immun. 2012 Oct; 80(10): 3371–3380.