Saul Marcus, ND - Naturopathic Doctor

257 West 39th street, 10th floor - New York, NY 10001

Phone:(646)330-0388 | Email:

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Holistic Candida Treatment

The following scenarios are common for many people struggling with Candida:

What is Candida?

Candida albicans is a fungus that lives in the digestive system. We all have some Candida, even if in minute amounts. It is considered part of the normal gut flora. However, an overgrowth of Candida causes numerous symptoms.

This page will review the diagnosis and treatment of Candidiasis.

There is no special product or protocol that will cure everyone. From a Naturopathic perspective every patient must be treated as an individual. Protocols to treat Candida itself, and not the person who have it can show limited results.

Candida is an opportunistic infection that can only grow in a hospitable environment. If the `terrain of the individual is not improved, conditions will be ripe for Candida to take hold again no matter how many anti-fungal supplements and medications are taken.

Candida Symptoms

Gastrointestinal Genitourinary Immune system Other
  • Thrush (fungus in the mouth)
  • Bloating, gas
  • Intestinal cramps
  • Rectal itching
  • IBS
  • Vaginal yeast infection
  • Frequent bladder infections
  • Allergies
  • Chemical sensitivities
  • Poor immunity
  • PMS
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Hormonal imbalance

How common is Candida?

Conventional medicine only recognizes Candida in severe situations (systemic candidiasis, oral thrush, etc...). Milder Candida overgrowth is ignored.

However, many people in natural health make exaggerated claims about the prevalence of Candida. At times it is claimed 90% of people have Candida, or that Candida is the cause for conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or chronic fatigue.

A 2008 study; "" ran stool tests on 308 patients. Participants were taken from local practitioners, most Naturopathic Doctors.

They found 45 of the 78 smokers (58%) and 68 of the 230 (29%) nonsmokers were positive for Candida. Those with Candida where more likely to smoke; have food allergies and vaginal yeast infection.

Tests for Candida

1. Candida Questionnaire

Candida questionnaires can help although this is just going by symptoms and not objective testing.

2. Candida Spit Test

In the morning simply spit into a clear glass of water. If it turns stringy after a few minutes that's positive for Candida. While this test is somewhat crude it is surprisingly very accurate when compared to other tests and very simple to do.

Click here for photo of positive Candida spit test to open in a new window.

3. Stool Culture

Stool can be cultured for Candida and yeast. This can be helpful to quantify how bad yeast overgrowth is. Sometimes species other than Candida albicans are found, such as Candida krusei.

False negatives are possible. So it's important to keep that in mind and treat the person, not the lab test.

Stool cultures are often done by specialty labs that work with more holistically minded practitioners such as Naturopathic doctors.

4. Blood tests

Blood test for IgG antibodies against Candida. Typically there should be enough information available through symptoms and other labs tests.

The Candida Diet

The purpose of the Candida diet is to restrict foods that feed Candida. Candida seems to release chemicals that make people crave foods that feed Candida. This can make this diet difficult to follow.

Foods to avoid include:

  • Simple sugars.
  • Industrially processed milk and dairy products.
  • Foods that contain high amounts of yeast such as peanuts and cashews.
  • Alcoholic beverages.
  • For some people fruit can also make symptoms worse. Tropical and dried fruits are typically the worst.

How long does someone need to be on the Candida diet?

The body gets used to foods such as sugar, milk and highly processed junk food. When someone eats these foods everyday the body often does not seem to react strongly to them.

However, upon eliminating toxic foods and then reintroducing them, they are more likely to provoke a strong and obvious reaction from the body. Now people feel the allergic or immune system response that they didn't before and it becomes clear just how damaging these foods are.

Certain foods on the Candida diet are inherently unhealthy and are not part of any good diet.

However, moderate amounts of some previously offending foods (such as fruits for example) should become tolerable once health is improved.

A need to be on the Candida diet indefinitely shows some lingering health issues that still have not been dealt with.

Protocols for treatment of Candida

There are thousands of pages online with various Candida protocols. Often they have claims of how each protocol cured many people of Candida.

With this in mind I will say this:

  • Many people have tried the Candida diet. As important as the diet is, many people need to do more than simple abstaining from certain foods.
  • Many people have tried numerous protocols, often with limited results.
  • There are many supplements for Candida. Most of them work, but they do not necessarily work for everyone with Candida.
  • The various cookie cutter Candida protocols you read about online are for the most part put up their by well intending people. Furthermore, these various protocols have probably all significantly helped, or cured some people with Candida. The problem is, due to the numerous individual factors (discussed below), just because a Candida protocol helps one person, that doesn't necessarily mean it is going to help you.

Treating Candida versus treating the person

Most systems of healing (Chinese medicine, Ayurveda medicine, traditional Western herbalism, homeopathy, etc...) over time develop constitutional models to understand who the person is. Treatment is directed at the person and not necessarily their symptoms.

"Western" or "conventional" medicine doesn't use a constitutional model. It is concerned with labeling a specific pathology and then treating the disease. Various drug agents are directed at symptoms, and not the root cause. The philosophy of this system is called allopathy.

We can see a clear difference between holistic health and allopathy in how they approach infections. Allopathy will tend to use all sort of antimicrobial agents to kill the infection. Holistic treatments might utilize antimicrobials, but are more concerned with improving the health of the person. Infections can only grow in a hospitable environment.

Even though many Candida protocols use natural agents, they are still allopathic. That is, they are designed to treat Candida, not the person who has Candida.

The following sections should show more concretely what individualized factors there are to consider that just simply cannothelp move disease out of the body be put into a cookie cutter Candida protocol.

Individualized constitution

A quick overview of some fundamental concepts from Chinese medicine can help to illustrate the importance of recognizing the individual's constitution.


Is the person hot or cold?

Different natural treatments can have either warming or cooling effects. Even though biochemically two herbs may both be "natural antibiotics" from a temperature perspective they are not interchangeable. One that matches the patient's constitution will help move disease out of the body; the other may actually be harmful to health.


Signs of Excess are of over activity. This can be seen in classical signs of inflammation (redness, heat, swelling pain).

Deficiency shows a lack of response. The patient may look pale, feel tired, but overall have a lack of response to underlining problem.

Consider two different Candida patients with these symptoms:

Patient 1:

  • Feels warm to touch
  • Eczema or psoriasis
  • Frequent bowel movements

Patient 2:

  • Feels cold to touch (possible hypothyroidism)
  • Chronic constipation
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Not many strong physical symptoms, but patient feels very tired

Both patients may have Candida. But do they need to follow the same protocol? Sure, some generalities will be true for both. They should follow a Candida diet; sugar and dairy will exacerbate both of their conditions.

However, one is showing signs of heat and excess. The other is cold and deficient. Not only do they not need the same protocol, but also certain supplements that help one, may make the other sick!

Hot/Cold and Excess/Deficiency are part of the 8 parameters in Chinese medicine. Interior/Exterior and Yin/Yang are the others.

It is beyond the scope of this article to review these concepts in detail. I simply wish to show how there are many considerations beyond "what is the best supplement to kill Candida?"

Causes and treatment

The following causes and supportive treatments are only considerations. Not all of these apply to everyone with Candida.

Poor digestion

Due to lack of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, pancreatic enzymes and sluggish bile, some people do not digest food well. Digestive enzymes, HCL and cholagogues (supplements which stimulate release of bile from the gallbladder) such as dandelion can be helpful.

Poor diet

Standard American Diet high in sugar and dairy products. Treatment - see Candida diet discussed above.

Frequent use of antibiotics

Antibiotics kill off beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. This creates an environment where pathogenic microbes take hold in the digestive system. Often probiotics are given to prevent this. Many other supplements may help, but which ones depend upon the individual. Isopathic support can work with probiotics to restore normal gut flora.

Antibiotics should only be prescribed when absolutely necessary. For chronic reoccurring infections (urinary tract infections, tonsillitis, sinusitis) antibiotics typically do not off a long term cure. Infections reoccur, which leads to serial antibiotic use.

In such cases additional work is needed to address the need for frequent antibiotic use. Not only does having a weakened immune system open someone up to the possibility of Candida overgrowth, but also repeated use of antibiotics has a profoundly negative effect on healthly gut flora.

Leaky Gut syndrome

This refers to increased permeability across the gut lining. This increases the likelihood of allergic response and burdens the liver more with toxins from the digestive tract. Basic supplements for this include glutamine, soothing herbs such as aloe, marshmallow, and licorice. Probiotics and eliminating allergenic foods help as well.

Since Leaky Gut and Candida are both largely consequences of a poor digestion system, they may go hand in hand. Leaky gut may exacerbate some symptoms of Candida, such as allergies and fatigue.

Glutamine is one of the more common supplements to help leaky gut. There are many other supplements, including dozens of herbs such as: aloe, licorice, meadowsweet, marshmallow and slippery elm.

Heavy metal toxicity

Since yeast is very good at binding to metals, the idea is that in case of heavy metal toxicity, the body will allow Candida to grow, in a final effect to bind to metals. Testing for and treating metal toxicity is a consideration in cases of Candida.

Poor immunity

This is a large topic. Since it is the immune system, which responsible for keeping opportunistic invaders such as Candida in check, overgrowth points to an issue with the immune system.

Past surgeries

This includes having the following removed: tonsils, appendix and gallbladder. These operations should only be done in absolutely necessary. Unfortunately (especially several decade ago) doctors would routinely remove tonsil and even the appendix for trivial reasons.

In the case of chronic tonsil infections, that is a sign that the immune system is struggling. Tonsillectomy does nothing to help the immune system. If anything this procedure drives the disease "deeper" into the body and cause mores severe symptoms later. For more on this go to the page on homotoxicology. Tonsillectomy has been linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

The gallbladder plays and important role in digestion. Bile is released when we eat to help absorb fats and it also helps to combat dysbiotic organism. After Cholecystectomy supplements to aid in digestion may be very important to take. Ofter there are further digestive symptoms.

Lymphatic stagnation

The cardiovascular system is responsible for transporting nutrients to cells. Cells then dump their metabolic waste into the lymphatic system. I often tell clients that the lymphatics are the "sewer system" of the body. Lymphatic stagnation means that lymphatic fluid is not draining always from cells. Therefore cells are sitting in their metabolic wastes.

The lymphatic system also serves as hubs of immune system activity.

The spleen in the major organ of the lymphatic system. The tonsils, appendix and thymus are also important for lymphatic and immune system function. Additionally there are many lymph nodes around the groin, neck and axillary region.

Chronic swelling of lymph nodes is one sign of lymphatic stagnation.

Although under appreciated in conventional medicine (and natural medicine as well) stagnation in the lymphatic system is a major cause of illness (conventional medicine primarily only cares about severe symptoms such as lymphedema, not mild, yet chronic poor function). Numerous herbs, and homeopathics can be used to help the lymphatic system. Some of the most common herbals include: Red Clover, Cleavers, Calendula and Ceanothus.

Emotional stress

Stress lowers immunity. One of the best lab tests that shows this is secretory IgA. This is an immunoglobulin which is secreted along the entire length of the digestive system tract. Its jobs it to tag onto antigens to trigger an immune system response. Emotional stress decreases secretory IgA and immune system function.

Nutritional deficiency

There are many nutrients needed for proper immune system function. A comprehensive review of all of them is beyond the scope of this article. Vitamin D deficiency is perhaps the most common and has received much attention the past several years. Vitamin A is also important for the immune system and gastrointestinal health.

Poor liver function

Candida produces many toxins, which have to be detoxified by the liver. In the short-term killing Candida will actually dump more toxins into the body. These toxins don't just make people feel tired, they cause what is commonly described as "brain fog."

While treating Candida, it's always important to support the liver as well to prevent detox symptoms

Candia infection causes a viscious cycle, that leads to more Candida infection by lowering immune system and liver function

Endocrine system

People with Candida may have compromised adrenal or thyroid function. Either low cortisol (the major adrenal hormone) or thyroid hormone causes fatigues. It may be important to support these systems as part of overall protocol.

Emotional stress

Emotional stress triggers an overall stress reaction, which over time can suppress immunity and adrenal function.

But beyond that, emotions have a direct effect on specific organs.

In Chinese medicine the stomach and "spleen" (as it's been translated as, but really referring the aspects of digestive function) relate to worry or rumination. Some people have digestive issues because they hold their emotions in their gut. They don't let the tension out.

Other relationships between organ systems and emotions:

  • Anger and irritation associated with the liver and gallbladder.
  • Fear is associated with the kidneys and bladder.
  • The heart is associated with joy.
  • Grief is associated with the lungs and large intestine.

At times being aware of emotional tendencies, and how they effect the individual on a physical level can help. There are times when working with clients for digestion, after doing much of the basic work on a physical level, the large breakthrough came when an emotional issue was dealt with. Emotional issues can be helped with therapy, but also certain supplements such as herbal medicine, flower essences and homeopathy.

Antimicrobials for Candida

Antimicrobial supplements (most typical herbals) can be used as part of an overall protocol. While many of these are antimicrobial herbs, they don't necessarily work only through that mechanism.

Herbal medicine is much more nuanced then simply matching up an herb with a symptoms. Herbs have multiple constituents wide range of affects on the entire body. Often information is presented as is one herb is for the digestive system, another is for energy, a third is for the liver and so one. Someone trained in herbal medicine however understands how a single plant can affect multiple systems. A simple example is Barberry. It is considered antimicrobial, it is also gently stimulating to the liver and enhances detoxification. There is a difference between knowing the overall constitution of each herb and selecting the right one(s) for a patient, or simply loading up on a lot of antimicrobial herbs as part of a shotgun approach to killing Candida.

Some of the more common antimicrobial supplements include:

  • Black walnut
  • Caprylic acid (not an herb, fatty acid with antimicrobial affects)
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastic canadensis) and other berberine containing herbs (Barberry and Oregon Grape). Such herbs are often given in large doses to kill off bad gut flora. However, there are all different herbs, which do much more than act as a "natural antibiotic." More profound results may be seen when either one of these herbs, is given in small doses, matched up with the correct person based upon overall presentation and constitution.
  • Grapefruit seed extract
  • Oregano oil. This can be very caustic. While effective it can also be irritating to the digestive tract.
  • Pau D'arco
  • Thyme
  • Wormwood (typically used in small doses - depression is a "side-effect" over overuse)

Candida intake and treatment - putting it all together

This is a simplified outline of how I would treat a case of Candida that comes into my office:

  • Comprehensive health history
    • Includes all current health issues, not just Candida.
    • Current and past medications? Especially history of antibiotics.
    • Past surgeries.
    • History of previous treatments for Candida. What helped and what did not?
  • Review of current diet
    • Current foods that are known to exacerbate Candida?
    • Common allergens?
  • Psychological history
    • Any major mental symptoms? (depression? anxiety? etc...).
    • Stress from family or work?
    • Psychological type (there are numerous systems. I like to use is 5 Element from Chinese medicine).
  • Review of lab work (if available). Often people are told their labs are all "normal" when upon closer examination there are numerous signs of labs not being in optimal or healthy ranges. Conventional references ranges are there to tell you if you need drugs or surgery, being in reference range is not necessarily healthy range!
    • Thyroid status?
    • Immune system (WBC count and diff).
  • In office nutritional exam - some simple in office tests can help determine need for nutrients such as mineral or B vitamin.
  • Basic observation including fingernails and tongue, which shows many signs of overall health.
  • Applied kinesiology - a system which uses muscles tests to pinpoint weak organs systems and can be used to help determine which supplements would be most helpful.

The actual treatment can be recommendations for more extensive specialty tests (usually for the digestive system), specific nutritional supplements, herbals and homeopathics. Certain applied kinesiology techniques can help on a physical and emotional level (for more on emotional application of applied kinesiology go to

The goal is not to treat Candida. The goal is to understand what health issues are allowing Candida to grow in the first place. Candida is an opportunistic infection. It simply is not going to grow in a healthy person.