Yeast are a type of fungus that exist everywhere. Candida is one form of yeast that can infect humans.

Dr. Scott Saunders

Dr. Scott Saunders

It is estimated that 75 percent to 90 percent of people get a candida infection at some time in their lives. Most of these will be thrush, toenail infections or vaginitis. These are easy to spot because they are on the outside and cause symptoms such as burning, itching or white plaques.

Many people, however, also get candida in their blood, called “systemic candidiasis.” This infection generally comes from the intestines, where most people have some yeast growing all the time. The systemic infection can cause a multitude of symptoms.

How do I know if I have candida?

Because candida causes inflammation and produces toxins, it can produce a wide range of symptoms.

One clinic that specializes in treating candida lists the following: digestive troubles, behavioral problems, skin and joint problems, hyperactivity, allergies, female problems, mental problems, emotional Issues, immune problems and chronic fatigue.

Essentially, every disturbance known to man has been attributed to candidiasis, making it impossible to know if this is the cause of the problem.

Spit Test

There is a company that sells probiotics that has advocated a test for candida called the “spit test.” This consists of spitting saliva into a glass of water in the morning before eating or drinking. We are told that if you have yeast you will see strings or a cloud of spit in the water.

The problem with this test is that it has never been tested. It is likely that many people who have candida will be negative on the spit test, or, those who show positive results do not have an infection. Nobody knows if the test actually works.

Stool Test

Because the presence of candida in the gut is common, it is hard to determine if there is a true infection. Many will test positive when they only have colonization. Also, many who have infections will test negative because the candida infection is in a different — fungal — form. The little budding yeast on the test are actually not the issue, it’s the form that produces “hyphae” that causes problems, and these are usually attached to the mucosal lining of the intestines, or worse, in the blood.

So, if I can’t go by symptoms, I can’t rely on the “spit test” and can’t even use a stool test, how can I know if I have systemic candida? Great question!

Besides doing blood tests for immune reactions, the best way to know is by symptoms such as those listed above, and other clues:

» 1. People who get yeast infections on the outside such as skin, toenails, tongue or vaginal infections are probably colonized with candida.

» 2. People with immune problems such as cancer, chemotherapy, AIDS, excessive or prolonged stress, taking long-term steroids and so forth also have an increased risk.

» 3. Diabetes allows yeast to grow because of the high blood sugar.

» 4. Eating simple sugars and starches every day promotes yeast in the intestines.

» 5. Taking antibiotics, especially frequently or for long periods of time, kills bacteria that keep the candida in check.

» 6. Artificial sweeteners kill the normal bacteria, allowing candida to grow.

» 7. Food allergies or “leaky gut” problems often mark a candida problem.

Another way is to use the treatment. If you suspect there is a yeast problem, and start the treatment, you will notice a difference in your symptoms. This response to the treatment is as good a test as any — and it works!


Most don’t need prescription antibiotics to treat candida because they only work in the short-run. The long-term treatment is a strict regimen of diet, supplements and herbal preparations. If done in stages it works very well.

There are four parts to this program. First we replace those things you eat that promote the growth of candida with food that prevents it. Second, we reinoculate the intestines with good bacteria, then we repair the damage, and last we use anti-microbial supplements to remove the harmful organisms.

The order is important because people with candida are often sensitive, and if many are killed at the same time it can cause a serious die-off, or “Herxhiemer,” reaction! You need to slow the growth of yeast with the diet and probiotics, and repair the intestines first.


The bottom line of infections with yeast is that you cannot get away from them. Candida live with us all the time. So, we need to keep them from becoming a problem. The most important part of this is what we eat. Whatever you eat, you are feeding the microbes in your intestines. What you feed them determines which ones will grow. Microbiologists grow candida on a medium called “sucrose agar” because they love sugar — a lot! Thus, it makes sense that to inhibit the growth of yeast you would avoid eating sugar.

What to eat:

1. Vegetables, about 6 cups per day in order to get the nutrients you need. Include all colors, such as yams, leafy greens and red peppers. 
2. Meat (preferably grass-fed), including lamb, beef, poultry, pork and seafood.
3. Dairy, including yogurt and cheese with active cultures.
4. Nuts and seeds.
5. Fermented foods — pickles, sauerkraut, miso and so forth.
6. Berries are OK in small amounts.
7. Switch to coconut oil in your cooking — it will inhibit yeast in your food.

What to avoid — the less of these you eat, the better:

1. Sugars and sweeteners of all types
2. Breads, cereals, pasta, grains, rice
3. Fruit, except for berries
4. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes or cooked carrots (raw carrots are OK)


After a week on the diet above, the next step is to get the good bacteria growing in your intestines. This is an essential step because it is these that keep the candida in check normally. Many people think they are being healthy when they drink diet sodas, but they are killing the good bacteria, and allowing the yeast to grow. That is partly why the first step is so important. The diet above also provides plenty of “prebiotics,” or the food for the good bacteria. So, while starving the yeast, you are feeding the beneficial organisms.

Take a probiotic with at least a billion lactobacillus and bifidus with every meal. These are the major players in suppressing yeast overgrowth.


After another week on the probiotics, continue the same diet and probiotics, but add bowel repair nutrients. These help make the lining of the intestines intact so there is no “leaky gut” to allow and yeast to get into the blood.

Take the following: Glutamine, 2000 mg morning and night on an empty stomach; licorice root, one capsule with every meal.


In order to get the candida out of the body, there are several anti-microbials that are used. These actually kill or stop the growth of the yeast directly. Even after four weeks some may get a “Herxheimer reaction” from the yeast dying off. Those who are very sensitive should start with half the dose. These are rotated on a weekly basis because the candida organisms easily become resistant if they are taken too long.

» Pau d’arco – This is an herb from the Amazon rainforest that inhibits the growth of candida both in the intestines and in the body. It should be used as a tea three times per day. Since it doesn’t kill the organisms, it won’t cause a reaction to “die-off.”

» GSE (grapefruit seed extract) — This will have more of an effect of killing the yeast, not just inhibiting its growth. It comes in a liquid concentrate. It’s quite bitter. Ten drops in a cup of water three times per day is recommended.

» Oregano oil — The advantage of oregano oil as an anti-fungal is that they don’t develop resistance to it. After you have finished the entire program, you may continue to take oregano oil every day to prevent recurrence. The dose is 6 drops in a cup of water twice per day. It’s also very strong and can cause a burning sensation. If this is a problem, diluted it with more water.

» Black Walnut — This comes in a tincture and will also remove intestinal parasites. The dose depends on the preparation, but most tinctures would be about 50 drops in a cup of water three times per day. Continue for four weeks.

Yeast-free for life!

Candida is difficult to eradicate because the organism is all around us. Thus, many need an ongoing program that includes a sugar-free diet, probiotics and anti-fungals. I know of some who have had to rotate the anti-fungals for years in order to keep candida in check. Others use just oregano oil, three drops per day, to prevent recurrence.

This is about your health, and only you know how you feel so it is most often up to you to keep yourself free from yeast. Now you have the tools that work!


Replace — Week 1
Strict diet with very limited simple sugars or starches.

Reinoculate — Week 2
Continue the diet
Take probiotics with lactobacillus and Bifidus with every meal

Repair — Week 3
Continue the diet
Continue the probiotics
Take Glutamine 2000mg twice per day on an empty stomach.
Take licorice root — one capsule with each meal.

Remove — Week 4
Continue the diet, probiotics, Glutamine and licorice root
Take Pau d’Arco

Remove — Week 5
Continue the diet, probiotics and Glutamine
Stop the licorice root and Pau d’Arco
Take GSE

Remove — Week 6
Continue the diet, probiotics and glutamine
Stop the GSE
Take oregano oil

Remove — Weeks 7-10
Continue the diet, probiotics and glutamine
Stop the oregano oil
Take Black Walnut

Repeat — Weeks 11 and on
Modified sugar-free diet
Probiotics depend on the need
Rotate anti-fungals if needed — or — low-dose oregano oil

Scott Saunders, M.D., is medical director of The Integrative Medicine Center of Santa Barbara. For more information, click here or contact the Santa Barbara location at 601 E. Arrellaga St., Suite 101, or 805.963.1824, or the Lompoc location at 806 E. Ocean Ave. or 805.740.9700.