It was really gross. I was emptying my fridge before I left for vacation and realized I had left an herbal-coconut milk face mask a few days too long in the fridge.

The tiny cup was studded with dime-sized colonies of white mold, and wispy gray fibers reached up the sides and crossed over the top of the cup.

I thought “uggh.” “That’s what the inside of my intestines look like.” “There’s no way, I want that going on inside me.”
I know all too well intestinal candidiasis causes leaky gut and all the inflammation, energy drainage, and immune dysfunction that goes with it. But seeing, and getting a good visual had an effect on me that no amount of literature could.

I’ve had a sweet tooth and struggled with a sugar addiction for quite some time now, which has prompted me to consider the various reasons why I crave sweet.  Ayurveda reminds us that sweet taste, composed of the heavier elements earth and water, is grounding and cooling.   So it makes sense that agitated vata or overheated pitta would crave sweet to restore balance. Sweet also represents the energetic of love. Therefore, when we feel lonely and incomplete we also crave sweet. Alternatively, classic adrenal fatigue (closely vata aggravation) causes mid-afternoon sweet cravings during an energy dip to simulate the effects of cortisol secretion. Then of course, fungal and bacterial overgrowth itself causes intense sugar cravings, as these organisms hijack the host’s neurochemistry and express their intentions in order to facilitate their survival and growth. (surreal and creepy, but true.)

I’m so tired of these organisms reeking havoc on my body. The list of symptoms relating to intestinal candidiasis and the inflammation caused by it is so long and varied. I’ll list a few that I’ve seen in my medical practice — brain fog, decreased memory and concentration, extreme fatigue, adrenal dysfunction, aches/pains, menstrual cramps, vaginal dryness, acne, inflammatory skin conditions, odor-less gas and bloating, diarrhea, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. These symptoms are in addition to chronic/recurrent classically diagnosed fungal infections (which may or may not be currently present) such as athlete’s foot, vaginal yeast infections, otitis externa (swimmer’s ear,) and chronic sinusitis.

The health of the intestinal lining determines the strength of the immune system and the populations of organisms, probiotics versus dysbiotics, that line every other mucosal and integumentary surface on the body. Things that make you itch or itching in general often has a fungal component. Interestingly, Ayurveda links gandha or olfactory sense with alimentary function, which embryonically correlates with a shared origin of sinus and intestinal tissue in the mesoderm. Nasal itching and chronic sinusitis therefore often indicate intestinal dysbiosis.


So what can we do about it?

Well, I’ve definitely tried almost all of it – a strict diet, a more flexible diet, prescription anti-fungal, herbal anti-fungal, and probiotics.  I want to share with you an overview, introduce you to my distillation, and share with you some tips while on a cleanse.

1) Dietary modification – the middle path.

Dietary modification is one of the most difficult things to effect, but it is also the most powerful. If yeast has set up shop in your body, they are going to hold on tight and not give up territory easily. Therefore, dietary modification should be something that can be sustained over time. In ridding the body of Candida, carbohydrate restriction is necessary to starve them.

Yo-yoing does not serve you at all. If you are super strict for a few weeks and then binge on sugar, it only serves to allow the more resistant fungal populations to thrive.

Depending on the severity of overgrowth, it may be necessary to precede this middle path with a strict phase or incorporate a strict phase after a stray, but the key is maintaining and returning to the middle path.

2) Antifungals — booster

Diet is number one, but the addition of anti-fungals will effect results sooner. It is helpful to switch anti-fungal roughly every 2 weeks and some cleanses switch them every 4 days, as the yeast mutate and become entirely resistant after about 2 weeks. I’ve seen great results with a selection of a few of these: an herbal compound Biocidin, pure oregano oil, pao d’arco, grapefruit seed extract, and prescription fluconazole.

3) Probiotics – democracy rules

Probiotics serve to repopulate the gut with the good guys as the overgrowth dies off. In the intestines, it’s a fight for space – a democracy if you will, with rule of those with the largest numbers. Probiotics can crowd out dysbiotic, harmful species and also maintain the health and function of intestinal cells.

Each person responds differently to different probiotics depending on their unique makeup, so it’s difficult to make a universal recommendation. I often see patients with fungal overgrowth lacking in Lactobacillus species, so it is often helpful to replete this strain. I personally like using Daily Defense by Xymogen (Progressive Probiotic Plus.) I recommend a daily probiotic for the first few months of following a modified diet and then re-evaluating. Too much for too long can cause intestinal problems in and of itself.


Hints and Tips

Die-off symptoms often occur within the first few days. Essentially, it gives you an intense experience of how the yeast are manifesting at a lower level on a daily basis. Old, seemingly unrelated symptoms/conditions may return briefly as you detox. Here are some notes from my last cleanse.

  • Within the first 24 hours of taking a dose of fluconazole, neck pain that I had recently been struggling with, intensified to the point of me suspecting injury, but then subsided as the die-off decreased
  • On day 2, I experienced morning nausea and dizziness relieved by drinking sparkling water and ginger tea.
  • On day 3, I experienced severe mental fog. I recall not remembering my ATM pin number that I’ve had for over 10 years, and was dumbfounded at the drive-through! I did some sun salutations to move lymph and help blood flow to the brain and continued to drink carbonated water. The mechanism of action here is likely due to alkalinzation (alka seltzer is also thought to be helpful.)
  • On day 4, the die off symptoms lifted and I felt better than ever – bright, clear, light, energized, and smarter!


  • It’s important to remember to take extra time to plan ahead for meals and eat on time. If you wait too long, you will become ravenously hungry and make a poor meal choice. This is true at baseline, but is intensified on this carb-restricted cleanse.
  • A couple of my favorite meals on this cleanse (I will post recipes soon) are sauteed kale, quinoa, and a fried egg, and broiled tofu with broccoli.
  • If you are local to Austin, I was able to pick up from People’s Pharmacy deviled eggs and kale salad as a to-go prepared meal in a pinch on a lunch-break.
  • Also, when I got tired of my own cooking, a meal at Uchiko of eggplant tempura, and edamame salad spiced things up a lot. Sway also had great options.  It’s not hard to eat out on the cleanse, you just have to pay a bit more attention and be selective.
  • A couple squares of dark chocolate a day are very satisfying and don’t significantly detract from the benefits of the cleanse. I love sweet cacao nibs (Big Tree brand). They are so satisfying, crunchy, a bit bitter and a bit sweet with less than 1g of sugar per serving.
  • Roasted almond butter (or my favorite Raw Mio almond spread) are low sugar, high protein, super-satisfying treats on the cleanse.


When you cleanse be kind to yourself. If you stray, come back. I’m more vata than pitta when it comes to a cleanse and have had several starts and stops. My goal is to create honest, sustainable habits. Truly, doing the mental work of what’s behind desire and attachment has been the most beneficial for me, and over the past few months, my cravings have decreased significantly. I still enjoy something, but I’m not governed by the pursuit of the experience. It’s very liberating. It’s very empowering.

I’m actually leading a growing group of friends and family through a Mega-Cleanse starting next week. It’s a combination of Ayurveda, restoring macrobiotic balance, and gut-healing – essentially a synthesis of what I know about cleansing and targeting the root cause of disease. It’s great to do even if you are generally healthy for prevention and anti-aging, as it is very rare that a person completely digests all food, emotions, and experiences without any residue. I can’t think of a better way to start this New Year! Email me if you are interested in joining us.

Cheers to your health and to your beauty. Be beautiful on the inside (literally) and outside, as beauty follows health. It may actually be helpful to let something grow mold on it, take a picture, and look at it every morning as a reminder. It helped me. I promise.


Nisha Khanna M.D


note that this content is intended for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.