Doctor, do you think I have candida? asked 26-year-old Mary when she came to see me.

She had been suffering bloating, bowel upsets, food intolerances and a general feeling of tiredness for two years. She also suffered from recurrent vaginal thrush.

The causes of candida, a fungal infection commonly known as thrush, is probably somewhat misunderstood. On closer examination of Mary's clinical history, it became clear she had been through quite a stressful period. She had been putting in long hours of study at university while having to work part-time and was having a rough time in a relationship. Her food intake had been erratic and not always healthy.

The university years can be a vulnerable period for a lot of people and many suffer from chronic fatigue and depression which often go unrecognised and untreated.

Many people find their bowels and digestive system are upset by the slightest stress. A disturbed nervous system causes the bowel to go into spasm which, in turn, can cause either diarrhoea or constipation, pain and bloating. When this happens, the secretion of digestive juices in the gut is reduced, affecting the absorption of nutrients so body and mind suffer from general fatigue and lack of concentration. The useful bacteria of the gut flora is reduced and harmful bacteria and opportunistic fungi such as candida get the chance to flourish.

Adrenalin and cortisones produced by the body during prolonged stress can cause gastric acid, ulcers and irritable bowels.

The liver gets fatigued and a general toxic feeling prevails in mind and body. The net result is bloating, wind, irregular bowel habits and tiredness.

You can prevent this by paying more attention to your lifestyle. Taking breaks during the day and ensuring a good six to eight hours sleep is very important in giving your nervous system, liver, hormones and digestive juices a chance to recover.

Try not to eat a full meal when you are in hurry or emotionally upset. Instead, drink lot of soups mixed vegetable and lentil with herbs and rock salt is the best as it is easily digested and provides protein and other nutrients. Use herbs such as star anise, ginger, cumin, turmeric, basil and asafoetida in soups as these clear the gut of candida and other harmful germs and help with digestion. Their warm, spicy flavour will also enliven the mind and spirit. Eat live yogurt to restore the lactobacilli. Eat freshly-cooked, warm food with plenty of steamed vegetables such as broccoli and potatoes. Avoid microwaved, reheated or cold food.

A simple and effective Ayurvedic herbal combination for all your gut problems is asparagus racemosus root extract (satavari), which heals ulcers and is a rejuvenator, with Trikatu powder, a combination of ginger, black pepper and long pepper. Add this to soups or vegetables.