Complete Guide to the Candida Diet
One of the most commonly found fungi in our bodies is the candida fungus. It is found typically in the vagina, mouth, digestive tract, the rectum, and even toenails. While the fungus is usually harmless, if there is an overgrowth of candida in the body, it can cause various types of infections and other problems. The candida diet has been designed specifically to alleviate the symptoms that are caused by candida infections. This is a very strict diet, but its effectiveness is not supported by any scientific evidence. Here we provide you a complete guide to the candida diet. You can try it out yourself to determine whether it truly works or not.
What is Candida?
In order to learn more about the candida diet, one needs to first learn about the fungi candida. There are many types of Candida species that live in various parts of our body. In fact, there are over 150 known species of candida that can be found on the human body alone. The Candida species is known to help in the digestion process and also in the absorption of nutrients from the food we eat.
When there is an overgrowth of candida in the body, it can cause infections. There are also many risk factors for getting a candida infection. These include:
- High level of alcohol consumption
- Having a diet that focuses on a heavy intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates
- High levels of stress
- Diagnosed with diabetes mellitus
- Improper use of catheters
- A weak immune system
- Imbalance of the microbiota
Some of the common symptoms of having a candida infection include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Skin problems such as rashes or eczema
- Depression or anxiety
- Mood swings
- Recurring urinary tract infections
- Joint and body pain
In spite of having over 150 species of candida present in our body, there are only 15 species of candida that can actually cause an infection. One of the most common infection causing candida species is Candida albicans.
If you feel you are at a high risk of developing a candida infection, then a change of your diet and your lifestyle will considerably lower your chances of getting infected. Managing your stress levels as well as incorporating healthy habits in your daily schedule will surely make a significant difference to your overall health.
How Does the Candida Diet Work?
Many studies have looked at why certain species of candida cause infections, why only certain people are at a risk of getting this infection, what are the possible risk factors for having an overgrowth of candida, and what are the treatment plans. However, candida infections are still insufficiently examined and more research is still required to have evidence that answers all these questions.
The candida diet, though, is hailed by many as being a possible treatment option for candida infections.
This very strict diet is composed primarily of low-sugar fruits, gluten-free foods, and non-starchy vegetables while excluding some dairy products, alcohol, sugar, gluten, and other harmful additives from your diet.
However, there is no scientific evidence to show that the candida diet actually works. Furthermore, most of the dietary limitations that the diet advocates, are also not scientifically supported. Some of these include:
- The diet restricts the intake of gluten due to the fact that many claim gluten damages the intestinal lining. However, no scientific evidence is available to show that gluten actually causes damage to the intestinal lining, particularly in people who do not suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
- The diet also puts forth the premise that a very high intake of sugar will make the candida infection worse in people who have a weak immune system. While a diet high in carbohydrates may boost the candida counts in certain people, there is a lack of evidence to show that it will also increase the risk of candida infection.
- The candida diet also restricts the intake of certain dairy products, putting forth the theory that lactose will stimulate the growth of candida as it increases the acidity levels in your mouth. However, there is no confirmation of this from any scientific study.
- Foods that have a high mold content, include artificial ingredients, contain pesticides and preservatives, etc., are also excluded from the candida diet. However, again, there is no clear evidence to show that preservatives, mold, or even pesticides have anything to do with an increased risk of getting candida infections.
- While the diet restricts caffeine and alcohol intake, that is also recommended to support a healthier lifestyle, especially if you are suffering from an infection.
Broadly speaking, the candida diet has been designed to lower inflammation in the body and to include some wholesome foods that will be good for your gut and will also lower the risk of getting candida infections over a period of time. Nevertheless, no scientific study has till date confirmed the effectiveness of the candida diet.
Beginning the Candida Diet with a Candida Cleanse
Before you start the candida diet, it is recommended that you undergo a candida cleanse. This is known as a short-time diet that will ease the stress on your digestive system and also help detoxify your body. Again, no studies are available to support any of the claimed benefits of a candida cleanse. However, a candida cleanses will help you get ready for starting the candida diet. No human studies have till date shown whether the candida cleanses actually detoxifies your body.
The two most common ways of doing a candida cleanse are described below.
- Drink only fluids such as bone broth or lemon water
- Consume only vegetables such as steamed vegetables, salads, and a small amount of some protein
Many people have reported experiencing negative symptoms from the candida cleanse, such as:
- Mood swings
- Changes in sleep patterns or not being able to sleep
- Irritability and anxiety
The candida cleanse should only last for a couple of days, and as soon as you complete the candida cleanse, you should start following the food guidelines prescribed by the candida diet.
The good part about the candida diet is that there is no specific, prescribed timetable. Proponents of this diet claim that people start to experience relief from their infection symptoms in just a couple of weeks, while others are said to experience relief in months.
It is best that work with a doctor or a nutritionist when you are following the candida diet so that you are able to meet your nutrient requirement and your body keeps getting the nutrients that it needs.
Consider the following factors before beginning the candida diet:
- The diet is only meant to be followed for a short-term until you notice an improvement in your symptoms. Do not replace this into a long-term diet plan as this may harm your health.
- Instead of cutting out caffeine, gluten, and sugar from your daily diet all at once, focus on removing them one by one and phase it out over a period of time to ease the body into the candida diet.
What Foods Can You Eat On A Candida Diet?
There are restrictions on what you can eat and what you cannot eat while following a candida diet. Some of the foods you should be incorporating in your candida diet include:
- Gluten-free grains such as oat bran, buckwheat, millet, and quinoa.
- Low sugar fruits such as berries, limes, and lemon.
- Non-starchy vegetables such as tomatoes, asparagus, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, celery, kale, eggplant, cucumber, spinach, onion, zucchini, rutabaga, and tomatoes. It is best if you have these vegetables either raw or steamed.
- Healthy fats such as olives, avocados, unrefined coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, and sesame oil.
- High-quality proteins such as eggs, chicken, salmon, turkey, and sardines. Opt for the organic and pasture-raised sardines or the wild-caught variety.
- Limited dairy products such as clarified butter or ghee, butter, and plain yogurt
- Herbs and spices that you can have include salt, black pepper, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, dill, rosemary, oregano, turmeric, thyme, and paprika.
- Nets and seeds that are low in mold such as sunflower seeds, coconut or flaxseed, and almonds.
- No sugar sweeteners such as stevia and xylitol. Erythritol can also be included.
- Condiments you can include are coconut aminos, sauerkraut, and apple cider vinegar.
- Non-caffeinated beverages you can include are herbal teas, filtered water, homemade almond milk, chicory coffee, coconut milk without additives, and lemon water or lime water.
Apart from this, you can also include probiotic supplements for easing the inflammation, helping in killing off the harmful bacteria in the gut, and for reducing the prevalence of such types of infections in the future.
What Foods Should You Avoid on A Candida Diet?
The candida diet is a very strict diet which restricts the intake of gluten, sugar, alcohol, and certain dairy products. Supporters of the candida diet believe that these foods that are to be avoided, increase the growth of candida in the body. However, avoiding these foods, though, has not yet shown to be effective against preventing candida infections, though some studies have indeed shown that having excessive amounts of sugar may actually worsen the infection. These were not human studies and were performed on mice who had a weakened immune system.
Foods that have to be avoided while following the candida diet include:
- Meats such as farm-raised fish and deli meats
- High sugar fruits such as raisins, dates, bananas, mangoes, and grapes
- Gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley, and rye
- Refined fats and oils such as soybean oil, sunflower oil, margarine, and canola oil
- Certain dairy products such as milk, cream, and cheese
- Condiments such as soy sauce, horseradish, mayonnaise, white vinegar, barbeque sauce, and even ketchup
- Sugar and artificial sweeteners such as agave, cane sugar, corn syrup, aspartame, honey, table sugar, molasses, and maple syrup
- Nuts and seeds that are high in mold content such as cashew nuts, peanuts, pistachios, and pecans
- Alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks such as coffee, energy drinks, soda, fruit juice, spirits, wine, beer, and caffeinated teas
- Additives such as sulfates and nitrates
Are there any Possible Benefits of the Candida Diet?
Though there is no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of the candida diet, there are definitely some potential benefits associated with this diet as it solely focuses on having healthy foods. A diet that consists of whole foods is known to be beneficial for your heart, for promoting weight loss, for improving the gut function, and also for reducing inflammation in the body.
The candida diet also stresses on removing all types of sugary foods and drinks, which will reduce the risk of diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and even heart disease. This is why the candida diet can be beneficial for many people, not just those who are suffering from candida overgrowth.
Are There Any Possible Pitfalls of the Candida Diet?
One of the major downsides of the candida diet is that there is no human research available to show the effectiveness of this diet. The little research that is available is also controversial.
In a three month long study involving 120 participants, suffering from intestinal candida overgrowth was done by the University of Niš in Serbia showed that changes in the diet substantially lowered the numbers of candida yeasts found in the stool, as compared to the participants who did not make any changes to their diet.
Another study that was performed on mice having weakened immune systems found that a high consumption of sugar significantly increased the growth of candida in the digestive tract.
A small study that was done at the Institut für Hygiene und Mikrobiologie in Germany looked at the growth of the candida in healthy people before, during, and after having a high-sugar diet. The researchers found that having a high-sugar diet had a very limited impact on candida growth.
Another pitfall of the candida diet is its strictness. There are so many things that are banned from this diet that it requires a person to totally revamp their entire eating style. Things that are banned in the candida diet include:
- Most fruits (especially high-sugar fruits)
- Starchy vegetables
- Certain meats
- Nuts and seeds
Most people have a huge problem in cutting out caffeine from their lives and if you are on a budget, then the candidate diet poses another set of difficulties altogether. If you don't enjoy cooking or if you don't like meal planning, then you will face difficulty in following the candida diet. The good part, though, is that the candida diet is only intended to be followed when you experience the symptoms of a candida infection.
Supports of the candida diet swear by it that it positively kills off candida overgrowth. By eliminating sugar, alcohol, gluten, and certain dairy products from your diet, you will be able to get relief from the symptoms of a candida infection. The diet majorly focuses on having organic, and high-quality meats, fats, and produce. While there is no current scientific evidence to prove the effectiveness of the candida diet, the diet is still considered to be healthy for purposes such as weight loss, promoting heart health, diabetes, and other conditions.
If you have been diagnosed with a candida infection, then it won't hurt to try out the candida diet to see if it works for you or not.
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Eras, P., Goldstein, M.J. and Sherlock, P., 1972. Candida infection of the gastrointestinal tract. Medicine, 51(5), pp.367-380.
Carlsen, G., 2001. The Candida Yeast Answer. Candida Wellness Center, Provo, Utah, USA, 50.