Ten years ago, few people knew about the significance of candida overgrowth, let alone the health benefits of embarking on a candida diet program. But today, thanks to new attitudes on the detriments of excess sugar consumption, and a growing interest in natural health and nutrition, more and more people are asking about diet as a way to cleanse candida. Here we’ll explain everything you need to know about candida and candida diets, so you can determine if a candida diet is right for you.
What Is Candida?
Candida is a type of fungus (a yeast to be exact) that resides in your body’s microbiome — which includes the intestinal tract, skin, mucosa, and genitals. There are many strains of candida, but the most common is candida albicans.
Candida is nothing new — nor is it necessarily something to be feared. Candida is not a “bad” thing in and of itself. In fact, every living person is harboring multiple strains of candida at all times. Candida becomes an issue when it overgrows and crowds out other beneficial microbes. When this happens, it disrupts the balance of beneficial bacteria, fungus, and yeasts in your gut microbiota, resulting in a slew of symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
What Causes Candida Overgrowth?
The main factors that lead to candida yeast overgrowth include:
- A weak immune system[1, 3]
- Antibiotic use[3, 4]
- Steroid use[3, 4]
- Chronic stress
- Overconsumption of sugar and starches
- Overconsumption of alcohol
- Surgery and time spent in an intensive care unit.
- Use of the birth control pill
Common Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth in Men and Women
Sugar cravings are the most common symptom of candida overgrowth, and the reason is that sugars and refined starches (AKA carbohydrates) are candida’s preferred source of fuel. Other common symptoms include:
- Fungal infections of the skin, throat, esophagus, and blood
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Chronic yeast infections
- Mood swings and mental health issues (due to the disturbance of the gut bacteria)
- Weakened immune system
- Psoriasis and eczema
The Candida Diet Plan: Your Best Defense Against Candida Overgrowth
The best natural way to overcome candida overgrowth and restore balance is to abide by a candida diet plan coupled with specific natural remedies. The candida diet is a simple, sugar elimination diet that restricts sugars, starches, and a few other foods, while still offering a great variety to choose from.
The candida diet works by “starving” the excess candida and taking away their primary food sources (namely sugars), while simultaneously rebuilding your gut microbiota with nourishing, probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods. Although you won’t go hungry on this diet, there are some foods that you’ll need to avoid. Let’s take a look at some of those foods.
The Candida Diet Plan Part 1: Foods to Avoid
Though there is much to be said about bending the rules when it comes to traditional “dieting” (a practice I don’t recommend), in a candida diet these rules must be followed to achieve results. When you’re done with the diet and your candida is in check, you can go back enjoying a more flexible eating routine.
1. All Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
Since sugar is candida’s preferred food source, removing sugar is the most vital key to your success. The same goes for artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are not allowed as they often contain harmful chemicals or allergens. They have been linked to a slew of health issues including weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. The list of sugars and artificial sweeteners to avoid includes:
- All artificial sweeteners, including sugar alcohols
- Barley malt
- Brown rice syrup
- Brown sugar
- Cane sugar
- Coconut sugar
- Date sugar
- Honey (raw or otherwise, which I normally recommend, but not when it comes to candida)
- Maple sugar
- Maple syrup
- Muscovado sugar
- Palm syrup
- Panela sugar
- Rapadura sugar
- Sugar-containing foods including sauces, beverages, etc.
- Tapioca syrup
- Turbinado sugar
- White sugar
2. Gluten and Gluten-Containing Grains
Though some experts recommend removing all grains while on a candida cleanse, I allow gluten-free grains because of their nutritional value. The gluten-containing grains to avoid include:
- Oats (unless they’re gluten-free)
- White and whole wheat
Some grains are approved for the candida diet, and we’ll cover those later on. Additionally, watch out for products that contain gluten, such as soy sauce, cereals, prepared and packaged sauces, and other packaged goods. Look for labels that indicate the product is gluten-free.
3. Refined Vegetable Oils
Though fats do not feed candida, the following types of fat are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids, when consumed in excess, can cause inflammation which has been shown to irritate the digestive tract and delay healing, leading to more candida overgrowth.[16, 17] The following processed, highly refined oils should be avoided while on the candida diet (if not all the time):
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Hydrogenated fats or partially hydrogenated fats
- Margarine or fake butter spreads
- Peanut oil
- Safflower oil
- Soybean oil
- Sunflower oil
- Walnut oil
4. Non-Cultured Dairy Products
Dairy products, including milk, cream, and cheese, contain the milk sugar known as lactose, another food source for candida. I recommend staying away from most dairy during this cleanse, and in general. However, there are some allowable dairy products on this diet for those without dairy sensitivities which I’ll cover in another section.