Getting rid of candida can be a challenge. Even if you’re on anti-fungal medication, you won’t see much success unless you also adjust your diet. You have to take away the foods that are feeding the candida if you wish to get rid of candida completely. In this article, we’ll discuss what candida is, what causes it, what the symptoms are, and how you can get rid of candida infection through following the candida diet.
What is Candida?
Candida is a type of fungus or yeast that normally lives inside the body and on the skin. There are hundreds of these yeasts, but many species can cause fungal infections if their numbers grow out of control or if they enter the bloodstream or other organs. This type of fungal infection is called candidiasis.
Candidiasis is the most common type of fungal infection that people suffer from. Usually it is caused by a certain type of candida yeast called Candida albicans, but other types of candida can cause an infection too.
What Causes Candida Overgrowth?
There are a few factors that can lead to Candida overgrowth. Some of the most common ones include:
- Taking antibiotics
- Consuming alcohol, especially high amounts of alcohol
- A diet high in sugar and refined carbs
- A weakened immune system
- Taking oral contraceptives
- High stress levels
Candida are a natural part of the community of organisms in and on our body. The issue arises when populations of candida grow out of control and lead to an infection. Typically, the probiotics, or “good bacteria”, in our gut help to control candida populations, but “bad bacteria” can allow the growth of candida. Because of this, it is very important that we maintain the right balance of bacteria in the gut microbiome.
Our gut microbiome (the community of bacteria in our gut) is ideally balanced at a ratio of 90% “good” bacteria (like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, etc.) and 10% “bad” bacteria (Clostridium perfringens, Staphylococcus, etc.). Unfortunately, due to poor diet and lifestyle practices, many people have the inverse ratio of 10% “good” bacteria and 90% “bad” bacteria.
The health of our digestive system, and therefore our overall health, relies on the right balance of the bacteria living in the gut. When there is an imbalance in the gut microbiome it can lead to numerous digestive issues, and can also allow the growth of candida populations to thrive.
One of the major causes of poor gut health and fungal overgrowth is a diet full of sugary, processed, junk foods. These foods are high in sugars that feed Candida, and rich in pro-inflammatory ingredients that damage your gut and cause inflammation throughout your body.
What are the Symptoms of Candida Infection?
When Candida begins to overproduce, it can lead to various health problems. Some of the common signs and symptoms of Candida overgrowth include:
- A white coating on your tongue or cheeks, as well as redness and soreness in your mouth—known as “oral thrush”
- Food cravings, especially sugar cravings
- Digestive issues, including gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and nausea
- Skin rashes
- Skin and nail fungal infections
- Joint pain
- Recurring genital or urinary tract infections (UTI)
- Sinus infections
How Do You Get Rid of Candida Overgrowth?
While it is recommended to seek medical advice if you have candida symptoms, mild cases of candidiasis can be treated at home. The way you treat a candida infection depends on what kind of infection you have. However, there are some general guidelines for treatment.
Like most forms of illness, the best way to treat candidiasis and prevent recurring infections is to address the underlying cause. The food you eat plays a critical role in maintaining the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut. A diet high in refined sugars, carbs and high-lactose dairy products can encourage Candida and other “bad” microorganisms to grow in the body. Eating too many of these foods may also promote infection if you have a suppressed immune system.
Just as some foods can contribute to a growth of “bad” bacteria that allow the overgrowth of candida, certain foods have also been shown to specifically encourage “good” bacteria to grow that inhibit the growth of Candida. Many people suffering from candida choose to go on the “Candida Diet” and often see promising results.
What is the Candida Diet?
The Candida Diet, sometimes called “the Anti-Candida Diet,” is a low-sugar, anti-inflammatory diet that eliminates added sugars, gluten, alcohol, and foods that can damage gut health. Generally speaking, the candida diet removes all sources of flour, sugar, and yeast from your diet and encourages lean proteins, healthy fats, low starch vegetables, non-glutinous grains, some low sugar fruits, some dairy products, and fermented foods, as well as some herbs and supplements to encourage the process.
This diet is a type of candida cleanse—a way to use foods to cleanse the body of candida overgrowth and restore balance to the gut microbiome. By improving your gut health, and restoring the balance of the bacteria and yeast that live inside your body, you can get relief from Candida symptoms and can restore the population of candida back to normal.
How Do You Follow the Candida Diet?
To follow the Candida diet, the most important thing to do is to adhere to 12 principles intended to help reduce the overgrowth of candida.
Avoid Added Sugars
One of the most important things to do in a Candida diet is to avoid all added sugars, as sugar is needed by the Candida albicans yeast to grow. Candida yeasts use sugar for cellular growth and to transition into its more pathogenic, fungal form, which is the form of candida that is most likely to spread around the gut and to other places in the body.
Candida also uses sugar, in the form of glucose and mannose, to form the biofilms that allow it to hide from your immune system. These biofilms are perhaps the major reason why Candidiasis of all forms is a particularly difficult condition to treat. Biofilms are a protective matrix that Candida albicans builds around itself.
Added sugars are in a lot of foods, and many times we consume them without realizing it. Because of this, it is very important that you read the labels on foods and check the ingredients for added sugar. Some common foods that often have added sugar include: soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit juices, teas, cereals, yeast breads, sauces, dressings, candy, grain-based deserts, dairy desserts, syrups and toppings. Many processed and packaged foods tend to have added sugars as well. If you are on a Candida diet, it is best to focus on whole foods in their natural form and to avoid added sugars at all costs.
- Eat Low-Starch Vegetables
Vegetables play an important role in any healthy diet, and they are also an important part of a Candida diet. However, some vegetables contain large amounts of starch, are high on the glycemic index, and should be minimized when on a Candida diet. Starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash, beets, corn, and peas contain a lot of net carbs and are likely to raise your blood sugar much more than low-starch vegetables.
You do not have to eliminate them completely, just make sure you don’t eat too many of them, and favor mostly green, low-starch vegetables instead. For example, when switching to a healthy diet free of junk and processed food, many people over-compensate by eating lots and lots of potatoes, yams, and other starchy vegetables. That’s not the goal here. Your vegetable consumption should be mostly green, low-starch veggies.
Just as you don’t have to eliminate starchy vegetables completely, you do not have to eliminate carbs completely, just eat less of them. In fact, some studies show that a no-carb diet may actually support fungal overgrowth. When you do not eat carbs, you enter into ketosis, which is when your body begins to use fat as a fuel source instead of sugar. Research has shown that Candida albicans is capable of using ketones as a food source.
The best vegetables to eat on a Candida diet are generally those that are high in micronutrients but relatively low in carbs. These include all leafy greens like spinach or kale, as well as anything from the cruciferous family, like broccoli, cauliflower, or cucumber.
Eat Low-Sugar Fruits
When following the Candida diet, you should stick mostly to fruits with low net carbohydrates. Some examples of low net carb fruits include lemons, limes, avocado and berries. You can also include some fruits that have higher net carbs, but also have a larger proportion of fructose, such as apples and pears.
Fruits contain three different types of natural sugars – sucrose, glucose, and fructose. Sucrose and glucose have both been shown to promote Candida albicans biofilm creation, growth, and activity. Fructose, on the other hand, is metabolized more slowly by Candida albicans, and in some cases, has actually been shown to inhibit its growth.
Include Probiotics and Fermented Foods in Your Diet
Probiotic bacteria are one of the most important elements of any Candida diet. As mentioned earlier, they help to inhibit the growth of the candida yeast, and also have many benefits to our overall health, including improving digestion, repairing gut health, and boosting immunity. When on a Candida diet, it is recommended to take a high-quality probiotic supplement, as well as to eat fermented foods that are naturally high in probiotics.
Examples of probiotic-rich fermented foods include:
- Apple Cider Vinegar
When consuming these foods, be sure that they contain live cultures, as these beneficial bacteria can be killed by the pasteurization process. For example, pasteurized yogurts will not contain the same beneficial bacteria that non-pasteurized yogurts will. When purchasing one of these products, look for terms like “live cultures,” “probiotic,” “raw,” and “unpasteurized” on the label, as these are good signs that they contain live bacteria.
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. It is well-known as an allergen for those with Celiac disease, but increasing evidence shows that gluten affects the health of more than just people with Celiac disease.
New research shows that gluten triggers the production of zonulin, a pro-inflammatory protein that damages the intestinal wall and causes intestinal permeability. Intestinal permeability, commonly referred to as Leaky Gut, has been implicated in auto-immune conditions, food sensitivities, Crohn’s disease, and IBS.
Someone suffering from Candidiasis is likely to have impaired gut health. If this is the case, eating gluten is likely to worsen symptoms. Therefore, staying away from gluten will help the gut to repair itself, reduce inflammation, and undo some of the damage caused by the imbalance in the gut microbiome.
Cut Back on Alcohol
Alcohol may be one of the most commonly used intoxicants, but it also has many negative health effects, including having a negative impact on your gut health. There is a clear and well-established link between alcohol and intestinal permeability. Candida albicans, in its pathogenic hyphal form, can also cause intestinal permeability. If a long-term Candida overgrowth has damaged your gut, then alcohol can make it even worse. While on the Candida diet, it is recommended that you cut back your alcohol consumption or, even better, eliminate it completely until your gut health is restored.
The Candida diet recommends lowering intake of carbohydrates, as the sugars in most carbs feed the Candida yeast. In order to replace these carbohydrate calories, it is recommended to eat more healthy proteins and fats. One doesn’t have to eliminate carbs completely, just focus on a more low-carb diet.
When eating proteins and fats of any kind avoid any added ingredients like sugars, nitrates or sulfites. You can get healthy proteins and fats from a variety of sources, and what you choose to eat depends on your diet.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can get plenty of protein from nuts, beans, yogurt, and protein-rich pseudo-grains like quinoa and teff, whereas coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, and seeds also offer healthy fats. If you eat meat, you can consume healthy meats, fish, and eggs, just be sure that you get them from a clean source that does not add any hormones or chemicals to the meat products.
Eat Foods That Improve Gut Health
Much of the Candida diet focuses on reducing inflammation and improving gut health. Therefore, it is important to eat less of the foods that lead to inflammation and more of the foods that reduce inflammation and promote healing. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, low-sugar fruits, healthy proteins and fats, and fermented foods is important for reducing inflammation and restoring gut health, but there are also certain foods that are particularly used for gut healing. Some foods that are used to heal the gut include:
- High fiber fruits and vegetables
- Celery juice
- Cabbage juice
- Bone broth
- Coconut oil
Focus on Nutrition
If your diet has been full of processed foods, junk foods, desserts, soft drinks, and sugary snacks, then the Candida diet will dramatically improve your nutrition. Foods like vegetables, fruits, and healthy proteins simply contain more nutrients and will help you to stay healthier and happier.
As you follow the Candida diet, reflect on your dietary choices and make a commitment to making food choices that improve your quality of health. Some ways you can do this include:
- Eat whole foods and foods in their natural form whenever possible
- Eat more produce (fruits and vegetables)
- Buy organic whenever possible
- Strive to buy local and in season foods when possible, as they are generally fresher and more nutritious
- Learn about the foods you eat and focus on foods that are rich in nutrients
Drink A Lot of Water
Drinking sufficient quantities of water and staying hydrated is important to your health, whether you are on a Candida diet or not. Your body needs water to function, and when you don’t get enough water, it can impair your health.
Research shows that dehydration can lead to poor concentration, fatigue, headaches, low mood, anxiety, and impaired memory. Some of these symptoms are also caused by Candidiasis, and if you don’t drink enough water, your symptoms could get even worse.
On the other hand, drinking enough water can improve your Candida symptoms and can improve your digestion too, which is one of the main focuses of the Candida diet. Candida can affect your digestion in many different ways—some people experience constipation, some have diarrhea, while some just experience bloating and general discomfort. Drinking more water, especially filtered water that is free of contaminants, can help to reduce these symptoms and improve digestive health.
Minimize Intake of Caffeine
Caffeine is not necessarily harmful during a Candida diet, but in some circumstances, caffeine can irritate your gut and impair your digestion, which can make your Candida infection worse. It can also contribute to burnout that might weaken your immunity at a time when you need it most.
The consumption of caffeine, specifically coffee, has been shown to activate a protein complex in the gut that is linked to inflammatory bowel disease. Drinking coffee regularly on an empty stomach has also been shown to weaken the intestinal wall, which can undermine your immune system and leave you more vulnerable to pathogens like Candida.
Whether you choose to consume caffeine during your Candida diet is up to you, some choose to stop using it while others choose to stay on it. Either way, it is important to know that caffeine, especially coffee, may affect your gut health, which is not helpful to healing Candida overgrowth.
Incorporate Anti-Candida Foods & Herbs in Your Diet
Just as some foods can contribute to a growth of “bad” bacteria that allow the overgrowth of candida, certain foods have also been shown to specifically encourage “good” bacteria to grow that inhibit the growth of Candida. Therefore, it is recommended to include more foods and herbs in your diet that help to fight Candida infections. Some examples include:
Probiotics—Probiotics are a great support to anyone looking to restore the balance of beneficial gut bacteria in their gut microbiome. Beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus may
reduce Candida growth and protect against infections.
- Garlic—Garlic contains a substance called allicin that has anti-fugal properties, and has been shown in animal and test-tube studies to act against Candida.
- Kombucha—Kombucha tea is rich in tea polyphenols and acetic acid, both of which have been shown to kill Candida in test-tube studies. It also contains probiotics, which make it an even greater aid to gut health and the balance of gut bacteria.
- Coconut oil—Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, which has been shown to fight Candida infections in multiple test-tube studies.
Aloe vera—Some studies have shown that Aloe vera gel may inhibit the
growth of Candida in the mouth and prevent infections.
- Turmeric—Turmeric is a common culinary spice with many health benefits. Much of these health benefits are attributed to curcumin, the active compound in turmeric. Test-tube studies show that curcumin also has the potential to kill Candida yeasts, or at least reduce their growth.
- Pomegranate—One test-tube study indicated that the plant compounds in pomegranate are beneficial against Candida yeasts.
A Candida infection (candidiasis) is a common health issue that many people suffer from. Candida is a type of fungus that normally lives on the skin and inside the body, in places such as the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina, without causing any problems. However, if Candida grows out of control or enters into places deep in the body it can cause an infection that can lead to numerous health issues.
Common causes of Candida overgrowth include taking antibiotics, consuming alcohol, eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbs, having a weakened immune system, diabetes, taking oral contraceptives, or having high stress levels.
While the exact way you treat Candida infections depends on what kind of Candida infection you have, there are some general ways to treat an infection. The most common way to treat Candida overgrowth is to follow a Candida diet (sometimes called an “anti-Candida diet”) and to focus on consuming foods and herbs that specifically help to eliminate Candida from the body.
The Candida cleanse diet is a low-sugar, anti-inflammatory diet that eliminates added sugars, gluten, alcohol, and foods that can damage gut health. Generally speaking, the candida diet removes all sources of flour, sugar, and yeast from your diet and encourages lean proteins, healthy fats, low starch vegetables, non-glutinous grains, some low sugar fruits, some dairy products, and fermented foods, as well as some herbs and supplements to encourage the process.
Candida infections often are unnoticed and go untreated, leading to further health issues. If you suspect you may have a Candida infection, it is recommended to schedule a checkup with your doctor and to take proactive measures, such as following the principles of the Candida diet mentioned in this article, to help rid your body of this fungal infection and to restore and improve your health.