These days, there is no shortage of popular diets touting monumental benefits like weight loss, skin improvement, and intestinal healing. It can be hard to separate the ones that work from those that do not and equally difficult to discern those that will work best for you, fitting your personal needs. The Candida diet has skyrocketed to the forefront in recent years as an effective way to reduce inflammation and revitalize your health by reducing and eliminating sugars which would feed the bacteria, Candida. Many illnesses and digestive upsets are caused by the overgrowth of this bacteria, so adhering to a diet that effectively squelches it is worthy of consideration. If you are suffering from symptoms of an inflammatory gut, or have often heard about this diet but want to know more, this comprehensive guide is for you.
What Is the Candida Diet?
Overview of Candida
Before we get into the key details of the Candida diet, it is important to first understand what Candida is and how it could affect your quality of life. Issues like chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, incessant itching, continuous headaches, and ongoing yeast infections are common to many. If you have dealt with any of these, you may not know that they are all caused by the same tricky bacteria known as Candida albicans.
Candida albicans is a bacterial virus that capitalizes on any disruption of the micro bacteria in your gut. It is key to the function of your immune system and a proper digestive constitution. This balance can be worn down by factors such as stress, high sugar consumption, or continued use of antibiotics. Whatever the reason, this gut imbalance causes Candida to spread like wildfire through the intestines.
Candida albicans is known to promulgate as many as 79 different toxins, including acetaldehyde which results in brain fog and ongoing headaches. Another byproduct known as uric acid is known to cause joint pain and gout. Besides these problems and many more, the gut imbalance caused by Candida albicans can cause major digestive issues, food sensitivities, oral thrush, and yeast infections, to name a few. Most of has have Candida in our systems, but it becomes a problem when the microorganisms become imbalanced and take hold of your digestive health.
There are a few key elements you need to know about the Candida diet itself before embarking on it. First and foremost, it focuses on maintaining a low-sugar diet. As Candida feeds on sugar and other carbon-based composites, removing sugar is essential to heal from this bacteria. This includes not only added sugars, but natural sugars found in fruit.
The next primary element of the Candida diet is to incorporate probiotics into your daily regimen. This helps to balance the overgrowth of bad bacteria in your gut with good bacteria, reduce acidity, curb overproduction of yeast, and enhance your immune function. Probiotics can be taken as supplements, found in fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, or made at home if done properly.
The last key element that should be incorporated into a balanced Candida diet is antifungals. You can take natural versions of antifungals such as garlic, coconut oil, oregano oil, or grapefruit seed extract, or prescriptions such as Nystatin. Some people also benefit from taking enzymes, which work to disintegrate the self-protective barriers built by Candida.
Food Groups Breakdown
In addition to proper supplementation and the removal of sugars from your eating repertoire, the Candida diet also cautions you to remove or minimize foods like caffeine, gluten, processed meat, and alcoholic beverages. Even foods like fruit or starchy vegetables turn to sugar, feeding Candida and must be removed from your diet, at least initially.
High-protein and nutritious foods such as eggs, white meat, gluten-free grains, quality fats and oils, and non-starchy veggies are the main focus of the diet. We will get into more detail on what is allowed further down.
What Are the Benefits?
Fight Fungus and Heal Your Gut
As you may have gathered by now, the Candida diet requires many strict changes to your lifestyle and food habits. The good news is, these changes can reap incredible rewards for your digestion, state of mind, energy levels, and overall health. By fighting fungus and bacterial overgrowth in your gut, the diet can ease your symptoms and help you begin to heal from their various effects.
Fungus is the cause of problems such as bladder or yeast infections, eczema, acne, rashes, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and the list goes on. Even issues like fatigue, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, muscle and joint pain, food allergies, and sinus issues are frequently connected to Candida overgrowth. It is truly astounding what this bacterial virus can do, which makes it all the more encouraging to find relief. By cutting out sugars, sticking to non-irritant foods, and balancing gut bacteria through supplementation and diet, the Candida regimen can be a life-altering change.
Reverse Inflammation and Reduce Symptoms
By balancing out your gut bacteria, the Candida diet effectively tamps down the inflammation that has been causing your illness or pain. Added sugar in all its forms severely inflames the body when consumed regularly. Probiotics, antifungals, and the removal of sugary foods help your body to recalibrate and heal.
During the course of the healing process, your body does take time to adjust. If you are used to frequently eating some of the foods on the forbidden list or regularly consume high quantities of sugar, your body will undergo a significant period of adjustment as it seeks to function independently of these inflammatory elements.
Over time, as you stick to the diet which is so comprehensively combatting the damage that has been done, you will see your symptoms reduce and fade as your body grows stronger and your gut health improves. Left unbothered, Candida overgrowth can lead to serious health issues, so extensively dealing with the bacteria and reducing the risk of future growth is in your best interest.
Candida Diet Information
What Is Allowed
One of the main questions that come to mind when learning about the Candida diet, is what exactly can you eat? You might be surprised that even cutting out quite a few food groups which are standard in the Western diet still leaves you with many options that can be incorporated into tasty recipes.
In a nutshell, on the diet, you are allowed to eat non-starchy vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, onions, and eggplant, and low-sugar fruits such as avocados. Gluten-free grains are allowed, including buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, and millet. The diet emphasizes high-protein, minimally processed foods. This includes organic or local meat, fish with low mercury levels, free-range eggs, and bone broth. A little red meat from time to time is acceptable.
This diet also encourages fermented dairy products with low quantities of natural sugars such as kefir or plain yogurt containing probiotics. Sauerkraut and fermented olives are a great source of probiotics as well. Most nuts are allowed, with the caution to beware of ones containing elements of mold if you are especially sensitive. You can easily soak nuts with a high mold risk factor like pecans, cashews, and peanuts overnight, or choose to avoid them until your gut is at a healthier place.
Herbs and spices are used to flavor everything. In addition, oils that are minimally processed and contain anti-fungal qualities such as extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil are especially favored. Added sugar is avoided like the plague on the Candida diet, but you can use sugar alcohol replacers like Stevia and xylitol or an alternative like monk fruit extract. Some people have digestive irritation from sugar alcohols, so they should be used sparingly if you find they cause you distress.
What Is Not Allowed
Now that you know what is allowed, you may have a good idea of the some of the foods that make the forbidden list. You should avoid added sugars and sugar substitutes like agave, maple syrup, or even aspartame. Grains with gluten, which irritate the lining of your gut and feed Candida overgrowth, are also not allowed. High sugar and dried fruits are to be avoided.
As far as beverages go, fruit juices, sugary drinks, and alcohol should be avoided, and caffeine minimized or eliminated. Even condiments with sugar added and highly processed oils like sunflower oil should be left out of your eating plan. Processed and under-cooked meats are removed from your diet as well as fish with high mercury levels like tuna and swordfish.
Many dairy products contain high levels of lactose and natural sugar that feeds Candida, so your favorite milk, cheese, and ice cream will not make the cut. Aged goat or sheep’s milk cheese is acceptable for some, as is ghee in small quantities.
Even with more limited options than you are used to, the Candida diet still offers the opportunity to enjoy many creative and tasty meals. For example, breakfast might involve an avocado omelet, gluten-free waffles, or fried eggs with vegetables.
For lunch, you could enjoy soup or roasted veggies with hummus, and for dinner, perhaps a Thai curry or salmon salad. There are plenty of options to make sugar-free, gluten-free desserts and treats like muffins and cookies too.
Undoubtedly, embarking on and adhering to the Candida diet is an undertaking that requires commitment. It is usually not easy at first, and you may feel frustrated initially. However, it is important to remember that there are still many wonderful foods you can enjoy while on the diet, and your taste buds need not suffer for lack of certain food groups.
Even more to the point, if you are suffering from chronic digestive issues, ongoing fatigue, yeast infections, skin issues, and other ailments, the Candida diet might offer you a path to attain a vital state of mind and health.