The term ‘Candida’ refers to a collective group of yeast-like fungi that are naturally present in the human intestines, mouth, throat, skin and urinary system. Generally, it is Candida Albicans that is implicated in states of chronic yeast infections, but there are almost a dozen different types of Candida organisms.
Candida is normally present in the colon and is kept in check, along with other ‘bad bacteria', by the probiotics or, ‘good bacteria’. The over-consumption of sugars , breads, alcohol and yeast products (candida feeds on these) results in the bad guys getting all the food they need while the good guys become outnumbered.
Candida is made worse by the use of antibiotics, including antibiotics in animal feed, birth control pills, environmental pollution and steroid drugs.
Once overgrown in the intestines, Candida forms spike-like structures called myceles or rhizoids. This enables the candida to burrow through the intestinal lining and enter the blood stream. This is commonly referred to as leaky gut or malabsorption syndrome. These holes now pave the way for other organisms to enter the blood stream as well as partly or undigested food particles which are a contributing factor in food and environmental allergies.
Allergies produce symptoms such as fatigue, depression , chronic dermatological infections, skin rashes, acne, abdominal bloating and gas, indigestion, constipation , diarrhea, chemical and food sensitivities, hypoglycemia, premenstrual tension, endometriosis, prostatitis, vaginitis, poor concentration, memory problems, mood swings, and rheumatoid arthritis. If you have any of these conditions it would be a good idea to get Candida testing done!
Depending on the severity, a typical Candida program can be anywhere from 12 weeks to 9 months. Incorporating supplements into your healing regime is essential during this program. I’ve met people who have been on Candida diets without the help of supplements for almost 10 years with just minor improvement. As soon as they go off the diet, the symptoms return.
If you plan to do a food-only Candida healing protocol, pack some lunch – you’re going to be doing it for a while.
These are some of the key foods you'll want to avoid on a Candida diet:
- All dairy products ( milk , cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, ice cream, butter)
- Most grains but especially gluten and starchy grains (barley, rye, kamut, spelt, rice, wild rice, oats). NOTE: some highly sensitive individuals might want to omit ALL grains. I find this is ok for meat-eaters but very challenging for vegetarians
- Sugar: I usually recommend ALL forms of sugar although some resources classify fruits as "allowable". I would advise to err on the side of caution and if you’re going to consume fruits, make sure they’re not high sugar or high Glycemic Index. Berries are your best bet here!
- Wheat-containing foods such as breads, pasta and bagels (interestingly, wheat has a similar antigen marking to Candida)
- Starchy vegetables such as parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, beets, turnips and yams
- All alcoholic beverages, coffee, caffeine, tea and carbonated drinks. These are acidic which is what yeast prefers
- All fermented and fungal type foods such a vinegar (use lemon juice instead), soy sauce (use Bragg’s amino’s instead), ciders, pickles, mushrooms. This is open for debate and some practitioners do like to use ferments to support Candida healing for their probiotic benefits
- Peanuts, pistachios, cashews, bean sprouts and popcorn
I know what you're thinking: "YIKES – that's A LOT of stuff I can't eat!". While that's somewhat true, let's now take a look at what you CAN eat!
Allowed Foods on a Candida Diet:
- Fresh non-starchy vegetables: asparagus , avocado , brussels sprouts , cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, kale , lettuce, onions, parsley, pumpkin, spinach, squash, string beans, tomato, watercress, wax beans. A wide variety and organic, if possible. Enjoy raw, juiced, steamed or as soups & salads.
- Protein: good quality meat is best. Ideal is grass-fed beef, fish, chicken, eggs and wild meats. Try your best to go for organic. Beans are a little too starchy but you can include some in the diet, especially if you’re vegetarian. Avoid processed meats like hot dogs, pre-made hamburger patties and dried/cured meats
- Nuts & Seeds: raw not roasted
- Grains: quinoa , millet, amaranth. However, keep grains to a minimum and focus more on eating vegetables and protein
- Beans and legumes: red & green lentils, mung beans and adzuki beans in moderation
- Coconut oil has many health benefits and mild anti-fungal properties
Supplements are an essential component to this program. It will be a long and challenging journey without them. I am all about effective supplementation and when it comes to Candida, "go big or go home" is my general motto.
These are some supplements you may want to consider incorporating into your Candida-healing protocol:
- Digestive enzymes: one of the most critical supplements to include. They help break down food and some also break down the wall of the Candida itself (SO essential!)
- Anti-fungals: oregano oil, berberine, grapefruit seed extract, olive leaf extract and pau d’Arco (taheebo). Look for a formula or use them as individual items. These guys wipe out the Candida!
- Binders: Bentonite and activated charcoal bind what’s called Candida die-off (think “clay mask” and you get the picture). When you start killing Candida, they release aldehydes which are a type of alcohol. This is the stuff that really makes you feel sick on the cleanse. By adding these binders, you minimize the die-off reaction and things tend to run a little smoother
- Fiber: Fiber ensures that the bowels keep moving and that the Candida actually gets out of the body. Meat-eaters who are on a meat/veg program might want to increase the amount of fiber as a supplement since meat has no fiber at all
- Probiotics : These are the ‘good bacteria’ and they help crowd out the bad guys (Candida). A key component to this (and almost any other) program or diet. Look for high potency and high organisms (i.e. dosage in billions)
- A high-potency multi-vitamin. Look for one that supports the liver and the adrenal glands
- Vegetarians might want to consider a protein shake 1-2X/day. We are trying to starve the Candida, not the person!
While this might seem very overwhelming, remember this: in the grand scheme of things, a small-time investment pays off in the long run. Candida is an underlying issue for many disease states and heavily under-diagnosed, so a little ground work goes a long way.
This is one of the most complete programs I know of and works well. The trick is to stick with it. If you fall off the wagon don’t throw in the towel. Take it for what it is, get back on the horse and keep moving forward!
What are some of your favourite Candida-friendly foods to enjoy?