Did you know you probably have candida albicans—a type of fungus—living in your digestive tract right now? In fact, we all do. It’s one of the many members of our gut flora (the trillions of microscopic yeasts and bacteria living within our digestive system that keep us healthy).
However, when the fungus overproduces, it can cause candidiasis, an infection that can affect people of all ages. “The human body needs a little bit of yeast to function correctly. When those yeasts grow in excess, a variety of different symptoms can occur,” says Dr. Pamela Reilly, a naturopathic doctor who specializes in candida overgrowth.
Many factors can cause candida to multiply and spread out of control, including a high-carbohydrate eating style, excessive use of antibiotics, long-term use of prescription birth control or too much alcohol consumption.
If you are experiencing candida symptoms, you might consider trying the candida diet. We asked the experts about signs of candida overgrowth and how exactly the candida diet works.
Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth
Symptoms of candida overgrowth may include:
What Is the Candida Diet?
The candida diet (sometimes known as the anti-candida diet) is a way of eating that focuses on eliminating certain foods that cause the candida fungus to flourish. This diet helps reduce the candida overgrowth that can cause health issues and alleviate symptoms.
Before beginning the diet, it’s essential to have your GI system evaluated by a health care provider. Candida symptoms are similar to those from other forms of intestinal overgrowth like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or overgrowth from a parasite. A simple stool analysis can identify the correct GI condition.
To start the candida diet, you can merely eliminate certain foods from your diet that cause candida to grow and focus on eating healthy foods that don’t feed the fungus. Adding a probiotic to your diet is also important. It will help you crowd out the candida with healthy, natural gut flora.
“Targeting and killing candida may involve adding in certain pharmaceuticals that your doctor can prescribe or antimicrobial herbs and herbal byproducts like berberine, caprylic acid, grapefruit seed extract and oregano oil. Bentonite clay and activated charcoal can bind up the toxins released as candida is eliminated from the digestive tract,” explains Dr. Mark Iwanicki, a functional and integrative naturopathic doctor with a practice in Mill Valley, California, at The Clear Center of Health, a multidisciplinary, integrative medicine clinic.
Foods to Avoid on the Candida Diet
On the diet, it’s crucial to eliminate all high-sugar, high-carb foods that feed the candida. “By eliminating sugar-rich foods (the food source for candida), you are starving the yeast at its root and causing it to die off,” says Iwanicki.
The list of foods to remove from your diet includes:
Candida Diet Foods List
The best foods to focus on when following a healthy candida eating style are those that are low in sugar. Meals and snacks should include meat, veggies, nuts, and seeds.
On the candida diet, you can enjoy all of these foods:
Candida Diet Meals and Snacks
Healthy candida diet meals and snacks include:
Candida Diet Recipes
Try these delicious candida-friendly recipes from Dr. Pamela Reilly to add to your diet.
Marinara Over Veggie Noodles
This dish makes an excellent cold entree in the summer or you can heat it up in the winter.
Blend lightly in a food processor or blender. Serve over spiral zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.
Blend all ingredients and serve over ice.
How to Know If the Candida Diet Is Working
After implementing the candida diet, most people usually experience relief from symptoms within two to three weeks. “You should see a reduction in symptoms, such as gas and bloating, runny stools, headache, fatigue, weight loss and even a clearing of skin. If the underlying cause of your symptoms is candida overgrowth, then the candida diet should have a near 100 percent success rate,” says Iwanicki.
Over time, you can slowly reintroduce the foods you eliminated back into your diet. Start with low-glycemic foods first, like sprouted-grain bread, and from there add foods with a higher sugar content back into your meals a little at a time. “However, every person is different, and the reintroduction of foods is more of an art than a strict protocol. Find a good health care practitioner skilled in nutrition and knowledgeable about candida overgrowth to work with on reintroducing foods back into the diet,” says Iwanicki.
You also may need to limit certain foods indefinitely. “Many people will need to be careful with baked goods and sugary foods on a long-term basis and enjoy them as occasional treats,” says Reilly. If you have candida, you can take comfort in the fact that once the candida is under control, you will be able to eat a wide variety of foods again.