In normal amounts, the yeastlike fungus Candida albicans is nothing to worry about -- it's part of a healthy human system. However, when the fungus multiplies excessively, it can cause problems for some people, including yeast infections, rashes and thrush. The Candida diet aims to control an overgrowth of Candida albicans by eliminating certain foods purported to feed the fungus. Although the eating plan is primarily a healthy one, there are some potential risks involved with eliminating certain foods or food groups from your diet.
Candida Diet Overview
The Candida diet is an elimination diet that prescribes temporarily cutting out certain foods that may cause Candida albicans to multiply in order to kill off the overgrowth of the fungus. Once you have achieved balance and your symptoms have subsided, you can begin to add certain foods back into your diet one at a time to see if your symptoms stay under control or whether they recur. If they recur, the diet recommends eliminating them again for a period of time, or forever.
Foods the Diet Eliminates
The Candida diet eliminates many unhealthy foods, including all types of added sugars; alcohol; processed, smoked and cured meats; all preservatives; refined grains like white rice, white pasta and white bread; condiments like mayonnaise and ketchup; and soda and energy drinks. It also eliminates some foods that are healthy, offering essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. This includes all fruits, whether fresh, dried, frozen or canned; and glutinous grains such as wheat, rye, oats and barley, which have only been proven to be unhealthy for people with an intolerance or allergy to gluten. Also off-limits are starchy vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and beets; all shellfish; all fish except for wild salmon and sardines; almost all dairy except for ghee, a type of clarified butter, kefir and yogurt with probiotics; mushrooms; cashews, peanuts and pistachios; beans and legumes, and all products made with them, including tofu. You can't have coffee or tea while on the diet, either.
Beneficial Effects of the Diet
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center website, the Candida diet is a "healthful diet." However, whether it actually helps control Candida albicans isn't clear. It may be that people begin to feel better because the diet eliminates many unhealthy foods, says the UMMC website. Cutting out added sugars, alcohol, processed meats and refined grains and eating a lot of vegetables, fatty fish and whole grains, as the diet recommends, can help you lose weight and may improve heart health and other aspects of your health. If your candida overgrowth and associated symptoms clear up, that's a bonus.
Potential Negative Effects
There are few negative side effects to speak of, if you make sure to cover all your nutrient bases when following such a restrictive diet as the Candida diet. For the first few months of the diet, you can't eat any fruit, which cuts out a rich source of fiber and essential nutrients; however, it's pretty easy to make up for that with increased vegetable intake. Your dairy choices are also limited, which could pose a problem for some people who rely on dairy as a source of calcium. But, again, there are plenty of other calcium sources allowed, including collard greens, iceberg lettuce, canned salmon and oranges. Vegetarians may find protein sources limited on the Candida diet, due to the elimination of beans, including soy products. They will need to rely on allowed nuts and seeds, some grains such as quinoa and protein-rich vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Lacto-ovo vegetarians can eat eggs for protein.