Touted as the cure for multiple ailments, including yeast infections, digestive issues and fatigue, the candida diet plan aims to eliminate foods that proliferate the growth of Candida albicans. This includes foods high in simple sugars like fruit.
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According to the diet proponents, you can eat low-sugar fruits when following the candida diet plan. Low-sugar fruits include olives, avocados, starfruit and berries.
Despite the many claims on multiple websites across the world wide web, there's no evidence that cutting fruits and other simple carbohydrates, along with all sources of yeast, can cure what ails you. Roughly 90% of Americans fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables as it is. If you have a yeast infection or you're not feeling quite like your usual self, consult with your primary care provider for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.
What Is Candida Albicans?
The human body is home to over 100 trillion microbes, including bacteria, viruses, protozoa and yeast, which are collectively referred to as your microbiome. Candida albicans is a type of yeast found on your skin and in your mouth, throat and gut. The yeast also lives in a woman's vagina.
In healthy people, the colonies of yeast rarely cause problems. However, yeast infections, referred to as candidiasis, may occur under certain conditions.
For example, you may be at risk of developing oral candidiasis, a yeast infection that occurs in the mouth or throat, if you're mildly immunocompromised. This type of yeast infection is common in people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). However, aging and wearing of dentures are also risk factors, notes the authors of a February 2013 report published in Virulence.
Women are also prone to vaginal yeast infections. In fact, 75 percent of women develop at least one yeast infection at some point in their life, according to the Virulence report. Though some women have recurrent yeast infections, which equates to four or more a year, the overgrowth of yeast is usually related to an underlying cause, such as diabetes, antibiotic use, contraception or hormone therapy.
Even though yeast infections are a nuisance, they're relatively harmless. However, in rare cases, yeast infections can affect the blood, heart or brain, says the National Organization of Rare Disorders (NORD).
Read more: How to Get Rid of Too Much Yeast
Symptoms of a Yeast Infection
Yeast infection symptoms can vary depending on the area of the body experiencing the overgrowth. With oral candidiasis, also known as oral thrush, you may develop white patches or sores on your tongue and the inside of your mouth. A vaginal yeast infection initially causes a white or yellow discharge, followed by itching and inflammation.
A systemic yeast infection, which is a very serious condition, causes inflammation all over the body. Because this type of yeast infection often develops in people who are already sick, it can be difficult to diagnose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Typical symptoms include fever and chills that don't improve with antibiotics.
Proponents of the candida diet claim that systemic yeast infections can affect anyone, not only those who are chronically ill. Symptoms of what's also sometimes referred to as yeast syndrome or chronic candidiasis include congestion, gas, fatigue, depression, muscle aches and difficulty concentrating, notes the Health Library at Winchester Hospital.
According to alternative practitioners, the overgrowth of yeast in your body causes a type of allergy-like hypersensitivity, which creates the noted symptoms.
Premise of Candida Diet Plan
As reported in a May 2013 study in PLOS, carbohydrates are the primary source of nutrition for Candida albicans, and simple sugars like glucose and sucrose may proliferate colonization of the yeast. The premise behind the candida diet plan is to avoid foods that "feed the yeast." Since Candida albicans thrive on carbohydrates, you need to cut carbohydrates from your diet, or more specifically the simple carbohydrates, to prevent further overgrowth.
Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient primarily used to create glucose, which is the preferred source of energy for all the cells in your body. Depending on the chemical structure, carbohydrates are either simple or complex.
Simple carbohydrates include most sweets and foods with added sugar (soft drinks, candy and other treats). However, these simple carbohydrates are also naturally found in fruit, milk and vegetables. Based on the general premise of the candida diet plan, fruits may "feed the yeast."
In addition to simple carbohydrates, you also need to avoid foods that contain yeast, which includes baked goods like bread, beer, wine, cheese, savory spreads like marmite and even mushrooms. According to Winchester Hospital, proponents of the candida diet believe that if you're sensitive to the yeast in your body, then you're also sensitive to the yeast in foods.
Read more: How Does Coconut Oil Kill Candida?
Candida Diet Food List
Your candida diet food list may depend on the stage of the diet you're following. The diet typically starts with a detoxification, which may include fasting, a colon cleanse or a vegetable-juice fast.
The general premise behind any detox diet is to help your body remove toxins to improve health. However, there's very little evidence to support these claims, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
During the initial phase of your candida diet plan, you may be limited to nonstarchy vegetables, low-sugar fruits, eggs, herbs and spices. After your detoxification, you enter the main phase of the diet, which may include:
- Nonstarchy vegetables
- Low-sugar fruits
- Beans and lentils
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
Fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi are also encouraged on the candida diet plan. These foods are a natural source of probiotics, which are friendly bacteria. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says filling your diet with probiotic-rich foods helps repopulate the friendly bacteria in your gut, which may improve your immune health.
Most of the items on your candida diet food list should be organic, according to proponents of the diet, to limit your exposure to pesticides.
Candida Diet Fruit List
Fruits are a natural source of simple carbohydrates, which also happens to be the preferred source of nutrition for Candida albicans. However, as noted above, certain types of fruits are allowed on your candida diet plan, namely the low-sugar variety.
In general, most of the calories in fruit come from carbohydrates in the form of fructose, which is the sugar naturally found in fruit. Though your body treats the sugar from the fruit in the same manner as the sugar in your sugar bowl, fruit also provides fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A and other nutrients that support good health.
However, the amount of carbohydrates, or sugar, in fruit varies. The candida diet fruit list suggests you select low-sugar fruits to minimize intake of those simple carbs the yeast love so much. According to nutrition data from the USDA, low-sugar fruits include:
- Casaba melon
These fruits contain less than 6 grams of sugar per 100-gram serving. By comparison, a 100-gram serving of an orange or apple contains about 10 grams of sugar. Whether oranges, apples and candida are a good mix may depend on what candida diet plan you follow.
Food as Medicine
What you eat certainly influences your health. As noted by the U.S. Health and Human Services, what you eat influences your weight and your risk of chronic disease. Filling your diet with healthy, nutrient-rich foods — fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats — may help you reach and maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of developing many chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
As for diet and candida, a recent pilot study published in the December 2018 issue of the Journal de Mycologie Medicale found that participants who followed a sugar-free and yeast-free diet while taking antifungal medication to treat intestinal yeast overgrowth had better outcomes than those only taking the medication. The study's authors suggested that combining the diet with the antifungal medication may prevent the need for prolonged prescription treatment for the chronic condition.
It's clear that your diet influences your overall health and wellness. But the evidence that certain components in food or certain types of diets can improve various health conditions is often exaggerated, according to an August 2013 position statement from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Though the pilot study shows promise for the premise of the candida diet, more research is needed before claims can be made.
Plus, the candida diet plan, like most fad diets, is very restrictive and may increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies. If you think you have a yeast infection or you're simply feeling crummy and can't pinpoint the cause, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider for a comprehensive workup.
Candidiasis: Standard Medical Treatment
According to Harvard Health Publishing, your body is supposed to provide a home for Candida albicans, and if you're healthy without a diagnosed yeast infection, treatment of any kind is unnecessary. Further, the Mayo Clinic states that there's no evidence to support a diagnosis of "yeast syndrome" or hypersensitivity to yeast, and home remedies consisting of a special diet or supplements won't help.
Treatment for a diagnosed yeast infection depends on the location in your body, and may include topical or oral antifungal medication. Though diet changes aren't necessary for those diagnosed with a yeast infection, if you have a history of diabetes you may be advised by your doctor or dietitian to modify your diet to improve blood sugar control, which may help prevent recurrent yeast infections.
Additionally, if you're prone to yeast infections and you're prescribed an antibiotic to treat a bacterial infection, including probiotic-rich foods may help prevent a fungal infection.
- University of Washington: "Fast Facts About the Human Microbiome"
- Virulence: "Candida Albicans Pathogenicity Mechanisms"
- National Organization of Rare Diseases: "Candidiasis"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Invasive Candidiasis"
- Winchester Hospital: "Candida/Yeast Hypersensitivity Syndrome"
- PLOS: "Dietary Carbohydrates Modulate Candida albicans Biofilm Development on the Denture Surface"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Carbohydrates"
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Is There a Diet for 'Yeast Allergy?'"
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "'Detoxes' and 'Cleanses': What You Need to Know"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You"
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: "Why Is It Important to Eat Fruit?"
- MyFoodData: "Top 10 Fruits Lowest in Sugar"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Orange, Raw"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Apples, Raw"
- U.S. Health and Human Services: "Importance of Good Nutrition"
- Journal de Mycologie Medicale: "The Dietary Modification and Treatment of Intestinal Candida Overgrowth - A Pilot Study"
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Functional Foods"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Candidiasis"
- Mayo Clinic: "What Is a Candida Cleanse and What Does It Do?"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Disparities in State-Specific Adult Fruit and Vegetable Consumption