Oral thrush is a fungal infection of the mouth, where a fungus that lives in the oral cavity overgrows and causes white lesions. There are some foods to avoid with oral thrush, so make sure you know what to eat and what to avoid.
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What Is Oral Thrush?
According to the Mayo Clinic, oral thrush, or oral candidiasis is the result of Candida albicans accumulating in the lining of the mouth. Though this organism normally lives in the oral cavity, it can sometimes overgrow and cause white lesions on your tongue or inside your cheeks. In some cases, you may find it on the roof of your mouth, your tonsils, the back of your throat or your gums.
Oral thrush is most common in those who have reduced immunity. It tends to occur in babies and older adults, but it can affect anyone. It is a minor problem if you are healthy, but if your immune system is weakened due to health conditions or medications, your symptoms may be more difficult to control — and more severe.
At first, you may not notice the symptoms of oral thrush. Over time, this condition may cause:
- White lesions on the tongue, cheeks, gums, tonsils and roof of the mouth
- Lesions that resemble cottage cheese
- Irritation and soreness that may cause difficulty eating or swallowing
- Bleeding if the lesions are scraped or rubbed
- Loss of taste
- Dry mouth that feels like cotton
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you are more likely to experience thrush if you have:
- Medications that cause dry mouth
- Medical conditions that cause dry mouth
- A need to use antibiotics or corticosteroids
- A smoking habit
The Mayo Clinic states that you should see a doctor or a dentist if you or your child develop white lesions inside the mouth. Because thrush is not commonly seen in healthy older children, teenagers or adults, it is important to reach out to a healthcare provider to determine if additional testing is needed. It may be necessary for your doctor to check for underlying medical conditions that may trigger your symptoms.
In healthy children and adults, the immune system works to prevent harmful bacteria from invading your tissues while maintaining a balance between the good and bad bacteria that live inside your body. Sometimes, these protective mechanisms fail, allowing the number of candida spores to increase, making way for an oral thrush infection.
Read more: Should I Eat Yogurt if I Have Thrush?
Foods to Avoid
There are a lot of foods to avoid with thrush in the mouth. It may be difficult to eat while dealing with the infection. In any case, after visiting your doctor to get antifungal medication to help treat the condition, you should consider making dietary changes to lessen the severity of the thrush and help prevent its reoccurrence.
The Mayo Clinic recommends limiting sugar-containing foods as these may promote candida growth and make it harder to get rid of the infection.
According to a December 2015 review published in Frontiers in Microbiology, an unbalanced dietary intake of carbohydrates, refined sugar and dairy products that are high in lactose could promote candida growth. These foods reduce the pH levels in the mouth.
The review also indicates that nutrients frequently deficient in chronic candidiasis sufferers include essential fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin B6 and folic acid. They may also be deficient in zinc, magnesium and selenium.
Based on this information, the foods to avoid with oral thrush include:
- Sugary drinks, candies, cookies and cakes
- Fruits high in sugar, such as bananas, grapes and figs
- Milk, cheese, and other dairy products high in lactose (some cheeses do not contain lactose)
- White flour and bread and any other products that contain gluten (gluten may promote inflammation in those who are intolerant or allergic)
- Sugar substitutes, such as honey, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup and aspartame
- Processed meats
- Condiments, such as barbecue sauce, soy sauce, ketchup and mayonnaise, as these often contain added sugar
- Butter substitutes like margarine and soybean oil because of their high content of saturated and hydrogenated fats
Read more: What Causes a White Coating on the Tongue?
Candida Diet Food List
There is a lot of talk about a candida diet cleanse that's supposed to detoxify the body and make it easier to avoid candida overgrowth. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, there is little evidence to support the notion that such a diet helps treat or prevent candida infection.
The official Candida Diet website states that the approach is low-sugar and anti-inflammatory, with the goal to promote good gut health and eliminate the sugars that feed candida growth. This dietary plan is largely based on non-starchy vegetables, low-sugar fruits, gluten-free grains, fermented foods and some dairy products.
Replace the foods to avoid with foods on the candida diet list, such as:
- Fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha
- Low-sugar fruits, such as blueberry, lemon and lime
- Quinoa and other pseudo-grains, such as buckwheat
- Lean protein such as chicken and fish
- Herbs and spices
- Sugar alcohols, such as xylitol and erythritol
- Herbal tea
- Chicory coffee
"Maybe foods" are foods to avoid with thrush in the mouth, but they may be OK in small amounts for the candida diet. These include:
- Non-GMO corn
- Brown rice
- Wild rice
- Black rice
- Nut butter
- Nut milk
- Green tea
- Vegetable juice
Some of these may not bother people, but others may worsen your symptoms. You'll just have to try them and see how your body responds before deciding whether to keep or cut them out from your diet.
If you decide to give the candida cleanse diet a try, you may notice improvements in various symptoms. If you stop eating sugar and white flour products, you'll end up cutting out most processed foods, which are high in calories and low in nutrients.
As such, you'll have a diet much richer in whole foods and grains, so you might start to feel better in general. You may even experience some weight loss as a side effect. That, rather than stopping the yeast growth in your gastrointestinal tract, is likely the biggest benefit of following a candida cleanse diet.
- Mayo Clinic: "Oral Thrush"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Candida Infections of the Mouth, Throat and Esophagus"
- Frontiers in Microbiology: "Clinical Appearance of Oral Candida Infection and Therapeutic Strategies"
- Mayo Clinic: "What Is a Candida Cleanse Diet and What Does It Do?"
- The Candida Diet: "Homepage"