The Kaufmann antifungal diet (a two-phase diet similar to the candida diet) consists of eliminating sugar, flour and yeast with the idea that they foster growth of harmful fungi. Despite scarce evidence, proponents believe excess fungi contribute to different symptoms and diseases.
Antifungal diets are based on an unproven theory that cutting out certain foods will "starve" fungal organisms and suppress their growth. These foods may include sugar, flour, yeast and some types of dairy, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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Fungi can cause many different types of infections and illnesses, like asthma or allergies, rashes or infections on the skin and nails, lung infections (pneumonia), bloodstream infections and meningitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Candida albicans, a type of yeast or fungus, is often the target of antifungal diets, per the Mayo Clinic. Candida can be found in many places inside and outside the human body, including the mouth, throat, gut, vagina and on the skin. Candida is not harmful unless it grows excessively, resulting in a fungal infection, according to the CDC.
Candida most commonly causes infections of the vagina, mouth, throat and esophagus, per the CDC. There's also evidence that candida overgrowth can worsen gastrointestinal conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Some advocates of antifungal diets go a step farther, linking a wide range of common and seemingly unrelated symptoms like fatigue, headache and poor memory to an overgrowth of candida in your gut, but there is scarce evidence to support this idea, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Do Antifungal Diets Work?
Although there is likely some correlation between diet and fungal growth, there is insufficient research to support a diet devoid of sugar, flour or yeast treating any fungal infection — either the established types of fungal infections or the more vague symptoms that some believe to be related to candida overgrowth in your gut, according to the Mayo Clinic.
There may be some unintended benefits of partaking in an antifungal diet, though, even if it is unlikely to rid your body of fungus. Cutting out sugar and white flour will probably lead you to significantly decrease your intake of processed foods, which could have a lot of health benefits, per the Mayo Clinic.
While there is not much danger in starting an antifungal diet, it is probably overly restrictive to eliminate entire food groups. "But, cutting back on added sugars and refined grains is a perfectly safe goal," says Whitney Linsenmeyer, PhD, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and an assistant professor of nutrition at Saint Louis University in Missouri.
Finally, you should not rely on any diet to treat an existing fungal infection.
To safely treat fungus, a diagnosed fungal infection should be treated with antifungal medication. Vaginal yeast infections or infections of the skin, like athlete's foot, can often be remedied by creams available without a prescription, while more serious conditions require antifungal medicine that is taken by mouth and prescribed by your doctor, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- Mayo Clinic: “What Is a Candida Cleanse Diet and What Does It Do?”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “About Fungal Diseases”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Candida Infections of the Mouth, Throat, and Esophagus”
- Whitney Linsenmeyer, PhD, RD, LD, spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; assistant professor, nutrition, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Fungal Infections”
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.