These days it feels like there are a thousand elimination diets out there that will cure every ailment from migraines to acne. Now, the Candida Diet is taking on yeast.
Candida is a type of yeast that lives in your mouth and gut or on your skin. This yeast is a normal part of your body’s environment (particularly in the gut), but when levels get too high, candida can wreak havoc throughout your body, explains Niket Sonpal, M.D., assistant clinical professor at the Touro School of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City. Candida overgrowth has been linked to oral thrush (marked by white lesions in the mouth), sinus infections, fatigue, skin infections, UTIs, yeast infections, and digestive issues such as Crohn’s, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and ulcerative colitis.
Candida overgrowth occurs when there’s an imbalance between the types of bacteria in your gut. And, while anything from your birth control to stress can throw off your body’s delicate balance of intestinal bacteria, most often, issues are due to the use of antibiotics. After all, antibiotics are all about killing bacteria, and even if some forms of bacteria are bad, others are good—and responsible for regulating candida levels.
The question is, can altering your diet help keep candida in check? And is it even necessary?
What’s On the Menu for Candida Diet?
The Candida Diet, developed by Lisa Richards, a health researcher and self-proclaimed candida sufferer, and Eric Wood, a naturopathic doctor (neither responded to requests for comment), stresses that treating candida overgrowth requires three elements: probiotics, antifungals, and, of course, diet. Probiotics are used reintroduce the “good” bacteria into your system and rebalance your gut, while antifungals kill excessive fungal growth.
The diet itself starts with a “cleanse” that lasts for a few days to a week in order to prepare your body for the new style of eating. During that time, you can eat non-starchy vegetables, low-sugar fruits, healthy oils, herbs, and spices, and organic eggs.
Then, you start eating according to the diet’s rules. In general, the diet encourages you to avoid high-sugar fruits, refined grains, meats such as pork and lunch meat, fish such as tuna and swordfish, some dairy products, moldy nuts and seeds, condiments with added sugars, refined and processed vegetable oils, sugars and sugar substitutes, caffeinated or sugary drinks, and alcohol. Instead, you should focus on eating non-starchy vegetables, low-sugar fruits, non-glutinous grains, healthy fats, and lean protein. (Learn how bone broth can help you lose weight with Women’s Health’s Bone Broth Diet.)
Any food that’s highly processed, high in sugar, or quickly gets processed as sugar is a no-go on this diet. If it looks familiar, that’s because at its core, this is an anti-inflammation diet, similar to the Whole30. The idea is that foods that are high in sugar or simple carbs exacerbate the problem of candida overgrowth, while processed foodsdirectly spike inflammation.
But what about pork chops, tuna, and dairy? They aren’t processed or high in sugar, right? “Pork contains retroviruses and parasites that may survive cooking and be harmful for those with a weakened digestive system. Also, remember that pork often comes in an over-cooked form (i.e. bacon!) that is full of carcinogenic compounds. “Properly-cooked pork from a reputable source may be okay, but we would recommend avoiding it during your Candida diet,” the diet’s website says. Tuna and swordfish should be avoided because they contain metals and “other pollutants” due to the fact that they live longer and therefore spend more time in our polluted oceans. Meanwhile, the diet also dictates that there’s too much sugar in dairy, and it should be avoided.