What Is Candida?
Candida, or yeast overgrowth, is an extremely common condition. If you’re experiencing gut/digestive issues, fatigue/brain fog, recurring fungal infections, skin problems, seasonal allergies, mood swings, and other health issues – you may have Candida.
It occurs when candida – a form of fungus that lives in your digestive tract – colonizes in your gut, overpowering the good bacteria. This wreaks havoc on your gut, fights the good bacteria, and causes your gut to become leaky, which in turn leads to a variety undesirable of symptoms. Over time, you can improve the good bacteria through the right strain of probiotics.
How does candida find its way into our systems?
Candida finds its way into the body through certain medications like antibiotics and birth control, environmental toxins, and no other but our diets. A diet full of inflammatory, carbohydrate-rich, sugary, and processed foods creates the perfect conditions for yeast to thrive and multiply, as they feed off of sugars.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you might want to consider getting a blood test and talking to your doctor. If you do have Candida, fear not—it’s extremely common and there are prescriptions that can be taken to kill the bad bugs! More importantly, you can also fight it through your diet.
First, eliminate the following foods entirely:
Fruits, Fruit Juices & Dried Fruit – Although fresh fruits can be part of an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich diet, fruits high in sugar feeds Candida. You’ll be able to rid the Candida even quicker if you eliminate all fruits/sugars and replace them will delicious, fresh vegetables. Low-sugar fruits such as berries, lemons and limes are allowed on the anti-candida diet.
Alcohol – While you’re fighting off candida, it’s important to cut out beer and wine (yes, you can still have tequila and vodka so that means the Nedi Martini is approved). This does not mean that you should drink one every night, only if you really crave a cocktail during your healing process. Why no wine or beer you ask? Wine is fermented and high in sugar. Beer is also fermented, and it’s made from wheat – AKA gluten, plus it’s very high in carbs. All of these factors contribute to Candida. Alcohol can also worsen leaky gut, which is one of the most dangerous impacts of yeast overgrowth – leading to other health issues. It also suppresses your immune system, and a healthy immune system is essential for keeping your yeast population under control.
Sugar – Yeast feeds on sugar, so you need to avoid all sugar and sweeteners. If you have a sweet tooth, replace foods like sodas, candy, cakes, and cookies with sugar-free options. If you really have a sweet tooth, go for a coconut yogurt that contains no sugar and top with raspberries and a dash of cinnamon. Make sure to not avoid just the obvious sources of sugar. Sugar is found in unexpected places such as bottled salad dressings, protein bars, condiments/sauces, and packaged foods. Make sure to always read the ingredients list before purchasing!
Dairy – Dairy doesn’t directly feed Candida, but it is highly inflammatory. Inflammation causes damage to your gut lining allowing the yeast to continue escaping into your bloodstream – along with toxins, microbes, and other particles. Swap the dairy and replace it with plant-based alternatives such as nut milk. Check out the best Dairy Free Milks and Dairy Free Products.
Gluten & Grains – Gluten is highly inflammatory! It’s also a grain, and all grains—even quinoa, oats, and other healthier alternatives are broken down into simple sugars during the digestive process, which feeds Candida.
Peanuts, Peanut Butter & Pistachios – These nuts have a high content of mold which can weaken your immune system and encourage the growth of Candida. They should be avoided!
Starchy Vegetables – Certain vegetables, including squash, beets, and sweet potatoes (AKA starchy vegetables) are considered to be a “healthier” carb option than most. Once consumed though, they are broken down into sugars and thus feed the Candida. Eliminate starchy vegetables and replace them with leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables. For Example – artichokes, asparagus, boy choy, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, zucchini (Try My Zucchini Soup Recipe), and cauliflower.
Beans & Legumes – Even though beans and legumes can be a great source of protein and fiber, they are still a starch and feed Candida. Legumes are high inflammatory because they contain agglutinins. Replace them with other clean sources of protein and fiber such as eggs, fish, meat, and vegetables. Note – Soy has not been proven to aggravate Candida.
Mushrooms – This one is surprising, as mushrooms are a highly nutritious, beloved vegetable. Mushrooms are members of the fungi family, and as such, they can cross-react with Candida.
Candida Fighting Foods:
Ok, now for the fun part. What SHOULD you eat to fight candida, restore your biome, and replace the bad bacteria with the good?
Make sure to stick to a clean diet filled with lean proteins, tons of leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables. There are so many delicious and nutritious foods that also target Candida. Try to incorporate as many of them as you can into your diet for optimal results.
What To Eat On The Candida Diet
Chicken/Beef Bone Broth – This is an extremely healing drink for gut health and it boosts the immune system. Try my recipe!
Coconut Oil – Coconut oil naturally contains a fatty acid called caprylic acid. This antifungal interferes with Candida growth and replication by poking holes into the walls of the yeast cells, causing them to die off.
Cruciferous Vegetables – Vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, arugula, cabbage, and radishes contain isothiocyanates – the sulfur and nitrogen-containing compounds that attack Candida. All cruciferous veggies are full of fiber, which help with your body’s natural elimination process, thus further removing the bad bacteria. Because vegetables have alkalinizing properties, they help reduce the acidity in your body (also very important on an anti-candida diet and helps reduce inflammation). Tip – Make sure that the majority of your meals are comprised of cruciferous vegetables – your taste buds and body will thank you.
Garlic – Garlic contains allicin, a sulfur-containing compound with natural antifungal properties – specific to Candida. When eaten raw, this powerful plant is one of the best antifungals that you can consume.
Ginger – Ginger contains gingerols and shogaols, the anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal components of the ginger root. It’s the most important and effective antifungal of all listed and is a delicious addition to smoothies, clean cocktails, and many recipes. Buy a few roots of fresh ginger and make Steamed Halibut in Ginger and Tumeric. Fun Fact – Ginger is also warming, stimulates your metabolism, and aids in detoxification.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – Olive, flax, avocado, and primrose oils contain polyphenols, which are antioxidants that can help to fight yeast. Use these in place of canola and other oils. Make sure to be cautious in restaurants and ask for your meals to be prepared with only olive oil or sans any oil and butter.
Cloves – Cloves contain eugenol, which is a powerful essential oil and an extremely effective antifungal. You can bake with cloves or even buy clove containing teas. If you like the potent and distinctive flavor, use it when preparing savory meals.
Cinnamon – Cinnamon is an anti-inflammatory spice that also had antifungal properties. Similar to caprylic acid, cinnamon appears to damage yeast cells, causing them to denature and eventually die off. Sprinkle cinnamon into your smoothies, on celery sticks, and even add it to your savory meals. Cinnamon is a flavor enhancer, very warming, improves circulation, and will aid in fighting Candida.
Wild Salmon – Wild salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are also known to fight fungal infections and anti-inflammatory. It’s crucial that you consume wild salmon and not farm-raised salmon. Be aware of this in restaurants and while at grocery stores. Other great sources of omega-3 acids include sardines, anchovies, and flax seeds. Try my simple and easy Grilled Salmon recipe!
Lemon Juice – The essential oil found in lemons contains mild anti-fungal properties. Lemon also work to detoxify your liver while trying to fight off the Candida. Squeeze lemon into your water, cocktails, tea, and even use it in salad dressings.
Organic foods – Synthetic pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides used to treat conventionally grown food, including genetically modified foods, are carcinogenic. As such, they negatively affect the microbiome and gut lining, creating the underlying conditions for candida yeast overgrowth. Start off by eating only steamed or cooked veggies (easier to digest and break down) and then gradually increase your raw food intake with each meal. Tip – try taking digestive enzymes with hard to digest meals.
Animal Protein – It is recommended to consume 2-4 oz of animal protein while fighting candida, as it breaks down into amino acids when digested. Our bodies need amino acids to regenerate and repair cells, tissues, and organs (Try Braggs Amino Acids). Consuming adequate protein also helps to keep blood sugar levels balanced and protein deficiencies can lead to fatigue, muscle mass loss, anemia, joint pain, and mood swings. The best sources of lean animal proteins are organic chicken, organic turkey, organic eggs, and organic fish.
Culinary Herbs – Herbs are an excellent source of anti-fungal properties. They contain valuable phytochemicals such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and can be used to ease heartburn and headaches. Try to include fresh herbs in your meals whenever possible. Cilantro, rosemary, parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, dill, mint, tarragon, marjoram, and sage have excellent disease-fighting properties and are super flavorful in meals. To learn more about herbs, check out my post on the Health Benefits of Spices.
Sea Vegetables – Sea vegetables including arame, kelp, dulse, nori, wakame, and sea cabbage, are rich in minerals, including iodine. Most of us are lacking in iodine, which is essential for optimal thyroid function. These vegetables also bind with heavy metals and radioactive toxins and help to move them from the body. Enjoy nori and try my favorite Cauliflower Rice Sushi, sprinkle dulsi into your salads, and incorporate sea vegetables into your cooking.
Certain sweeteners – Sweeteners including chicory root, monk fruit, and stevia, are safe on the anti-candida diet as they do not promote yeast. I recommend using stevia to sweeten baking, beverages, and breakfast meals.
Water – The Essential! Make sure that you’re consuming plenty of filtered water to aid your body in detoxification. If you don’t like plain water, make herbal teas or try adding cucumber slices, lemon, or mint to it and aim to drink 3 liters a day.
Supplements – Supplements are useful for balancing and providing essential nutrients. While on the anti-candida diet, make sure to continue taking any supplements you have discussed with your doctor, and consider taking a multivitamin.