If you think you might have a candida or yeast overgrowth problem, today’s discussion is a continuation of how to take control of this issue in your body and regain health. In Part I last week, I gave an introduction of how candida overgrowth starts in the digestive tract and immune system, and if left unchecked due to poor dietary and lifestyle habits (including eating processed foods) can invade other organ systems and cause many different health issues.
Today I will offer suggestions about which foods should be avoided to reduce and eliminate unhealthy yeast overgrowth, as well as which foods are essential to rebuilding your digestion and immune system function to support your entire body in the healing process. I will also talk about the critical nature of probiotics or friendly bacteria in helping you to regain health, useful supplements that can aid in yeast removal, and how long you can expect to maintain this type of protocol for optimal results.
Is there a special diet I should follow if I have candida yeast overgrowth?
Yes. To control candida, a specific diet is very important. Various factors can cause candida overgrowth to worsen. The primary food source for candida yeast is sugar.
Therefore, to successfully eliminate yeast from the body, it is critical to avoid sugar:
- Table sugar
- Maple syrup
- Foods containing corn
- Corn syrup
- Candy and desserts
- Soft drinks
- Some fruits
- Dairy (with the exception of raw dairy kefir and yogurt for beneficial bacteria – see probiotics below)
- Foods containing yeast
- Grains and foods containing flour
- Alcoholic beverages
It is also important to restrict consumption of any refined carbohydrate food such as grains, bread, pasta, cereal,and foods containing flour. All of these feed yeast. In her book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride says raw honey is acceptable to use in small amounts on a detoxification protocol.
Milk and dairy products:
Restricting the consumption of milk and dairy products is important because:
- High-lactose content present in milk encourages the growth of Candida
- Milk is a common food allergens
- Many dairy products contain antibiotics, which can also encourage yeast overgrowth by destroying beneficial bacteria
If you are a raw milk drinker, there are exceptions (see below) for eating foods that have naturally-occurring probiotic activity such as yogurt and kefir (and also cultured vegetables). As you progress in your yeast-removal protocol, some people can tolerate milk and cheese as well, but this can take some time and is very individual, depending on the person. For more information about how you can incorporate milk into your diet with a yeast-removing protocol, read Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride’s book Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
Mold and yeast containing foods
Those with chronic candidiasis need to avoid consuming foods with high mold or yeast. This would include alcoholic beverages, cheeses, dried fruits, mushrooms, vinegar, nutritional yeast, and peanuts.
Avoid all types of soy – even fermented such as miso, natto, or tempeh. When you have regained control of the yeast in your body, fermented soy is acceptable to eat again.
Legumes, starchy vegetables and other foods
Avoid potatoes, beetroots, squash, and carrots. Beans should be eaten in moderation but should be soaked overnight in filtered water and add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Rice should be limited and be certain to use sprouted or germinated rice.
Coffee and tea
Coffee should be avoided due to the problems it creates for the liver, adrenal glands, and acidity it causes in the stomach. Black and green teas should be avoided due to their possible mold content.
Acceptable foods on the candida or yeast removal diet
- Fresh meats, poultry, duck, game meats and fowl, eggs, and lamb or mutton from organic and grass-fed or pasture-raised sources, and safe-sourced fish are staples of this diet. Home-made broths from meats, poultry, and fish are also healthy to consume. Avoid processed meats from factory farms with antibiotics, hormones, pesticide residues, and other chemicals added to preserve or alter flavor.
- Most organic vegetables and some fruits are also acceptable. There is much debate about which fruits are okay to eat, and generally speaking it is a good idea to avoid eating too much fruit due to its sugar content. Some fruits are worse than others, however, such as melon (which contains mold and should be avoided), bananas, and any type of dried fruit. Occasional fruits such as citrus, apples, and berries are fine.
- Healthy oils and fats are also important such as olive oil, coconut oil, butter and cream, and lard and tallow from healthy animals on pasture.
- If you are going to consume nuts or seeds, do so only occasionally and make sure they are raw and then soaked or sprouted. Almonds, Brazil, cashews, hazel, Macadamia, pecans, pine nuts, poppy, pumpkin, sesame (tahini), and sunflower are all fine in moderation.
- Herbs and spices – fresh garlic and onion (natural anti-fungals), ginger pepper, herbs or dried herbs from clean sources, sea salt or Himalayan salt, and raw apple cider vinegar (use in moderation).
The importance of probiotics (friendly bacteria) in eliminating yeast overgrowth:
The small intestine, which is the main organ responsible for absorption of the food you eat, can become damaged when certain foods and in particular, processed foods, are eaten.
Two examples of foods that irritate and cause damage to the intestinal tract are gluten-containing foods (from wheat), and casein from dairy. This is especially true of processed varieties of these substances such as from most grain products bought in the grocery and even health food stores and pasteurized dairy products which contain hormones and antibiotics. These substances can actually cause a shortening and flattening of intestinal villi – small, fingerlike projections which increase intestinal surface area to allow for absorption of nutrients from the foods we eat.
Eventually, substances which continue to irritate the lining of the intestinal wall can create holes in the intestines, allowing undigested foods and particles to penetrate the wall and enter the bloodstream. Undigested foods cause the immune system to go on alert and create an auto-immune reaction, or “super” reaction that becomes chronic with each successive meal eaten. When the immune system continually remains on high alert, it weakens its ability to protect your body from disease and illness. It also lowers the amount of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract – another important defense mechanism against inflammation and disease.
Penetration by foreign, undigested substances can cause other health issues besides candida. This process can either be a primary cause of the following symptoms: excessive gas and cramps, abdominal bloating, fatigue, food sensitivities and allergies, joint pain, skin rashes, and auto-immunity disorders such as MS, lupus, fibromyalgia, or diabetes. This can lead to or make the following conditions worse: leaky gut (substances penetrating into the bloodstream), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Crohn’s Disease, and diverticulitis (abnormal pouches in the colon).
So it should go without saying that the presence of friendly or beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract are absolutely essential to good health – whether you are in the process of eliminating yeast overgrowth or not. 85 percent of the immune system is actually located in the digestive tract itself, which makes maintenance of these two systems inseparable. Lactobacillus and bifidus are two important bacteria that should always be included in your diet or supplement regimen.
Candida overgrowth always starts in the digestive tract because it’s the food you consume which will cause yeast to grow in the first place (grains, sugar, carbohydrates, processed foods, etc). When yeast grows to an unhealthy level, it goes beyond the digestive tract and invades other body systems and organs. This invasion will adversely effect all organ systems it reaches, causing many of the symptoms commonly associated with yeast overgrowth in the body (see How do I know if I have candida overgrowth?).
Here are two excellent sources of probiotics to keep your digestion and immune system strong:
1) Consume yogurt and kefir, preferably made from raw milk from healthy cows on pasture. Commercial products are not recommended as the processing and pasteurization kills beneficial bacteria and digestive enzymes and denatures proteins and fats. Try combining plain yogurt with fresh berries, apples or applesauce for a more “naturally” sweetened snack. If you consume raw milk, you can make your own yogurt at home, which contains even more numbers and strains of beneficial bacteria. Diversity in bacteria is essential to digestive and immune function, and you will definitely find more diversity in bacteria in dairy products from a raw dairy source.
2) Supplement with a high quality probiotic such as Prescript-Assist, Biotics Research, or BioKult. Avoid probiotics from supermarket chains, drug stores, and even health food stores. These products generally don’t contain the bacteria count claimed on the label, are often not standardized, and are not therapeutic grade like professional lines of probiotics mentioned above. For more information about the importance of quality probiotics, read All Probiotics Are NOT Created Equal.
Other foods especially helpful to candida yeast removal
- Coconut oil – good brands include Tropical Traditions, Nutiva, Aunt Patty’s, and Beyond Organic Certified Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- Garlic – raw is best, and cooked is next best
- If you are not already taking fermented cod liver oil, now might be a good time to start taking it. Fermented cod liver oil is a great source of Vitamins A & D (as well as Omega 3 essential fatty acids) which help support your immune system function. I recommend Green Pasture Products Blue Ice Royal Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter Oil Combination because it is one of the most potent and natural forms of Vitamin D available.
What else do I need to take for candida overgrowth?
Depending on the severity of your yeast problem, although not mandatory, it can be useful to use good, natural supplements which help facilitate the removal of unwanted overgrowth. It is usually also a good idea to rotate these products every week or so because yeast, not unlike bacteria, will mutate to survive and become accustomed to the environment in which they live. They learn to adapt to ensure survival. If you change the diversity of the environment frequently and make it unfriendly for them, they are less likely to survive. By strengthening your body and immune system and providing a diversity of bacteria, you can win the battle.
If you choose not to use supplements, strict adherence to the diet outlined in previous sections is very important as a means to eliminate the candida overgrowth causing your symptoms. Because yeast overgrowth is an insidious problem, it is often necessary to employ every safe and useful means possible to ensure its removal, which is why I have mentioned the supplements here at all. In general, you should be getting most of your nutrients from real food. With that said, I don’t recommend supplements as a replacement for a good diet including healthy, traditional foods free from chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics.
My recommendations for candida yeast control supplements are as follows:
Candaclear Four by Pharmax. Candaclear Four is unique in combining four supplements, with different but synergistic effects in the regulation of intestinal and/or systemic candida yeast populations, into one single product. It can also be used for vaginal yeast when coupled with Yeast Arrest suppositories.” Including ingredients like garlic, cinnamon bark oil and cinnamon bark powder, magnesium and calcium caprylate, and various strains of beneficial bacteria lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium bifium.
L-Glutamine by Designs for Health. “L-Glutamine is an amino acid, which is essential for the health of the immune system and digestive tract. It is very reparative and healing in the gut where it strengthens the mucosal cells and in turn helps leaky gut, sugar cravings, and irritable bowel (IBS). Glutamine also helps promote optimal muscle growth and strength and has shown to be particularly useful in helping prevent muscle wasting in people on cancer and HIV treatments.”
A.D.P. - by Biotics Research, oregano standardized extract in a sustained release for maximum effectiveness. Oregano is extremely potent against yeast, bacteria, and other unwanted organisms to maximize intestinal health and well-being.
Caprin by Biotics Research this product can be purchased online through a variety of sources, or through a qualified health care professional.
Rotate these products on a weekly basis for 4- 6 weeks. You can then start the rotation over again.
Fiber - you should take a good fiber supplement daily such as Colon Plus by Biotics Research to help clean out any removal of candida from the organs and tissues which comes into the intestinal tract, and prevent it from becoming reabsorbed. Colon Plus is safe and natural and includes aloe vera, celery, bromelain, flax seed, peppermint, apple pectin, prune, psyllium powder, anise, and lactobacillus acidophilus. My family and I have taken this product for over 5 years with great results.
Note: I definitely don’t recommend that you take fiber long term unless you have a compromised digestive system issue such as a missing gallbladder or appendix (like me), or use mainstream fiber or laxative products like Metamucil or some equivalent. Also, know that most so-called “high-fiber” foods including grains and vegetables that are not properly prepared are damaging to the gut and intestinal systems and can cause more damage over time than good. Learn more about one of the biggest lies we’ve been told by the health industry about intestinal and colon health from Fiber Menace.
Digestive enzymes are also important, to ensure adequate absorption of the foods you eat. When you have a candida overgrowth, much of your body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients from foods you eat has become compromised, so you need all the help you can get to make sure you are getting the benefit from a healthy diet to help your body recover from yeast overgrowth. Try the following products for digestive enzyme support: Loomis Enymes (you will need an experienced practitioner to recommend the right kind for you, there’s an entire line of these products for different needs), Plant Digestive Enzyme Formula caps or Digestzymes by Designs for Health, and Plant Enzymes from Enriching Gifts.
Sleep and stress relief for candida yeast control
It is important to keep regular and sustained habits of sleep nightly, rest or breaks from daily activity, and stress reduction and movement daily in order to allow your body to remove candida. The body regenerates and restores itself at night, and stress can definitely add to candida overgrowth. So regular sleep, rest, movement, and relief from stress is very important to allow your body to remove yeast effectively. Try to obtain at least 7 hours of sleep or more when you are doing any type of detoxification protocol, including candida cleansing. Some people need more sleep than this, so listen to your body. Rest helps keep the immune system functioning well, which can aid your body’s ability in elimination of toxins and yeast.
Find an activity you enjoy that is stress-relieving and gets circulation going – yoga, tai chi, meditation/stress-reduction classes that have a CD or mp3 you can listen to on a daily basis, stretching, walking, or some other moderate exercise you enjoy and can participate in regularly are all good choices.
How long will I have to stay on the candida diet?
That depends on a couple of factors – how severe your candida overgrowth problem is, and how well you adhere to your diet/supplementation protocol. Although some people take on candida removal independently with success, it can be useful (again, depending on your individual health condition) to enlist the expertise of a health care professional who is knowledgeable about candida – especially if you have an acute or chronic problem that has gone on for some period of time. Most candida overgrowth does not happen overnight, and in fact develops over many years of poor dietary and lifestyle habits.
The answer about how long you will have to remain on an anti-yeast diet will depend solely on you and your body. For some people, it’s when there is a noticeable absence of symptoms. For others, it’s when they receive a test from their practitioner which says their body is free from the overgrowth. These tests can be conducted in several different ways – muscle-testing, saliva testing, or stool testing.
Here’s how to do a saliva test - as soon as you awaken and before eating, drinking, or brushing your teeth -get a clear glass and fill with water. Build up saliva in your mouth, and then spit the collection into the glass of water. Check the water in about 2-3 minutes, then every 15 minutes for up to about an hour. If you have a candida overgrowth, there will be visible “strings” almost like cloudy legs, extending down into the water from saliva floating on the top, or “cloudy” saliva will sink to the bottom of the glass, or cloudy specks will seem to be suspended in the water. If there are no strings, the water is as clear as it was before you spit in the glass and the saliva is still floating after at least one hour, you are probably candida yeast free. The more strings and cloudiness there is and the faster it develops, the greater the overgrowth.
My experience with candida removal took almost two year’s time. It can be different for everyone. For most people – a problem serious enough to warrant a candida cleansing program – should count on about a year’s time. Even to this day, I still avoid many of the things that would cause my body to regain a yeast overgrowth. After you have had yeast overgrowth in the body, you will be vulnerable to yeast overgrowth in the future unless you take care to manage your diet and keep foods out of your daily intake that would contribute to this problem occurring again.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, another very effective protocol for healing your gut and removing candida overgrowth and yeast issues is the GAPS protocol by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride.
Want more information about detoxification?
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This post is part of The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania Carnival.