The truth about strict candida diets...
In almost every clinic day I have held over the last 10 days, there has been at least one client who comes to me with 'candida albicans overgrowth', often self-diagnosed but sometimes not. What all of them have in common is that the advice to them has been to follow a strict candida removal plan that includes no fruit, limited vegetables and almost no grains.
A google search will throw up over 1.5 million results and there are countless books suggest that candida can be eradicated by starving the fungi of sugar and carbohydrates. As a result patients are not only advised to cut out refined sugars and starchy carbohydrates, but also fruit. The paradox then frequently observed, however, is that patients very often deteriorate in their general health because of nutrient deprivation. Although the candida overgrowth has been reduced though this diet, it's roots remain and candida then becomes a persistent problem re-occurring when the body is under par or stressed.
This has been extensively investigated by revered German laboratory, the Dr. Hauss Laboratory. These experiments found that yeasts like candida grow as fast in a glucose concentration of 100 mg/dl as in one of 1000 mg/dl. The concentration of 100 mg/dl equals the normal glucose concentration of the tissue and blood liquids in a healthy person (a figure we know from blood tests for diabetes). Even a decrease of the glucose concentration to 8 mg/dl, which is completely impossible in a living organism, reduced the yeast growth only by 60% - this would result in killing the host but by no means killing the candida. Therefore starvation of yeasts in the GI tract by simply reducing dietary sugar or yeast intake is not enough to remove its presence.
It has been found that a healthy intestinal immune system is the best barrier against a fungal overgrowth in the GI tract. This also proves that pathogenic candida is the result of a weakened immune system. The previously used one-dimensional diet approach neglects the fact that good health is the best protection from disease.
Rather we have to concentrate on promoting health instead of fighting a symptom. A good “candida diet” has to be wholesome and healthy to promote the intestinal immunity. To do this you can use the 5 'R' programme:
Remove stressors: get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract including allergic foods and parasites or other bad bugs such as bacteria or yeast. This might involve using an allergy “elimination diet” to find out what foods are causing GI symptoms or it may involve taking drugs or herbs and supplements to eradicate a particular bug. Reduce refined sugars, white starchy carbs and pesticide exposed foods as much as possible, and drink plenty of filtered water to ensure that the toxic residue caused by candida overgrowth is removed effectively.
Replace digestive secretions: add back things like digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and bile acids that are required for proper digestion and that may be compromised by diet, drugs, diseases, ageing, or other factors.
Help beneficial bacteria flourish by ingesting probiotic foods or supplements that contain a good mix of the so-called “good” GI bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species, and by consuming the high soluble fibre foods that good bugs like to eat, called “prebiotics.” Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms found in the gut that are also called “friendly bacteria.” Use of antibiotics kills both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics in the form of supplements or food are needed to re-inoculate the gut. Fermented foods, such as yoghurt, miso, kefir and tempeh are excellent food sources of probiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that selectively stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms already in the colon. In other words, prebiotics feed probiotics. Prebiotics are available in many foods that contain a fibre called inulin, including artichokes, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, leeks, onion, rocket, chicory and edamame beans. Grains such as barley, flax, oats, and wheat are also good sources of prebiotics in moderation.
Help the lining of the GI tract repair itself by supplying key nutrients that can often be in short supply in a disease state, such as zinc, antioxidants (e.g. vitamins A, C, and E), fish oil, and the amino acid glutamine found in lean proteins such as fish, chicken, lamb and fresh meat stocks and broths.
Pay attention to lifestyle choices – sleep, exercise and stress can all affect the GI tract. If you feel lack of sleep or chronic stress is affecting your health, then consider improving your magnesium intake. Eating with the seasons and choosing local produce will ensure that your food is as fresh and nourishing as possible. Take care not to 'overload' the digestive system during this healing process; eat lighter nourishing meals rather than large volumes.
The only successful anti-candida therapy will be a wholesome diet combined with other procedures such as probiotic and anti-fungal supplements, as well as hygiene that promotes intestinal health and the immune system.
To understand more on this topic, see 'Is your strict candida diet making your symptoms worse?' and 'Is depression a gut reaction?'