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  • Writer's pictureLaurenWallace

Candida Diet Beginner's Guide, Food List, and 7-Day Meal Plan

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Yeast overgrowth can cause a host of far-ranging problems, from physical to cognitive and mental, some experts say. For that reason, some recommend a candida diet — a low-sugar, low-carb diet — to eradicate excess yeast and bring the gut back into balance. Yet this approach is not without its detractors. Importantly, many experts say the diet is largely unproven and any benefit is likely the result of a general improvement in eating habits.

The Definition of Candida Candida is a genus of yeasts that normally lives inside the body and on the skin. There are hundreds of these yeasts, but many species can cause fungal infections if their numbers grow out of control or if they enter the bloodstream or other organs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (1) This type of infection is called candidiasis. MORE ON HOW TO PREVENT YEAST INFECTIONS What Causes Yeast Infections?What Is Candida Albicans? It’s the most common species of yeast that causes candidiasis infection. The overgrowth can result in conditions like oral thrush and vaginal yeast infections. (2,3) What Is Candida Overgrowth? Candida overgrowth is a term that means that the yeast is present in such excessive amounts, it becomes pathogenic, says Ali Miller, RD, CDE, a functional medicine dietitian in Houston and author of The Anti-Anxiety Diet. Candida overgrowth can cause the conditions mentioned (thrush, vaginal yeast infection), but some experts like Miller recognize candida overgrowth (or imbalance of yeast in the body) as the source of a number of health symptoms that can be overcome with dietary changes.

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What Are the Main Symptoms of a Candida Infection? If you have a yeast infection, you may notice itching and irritation in the vagina and vulva, burning while you pee or during sex, redness in the area, or a cottage cheese–like discharge, according to the Mayo Clinic. (3) Oral thrush, which can occur in adults and kids, appears like a white coating on your tongue or cheeks, as well as redness and soreness in your mouth. (2) An invasive candidiasis (fungal infection of the blood or organs) can cause a fever or chills, and it can be life-threatening. There’s another category, which may be referred to as candida overgrowth, and some healthcare practitioners say that it may be responsible for more chronic and seemingly unrelated problems. “Symptoms of candidiasis can be widespread, from bloating and distention to bowel irregularities, chronic fatigue, cystic acne and other skin rashes, and brain fog,” says Miller. Risk Factors for a Candida Infection If you’re talking about a vaginal yeast infection specifically, risk factors include taking antibiotics, having uncontrolled diabetes, being immunocompromised, and having increased estrogen levels (such as in pregnancy), per the Mayo Clinic. (3) In terms of candida overgrowth in general, antibiotic use is by far one of the most common causes, says Miller. “Antibiotics are sterilizing to the microbiome,” or the collection of bacteria in the gut, she says. Along with killing off “bad” bacteria, the good go too, and that can throw off the balance of yeast in your body as well. Miller also mentions that medicines like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or cortisone-type drugs (like prednisone) can impact the gut microbiome in unhealthy ways. Lifestyle factors like high stress or high alcohol intake may also make you more susceptible to an overgrowth of yeast.

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How Advocates Say the Candida Diet Works The candida diet, generally speaking, removes all sources of flour, sugar, and yeast from your diet and encourages lean proteins, nonstarchy vegetables, and healthy fats, as well as several supplements to encourage the process. Doing so staves off yeast overgrowth, says Miller. “It’s also important to use compounds [through food and supplements] that support the die-off of yeast and the removal of this yeast and its by-products out of the body,” she says. But it’s important to note that many experts disagree with the idea that this diet is necessary in the first place. “Research in this area is pretty sparse, and even though it often gets blamed for a lot of things, we don’t really know what causes candida overgrowth and whether [the candida diet] even works,” says Abbey Sharp, RD, a blogger and YouTuber at Abbey’s Kitchen, who is based in the Toronto area. “Currently, no research has been able to definitively support the use of a low-sugar diet to treat candida overgrowth,” she adds. Sharp points to a review published in the journal Genetics that she notes showed that certain carbohydrates or sugars may promote yeast growth. (4) But, she says, “no evidence has found that yeast is interfering with our gut and that changing diet will make a difference.” Another limitation is that the research that is available is largely in vitro (test tube) experiments, which can’t replace human studies. The way things behave in a test tube does not necessarily translate to how they behave in the human body.

Getting Started With a Candida Cleanse: How Proponents Say It Works and Precautions to Take You’ll want to check with your doctor before trying any type of cleanse — or strict diet, for that matter. This one is essentially a temporary, carb-restricted diet. “Think of it as a thorough reset to your microbiome,” says Miller. She generally recommends six weeks of a candida cleanse, and suggests eating 60 grams of total carbs per day, maximum. “Avoid flour-based foods, grains, and sweeteners, and limit fruit and starchy vegetables to two total [servings] per day,” says Miller. The diet emphasizes lean protein, healthy fats, and leafy, cruciferous vegetables. Not only is this diet designed to weaken yeast overgrowth, but it may also help to regulate blood sugar since it limits foods that spike blood sugar in the body. “That’s the environment yeast thrives in,” says Miller. The diet is not radical and is safe for most people, except for pregnant and breastfeeding moms, says Miller. “Also, if you have diabetes and are on an oral hypoglycemic drug or using insulin, you will likely need to reduce medication when shifting to a low-carbohydrate diet,” she says. Talk to your healthcare provider. One thing you may notice is that you may feel worse before you feel better: nausea, headaches, flu-like symptoms, and fatigue may appear within the first two weeks of the cleanse. It will not last for the entirety of the six-week cleanse. “I see it as a positive. It’s a sign that the body is eradicating or removing something that was causing dysfunction,” says Miller. However, keep in mind that what may actually be happening is what’s called the “keto flu,” which can occur as the body switches from a state of burning carbohydrates for fuel to fat. “When we reach a state of ketosis, we often experience a few weeks of keto flu symptoms, like foggy head, heachaches, and fatigue. Limiting carbs on a low sugar candida diet has the potential to trigger ketosis and the associated symptoms,” says Sharp. It’s also important to note that there’s a lack of scientific evidence that cleansing the body in general is necessary or helpful.

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Foods to Eat on the Candida Diet On a candida cleanse, here are the foods Miller advises eating:

  • Wild fish

  • Grass-fed beef

  • Pasture-raised poultry, including chicken

  • Eggs

  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts)

  • Leafy greens (kale, dandelion, lettuces)

  • Nonstarchy vegetables (asparagus, zucchini, onions, shallots)

  • Spices (turmeric, cumin)

  • Ginger

  • Lemon

  • Some kinds of fruit, including tomatoes and berries like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries (limited)

  • Nuts, including walnuts, almonds, and Macadamia nuts

  • Seeds (chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp seeds)

  • Herbs (cilantro, basil, oregano)

  • Avocado

  • Olive oil and olives

  • Coconut oil

  • Bone broth

  • Dark chocolate

  • Water

  • Rooibos, green tea

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Foods to Avoid on the Candida Diet You will avoid processed, refined-flour and refined-sugar foods, as “sugar is the primary fuel source for yeast,” says Miller. But there are a few additional “no” foods that may surprise you:

  • Flour-based foods (pizza, bread, bagels)

  • Sweetened foods (ice cream, candy)

  • Vinegar, including apple cider vinegar, which may be reintroduced around week four

  • Mushrooms

  • Dairy

  • Alcohol, particularly beer, Champagne, and hard ciders, which are fermented or made with yeast

  • Fermented foods (yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, which may be reintroduced around week four)

A 7-Day Sample Meal Plan for the Candida Diet Day 1 Breakfast Eggs with spinach sautéed in coconut oil Lunch Shredded turkey breast on a bed of greens with a lemon-olive oil vinaigrette Dinner Salmon, roasted cauliflower, and zucchini Day 2 Breakfast Frittata with asparagus and cherry tomatoes topped with avocado Lunch Creamy chicken salad (made with avocado) wrapped in collard greens Dinner Steak and veggie kabobs Day 3 Breakfast Chia pudding topped with berries and sunflower seeds Lunch Kale salad massaged with olive oil, topped with olives, sliced almonds, and roasted veggies Dinner Meatballs over zucchini noodles with pasta sauce Day 4 Breakfast Anti-candida-approved pancakes with berries Lunch Piece of veggie frittata, spinach salad with avocado on the side Dinner Chicken satay and crudites dipped in spicy almond butter sauce MORE TIPS ON EATING PRODUCE 7 Fruits and Veggies You Haven’t Spiralized — Yet!Day 5 Breakfast Smoothie made with nondairy milk, berries, nut butter, and coconut oil Lunch Tuna niçoise salad Dinner Roasted skin-on chicken, sautéed peppers, onions, and eggplant Day 6 Breakfast Egg scramble with veggies Lunch Chicken soup with salad made of dark green leafy greens on the side Dinner Zucchini boats stuffed with ground turkey and topped with tomato sauce Day 7 Breakfast Avocado omelet with salsa Lunch Turkey patties with a side of sautéed broccoli and cherry tomatoes Dinner Baked cod with green beans and carrots

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10 Candida Diet Recipes, and Where to Find More These are recipes that are approved for the candida diet, though anyone would enjoy them:

  • Instant Pot Bone Broth, Elana’s Pantry

  • Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Indian Spice, Healing Gourmet

  • Keto, Candida-Friendly Gut-Healing Paleo Pancakes, Christina Rice Wellness

  • Asparagus Basil Salad, Elana’s Pantry

  • Candida-Friendly Smoothie, Fork and Beans

  • Crockpot Curry Chicken, Paleo Hacks

  • The Candida Diet Safe Shamrock Shake, Oh, The Things We’ll Make

  • Easy Cauliflower Turmeric Burgers, Paleo Hacks

  • Green Eggs, Elana’s Pantry

  • Crispy Coconut Almond Chicken, Healing Gourmet

Books About the Candida Diet Also consider these websites and books for more recipes and info on the candida diet:

  • The Candida Diet

  • The Candida Cure: The 90-Day Program to Balance Your Gut, Beat Candida, and Restore Vibrant Health, by Ann Boroch, certified nutritional consultant

  • 30-Day Candida Cleanse: The Complete Diet Program to Beat Candida and Restore Total Health, by Rockridge Press

  • Living Candida-Free: 100 Recipes and a 3-Stage Program to Restore Your Health and Vitality, by Ricki Heller and Andrea Nakayama

Candida Supplements: Which Types of Products May Help? Advocates recommend several supplements on a candida cleanse. Many practitioners have their own proprietary blends, and you’ll find a host of different supplements depending on the program you’re following. Miller takes us through a few that you may hear about — just be mindful that scientific evidence to back using these supplements is lacking: Berberine This is intended to support liver detoxification, and also works as an antifungal and antibacterial. Even better if it contains anti-inflammatory herbs, like Oregon grape root and skullcap. Take it twice daily with breakfast and dinner. Caprylic Acid This is found in coconut oil and may support a healthy microbiome, says Miller. Use it in cooking or consider oil pulling with it, suggests Miller. (Oil pulling is a folk remedy that involves swishing oil around in the mouth. When it comes to dental health, the American Dental Association says there’s no scientific evidence that it has benefits, like cavity prevention.) (5) Activated Charcoal “This is great for acute uses — like vomiting or diarrhea from a food bug — but never take it for more than five to seven days at a time, because it can throw off your electrolyte balance,” says Miller. (Full disclosure: Miller sells a Candida & Dysbiosis Cleanse, a bundle of four supplements she recommends for clients.) In general, if you’re shopping around, Miller suggests finding pharmaceutical-grade supplements that are tested for potency and purity in order to find high-quality supplements.

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Can Essential Oils Help on a Candida Diet? Dietary changes are not the only shift you’ll make during this time. Miller also suggests using essential oils like oregano or tea tree in the bath, or taking Epsom salt baths, along with time spent in a sauna, getting massages, and foam rolling. These essential oils and other self-care activities help support your body’s cleanse process (the purported idea is they encourage yeast to die off and ferry it out of the body), she says, and can help minimize some of the side effects of the initial stages of the diet. Again, keep in mind that more research is needed on whether essential oils can really get rid of extra yeast in the body.

Possible Benefits of the Candida Diet, According to Advocates Advocates of the candida diet make compelling promises: “By following a low-sugar, anti-inflammatory diet and eating the right foods, you can promote good gut health and recover from a candida overgrowth,” The Candida Diet website says. (6) MORE ON FIGHTING INFLAMMATION A Detailed Guide to an Anti-Inflammatory DietBy bringing your gut health (including yeast) back in balance, in theory you can resolve many of the symptoms bothering you, including digestive woes, cognitive and mood issues, and aches and pains.

Potential Disadvantages of the Candida Diet, Experts Warn There is little risk to eating the foods on the diet, and you can live without refined grains and sugar. If your diet was filled with processed junk food beforehand, there’s also a good chance that you will feel great on the diet. For instance, you may eat more fiber and drink more water, which alone may help regulate your bowels. Still, some experts are concerned. “A variety of people with symptoms [blamed on candida] will feel better on this type of low-carb diet, but I’m not convinced it's because of candida,” says Tamara Duker Freuman, RD, CDN, author of The Bloated Belly Whisperer, who is based in New York City. The issue, says Freuman, is the large scope of health problems that are blamed on candida. “I’ve seen it associated with everything under the sun. It’s unlikely that one condition is responsible for all of those things. It’s too convenient and attractive to have a single explanation for everything that ails you,” she says. Where it veers into dangerous territory is if you have another medical condition that needs to be diagnosed but are consumed with following a candida diet. If you think it’s candida — when it’s something like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) — then a diagnosis may be missed. SIBO, says Freuman, may be secondary to a medical condition like celiac disease or an autoimmune condition, and it’s critical that these are addressed.

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A Final Word on the Candida Diet: Should You Try This Plan? The candida diet is controversial. While advocates say that an overgrowth of Candida albicans may be the common thread behind many health symptoms, some experts caution that the condition and dietary treatment remains unproven. If you’re looking to treat a yeast infection, thrush, or other health condition caused by an overgrowth of candida, work with your healthcare team to identify the proper plan of attack.


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