Sometimes, the naturally occurring Candida in our bodies overgrows and causes an infection called candidiasis. Common Candida infections are oral thrush and vaginal yeast infections. Antibiotic or steroid use (e.g., inhaled steroids for asthma or prednisone for an inflammatory disease) are two well-known causes associated with developing candidiasis.
Recently, there has been interest in studying Candida overgrowth in the small intestine. This overgrowth condition is known as small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO) and has been associated with IBS-like symptoms and inflammatory bowel disease.
Scientific research has shown that high Candida abundance in the gut is strongly associated with the consumption of carbohydrates. Therefore, in addition to dysbiosis, a cause of fungal overgrowth may be a diet high in refined sugars and low-quality carbohydrates, such as the Standard American Diet.
Some people try an anti-Candida diet to treat gastrointestinal symptoms of Candida overgrowth. The Candida Diet is a low-sugar, anti-inflammatory diet that aims to eliminate Candida overgrowth in the gut and rebalance the microbiome.
Keep reading to learn more about Candida overgrowth, the Candida Diet, and functional medicine lab tests for Candida.
Candida Overgrowth Symptoms
When Candida overgrows, it can lead to health issues and cause a range of symptoms:
People with removable dentures or poor denture hygiene are at an increased risk of developing a condition called denture stomatitis, which is associated with Candida overgrowth.
1 in 5 women has Candida in their vaginal tract without having any symptoms. However, an overgrowth can lead to candidiasis of the vagina, also known as a yeast infection. Symptoms of vaginal candidiasis include itching, discharge, uncomfortable urination, and pain during sexual intercourse.
Candida is typically present on the skin as a harmless commensal organism. Changes in the skin condition, such as excessive moisture or the skin rubbing together, can lead to an overgrowth of Candida called cutaneous candidiasis or intertrigo. Itching and rash are the two most common symptoms of candidiasis of the skin.
Out-of-balance fungal organisms in the intestine cause small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO). Candidiasis is a type of SIFO that leads to symptoms like bloating, indigestion, belching, nausea, diarrhea, and gas. Overgrowth of Candida is associated with several gastrointestinal tract diseases, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
There is ongoing controversy about the link between Candida and fatigue, especially chronic fatigue syndrome. Most reports identifying a link between Candida and fatigue are anecdotal or case reports. However, researchers from Sweden found a significantly higher number of Candida organisms in fecal samples from patients with chronic fatigue syndrome when they were actively ill versus being in remission.
If a Candida infection reaches the bloodstream, it can infect the joints and cause arthritis. The symptoms are pain, stiffness, and joint swelling, which often affects the hips and knees.
The most severe form of Candida infection occurs when it gets into the bloodstream and causes systemic illness that can lead to death.
What is The Candida Diet
The Candida Diet or "cleanse" is an anti-inflammatory diet that aims to eliminate sugars, as these may enable Candida overgrowth. The diet includes low-sugar fruits, non-starchy vegetables, non-glutenous grains, some fermented foods, and dairy products.
The Candida Diet limits the consumption of gluten, as scientific evidence shows that glutenous foods can create health issues, even in individuals who do not have celiac disease.
The Candida Diet is also anti-inflammatory. Avoiding inflammation is one of the keys to restoring gut health and limiting Candida overgrowth. That's why the diet avoids processed meat, soda, and processed oils and instead encourages the consumption of anti-inflammatory and fermented foods.
Candida Diet Food List
Foods to Eat
- Non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens like spinach or kale and anything from the cruciferous family, like broccoli, cauliflower, or cucumber)
- Low-sugar fruits (lemons, limes, and avocado)
- Non-glutenous grains (buckwheat, millet, and quinoa)
- Healthy proteins (meat, fish, eggs)
- Some dairy products (probiotic yogurt, kefir)
- Low-mold nuts and seeds (almonds, pecans, and Brazil nuts)
- Herbs, spices & condiments (turmeric, cinnamon)
- Healthy fats and oils (olive and coconut oil)
- Sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit
- Fermented foods (vegetable-based fermented foods, kefir)
- Drinks like chicory coffee and herbal teas
Foods to Avoid
- Sugar and sugar substitutes (agave, aspartame, honey, maple syrup)
- Glutenous grains (barley, rye)
- High-sugar fruits (banana, mango, raisins, grapes)
- Dairy products (cheese, milk, cream)
- Moldy nuts and seeds
- Processed meats and fish
- Processed fats (canola oil, margarine)
- Alcoholic drinks (wine, spirits, beer, cider)
- Caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea)
How Long Should You Do The Candida Diet?
There is no specific duration for the Candida Diet. The diet's proponents claim that people may experience relief in a matter of weeks, while others may require many months to see a positive effect. Some may need to eliminate refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and sugar permanently to prevent the return of Candida overgrowth.
Before starting the Candida diet, individuals should talk to their healthcare provider or certified nutritionist.
Is There Any Way To Test For Candida Overgrowth?
There are different tests to evaluate Candida overgrowth.
- SIBO Breath Test: SIBO, an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, has symptoms similar to Candida overgrowth and is commonly found in patients with Candida overgrowth. The SIBO breath test is a noninvasive test that measures the amount of hydrogen or methane in the exhaled breath after drinking a glucose solution. A quick increase in the levels of hydrogen or methane may indicate bacterial overgrowth. *Note it is possible to be negative for SIBO but still positive for SIFO (small intestine fungal overgrowth). The only accurate way to measure this would be via endoscopy, therefore many practitioners will commonly utilize other less invasive tests for diagnosis.
- Comprehensive Stool Test: evaluates the presence of Candida in the stool. The test helps rule out possible reasons for yeast overgrowth, such as dysbiosis or inflammation.
- Blood Test: A Candida profile blood test can help to rule out overgrowth. This test looks for antibodies that indicate an immune response to the fungus.
Candida is usually part of our normal microflora, but overgrowth is associated with gut inflammation and chronic digestive problems. The Candida Diet was designed to improve gut health by reducing inflammation and restoring a balanced microbiome. There are lab tests to assist you and your healthcare provider in confirming a diagnosis of Candida overgrowth and developing an individualized treatment plan.
Disclaimer: *Rupa Health is not affiliated with The Candida Diet, and this article is not an endorsement of The Candida Diet.