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The Candida Diet: Separating Fact from Fiction

You'll find a confusing mix of true and false information about candida diet and nutrition online. Let’s sort fact from fiction.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
June 13, 2018
Episode #481

A listener writes: “I have recurrent problems with candida or yeast. I have seen articles stating that I should eat less sugar and avoid foods that contain yeast, such as bread. How accurate is this advice?”

I’m so glad you asked! There is a confusing mix of true and false information about candida diet and nutrition. Let’s sort fact from fiction.

Candida albicans is a type of yeast that is commonly found both on and in the human body, where it generally causes no problems. Certain conditions, however, can lead to an overgrowth of this benign organism.The resulting infection is known as candidiasis.

An overgrowth can affect mouth and throat, in which case it is commonly referred to as thrush. Very rarely, it can spread via the blood to internal organs. But by far the most common location for candidiasis is the vagina.

What Causes Yeast Infections?

Antibiotic use can set the stage for yeast overgrowth by killing off beneficial bacteria that would normally hold candida populations in check. High estrogen levels can also be a risk factor, which is why yeast infections are more common when you are pregnant or taking hormones. People with a suppressed immune system can also be more susceptible to yeast overgrowth, as are those with diabetes.

But apart from these more obvious risk factors, some women just seem to suffer from more than their share of these uncomfortable infections. It’s natural to wonder whether diet and nutrition could possibly play a role. And, as this listener discovered, you’ll find lots of advice on the Internet for Anti-Yeast or Anti-Candida diets.

The most common advice is to limit sugar and carbohydrates, avoid yeast-containing foods, and to increase your intake of probiotic foods. Let’s take these one by one.

Does a high-carb diet cause yeast infections?  

As I mentioned before, people with diabetes are at higher risk for yeast infectionsespecially if their diabetes is poorly controlled. This might suggest that high blood sugar levels encourage yeast growthbut this hasn’t been proven. Yeast organisms are generally not in your bloodstream, so it’s not as if having extra sugar in your blood provides more food for the yeast and causes them to proliferate.

If there is a link between sugar consumption and yeast growth, it’s more likely due to the way that diet affects the chemical composition of your urine. One study found that cutting down on the consumption of both sugar and artificial sweeteners reduced the frequency of yeast infections in women prone to them.  

Many so-called candida diets also recommend eliminating starches as well. I was unable to find any research showing that cutting out pasta, bread, crackers, and other things made with white flour affects the frequency or severity of yeast infections. That said, there are a lot of other benefits to limiting your consumption of both added sugars and refined flour.  

The Quick and Dirty: Even though the evidence linking refined carbs to yeast overgrowth is limited, there doesn’t seem to be any downside to following this advice.

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