What Is the Candida Diet? A Beginner’s Guide, Food List, and 7-Day Meal Plan


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 Candida is a genus of yeasts that normally live 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.e60dc2a1-f33c-4a05-9b50-8e3e8e5976296d9f84c7-3c24-463e-8f36-59bccd12cb41 This type of infection is called candidiasis. What Is Candida albicans? Candida albicans is the species of yeast that most commonly causes candidiasis infection. The overgrowth can result in conditions like oral thrushe60dc2a1-f33c-4a05-9b50-8e3e8e597629c16da066-67cf-47c1-bea4-6787d51a0b9f and vaginal yeast infections.e60dc2a1-f33c-4a05-9b50-8e3e8e597629c721e7d2-d529-46c4-8942-f973fd0c50ae What Is Candida Overgrowth? Candida overgrowth is a term that means the yeast is present in such excessive amounts that it becomes pathogenic, says Ali Miller, RD, CDCES , a functional medicine dietitian in Houston and the 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.
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.e60dc2a1-f33c-4a05-9b50-8e3e8e5976294b4008e5-a445-46d5-b081-d5f4a81251c8 Oral thrush, which can occur in adults and kids, appears as a white coating on your tongue or cheeks, as well as redness and soreness in your mouth.e60dc2a1-f33c-4a05-9b50-8e3e8e5976296446f4fa-3bf8-4aeb-a8f1-ead366625be6 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 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 a recent course of antibiotics, uncontrolled diabetes, being immunocompromised, and increased estrogen levels (such as in pregnancy).e60dc2a1-f33c-4a05-9b50-8e3e8e597629745f8ea2-ab46-42fc-9db1-ce694eb196fc 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 and other microbes 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 mentions that medicines like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or cortisone-type drugs (like prednisone) can impact the gut microbiome in unhealthy ways.e60dc2a1-f33c-4a05-9b50-8e3e8e597629ff2eee25-0e66-486a-b045-e4ec9131d84e Lifestyle factors like high stress or high alcohol intake may also make you more susceptible to an overgrowth of yeast, says Miller. That said, hard research on this association is lacking.
How Advocates Say the Candida Diet Works Candida Diet 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 YouTube creator 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 past review that showed that certain carbohydrates or sugars may promote yeast growth, but more definitive research is needed.e60dc2a1-f33c-4a05-9b50-8e3e8e597629406ba020-e144-4be8-b503-6f149fabdf27 Another limitation is that the completed research has been largely done in vitro (test tube), which can’t replace human studies. The way organisms behave in a test tube is not necessarily the same as how they behave in the human body. One perspective paper has offered initial promise, noting that yes, as has been well established, the gut microbiome is an important player in health, and that candida, an “opportunistic” pathogen in the GI tract, can likely also affect digestion and immunity, though more research is needed to understand exactly how.e60dc2a1-f33c-4a05-9b50-8e3e8e597629caeffd1d-a947-4b4b-b367-c3e0cf185544 The authors also point to research that suggests diet may be a valid treatment. A pilot study on 120 patients with chronic intestinal candida overgrowth found that a group that was treated with antifungal medication and who followed a specific diet (one with no simple sugars, alcohol, cured and fatty meats, or dairy) during and after treatment were more likely to have normalized candida levels three months later than individuals who used the medication only.e60dc2a1-f33c-4a05-9b50-8e3e8e597629548e9169-cee7-44ec-95ad-58a3dd98d0cb The researchers wrote that there was no established diet to treat the condition, but the study results were “encouraging.”
Starting a Candida Cleanse: How Proponents Say It Works and Precautions to Take Candida Cleanse You’ll want to check with your doctor before you try any type of cleanse — or any 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 for a candida cleanse, and suggests eating a maximum of 60 grams (g) of total carbs per day. “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 and cruciferous vegetables. Not only is this diet designed to weaken yeast overgrowth, it may also help regulate blood sugar, because 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 it’s safe for most people, except for pregnant and breastfeeding moms, says Miller. In general, experts advise people with a history of disordered eating to avoid restrictive diets as well. “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. Keep in mind that what may actually be happening is a phenomenon called the “keto flu,” which can occur as the body switches from a state of burning carbohydrates for fuel to burning 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 isn’t much scientific evidence that cleansing the body in general is necessary or helpful.
Foods to Eat on the Candida Diet Foods to Eat Here are the foods Miller advises eating on a candida cleanse. 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
Foods to Avoid on the Candida Diet Foods to Avoid You will avoid processed, refined-flour and refined-sugar foods, because “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 7-Day Meal Plan 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 kebabs 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 crudités dipped in spicy almond-butter sauce 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 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
10 Candida Diet Recipes, and Where to Find More Recipes These recipes 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 Salad With Tomato and Basil , 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 Almond-Crusted Chicken Fingers , The Candida Diet 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 The 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 Three-Stage Program to Restore Your Health and Vitality , by Ricki Heller and Andrea Nakayama
Candida Supplements: Which Types of Products May Help? Supplements 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 backing these supplements is lacking. Berberine This is intended to support liver detoxification, and also works as an antifungal and antibacterial. It’s 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 coconut oil in cooking or consider oil pulling with it, suggests Miller. (Oil pulling is a folk remedy in which you swish oil around in the mouth. When it comes to dental health, there’s no scientific evidence that this has benefits, such as cavity prevention.)e60dc2a1-f33c-4a05-9b50-8e3e8e597629c4bafd5c-41ee-4df4-9076-4f1acf5aacd2 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. In general, if you’re shopping around, Miller suggests finding pharmaceutical-grade supplements that are tested for potency and purity in order to ensure high quality.
Can Essential Oils Help on a Candida Diet? Essential Oils Dietary changes are not the only shift you’ll make during this time. Miller suggests using essential oils like oregano or tea tree in a regular or Epsom salt bath, during time spent in a sauna, massages, and foam rolling. These essential oils and other self-care activities help support your body’s cleanse process (the idea is that they encourage yeast to die off and then 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 really get rid of extra yeast in the body.
Possible Benefits of the Candida Diet, According to Advocates Benefits 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.e60dc2a1-f33c-4a05-9b50-8e3e8e5976290ef0e89f-b217-41a3-9fe2-963ce2170d01 By bringing your gut health (including yeast) back in balance, in theory you can resolve many of the symptoms that are bothering you, including digestive woes, cognitive and mood issues, and aches and pains.
Potential Disadvantages of the Candida Diet, According to Experts Disadvantages 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 a good chance that you will feel great on the diet. For instance, you may eat more fiber and drink more water, which may help regulate your bowels, among other benefits. 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, CDCES , the 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 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 you are consumed with following a candida diet. If you think it’s candida when it’s something like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) — then an important 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.
A Final Word on the Candida Diet: Should You Try This Plan? Summary The candida diet is controversial. While advocates say that an overgrowth of Candida albicans may be the common thread behind many health problems, 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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