If you struggle with frequent yeast infections or experience chronic fatigue, an overgrowth of Candida yeast may be to blame. (5)(10) Although the exact cause of Candida overgrowth remains unknown, diets high in sugar and processed foods appear to be a significant contributor. (28) Keep reading to learn more about Candida overgrowth and how diet and supplements may help alleviate Candida symptoms.
The Candida diet promotes the consumption of non-starchy vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and gluten-free grains.
What is Candida?Candida is a genus of yeast that occurs naturally on the skin and in body cavities, including the oral cavity, digestive tract, and genitourinary tracts. The most common Candida yeast is the species Candida albicans. (7) Although it’s normal for Candida to exist on the skin and in the body in small amounts, certain factors such as stress, infection, or antibiotic use may disrupt the healthy balance of your intestinal flora, leading to yeast overgrowth. Candida overgrowth is also commonly referred to as candidiasis. (20)
Symptoms of Candida overgrowth include:
By taking a blood sample or swab from an infected area of the body and sending it to a lab, your integrative healthcare provider can determine whether a Candida infection is the source of your symptoms. (8)
Contributing factorsIt’s believed that a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and sugar-sweetened beverages, is one of the primary contributors to candida overgrowth. Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source for yeast, and as a result, eating a diet rich in sugar and refined carbohydrates can provide the perfect environment for Candida overgrowth. (26)
Specific populations also have an increased risk of developing candidiasis, including individuals with a weakened immune system, type 2 diabetics, and patients using antibiotics. (6)
Did you know? There are over 100 types of Candida that can be found in the body; however, only a few can lead to infection if an overgrowth occurs. (9)
What is the Candida diet?Some integrative healthcare practitioners recommend following a Candida diet to address the symptoms and reverse yeast overgrowth. Although research linking the effects of dietary modification and improvements in Candida is limited, preliminary research suggests that eliminating certain foods, such as milk, sugar-containing foods, and processed and fatty meats, may be beneficial. (1)(23) Results of a 2018 study demonstrated that individuals who adhered to recommended dietary modifications during and after treatment with antifungals experienced better outcomes than those who didn’t modify their diet. (23)
The Candida diet involves eliminating certain foods believed to contribute to increased inflammation in the gut that can lead to Candida overgrowth. The diet promotes the intake of lean protein, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables. Proponents of the diet suggest eliminating certain foods can reduce inflammation and restore balance in the gut microbiome. (27)
If you’re struggling with Candida or a condition associated with Candida yeast overgrowth, your practitioner may advise you to adhere to the Candida diet guidelines. It’s important to note that further research is needed to definitively declare whether following a specific diet can help treat Candida overgrowth.
Foods to eat on the Candida dietThe Candida diet encourages the intake of low-sugar, gluten-free, and anti-inflammatory foods, commonly found in the paleo and Mediterranean diets, including:
Healthy fats, such as avocados and olive oil, are encouraged on the Candida diet.
Foods to avoid on the Candida dietThe Candida diet recommends that the following foods be avoided:
Probiotics may be useful in the battle against Candida by interfering with the growth of the yeast in your gut.
ProbioticsProbiotics are beneficial live microorganisms (e.g., bacteria, yeasts) that promote a balance between the good and bad bacteria that live in the gut. Probiotics are found in several foods, including yogurt and fermented foods (e.g., kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha), and are also widely available in supplement form. (19)
Probiotics have been shown to be an effective alternative to prescription antifungals that are commonly used to address Candida infection. Several studies have indicated that probiotics, particularly Lactobacilli strains, may suppress Candida growth. (18) One 12-week study in older adults demonstrated that subjects who took lozenges containing two strains of the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri had a significant reduction in the number of Candida yeasts in their mouths compared to placebo. (14)
Furthermore, probiotics may be useful in alleviating signs and symptoms and reducing the incidence of Candida infection in critically ill patients. (18)
Caprylic acidCaprylic acid is a medium-chain fatty acid naturally found in coconut oil and mammalian breast milk. It’s theorized that caprylic acid, which possesses antifungal properties, helps breakdown Candida by penetrating its cell membranes. (25)
A 2011 review of research studies found that caprylic acid was associated with reduced symptoms of Candida. In fact, it was found to be a superior and more cost-effective therapy than some prescription antifungals. (22)
Another in vitro study determined that coconut oil might be helpful for Candida infections, particularly for drug-resistant species of Candida. These effects are believed to be attributed to the caprylic acid found in coconut oil. (21)
Oregano oilAs a potent antifungal, oregano oil (Origanum vulgare) may be used to address Candida infections. (11) The antifungal effects of oregano oil are attributed to three phenolic derivatives—carvacrol, thymol, and eugenol. (17)(24) Terpenoid phenols, like those found in oregano oil, have been shown to be effective in inhibiting the growth of several strains of Candida, including C. albicans, C. glabrata, and C. parapsilosis. (24)
In in vitro studies, oregano oil has been shown to inhibit the growth of Candida yeast cells completely. (17) According to one study comparing the effects of oregano oil versus antifungal drugs in 30 strains of C. albicans isolated from a vaginal swab, oregano oil was shown to be more effective than clotrimazole, an antifungal medication, at damaging the cell wall and membranes of the Candida yeast. (3)
Grapefruit seed extractResearch is limited; however, grapefruit seed extract, the aqueous extract of dried grapefruit seed, has been shown to possess antifungal activity, which can be used to target Candida overgrowth. (15) Grapefruit seed extract attacks fungal cells by inducing apoptosis, causing cells to die off. (4)
The bottom lineMore research is needed to better understand the link between diet and Candida; however, preliminary studies and some experts recommend restricting certain foods, particularly high-carbohydrate and processed foods, to alleviate symptoms associated with yeast overgrowth. Furthermore, certain supplements, including probiotics, caprylic acid, oregano oil, and grapefruit seed extract, may be used to target Candida overgrowth. If you are experiencing symptoms of candida overgrowth, ask your integrative healthcare practitioner if following the Candida diet or using supplements may be right for you. Here is a link to the protocol we often utilize: Candida Elimination
The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting a doctor. Consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website.
Striving to share the wealth of health and wellness we can offer through as many outlets as possible. In our blog, you'll find tips, tricks, and links to good information on how to be holistically healthy.