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Is Food a Solution to Defeating Candida?

19 June, 2020 ,

In order to answer this question let’s start by understanding what candidiasis is, the infection caused by a Candida type of yeast.

On the human skin and mucous membranes (mouth, vagina, digestive system) we can find different types of yeast including that of the genus Candida, which includes more than 100 different species, the best known of which is Candida albicans. These yeasts live in balance with the bacteria present in our body and generally do not present a problem. However, several factors can disrupt this balance and thus cause the proliferation of these yeasts which can cause an infection called candidiasis.

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Factors include:

  • Taking antibiotics
  • Pregnancy
  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • Weakening of the immune system caused by illness, emotional shock, intense physical activity
  • Taking oral contraceptives or a hormone therapy that increases estrogen levels

In the vast majority of cases, the infections affect the skin, mouth and vagina and cause multiple inconveniences depending on the affected area. Candidiasis can also affect the digestive system and cause gastrointestinal disorders such as burping, bloating, indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, and gas.

Normally, candidiasis is not a dangerous infection, except in rare cases where it spreads in the blood and infects the vital organs of people with immune system deficiencies.

How to treat candidiasis?

Essentially, the treatment prescribed is to take an antifungal medication in the form of a cream or oral tablet.

Increasingly, we hear that diet could help get rid of these candidiasis infections as well: we are talking about anti-candida diets. There are even sites dedicated to this type of food regimen, one of the best known being The Candida Diet.

Could diet be a way to stop candidiasis?

Anti-candida diets recommend avoiding foods that appear to promote yeast development, such as: sugar and its substitutes, gluten, alcoholic or sugary beverages, certain dairy products, and condiments.

At the same time, they emphasize the consumption of lean protein, good fats rich in omega 3, low-carb vegetables, and dairy products rich in probiotics. The purpose of these diets is to minimize inflammation and restore the balance between the different microorganisms populating the intestine.

What does science say?

Current studies do not support the effectiveness of such diets. Several studies, performed in a laboratory on cells and animals, aim to understand how different food substances promote or reduce the growth of Candida. However, it is unclear whether these results apply to humans. Further studies are needed in order to understand the effectiveness of anti-candida diets as a treatment for yeast infections.

  • Does avoiding sugary products help prevent yeast infections?

One of the recommendations of the anti-Candida diet is to eliminate sugar and sugar products because they would promote yeast growth. A laboratory study in 2017 confirms that high glucose levels can promote Candida growth. In addition, according to a 2014 study, refined sugars and lactose-rich dairy products can promote yeast growth by lowering pH levels in the digestive tract. However, more research is needed to validate this theory.

Anti-candida diets also aim to eliminate foods high in starch. Currently there are no studies showing that cutting out pasta, bread, crackers, and other foods containing white flour from one’s diet affects the frequency or severity of yeast infections. That said, there are many other known benefits to limiting your intake of added sugars and refined flour.

  • Does avoiding gluten help prevent yeast infections?

Anti-candida diets exclude gluten in particular because it can damage the intestinal lining and plays a role in dysbiosis (an imbalance of the intestinal microbiota). Gluten elimination has been shown to be beneficial for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However,we currently have no evidence that a gluten-free diet offers benefits for other people.

  • Can probiotic foods prevent yeast infections?

Some research shows that the consumption of yogourt can reduce the proliferation of Candida in the mouth and vagina. Although probiotics or probiotic foods can help prevent yeast infections, they are generally not enough to treat one that is already present. Note that at least one study has found that when an antifungal is combined with a probiotic supplement, the treatment is more effective.

In conclusion, if you suffer from repeated yeast infections it is strongly advised to consult with a doctor to rule out any underlying causes such as diabetes or an immune dysfunction.

Even if current scientific studies do not allow us to draw clear conclusions as to the appropriate diet in cases of candidiasis, it is certain that a balanced diet will strengthen your immune system, help you manage your blood sugar levels as much as possible, strengthen your gut microbiota, and thus put all the chances in your corner to keep you in good health.

For more information on our balanced meal plans, please click here. Note that if you wish, it is quite possible to eliminate gluten from our meal plans. In addition, they are without added sugars.


References

  • Otašević, S., et al. “The dietary modification and treatment of intestinal Candida overgrowth–a pilot study.” Journal de Mycologie Médicale 28.4 (2018): 623-627.
  • Erdogan, Askin, and Satish SC Rao. “Small intestinal fungal overgrowth.” Current gastroenterology reports 17.4 (2015): 16.
  • Man, Adrian, et al. “New perspectives on the nutritional factors influencing growth rate of Candida albicans in diabetics. An in vitro study.” Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz 112.9 (2017): 587-592.
  • Martins, Natália, et al. “Candidiasis: predisposing factors, prevention, diagnosis and alternative treatment.” Mycopathologia 177.5-6 (2014): 223-240.
  • Sanz, Yolanda. “Microbiome and gluten.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 67.Suppl. 2 (2015): 27-42.
  • Pizzo, Giuseppe, et al. “Effect of dietary carbohydrates on the in vitro epithelial adhesion of Candida albicans, Candida tropicalis, and Candida krusei.” The new microbiologica 23.1 (2000): 63-71.
  • Hu, Haihong, et al. “Impact of eating probiotic yogurt on colonization by Candida species of the oral and vaginal mucosa in HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected women.” Mycopathologia 176.3-4 (2013): 175-181.
  • Martinez, R. C. R., et al. “Improved treatment of vulvovaginal candidiasis with fluconazole plus probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR‐1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC‐14.” Letters in applied microbiology 48.3 (2009): 269-274.
  • Gunsalus, Kearney TW, et al. “Manipulation of host diet to reduce gastrointestinal colonization by the opportunistic pathogen Candida albicans.” MSphere 1.1 (2016).
  • The Candida Diet. https://www.thecandidadiet.com/, accessed 12 June 2020.
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Author

Jennifer Morzier

Jennifer Morzier

Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian graduated from the University of Montreal in December 2018 and is a member of the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec (OPDQ). She believes that the quality of our food choices has a direct impact on our health and energy level. Her goal? To help people improve the quality of what they put in their plates, for their better well-being and greater pleasure.

Jennifer Morzier

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