The Candida Diet: 8 Foods to Eat + 8 to Avoid While Healing Your Gut
By Dr. William Cole
There is a universe living inside of you — and you might not even know it. Your gut contains around 100 trillion bacteria. Compared to your 10 trillion human cells, you are actually 10 times more bacteria than human.
In addition to the colonies of bacteria, there are many yeast or fungus species that share this collective universe of microbes known as the microbiome.
And the delicate balance of your gut garden helps determine the quality of your health. In fact, microbiome dysfunctions are linked to a staggering list of health problems, from weight gain and mental health issues to autoimmune diseases.
One common underlying gut issue is candida overgrowth, when an overgrowth of this species of fungus throws off the balance of your microbiome.
In my previous article on the subject, I went over the signs and symptoms as well as the specific labs to have run to test for an underlying overgrowth of candida. Now I'd like to lay out the foods I recommend eating — and which ones to avoid — if yeast overgrowth is an issue for you.
As Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food." Let the microbiome healing begin!
8 Foods to EAT on the Candida Diet
1. Non-starchy vegetables
Fungus overgrowths eat what you eat. Plant foods like kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and bok choy offer a lot of nutrients without over feeding the overgrowth.
Green leafy vegetable are also rich in folate, is needed for people with MTHFR gene mutations who are extra-sensitive to candida overgrowth.
Some people do better with steaming or sautéing non-starchy vegetables, which is gentler on the gut.
2. Clean meats
Grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, and organ meat (like liver) are rich in bioavailable fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, and K2, all of which are needed for immune and microbiome health.
3. Healthy fats
Coconut, olive, and avocado oil are all healing to the gut. A variety of saturated and monounsaturated fats have an anti-inflammatory effect on the gut lining. Coconut oil in particular is rich in caprylic acid, which has been shown to inhibit candida overgrowth.
4. Cultured foods
Fermented foods, like kimchi, sauerkraut, and coconut or grass-fed kefir, will help inoculate a stressed-out microbiome with beneficial bacteria.
I recommend eating these in moderation at the beginning of your healing and slowly increasing intake, as they can cause a flare-up of symptoms from the die-off of the yeast overgrowth.
5. Healing herbs and spices
Herbs like oregano, ginger, and pau de ‘arco have all been shown to have antimicrobial effects. You can choose to use them in recipes, teas, or in supplement form.
6. Healthy sweeteners
Non-sugary sweeteners like raw green stevia and xylitol are better alternatives to sugar, which can be harmful to the gut. But even these should be used sparingly.
Tannins found in black tea have been shown to help kill off candida. Calming teas, like ginger, can help soothe the delicate gut lining.
8. Bone broth
This ancient healing food is making a modern comeback — and for good reason. This is probably the strongest gut medicine for most people. The collagen in the bone broth is building blocks to a healthy gut lining. Because it contains no sugar, it can also help starve down fungal overgrowths and turn down inflammation.
8 Foods to AVOID On the Candida Diet
Sugar — in all its forms — feeds candida. So be sure to read labels carefully since sugar has many different pseudonyms. While some may be healthier than others, they all feed candida to some degree.
And be careful to avoid artificial sweeteners, as they can alter the balance of the gut flora.
It's called "nature's candy" for a reason. I would suggest severely limiting or avoiding fruit while healing your gut. At the very least, stick to lower fructose-fruits like berries, and citrus fruits like lemon, lime, and grapefruit. Besides being lower in sugar, these citrus fruits also have antimicrobial properties.
Grains are another form of sugar, and should also be avoided. That's especially so for those containing gluten, which can be very damaging to the gut. Grain-free flowers like almond, hazelnut, and coconut can be used in moderation.
Later on, as you heal, you can slowly reintroduce gluten-free grains (like rice and organic, non-GMO corn) sparingly to see if they agree with you.
Alcohol is tough on your intestinal lining, and is even linked to leaky gut syndrome. Alcohol can also impair detoxification pathways, which need to be optimized when healing the microbiome.
I consider most dairy in the U.S. to be junk food. That's because the cows are given hormones and antibiotics, fed GMO corn instead of grass, and live in unhealthy conditions. The milk is then pasteurized and homogenized, and the fat, with all its vitamins, is removed. Synthetic vitamins are then added back because the milk is devoid of nutrition.
Moreover, many people with candida overgrowth have leaky gut syndrome, which can make them more sensitive to casein, a protein in milk.
The one exception I would make is grass-fed, full-fat, cultured dairy foods like kefir and yogurt.
6. Starchy plant foods
Starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, and beets can feed the yeast overgrowth. While you're healing your gut, I would also avoid legumes like black beans, pinto beans, lentils, peanuts, cashews, and chickpeas.
As you heal, you can test these to see how your body handles them.
One specific food category that often goes unmentioned when it comes to gut problems is FODMAPS. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Monosaccharides, and Polyols and refers to carbs that aren't easily digested by the gut. When eaten in excess, they can also feed microbiome overgrowths such as candida and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Some foods that are high in FODMAPS: onions, garlic, cabbage, and apples. Legumes are also high in FODMAPS. I suggest avoiding or limiting them while you heal, and then slowly increasing your intake to find your individual tolerance.
8. Conventional coffee
Coffee, in excess, is a well-known irritant to the gut lining. Coffee can also be high in moulds, which can stress a compromised immune system. And decaf might actually be worse when it comes to both mould content and acidity.
Make sure to search for high-quality organic coffee beans, and drink coffee in moderation.
Putting It All Together
Food is undoubtedly the start of the journey in healing your gut. And often a part of that journey also includes working with a qualified clinician on customized natural protocols. Always talk to a trusted health care provider before making changes to your diet.