Updated: Apr 1
Candida overgrowth is a condition I see often in my practice and one that pops up a lot on the GI Map tests I run with many of my clients. It is a common cause for gut dysfunction which then of course triggers acne. Not to mention with candida, I usually see eczema flares along with dry flaky skin.
Before I jump into the damages of a typical candida diet aka restricting basically all sugars and carbohydrates I want to start by saying candida in the proper amounts is not bad. It is very normal to find candida in the gastrointestinal tract and we actually need it to digest our food. It is the most prevalent type of yeast in the body (there are about 150 different yeast species) and it usually lives in the mouth, intestines and vagina. However, it does need to be kept under control by your good gut bacteria. Unfortunately, with the mass amount of antibiotics and birth control pills being prescribed now a days (killing all your good gut bugs)- candida overgrowth is on the rise. Bacteria and yeast have a very delicate balance that not only can be disrupted by pharmaceuticals but also stress, alcohol and/or poor diet. When our beneficial gut bacteria decreases, yeast just keeps multiplying. Candida overgrowth can eventually start affecting your intestinal lining leading to a condition called leaky gut. This is where undigested food, bacteria and toxins can start leaking into your blood stream putting your immune system on hyperdrive (hello, autoimmunity). Obviously we want to avoid it getting to this point (and no the answer is not cutting carbs). Keep reading!
How do you know if you have candida overgrowth? The two biggest indications are oral thrush which is usually white bumpy patches on your tongue and vaginal yeast infections. This would suggest there is some candida overgrowing in the mouth and vagina. However, if it's overgrowing in your intestines, the symptoms can be a lot more subtle. The GI map stool test mentioned above will give us indication if there is Candida overgrowing in the gut. Technically speaking, no Candida should be showing up in your stool at all so if any is present on your test results (even if it's below the lab range) I would consider that an overgrowth.
Candida Overgrowth Symptoms:
fungal infections (nails, skin)
anal or vaginal itchiness
Now if you suspect you have a Candida overgrowth- don't panic! I do suggest reaching out to a practitioner for 1:1 help as it can be a tricky condition to overcome. Check out my 1:1 membership. The very first thing you want to note is that Candida overgrowth is stemming from slow metabolic function. Therefore, you will not be able to eradicate the excess yeast forever without supporting your metabolism. This is why I talk about eating to support your metabolism in my practice so much! You DO NOT need to starve the candida nor should you. Carbohydrates and sugar are not feeding your Candida- your metabolism is. Your body is in such a depleted state, why would you cut off its primary source of fuel (glucose)? If your car broke down, you wouldn't try to fix it by not putting gasoline in it would you?
I get it though... You probably have tried restricting sugar and/or carbohydrates before and felt better immediately? I sure have! However, that is simply because you are running on cortisol (since you aren't eating carbs or sugar to help decrease cortisol) which feels really good in the beginning- all hyped up on energy. After all, cortisol is anti-inflammatory. But there comes a point where your adrenals start to burn out from producing so much cortisol and your HPA axis becomes dysregulated. This is when you crash and burn out. Hello, chronic fatigue and the return of all your pesky symptoms. Instead, you want to eat in a pro metabolic way so that your body learns how to properly use glucose as fuel. Yes even during a Candida protocol. Not sure how to do this? Check out my pro-metabolic e-book in my shop.
Bottom line, starving your body of sugar makes candida worse and then candida can become systemic. Candida has a defence system where if it is starved of sugar it will send out invasive filaments into the intestinal wall, enter the bloodstream and become systemic. We need carbohydrates to fuel our metabolism because if we restrict them, cortisol is gonna be chronically high which is going to impair thyroid function. We have thyroid cells in all of our organs and it is the master regulator of our metabolism. If you restrict carbohydrates, your metabolism slows down which then estrogen will begin to increase in your tissues which drives candida overgrowths. The goal when eradicating a candida overgrowth should be to keep cortisol down so your thyroid can thrive and progesterone can increase in order to keep estrogen in check. You have to keep your thyroid and metabolism in mind when overcoming any hormonal and gut condition because low thyroid function is going to lead to low stomach acid which is one of our defence mechanisms against pathogens which then is going to lead to leaky gut and immune dysregulation, then arise chronic infections like Candida and many others.
If you're one of those people that is not in a good enough place to tolerate carbs yet then your probably not in a good enough place to do a candida eradication protocol yet and that's okay! You don't want to rush into these kinds of things anyway- you want to make sure your drainage pathways are open and your metabolism is in a good enough place so your immune system doesn't become overwhelmed.
In order to get your carb tolerance back start by; reducing polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and increasing saturated fats, increasing potassium and magnesium intake, reducing stressors and always pairing any sort of sugar or carbohydrate with a protein to keep blood sugar in check. PUFA's block your cells ability to utilize glucose and mimic estrogen in the body so cut the fish oil and slow down on all those nuts and seeds! Magnesium is important because your cells need it in order to respond to glucose properly. Don't forget about potassium either or your thyroid will start to suffer. If you're always tired after eating carbs this could be a blood sugar issue which is why I mention never eating carbs or protein alone! You may need to switch to primarily fructose based carbs like fruit for the time being as glucose may not be tolerated yet.
Overall, I don't recommend the typical Candida diet as it is way too damaging on your metabolism. Speaking from personal and clinical experience, cutting carbs/sugar is only perpetuating your Candida overgrowth.
Want to learn how to truly eradicate a Candida overgrowth for good (pssst. it's not a quick fix)? Come work 1:1 with me- book your free discovery call here.