Candida overgrowth is one of the most common gut infections I encounter in my practice, and I receive numerous emails daily with questions about how to best treat it. It’s a tough one to tackle. Before you embark on a candida cleanse, make sure you avoid these six mistakes in treating candida overgrowth.
What is Candida?
Candida is a fungus, a form of yeast, that is present on and inside humans. It’s a normal part of a healthy digestive tract when it stays in check. There are many different strains/species of candida. It challenges our good gut flora to work more efficiently to keep us healthy.
But candida is an opportunistic organism, meaning that if the conditions are ripe, it will overtake the good bacteria and have a party in your digestive tract, causing you some undesirable symptoms such as weight gain, brain fog, fatigue, achy joints, gas, bloating, sugar cravings, nail fungus, and yeast infections. It produces toxins as it multiplies, and the major waste product of yeast cell activity is acetaldehyde (the same compound that your liver must break down when you drink alcohol), a toxin that promotes free radical activity in the body.
Our Western processed diets and lifestyles are to blame for pathogenic and bacterial overgrowths in the digestive tract. Antibiotic and drug use, birth control pills, refined carb and sugar-heavy diets, stress, alcohol, heavy metals, and female hormone and thyroid imbalance contribute to candida overgrowth. Click here to read my post all about how to address candida.
As I mentioned, candida is hard to kill off. It can become quickly resistant to anti-fungals or antibiotic herbs, so you have to outsmart it. The best advice if you’ve attempted a candida cleanse unsuccessfully is to rotate your antibiotic herbs and hit it hard. It typically takes 2-3 months at least to kill it off.
Here are some of the biggest mistakes I see in attempts to kill candida. Avoid these mistakes and you should only have to do your candida cleanse once. It took me 3 tries to get it right, and I have finally developed a winning protocol I now use with my clients. Click here to read my tips for getting rid of candida for good. Meantime, avoid these errors when treating candida.
Don’t miss my FREE candida training series on the top tips you need to know for kicking candida!
The 6 Biggest Mistakes in Treating Candida Overgrowth
1. Attempting to wipe out ALL candida. First off, please understand that some candida is absolutely normal in your digestive tract. We need it to keep our gut strong and our immune system healthy. The first big mistake I see is the misconception that we need to kill off ALL candida in the gut.
People are often prescribed strong anti-fungals (such as diflucan) for several weeks to kill candida. These anti-fungals work, and people feel amazing. But they may also wipe out beneficial yeast, which keeps dysbiosis (bad bacteria overgrowth) in check. Then you have other dysbiotic bacterial strains that take hold, or the yeast morphs and can return worse than before. The anti-fungals can also create major die-off symptoms when the yeast is killed, overwhelming your detox pathways and immune system. The key is to “reeducate” the bacteria in the gut by escorting too many bad guys out when they’ve reached capacity rather than coming in with guns blazing and killing everyone.
2. Using the traditional candida diet alone. Google “candida diet” and you’ll get a million different ways to kill candida. Most of these diets recommend removing all molecules of sugar, starch, alcohol, and refined foods–candida’s preferred food sources. But cutting all starchy carbs can yield you a very low carb diet, and studies indicate that yeast may actually feed on the ketones that result from a very low carb diet (source). So cutting all starches and sources of glucose isn’t a great idea.
Your diet will depend mostly on you. I design a different diet for each and every one of my clients. We each have a gut microbiome as unique as our fingerprint. If you have leaky gut, intestinal inflammation, or malabsorption issues, you may fare well on the specific carbohydrate diet or low FODMAP diet that limits hard-to-break -down starches. When a compromised digestive tract can’t fully break down these complex starches (grains, potatoes, certain legumes), they ferment, feed yeast, and cause gas and bloating.
So the short answer about your perfect candida-killing diet is that it depends on the health of your gut. Some may fare fine cutting out sugar, gluten, dairy, alcohol (hard to digest foods) but leaving in starchy carbs. Others may need to go low FODMAP or SCD.
But the larger point is that no matter what, the candida diet alone will not kill candida. Sure, it will starve some of the bad guys, and you’ll feel a reduction in symptoms, but you need anti-microbial herbs and probiotic intervention to seal the deal.
There are foods that help wipe out candida–garlic, lemon (hot water with lemon is a great way to get your lemon), ginger, coconut oil-– to supplement your protocol, but those foods alone won’t cut it.
3. Taking the wrong antimicrobial herbs or taking the same herbs continually. In addition to the right anti-candida diet for you, you’ll need to take anti-microbial herbs to knock back the overgrowth. In the olden days I would recommend taking an anti-candida formula for 6-8 weeks (and did so myself many times). Sometimes it would work, sometimes not. I’ve now developed a protocol that works almost always, and it involves using several different herbs in rotation. Candida can become easily resistant to herbs, so using different herbs prevents this and seems to prevent serious die-off, too. Click here for my preferred protocol. Again, this will depend on the person.
One thing that may work well is diatomaceous earth (food grade). It slices candida and kills it, allowing it to be excreted via stool. It has so many benefits. I often recommend this for the full 8 weeks of my candida protocol. I’ve used it myself and was impressed with the benefits to my skin and hair.
4. Failure to recolonize the gut with the proper strains of probiotic bacteria. This is a big one. Once people are finished with the killing phase, they skip the most important part: putting the good bacteria back in the gut! Imagine you have a beautiful neighborhood that eventually gets trashed by vandals. You come in with a SWAT team and escort the vandals out, and they go back to their area. But now you have a bare neighborhood. Know what happens if you just leave it and don’t rebuild? The vandals come back to trash it again. Same situation in your gut. You’ve cleaned it up, so don’t just leave it. You need to rebuild your nice houses and get your neighborhood watch team in place to keep the vandals out. That requires mega doses of probiotics, especially lactobacillus species, and probiotic-building foods to build back up the good guys that got starved out. Click here for my post on probiotics. You’ll also need to eat plenty of prebiotic foods to feed your probiotic bacteria.
5. Returning to your old eating habits. Don’t celebrate the end of your treatment by going out for pizza and beer. You just spent 8 long weeks being super strict to improve your health– don’t ruin all your hard work! Yes, you may be able to enjoy pizza and croissants again in the future, but it’s important to finish the program. Reintroducing inflammatory and/or sugary foods will encourage the bad guys to come ruin your nice neighborhood again.
So, do the probiotic recolonization. Do the leaky gut healing. Most important, tweak your diet to include lots of gut friendly foods. Once you’ve been symptom-free for a few weeks AFTER these phases are complete, THEN you can begin to reintroduce foods to see how you react. Some of you may need to be gluten & dairy free for life if you have allergies to casein and gluten. Some of you may choose to avoid it because it makes you feel crappy. Some of you may not have sensitivities to those foods and choose to enjoy them from time to time. Fine. Whatever the case, don’t jump back into the same diet that got you here in the first place.
6. Not testing to see what’s causing it. Candida overgrowth is often a secondary infection to some other GI issue, whether it’s a parasite, pathogenic bacteria, SIBO, or another strain of bad bacteria overgrowth. I recommend stool testing to see what else is going on so you know what you’re dealing with and what to treat. Oftentimes parasitic infections occur initially, changing the terrain of the gut, which then becomes a hospitable environment for candida overgrowth to thrive. So, test, don’t guess! You can order your own stool testing here. You also want to make sure your candida overgrowth is gone after all your hard work.
Want help getting rid of candida for good?
Check out the Candida MasterClass. This is a self study 6 week course with tons of resources to help you kick candida for good AND heal your gut. Click here for more details, and read past participants’ glowing testimonials!
How to Get Rid of Candida–For Good (and my protocol)
4 Mistakes People Make when Treating Candida from Chris Kresser
Healing Leaky Gut
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.
Mary, you are such a wealth of information for me! I always look forward to your new posts. Thank you for so generously sharing your knowledge and experience!
Thanks for reading, and I so much appreciate your awesome comments, Kelly! <3
I’ve been dealing with what seems like Candida for at least ten years. Three Comprehensive stool test came back negative. After taking antibiotics for three years for ear infections, I have developed itchy peeling ears, hand, feet, lips, hair loss and so much more. I’ve read so much and researched. Yet still no answers. I’ve spent a lot! Could a leaky gut alone cause all this? Could silo cause all these symptoms? It get worse when I eat sugar. Red dots, itchy skin and on.
Advice greatly appreciated!
Yes, it could be candida and leaky gut. It’s notoriously difficult to detect candida on stool panels.
The Lady Soma Candida Cleanse was a big help in my recovery from candida overgrowth. I highly recommend it. It not only contains antifungals, it also contains ingredients to settle your stomach, one probiotic culture, some digestive enzymes, etc. You get a lot of bang for your buck, and this product is a reasonable price for what it is. If you have candida overgrowth, this product was very key to my recovery. Good luck.
Hi Mary, Thank you for your blog! Is a dietitian the correct professional to see about getting tested for candida and then treating it too? It’s so confusing with so many various professionals out there.
It depends. Typically a naturopath, integrative MD, or a holistic nutritionist are your best bets. I offer stool and urine testing in my practice.
hey mary. thanks so much for taking the time out to post this info to help us out!! i have attempted to follow he type of protocol you’ve put out but i for some reason seem to run into the same issue over and over again. after the killing phase, 8 have tried before with prescription anti fungal and natural.. anyway after the killing phase and it’s time to repopulate with probiotics.. my body reacts terribly to probiotics. causes acne, vaginal bleeding, stomach pain, brian fog and basically regular candida symptoms. and this is after doing the killing phase for months. it’s so frustrating bc i do the probiotics and it almost makes me feel like the candida gets bad again
I was wondering if you could tell me where to go to get tested correctly for Candida. Who to see and what type of test to take. Also how can I tell the diffrence between leaky gut and Candida? How do I know which cleanse to do. I’m tired of guessing I want to get tested and be done with it. Some of my symptoms are cold hand and feet (especially in the winter. Sometimes my toes turn slight colors), constipation, rash under armpit ( I’ve had it for almost 2 years and it just won’t go away..also it 1st started from aluminum deotorant and then I did a liver cleanse and it got way worse and never went away.. It’s on my right side under my armpit), excessive mucas in throat (seems to be post-nasal drip symptoms), digestive issues, bloated feeling in gut, hormone problems ( haven’t been able to get pregnant and extreme menstrual cramps).. On a side note someone said the yeast could come from my husband who has athletes foot. HELP!! What do u recommend??
Typically urine or blood tests are most accurate. This post can help you learn more about leaky gut: https://www.maryvancenc.com/heal-leaky-gut-naturally/
but the main difference is that candida causes recurrent yeast infections, fungal infections, thrush, rashes. I’d recommend working with a practitioner to help you.
I agree, id say another mistake would be not addressing heavy metals. Candida can be hard to overcome if:
1) A person has a lot of amalgam/mercury fillings
2) Are copper toxic
3) Have mercury toxicity
4) Are deficient in many nutrients including zinc which is needed for immune function. Copper imbalance can cause zinc deficiency.
Parasites also overgrow due to heavy metal toxicity.
For more info on this see my article: http://nourishbalanceheal.com/2016/08/23/cant-get-rid-of-candida/
have a friend that thinks she might have candida. When looking for treatment, there are many options. As you said, all the different advice and diets can be misleading. I’m afraid lots of people take the wrong antimicrobial herbs, as you explained. I think the best treatment is to always seek professional help. Thanks for sharing.
Can certainly someone help me with a very little issue.
A split yr before, I got identified as having the candida
I want to test some eating plan against Candida albicans.
Online, a lot of information about this problem.
However thoughts typically diverge. And I did not find the correct decision for me.
Perhaps the forum participants will recommend a successful diet or a lot of tasty recipes against candida?
I’ll be really thanks for any help
Hi seeking advice on how to detox heavy metals? Is inecessary to detox them before starting candida program? Regards
Hey! I took too many supplements and I had diarrhea and it got rid of toxins, although i went to the bathroom a few times. opps. I’m 18 and i have been suffering from this for as long as i can remember. i think i caused myself canidida overgrowth, since i went back to eating chips and sugary foods because i was craving them. my mom says that i should eat grain and dairy but from what i’ve read online and from this blog, i’m not sure what kind of diet to follow. I know that stress makes it worse, espically if chronic. I get sick alot with the cold alot, and it worsens my health. This year, however, i think i made the candida worse, as it showed up throughout my tongue, and now it’s still there but much less due to my excessive cleanse. I drank lots of water and ate some bread to make me energied, but wha if i worsen it? Is taking supplements and vitamins (in capsules or just the powder form) three to four times daily bad for candida overgrowth? I hope I didn’t mess up my candida issue by doing this cleanse. My mom is also the one who is greatly concerned about this, and she thinks that eating “healthy”, meaning mostly grains, veg, and fruit will help, but I did a huge mistake by eating sugar back in may of this year and i have white spots on my right foot and some fungi growing under my breasts (it faded bc i treated it with good hygiene and a home cream but it might come back and i hope it dosen’t). More over, my throat/neck has been hurting since june, and it seemed to get better after taking vitamins and supplements, but it still hurts when i touch the area. What’s worse, after eating certin foods, my nose is runny (which i thought was normal but i don’t think it is- is it allergy issues?) and i wnet ot the doctor and they said i might have acid reflex (a silent one) since i’ve been burping alot recently after eating and sometimes drinking. This worries me even further, as my ears are ringing since last week, and i think it could of been from candida, ( but also due to wind from biking and loud music from mp3- but i took long breaks afterwards and my ears were fine). it keeps on buzzing but i hear everything else normally and it goes from high to low frequencybut it has gotton a bit louder and it has been bothering me but my mom siad it’s nothing to worry about.. and it’s odd. I think i just have to allow my body to heal first with the candida die-off and it might get better. I hope I don’t have any hearing loss… I also stressed out the last two months ( i cried a lot because college issues). I need your help! It would be greatly appreciated.
I have been suffering from Candida for 20 years now and I finally worked out that antibiotic caneston cream, nylstat do not get rid of it only suppressed it and then it comes back with a vengeance. I suffered depression and panic attacks anxiety., right lower severe abdominal pains, admitted to hospital several times and they found nothing. Until I went to see a naturopath at The Tonic Tree in Melbourne. She gave me supplements, Alkala (which is important to alkalise ur body) Probiotics (make sure they are from your health food shop) Mettazinc(metagenics brand) Vegie enzymes (again buy from health shop all natural) liver cleanse detox kit, fibroplex, exmykehl suppositries and put me on a strict diet, no dairy, no eggs, ACV wSnt allowed either, no sugar or preservatives. I was allowed vegetables incl potatoes, I visited my health food store once a week to buy my spelt bread, wheat free pasta. Meat free from hormones (grass grain fed prefer) Pinterest became my best friend for sugar free, dairy free recipes. I used natural sweeteners, was able to eat food that had stevia or eurethritol in it which is natural sweetener or xylitol. Every single thing was home made. Lots and lots of veggies, lots of meat. It is still a work in progress as I have fallen off the wagon a few times being out with friends but I am no where near where I was. The panic attacks completely gone, anxiety gone, pains in abdom gone, depression completely gone, I’m a new person. The only thing I do still have which is frustrating but I think it might still be part of the die off is oral thrush, bad breathe, smelly urine and sometimes a little itchy down stairs a bit every now and then but that could be because I’m not using the cream she gave me consistently or drinking enough water. You need to be VERY STRICT and stick to it not like me I admit it’s been hard you get die off blues real bad at times.
How much diatomaceous earth (food grade) do you use per day?
And how do you use it?
Are there any other details that should be known about it?
Here is my post on diatomaceous earth: https://www.maryvancenc.com/diatomaceous-earth/
One thing every medical consultant never mentions what could be causing candida and parasites….Heavy Metal Toxicity. Never depend on blood work to diagnosis this because metal will go to the bones and tissues….go to a qualified Medical Professional that does chelation to remove metal. Lead is a biggy that causes candida over growth. Why do I know cause I just went through this and not one Dr will go that direction. Also as well if you have kidney stone osteo or any thing calcium it is your parathyroid gland another organ most your Dr treat systems but will not address this organ because no drug money kickback will cure this but maybe surgery. There is a clinic in Tampa that does only this organ.
Yes, high levels of mercury in the body are linked to candida overgrowth and recurrent, stubborn candida infection. Parasites not so much. I don’t recommend anyone try to tackle this solo. Detoxing heavy metals can be very dangerous.
Ive had exactly what you are describing, including the right bowel pain for 2 years now and I dont know what to do. How are your blood sugar levels ? Please feel free to email me at email@example.com, would be nice to be intouch with someone with similar problem
Thank you for all of your info on candida. Have you ever seen in your practice that candida can be linked to receding gums and/or low platelets? About 2 years ago my gums began to recede at a very quick rate with no prior indication of gum problems. I went to my doctor who ran very general labs and the only thing that popped up was lower platelets that have continued to remain lower than normal (last test showed 133,000). I know that you can’t diagnose or advise me, but was curious if you’ve ever had patients with candida problems also present with gum recession/gum inflammation and/or low platelet count? I’ve researched a ton about these issues and have found some people relate these issues to candida overgrowth. I’m considering trying out your protocol to see if it helps my gums and platelets improve? Thanks for any guidance you can offer!
Hi Nicole, I have not seen that specifically, no, but candida weakens the immune system and causes inflammation, so that’s not surprising. Plus, the health of the mouth mirrors what’s going on inside, and the mouth has its own microbiome. You might try stool testing (the DSL GI MAP offers excellent insight into dysbiosis + general GI health and inflammatory markers) before embarking on a protocol so you know exactly what you’re aiming at.
Thank you for that test recommendation as it looks very detailed! Is this a test that can be ordered only through a professional, or can I order this on my own? If not, can it be ordered through your coaching? Thanks again!
Hi Nicole, you can only order the GI MAP through a practitioner. You can order through my office. if you’d like info on coaching, just get in touch via my contact page and we can chat 🙂 https://www.maryvancenc.com/contact/
Your information and source texts for addressing Candida “homeostasis” were helpful! Really invaluable! I am working with a practitioner, yet due to breastfeeding, am not able to adequately address a concurrent SIBO infection. What unique tips / baby steps can you recommend for a breastfeeding mum, seeking to heal, with a 27-year history of Candida overgrowth and now, SIBO? In example, Nystatin is making me quite sick. In your professional opinion, it worth the 4-month Nystatin journey if I am not able to adequately address the SIBO? The changes in my diet are absolutely worth it and I will keep on!
Hi Bethany, it’s difficult to properly eradicate SIBO and/or candida while breastfeeding because you’re limited to diet only. You cannot take the herbs that are 100% necessary to kill it completely. Diet alone will not work, but changing your diet is a good start. For candida you can take specific probiotics, but those with SIBO may not be able to tolerate probiotics.
I probably have systemic candida infection since my severe symptoms(which exactly match that of candida) haven’t yet been diagnosed and in the past I had taken multiple rounds of antibiotics for recurring UTI infections. I’ve been taking ACV water for the last few months which has significantly improved my health along with my face and hair. But I almost always have a mild sore throat ever since I started taking ACV. Do you think this could be a die-off reaction? Also, I’ll be taking DE, probiotics and candida cleanse stuff to end this problem for good. Do you have any pointers as to at what times during the day I should take them? Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Hi Phoenix, vinegars may cause adverse reactions in people with candida, so that could be a potential cause. Regarding timing of herbs, it depends on what you are taking. Some are better between meals, some are fine with meals. Usually there are guidelines on the bottles.
So I actually tried diatomacious earth before running into this post. I went to bed after I took it and within 45 minutes I was in some of the most severe stomach pain i have ever encountered. Now it seems every time I eat I get some sort of stomach pain. Is stomach pain associated with candida die off? I also have to go to the bathroom almost immediately after I eat something. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for all of this information, I’m going to tweak what I’m doing and add this into it.
Cameron, not sure, but you should stop taking it if you get that type of reaction. One serving would not cause severe die-off like that far as I know.
@Cameron, I also got significant pain in my lower abdomen when I first started it. You should reduce your dosage and maybe take it during the day instead of nighttime. I have been on it for nearly 2 weeks now and the pain has nearly subsided, while greatly improving my symptoms. I also take other stuff so not sure what helped me the most.
Five times in the last 2+ years I ate a dairy product containiing probiotics, such as yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream. Each time I suffered bad symptoms, including lung congestion for a couple months. urinary itching and inflamation, increased trips to bathroom, fatigue. Each time after recovering, my lung efficiency seemed to deteriorate. I am not allergic to dairy. I think the culprit is candida 0vergrowth. When I take a probiotic the candida seems to go nuts to survive. I think the solution is to attack the candida continuously and in great force, but I am afraid the bad symptoms will overcome me. I am going to present this dilemma to Bastyr Stud3ent Clinic in Seattle July 16.
James, you may not have an IgE allergy to dairy, but you could still be casein sensitive, which would cause these symptoms.
I had Pneumonia back in March. I was given 2 potent antibiotics and a Mucinex. After taking my first dose of all 3, I was sent to the hospital with a Panic Attack and what seemed like heat radiating from my body. If I were to pee, it felt like flames would have came out. I stopped all, but one antibiotic and it seems my anxiety and Panic Attacks have not gone away. I’ve been taking Ortho Tri Cyclen Low for about 3 years, but I’ve noticed more UTI and Yeast Infections since I’ve taken it. I went back to my doc who said it’s likely Leaky Gut, I’ve been trying to heal that since June, but I’m still having Panic Attacks and Anxiety. Any feedback would be appreciated, I’m thinking it could be Candida, but I need to rectify this, I am not doing great. Thanks!
Are there any bodybuilding supplements that can be used while following the diet/program to eliminate candida? For example, protein shakes, creatine or BCAAs.
Luis, yes you can use any of those as long as they don’t contain refined sugars as part of a pre-packaged shake.
I had many of these same symptoms, including hair loss. I found a probiotic on Amazon called candida fx, and read the reviews. I ordered a bottle and am taking one pill a day instead of the recommended two, and feel great. I’m going to order another bottle and keep taking it to make sure my hair grows back and to keep me regular.
I suspect that I may have Candida overgrowth and I’m going to have a doctor check things out to make sure. But mine is caused from withdrawals. Do you have any advice on that or an article you have on the subject by chance?
Hi Alex, not sure what you mean. If you’re talking about withdrawal from alcohol, that isn’t a direct cause of candida, but if you do have candida overgrowth, it would be addressed in the same manner.
I am being treated at the same time for Candida (Nystatin 3 months) and Xifaxan for SIBO (2 Weeks). What I am confused about and no doctor on the same page is what should I be eating and what shouldn’t I? Also probiotic during treatment or not and if so what probiotic (soil based vs lactobacillis or Bifidobacterium?) Been at this for 5 years and have not found the right “recipe”.
Amy, that’s because there isn’t a right answer. it differs from person to person. The diet varies greatly based on what you can tolerate, and some people do better on probiotics while others don’t. There’s no one size fits all for gut healing. That’s why it helps to work with a nutritionist. This post may help: https://www.maryvancenc.com/what-is-the-best-diet-for-sibo/
I’m wondering how long it typically takes for you to see oral thrush disappear with someone who has candida doing your protocol. I did a 3 month protocol with biofilm disruptors, antifungals, and am now taking a biofilm disruptor with nystatin and have seen no change in the thrush. I’ve also tried coconut pulling, anti-fungals for the mouth. Have you seen stubborn cases like this?
M, yes, I work with a lot of (mostly women) with recurrent or stubborn yeast. Often the problem is the candida is resistant to the herbs, you’re not using the right herbs/supplements, you’re not wrapping up the protocol with probiotic therapy and gut healing, and/or there’s another issue causing the candida that’s not being addressed (h pylori or other gut issues, for example). Depending on your symptoms, I recommend further testing/assessments to determine what’s causing the candida.