Research shows that about 138 million women worldwide – 9 million in the United States – are affected by chronic yeast/fungal overgrowth as a result of candida. (source) Candida is a form of yeast/fungus that is present in everyone, in the mouth and intestinal tract. Ideally it exists in harmony in your gut along with the trillions of other bacteria that aid in digestion and nutrient absorption, but when candida begins to multiply out of control and overtake your good bacteria, troublesome symptoms and health issues result.
Is this you?
- Powerful sugar cravings
- Frequent bloating & gas
- Nail fungus
- Brain fog, difficulty concentrating
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Recurrent yeast infections, discharge, itching
- Rectal itching
- Tired & irritable
- Acne, skin issues, rashes
- Taking, or have taken, oral contraception
- Frequent antibiotic use (even in childhood)
- Poor immune health
- Autoimmune condition, especially Hashimoto’s
- Joint pain
I call it “a good neighborhood gone bad” in the gut. Too much candida not only causes unpleasant symptoms, but as it multiplies, it emits toxins that overwhelm your detox system, and it can penetrate your intestinal wall, causing leaky gut and releasing toxic byproducts into the bloodstream. This can feel pretty rotten. That’s when the headaches, skin rashes, fungus, fatigue, bloating and brain fog kick in. You may be feeling tired and gross.
Candida sabotages your weight loss efforts because of the toxicity and inflammation it causes. And the sugar cravings don’t help either. If you find yourself raiding the candy aisle at 9pm every night, that’s candida talking to you. Candida overgrowth can cause powerful sugar cravings; after all, sugar feeds yeast, so an overgrowth of this bad bacteria can drive you to crave sugar or refined foods. Yeast demands to be fed. And what happens when you indulge? Uncomfortable bloating or gas as the yeast digests the sugar, and a reaction occurs. And it multiplies.
How Do You Get Candida Overgrowth?
A main cause of yeast overgrowth is a course (or repeated rounds) of steroids and antibiotics. Other causes include birth control pills, estrogen replacement therapy, acute and chronic stress, chemotherapy, poor diet, alcohol.
You may have heard that candida overgrowth is caused by a high sugar diet, but the scientific literature really doesn’t support this. Low fiber, high fat diets are associated with candida and other negative changes in gut biome. (source)
- Antibiotics, which kill off good bacteria and create a ripe environment for yeast to proliferate
- Using birth control pills or estrogen replacement therapy
- Alcohol use
- Other parasite infections that damage the gut and allow candida to grow
- Stress: burning the candle at both ends, poor sleep
- PPIs (antacids) or other drugs
- Nutrient deficiencies: B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin E, calcium, zinc, selenium
How to Test for Candida Overgrowth
You can test for candida via blood, stool and urine. Urine testing seems most effective. It’s hard to test for candida via stool, because it doesn’t survive the preservative in stool cultures. Sometimes it shows up and sometimes not. In my experience, if someone has a severe candida overgrowth issue, it’s likely to show up on stool tests; otherwise, other markers such as low secretory IgA can indicate yeast issues.
I recommend anyone with the symptoms I listed at the top of the page consider a candida cleanse. I’ve seen many stool tests come back clean for yeast even though the person exhibits all the symptoms associated with too much yeast. With that said, I always recommend stool testing (the GI MAP is the test from this menu that I recommend) for other bacteria and parasites, because yeast often accompanies those infections, and you want to address it all together. If you suffer from the symptoms I mentioned, I recommend doing the candida protocol to kill it off.
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How to Get Rid of Candida for Good
Please make sure and read my candida cleanse post that includes my recommended protocol here.
Notice I say “for good.” That’s because candida is hard to kill. It is excellent at building up a resistance to antibiotic herbs. You have to be committed! You’ll feel so much better that it will be worth it. I use a 3-part process to kill candida overgrowth. Starve it, kill it, then reinoculate the gut with good bacteria. Note that you may need to complete this cleanse more than once to completely get rid of it. Plan on 8 weeks.
You’ll read a lot about the traditional anti-candida diet that excludes literally every molecule of sugar, even vegetables like carrots. I do not recommend these very restrictive zero sugar diets, as they may do more harm than good because they’re too low carb and don’t actually support gut healing in the proper way.
“There are several studies that suggest that Candida and other yeast can actually thrive on ketones. So this is one of my biggest problems with a very low-carbohydrate diet that removes every possible source of glucose or sugar in the diet. That can lead to ketone production. Then there are studies, for example, that show that neutrophils, which are white blood cells, are less able to kill Candida when ketones are present. There are studies of diabetic patients with ketoacidosis—you know, a lot of ketone production—developing Candida overgrowth. There are studies of obese people developing Candida infections when fasting causes ketosis. There are studies showing that serum drawn from fasting patients is less protected against Candida than serum drawn after meals, and that antifungal drugs, and I would assume botanicals, tend to work better in a fed state than a fasted state, where ketone production would be occurring. So there’s this whole kind of constellation of evidence that’s pointing to the idea that ketone production is not a good idea.”
So, some good news: you do not have to follow a super restrictive typical anti-candida diet! (The flipside of this is you do have to follow a restrictive diet of sorts).
I recommend following a gut healing diet plan, similar to the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD), that eliminates processed foods, added sugars, and difficult-to-digest starches that worsen leaky gut and encourage yeast overgrowth in a damaged gut. This means you’ll need to eliminate grains (and corn, which is actually a grain), dairy, refined white sugar, honey, maple syrup, processed soy, processed foods (junk like Doritos and packaged foods), and some people may need to exclude difficult-to-digest polysaccharide starches like potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnip, cassava. Certain legumes are OK for some folks, and YES! You can have fruit! (albeit small amounts of low sugar fruit like blueberries and green apples). You want to avoid any added sugars (which means adding extra sugar to your food, but you don’t need to avoid naturally occurring sugars in fiid), but stevia and monkfruit are OK.
Focus on organic eggs and animal protein + vegetables and good fats. Note that diet alone will not kill the yeast overgrowth! You have to combine diet with herbal protocol.
- Consume high quality, hormone-free protein at each meal from sustainable, antibiotic-free sources: Wild, cold water fatty fish are the best option; free-range chicken & turkey; properly prepared legumes (soaked) if they don’t cause bloating; cage free eggs; beef/bison; lamb; liver if you like it.
- Eat plenty of fresh vegetables of all types: lightly cooked, sautéd, steamed, roasted. Focus on leafy greens and cooked cruciferous. The cruciferous are excellent for detox. Cooked vegetables are easier for a damaged gut to digest. Potatoes and starchy root vegetables are fine.
- Use good quality fats for cooking: olive oil, coconut oil, ghee. Avoid vegetable oils!
- Drink filtered water (8 glasses/day at least to help flush toxins)
- Drink 2-3 cups of Pau d’arco herbal tea daily, and bone broth. Bone broth heals the gut and Pau d’Arco helps kill yeast. If you’re bumming about no booze, try a mocktail instead or stick to sparkling mineral water.
- Add fermented foods such as raw kraut, but NOT kombucha, which can actually feed yeast. This coconut water kefir contains good probiotics and enzymes. Take an ounce daily.
- Take or use 1-3 tbsp of coconut oil daily. It’s a powerful yeast killer and boosts metabolism. You can also use monolauric acid which controls yeast and boosts immune system.
- Take 1 tsp apple cider vinegar in a little water if needed to help digestion and detox. Avoid all other vinegars! Candida feeds on the sugars produced from this type of fermentation.
Your healing diet will look different than someone else’s, as it depends on your microbiome and health history. These are only guidelines. Some people need more carbs than others, and going too low carb during this treatment can make you feel worse.
Note that it’s a myth that you need to avoid yeast-containing foods on a candida protocol. Mushrooms are also fine despite what you’ve heard.
Foods to Avoid
|Aged Cheeses & Dairy Products||Conventional dairy contributes to inflammation, and many people are dairy sensitive. Fermented dairy (kefir, preferably raw) MAY be ok occasionally if not dairy sensitive, but dairy contributes to dampness in the body.|
|Additives & Preservatives||Anything you can’t pronounce on a food label = trouble.|
|Conventional Meats & Eggs||Use only grass-fed and wild meat products, free-range eggs and chickens. Non-organic animal proteins contain antibiotics and steroids that contribute to inflammation.|
|Alcohol||Sugar in the alcohol (wine, beer, spirits) is greatly loved by candida albicans, so don’t feed the beast!|
|Over-use of coffee||coffee is acidic, depletes minerals and thins the gut lining. Use green teas and herbal teas.|
|Chocolate||The sugar along with the fermentation process feeds the Candida, so avoid chocolate during the diet (sorry).|
|Fruits||Absolutely no fruit juices of any kind. Avoid the higher sugar tropical fruits. Berries, green apple, citrus are OK|
|Gluten & Grains||Avoid anything made from wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Avoid corn.|
|Peanuts||Peanuts carry a mold called aflatoxin that contributes to toxins in the body.|
|Condiments, kombucha, and YEAST in any form||Condiments (chutneys, mustards, preserves, ketchup, relishes, vinegar, bottled dressings, etc.) tend to be high in sugars, corn syrup and preservatives. Vinegars feed yeast. Kombucha is fermented and aggravates yeast overgrowth.|
Along with the diet, you’ll need to take herbs to kill off excess candida. You can start the diet and the herbs at the same time. The main supplement you use should contain all or most of the following: caprylic acid or undecenoic acid, pau d’arco, berberine, grapefruit seed extract, zinc, biotin, olive leaf extract. I like GI Microbe X and Biocidin, but I adjust the formulas depending on the person. Check out my free protocol here.
In addition, take oregano oil in capsule form– it’s a natural antibacterial and is relatively sparing of your good bacteria. I recommend using allicillin too. Lately I’ve had great success using this undercylenic acid formula, which you can use with any combination of oregano, garlic, and a compounded herbal product. Take the herbs three times daily for 4-6 weeks. The dose also depends on the person and how they tolerate the herbs.
If you’ve tried to get rid of candida before unsuccessfully, you may need to rotate between different anti-candida products. Candida builds up a fast resistance to herbs. You can rotate between GI Microbe X, Olive leaf extract, oregano oil, and undecylenic acid. Do this rotation plan if you’ve tried unsuccessfully in the past to kill it off. Typically 1-2 weeks taking the supplement three times daily, then rotate to the next product. You may need to rotate through all the products 2-3 times.
I also include a biofilm buster in my protocols, for difficult cases and always for the initial month. Biofilms act as a protective shield around yeast and other microorganisms, making it even more challenging to eradicate the yeast, because the anti-fungals/antibiotic herbs cannot get through biofilm matrix. This is how yeast protects itself from being destroyed. I use this biofilm buster prior to and alongside my herbal protocols. I also recommend NAC for biofilms, especially if the person is sensitive to eggs (Interfase Plus contains egg whites).
Also, try some stress relief during this phase: meditation, yoga classes, walking, gardening, whatever relaxes and rejuvenates you. You may also use aloe to soothe the gut lining if there is inflammation. A digestive enzyme will help you break down food and excess toxins as the candida dies off. Drinking aloe juice is soothing to the gut and helps kill candida. It is absolutely essential to address stress and unhealthy lifestyle factors that contribute to yeast and dysbiosis.
A Word of Warning
Some people will feel worse before they feel better. If you fee achy, flu-like, or nauseous, you could be reacting to the yeast dying off, which overwhelms your body and your liver detox pathways. This is called a herxheimer reaction. Try a liver support tincture or cut the supplements in half or stop them and gradually start back up again. I also recommend activated charcoal or a binder to help rid the body of toxins as candida is killed. Try this supplement at night with a full glass of water. Read my post on preventing die-off here.
Stay motivated and imagine – you could be a different person in 8 weeks! Free from cravings, more energy, and on your way to losing all the weight you want.
Reinoculate the Gut with Beneficial Microbes
Once you’re finished with the killing phase, it’s time to reinoculate the gut with good bacteria and starve out any remaining yeast overgrowth. Use a very good quality probiotic, preferably with Saccharomyces boulardii, for 4-8 weeks. You can also use Saccharomyces boulardii during the killing phase, but take it away from the herbs. You’ll likely need to take a probiotic for 3 months. I recommend rotating between different brands so you’re not taking the same strains continuously. Saccharomyces and lactobacillus are the two important probiotic species that keep yeast colonies in check.
I used to recommend waiting until after the kill phase to begin probiotics, but many people feel better taking them during the entire program, especially if you have very poor gut bacteria diversity. Typically first thing in the AM and right before bed is the best time to take probiotics away from the herbs.
Rebuilding your microbiome to prevent reinfection is the most important factor in preventing candida recurrence. Candida thrives in an unhealthy gut with poor bacterial diversity. A healthy gut biome depends on getting plenty of prebiotic vegetables to feed your gut bacteria. Your favorable gut bacteria depend on vegetables and fibers (and legumes, if you can handle them) of all kinds for probiotic diversity, so don’t stop with a probiotic and call it a day. Your diet is crucial! Read more about how to feed your microbiome here.
Once you’re feeling better and the overgrowth is gone, consider a liver detox. One of the reasons yeast overgrowth can result in acne, rashes, and feeling poorly overall is that the aldehydes, the toxic by-products produced by the yeast, overwhelm your detox system. Once you’ve killed it off, which is another stress on the liver, consider a 21 day detox program to help clean up after the unwanted visitors leave. Click here for my recommended program.
Want Help Kicking Candida FOR GOOD?
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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.