Lately, it may seem like special diets are cropping up everywhere. From vegan to paleo, it can be hard to keep track of the revolving door of regimens and restrictions that friends and TV personalities alike are touting.
One diet you may not have heard of is the candida diet, a diet that has become a method to heal common, stubborn health complaints through nutrition. Compared to other diets, it is slightly less publicized, but unlike many others, it has real medical validity. The diet can be demanding, but it doesn’t have to deprive, and the results are worth the effort.
With just a few dietary adjustments, the candida diet can help alleviate even the worst allergy symptoms, but not for the food allergy reasons you might think. Otolaryngologist and leading allergy treatment specialist Dr. Donald P. Dennis of Sinusitis Wellness has been recommending the diet to treat patients for mold allergies and chronic sinusitis for more than 36 years. As a board-certified Ear, Nose, and Throat surgeon, with training at the number one hospital in the world for ENT’s, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Dennis explains to The Daily Meal why a sugar-free and gluten-free diet can positively impact common allergies you may suffer from.
If you’re interested in overhauling your health, the candida diet might just be the answer you’ve been looking for. We’ll lay out the basics of what, why, and how to help make your transition to candida as seamless as possible. We’ll even help you candida-proof your kitchen with 25 easy and delicious recipes you can cook, share, and enjoy on the candida diet — everything from breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even dessert.
What It Is:
The candida diet is a nutritional plan designed to rid the body of yeast, also known as candida, which can colonize the gut and cause systemic inflammation. The candida diet reduces the inflammation by starving the yeast of its food source. This means no sugars of any kind, including processed sugar, natural sugars, and the glucose sugars that are the end products of the digestion of bread and starch.
So, why does the candida diet hate sugar? Because yeast finds sugar every bit as tasty as we do.
According to Dr. Dennis, every candida cell has a sugar receptor, and when this receptor is engaged, the cell "eats" the sugar. This sugar consumption triggers a physical change in the organism, causing it to transform into a destructive form that actually attacks the tissue in your gut, leading to inflammation and other damaging symptoms. The inflammation that occurs in the gut due to the consumption of sugar can spread throughout the entire body, causing bacterial infections, fibromyalgia, and sinusitis.
Along with sugar, followers of the candida diet also need to give up gluten. Gluten has the same amino acid sequence as the candida cell wall, so when gluten enters the body, it can worsen the inflammation that occurs after the breakdown of sugar.
Why It Works:
By starving the candida cells of their food source, you prevent them from multiplying and transforming. The less tissue-destructive candida cells you have, the less inflammation you will feel. Once this inflammation is reduced, you may notice improvements in digestive, immune, and nervous system functions. You may even appear to lose weight as the swelling from inflammation goes down.
Candida as a Cure:
Going sugar-free may seem daunting, but the health returns are massive, especially for those who suffer from common diseases that seem to have no immediate connection to diet or gut health.
Dr. Dennis often recommends the candida diet to treat patients with chronic sinusitis. Sinusitis, or a sinus infection, is one of the most widespread chronic illnesses in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 12.8 percent of all adults in the country suffer from sinusitis, and that only accounts for those who have been diagnosed.
Dr. Dennis told us that a whopping 93 percent of sinusitis cases are caused by an immune reaction to fungus, also known as a mold allergy. A full 20 percent of the population is allergic to fungus, and findings from several Mayo Clinic studies have shown a link between chronic sinusitis and fungal allergies.
So how does the candida diet play into this? The fungus that 20 percent of the population is allergic to is already inside us, separated into two categories: mold and yeast. Yeast, the same organism that makes bread rise and beer alcoholic, is what you avoid by following the candida diet, thereby treating your fungal allergies.
Why You Should Care:
Just because you don’t show sinusitis symptoms doesn’t mean that your body is not feeling the adverse effects of yeast. Chances are that if you have a diet high in sugars, candida are causing problems in your body such as headaches, mood swings, fatigue, and infection.
Even for those not looking to clear up sinusitis, the health benefits of the candida diet are undeniable. As Dr. Dennis says, many experience weight loss on the candida diet because eliminating sugars also eliminates insulin spikes, which cause the body to store energy in fat. By eating more proteins, which the candida diet encourages, the body stores energy in muscle instead. This means you will have more accessible energy and store less fat.
How to Eat — Diet Dos and Don’ts:
While giving up cake and ice cream is a familiar diet concept, the candida diet goes a step farther. To stop feeding candida you must cut sugars, gluten, and even fermented products.
Fermentation means mold, so that means no alcohol, much of which also contains sugars. Soy products are also off the table, as are aged or molded cheeses, like Roquefort and blue cheese, which contain mold that can exacerbate your inflammation and allergy due to candida. Fresh cheeses, however, like goat cheese, mozzarella, and feta, are safe to eat in small amounts.
Fruits that are high in sugar, like dates, citrus, and bananas, are especially bad. Low-sugar fruits like blueberries and blackberries are fine, but try to stick to single servings.
When you’re craving grain, go for quinoa or buckwheat instead of wheat and bread. Starches like beans and brown rice are permissible in small portions, but avoid potatoes, corn, and white rice at all costs. Be warned: most gluten-free products are still full of sugars and starches that will aggravate candida, and should not be consumed on this diet.
While it may initially be hard to kick the sugar habit, medical evidence suggests that your body will thank you for it. With candida gone from your system, you will feel cleaner, sleep better, feel happier, and look healthier.
And you can do all this without abandoning your love of food. With a wealth of tasty and vitamin-packed ingredients to choose from, it’s easy to get creative with cooking on the candida diet, even when it comes to dessert.
Let us show you how to eat well and eat right. Check out these 25 candida diet-approved recipes and consider making the candida diet a part of your life. Because when you cook you should feed your body, not candida.