IMPORTANT NOTE: As of January, 2020, I am no longer working within the realm of candida or food-related coaching. However, this page and other information about candida and eating a candida diet will remain here for educational purposes and to help anyone currently struggling with candida.
Unfortunately, I CANNOT ANSWER ANY CANDIDA OR FOOD-RELATED QUESTIONS, AND I AM NO LONGER SEEING CLIENTS IN THIS AREA.
[It’s not a dietary prison sentence! Here are just some of the foods you can eat in Stage 1 of the diet. All recipes are on this blog. Clockwise from top: Kale Salad, Fully Loaded; Black Bean Fudge; Mixed Grains and Veggie Bowl; Grain-Free Coconut Flour Biscuits; Sweet Potato Rounds with Sweet Almond Sauce; and High Protein Snackin’ Orbs (two flavor variations).]
After starting to chronicle my personal struggle with Candida Related Complex (CRC, or just plain “candida”) in March, 2009 and living on some form of the diet since then, I put together this FAQ page to answer the dozens of questions from blog readers and others who have either been diagnosed with CRC themselves or believe they are also dealing with candida symptoms. If you’re not sure where to begin, start here.
Q What is Candida Related Complex (CRC)?
CRC is a condition that arises when someone has an overgrowth of yeast (usually candida albicans) in the body. Although candida usually coexists peacefully with other “good” bacteria in our digestive tracts and on our skin (it’s everywhere all the time) with no ill effects, when it has the opportunity to grow out of control, it can wreak havoc and cause a plethora of symptoms.
Q What is the anti-candida diet (ACD)?
The anti-candida diet (ACD) is a diet specifically designed to reduce the amount of candida yeast (or candida albicans) in the body. In general, the diet is designed to drastically reduce the amount of yeast by depriving it of foods upon which it feeds (mostly sugary foods or foods that break down into sugars; moldy foods; or yeasty foods); by killing the excess yeast directly (with supplements, creams, prescription medications or other treatments); and by detoxifying the body to clear away any excess candida or destroyed candida organism; and by strengthening the immune system as a safeguard against excess candida (more on the specific diet I follow below).
Q What causes Candida Related Complex (or CRC), an overgrowth of candida?
Candida is a type of fungus, and, like all fungi, it thrives in dark, moist, warm environments. It also loves to feed on sugars of all kinds. If, for some reason, your immune system has been compromised and your body is no longer able to keep a balance between candida and “friendly” bacteria; if you’ve taken several courses of antibiotics (which kill off those friendly bacteria and allow yeast to proliferate); if you have consumed large amounts of sugars (which feed the yeast) or refined carbohydrates (which convert to sugar very quickly) over the years; if you have allergies or poor digestion; if you get stressed a lot or easily; if you’ve been on birth control pills or other drugs for any length of time–then you are more susceptible to candida than an average, healthy person.
When the internal environment (or “terrain”) in the body favors candida, it will swoop in and grow out of control. Couple this with an external environment that encourages candida (such as hot, humid weather or sweaty skin), and candida is ready to throw a party. But it can be treated and put in its place once again!
Q What are the symptoms of candida?
The most common symptoms include recurrent vaginal yeast infections; oral yeast infections (thrush); overweaning fatigue; “foggy brain” (the inability to focus or concentrate–as if you are looking at the world through a “fog”); poor concentration or memory; sugar or carb cravings; anxiety; allergies; fuzzy thinking; headaches; skin rashes; sleep disturbances; sinus problems (especially sinus infections); weight gain; and more. Because many of the symptoms are vague or common to other disorders as well, it’s always best to be diagnosed by a health care provider (though most conventional doctors don’t believe in candida; I see both a naturopath and a holistically-minded MD).
Q How Can I Tell if I Have CRC?
Because everyone has candida albicans in and on their bodies all the time, it’s very difficult to tell if you “have” candida; there are various tests to determine whether you have a candida overgrowth, including a stool analysis, blood test, and what’s called lsls acids test (which looks at products of candida in the urine). However, none of these is 100% accurate. For that reason, most practitioners use what’s called a clinical diagnosis, looking at the symptoms and subjective experience of the person they’re testing. Many will use a questionnaire as well to examine symptoms, past health history, history of medications, and other factors. In my book, Living Candida-Free, Andrea Nakayama has devised an extensive questionnaire that can help you assess whether you have a candida overgrowth, and how serious it is.
Q Which diet did you follow?
I started the ACD for the second time in March, 2009. Back in 1999, I was on the diet for two years; at that time, I followed exactly what my naturopath prescribed, a specially tailored ACD just for me. This time round, I mostly followed a combination of diets: one that my naturopath recommended, with elements of diets I found in other books on candida and online. I also wrote more about my diet here . (I also discuss the general dietary principles I follow in this post.) You can also read the complete, detailed dietary protocol I followed in my book Living Candida-Free.
However, if you do any research about the ACD, you will find that there are almost as many diets as there are people with candida. Each individual is different, and you won’t know exactly what works for you until you start the diet and see how it affects your symptoms. For that reason, the diet included in the book offers different variations so that people can adapt the diet to what suits them best.
Here’s what I did this last time round:
Stage One (the first 4-6 months): I followed a very strict no-sugar, no-fruit, veggie-full, most nuts and seeds (though never peanuts or pistachios), light on gluten-free grains and legumes, as prescribed by my naturopath, to a tee; no diversions. For me, following the diet exactly as prescribed and never cheating (I can’t stress that point enough!) was crucial to my success. It took almost 6 months for me to see any progress at all, but I knew from previous experience that cheating would only prolong the suffering.
Stage Two: (6-8 months): I moved to Stage 2 of the diet, again adapting to my own needs and body’s reactions, under the guidance of my naturopath. I brought in additional nuts (including the occasional cashews) as well as apple cider vinegar, not advocated by some ACDs, but considered helpful according to many others. I also ate tofu or tempeh on occasion (again, not all ACDs will recommend it). I allowed one non-sweet fruit a day and also brought some gluten free flours into my life (just the grain-based ones, not the starches).
Stage Three (12+ months): At this stage, I allowed myself the occasional low-glycemic sweetener (such as coconut sugar or agave nectar [but note that agave is now considered a bad choice for the ACD]) in baked goods. I also bake with the occasional starch (such as tapioca, arrowroot or potato starch) as well as regular gluten-free flours. And I’ve begun to use unsweetened chocolate in baking. I never (never, never, never) consume sugar, maple syrup, Sucanat or other high glycemic sweeteners, sweet dried fruits, tropical fruits, gluten, alcohol, fungus-laden foods such as mushrooms or peanuts, or yeasts of any kind.
I have added pineapple and papaya (both considered “safe” because they supply natural digestive enzymes that help you digest your meals). Although I wasn’t a huge drinker before the ACD, I find that I really do miss having the occasional glass of wine and my beloved Gin and Tonics in the summertime; I’m going to ask my naturopath when he thinks I might introduce a libation such as those back into the menu (if ever).
Maintenance: As I continue to live an anti-candida lifestyle, I know I’ll never again eat refined sugar or flour. On the rare occasion, however, (say, a birthday), I’ve allowed myself to eat something with maple syrup, or dates, or dried fruits. I seem to be okay having these very rarely. I also now allow balsamic vinegar in my diet, but again, only rarely (say, if we’re at a restaurant and I don’t want to ask for yet another special request!).
I also followed a naturopath-prescribed regimen to detox and get myself physically in better shape. This included daily sweating in an infrared sauna; oral chelation (heavy metal detox); supplements to cleanse both candida and parasites; and regular exercise. I have been attempting to bring back my former practice of daily meditation, but haven’t been quite successful at that so far. I also discuss my experience on a 10-day detox in this video.
Q What kind of reactions did you have to detoxing, if any?
I’ve gone through more than one detox, since I’ve been on the diet twice now (once starting in 1999, and once in 2009). The first time on the diet, I approached it entirely the wrong way–a sudden, massive change in diet paired with some very strong herbal supplements (prescribed by a naturopath). Naturally, I had a horrible detox reaction. The second time, in 2009, I eased into it, properly, and had virtually no “die-off” reaction. I describe my experiences in more detail in this post.
Q How long will it take to get better?
Every person is different, so it’s impossible to say how long it will take one individual versus another. It depends on the severity of your symptoms, how well you adhere to the diet, environmental factors, your body and metabolism, and probably another hundred or so factors about which I’m not knowledgeable.
For someone with a mild case a total of 2-3 months, moving from the most strict to a more relaxed stage of the diet, is usually sufficient to clear up the symptoms and return them to their normally healthy state. I do know that my case is highly atypical (lucky me!). When I first went on the diet, it was almost unheard of for someone to follow the strict diet for two years. At this point, however, I have brought back quite a few foods that were forbidden in early stages of the diet, and I’m quite used to eating this way.
I talk more about how long it takes and the different points to consider here and here.
Even after many years on the diet, I would not say I am “cured.” If I eat too many carbs in a day or too many “special” foods (such as dried fruit, or sweets with coconut sugar), symptoms flare by the next morning. I also continue to struggle with intermittent cravings and weight fluctuations (which I wrote about here). According to my holistic doc, if you’ve had candida once, you are more prone to relapses; and every time it returns, it returns more forcefully, and is more difficult to get back under control. Given my experience ten years ago and my experience since 2009, I would say this is true for me.
Q. Which sweeteners can I have?
Depending which stage of the diet you’re on, there are different types of sweeteners you can use. When you first start, all sweeteners except stevia (a zero calorie, zero glycemic index herbal sweetener) are usually forbidden. This would mean no sugar, no syrups, no evaporated cane juice, no palm sugar, no molasses, no dried fruits (the sugars are concentrated), no fresh fruits except lemon, lime and avocado, no juices except veggie juice (and even then, no carrot juice, which contains concentrated sugars), and absolutely, positively, DEFINITELY no artificial sweeteners! You can read my take on stevia here.
You could also use any of the low- or zero-glycemic so-called sugar alcohols, such as xylitol or erithrytol, as well as monk fruit-based sweeteners, at this stage as long as they are low glycemic. Many people experience digestive distress with the sugar alcohols (I haven’t), but they’re great to use as a direct sub for sugar, since they’re also white and granular (and dry).
At later stages in the diet, you may bring in some low glycemic fruits (apples, pears, berries, peaches, apricots, etc.) and even later, low glycemic sweeteners (yacon syrup, coconut sugar or palm sugar, coconut nectar, vegetable glycerin—be sure it is food grade, though). Please note that, when I started this diet in 2009, agave nectar was considered a good low-glycemic sweetener for those on the ACD. Since then, we’ve discovered that agave contains a fairly high level of fructose, which can be hard on the liver. As a result, I’ve changed my mind on agave in the early stages (your liver has enough to contend with at that time!!).
I try to keep my sweetener use to a minimum; and these days, I use only low or no-glycemic sweeteners (ie, with a glycemic index of 0 to 10 or so).
I also talk about some of my favorite ACD-friendly sweeteners, when you can eat them, and how to use them, here.
Q Can I Follow a Vegan Diet and Still Do the ACD?
As someone who is doing just that, I would, of course, answer “yes” to this question. However, since candida feeds on carbohydrates (a staple food among vegans), it may mean that your progress moves at a slower pace on a vegan diet (but you can still get better!). Since I was determined that vegans could follow a plant-based anti-candida diet and succeed, I made sure that the complete diet protocol in Living Candida-Free was offered in a vegan variation (as well as the omnivorous options that were designed by my collaborator).
Other versions of the diet don’t provide vegan options. Most will suggest that you cannot follow a vegetarian diet and effectively fight off candida yeast; they recommend animal sources of protein along with a careful recommendation to delve into the sources of your protein so that the animals were humanely raised and slaughtered. Others are more accommodating and offer a vegetarian plan along with the “regular” plan.
All of the recipes on this blog after March, 2009 are ACD-friendly; many before that are, too. The Recipe Index is a good place to start, as are the Anti-Candida Breakfasts: What Do You Eat? and the Anti-Candida Desserts: What Do You Eat? posts.
For more candida information, you can also check the site index for articles and videos on the topic.
Unfortunately, I can no longer answer individual questions about candida or the diet as I am no longer working in this area.
**Please note, however, that I am neither a medical doctor nor qualified to prescribe, diagnose, or provide advice about what you should do for candida. I cannot answer specific questions about what you should or should not eat on the diet, and I cannot diagnose whether or not you have candida. This page is for general questions that would apply to anyone on the ACD. In other words, everything I share here is based on my own personal experience. Please do not assume that your situation will be identical to mine. Having said that, I am happy to share what has worked (and not worked) for me.
Before embarking on any kind of treatment or program for candida or anything else, please be sure to check with your doctor or health care provider.
Links in this post may be affiliate links. If you choose to purchase using those links, at no cost to you, I will receive a small percentage of the sale.
Subscribe for recipes and more about living well without sugar, gluten, eggs or dairy! Click here to subscribe to RickiHeller.com via email. You’ll receive emails sharing recipes and videos as soon as they’re posted, plus weekly updates and news about upcoming events. A healthy lifestyle CAN be sweet!