What to eat and avoid on the candida diet

Most women experience the discomfort of thrush – an overgrowth of Candida yeast – at some point. Can changing what you eat help to ease symptoms?

The signs of candidiasis or thrush – an overgrowth of the Candida yeast – are all too familiar to many.

Women in particular are prone to the problem, with some estimates that up to 75 per cent will have thrush at some point in their life.

Candida is a natural fungus and when it is in balance, it doesn’t cause any problems. But when that balance is disrupted, this causes an overgrowth of Candida in the mouth, throat or vaginal area.

Signs and symptoms of thrush

In the mouth and throat, typical signs of thrush include white patches on the cheeks, tongue, roof of the mouth and throat.

Redness, soreness, a cotton-like feeling in the mouth, loss of taste and feeling some pain when eating or swallowing can also be an indicator.

In the vaginal area the infection can cause irritation, itchiness of the vagina and vulva, and soreness.

Sex may become painful and women can also produce a thick discharge that looks similar to cottage cheese, says Jean Hailes dermatologist Dr Tanja Bohl.

What causes thrush?

“A range of situations can trigger thrush or candidiasis,” says Dr Bohl.

“It can arise after a course of antibiotics, and it can flare the week after a period because hormones change and allow Candida to grow. If you’re ill and your immune system is affected, that can also lead to an overgrowth.”

You may also be more prone to thrush during pregnancy, if you have uncontrolled diabetes, or if you use a contraceptive pill or hormone therapy that increases levels of the oestrogen hormone.

How to treat thrush

If you think you have thrush, see your GP who can prescribe medication if needed – a mouthwash or lozenges for oral thrush, and cream or a tablet for vaginal thrush.

Some experts believe diet can help manage this infection, too.

How to follow the candida diet

Dietitian Dr Anika Rouf says anti-candida diets eliminate sugar because some studies in animals suggest that simple sugars, like glucose, sucrose and fructose, lead to a higher growth of Candida.

“Anti-candida diets also remove white flour, yeast and dairy foods,” says Dr Rouf, of Dietitians Australia.

Foods to eat on a candida diet:

  • Lean chicken, fish and meats
  • Non-starchy vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, bean sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, mushrooms, salad greens, tomato and zucchini
  • Healthy fats like avocado, eggs, nuts and extra virgin olive oil
  • Fermented foods such as yoghurt and sauerkraut
  • Low-sugar fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, kiwi, grapefruit and watermelon
  • Grains like millet, quinoa and oat bran
  • Sweeteners like Stevia and xylitol
  • Herbal teas and non-caffeinated drinks

Foods to avoid on a candida diet:

  • Fruits high in sugar like bananas, dates, grapes and mango
  • Foods containing wheat, rye and barley
  • Canola oil, sunflower oil and margarine
  • Cheese, milk and cream
  • Peanuts, cashews and pistachios
  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners like aspartame, agave, cane sugar, corn syrup and honey
  • Coffee, energy drinks, fruit juice, beer, wine and spirits

“It’s a healthy diet because it removes preservatives and refined sugars and foods that our body doesn’t need, so it can help improve your general health and that can improve your ability to fight off candidiasis,” says Dr Bohl.

“But diet alone is not enough to fix the problem and there is nothing you can specifically eat that will make the infection go away.”

And Dr Rouf adds that diets that claim to reduce Candida overgrowth and its symptoms can be restrictive and therefore difficult to maintain long-term.

They also restrict food groups, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies, she says.

The experts recommend seeing your GP for treatment if you have symptoms of thrush.

Written by Sarah Marinos.