Candida Diet: What Is It, What Foods to Eat, and Which Ones to Avoid?

  • Medical Reviewer: Dany Paul Baby, MD
Medically Reviewed on 9/23/2022

What is the candida diet?

Candida, a type of yeast, proliferates in and on the body, usually without causing harm. The candida diet is an eating plan that encourages you to reduce or eliminate certain foods, like non-starchy vegetables and lean meat, that may contribute to an overgrowth of candida organisms.
Candida, a type of yeast, proliferates in and on the body, usually without causing harm. The candida diet is an eating plan that encourages you to reduce or eliminate certain foods, like non-starchy vegetables and lean meat, that may contribute to an overgrowth of candida organisms.

The human body is complex. Doctors and scientists have spent hundreds of years trying to understand all the variables that affect human health. In recent years, experts have started to study the effect of the microbiome, the massive colony of bacteria and fungi that live symbiotically within the body. 

While research on the microbiome is new, experts have identified certain microorganisms that have known health effects. Candida, a type of yeast, proliferates in and on the body, usually without causing harm. If candida overgrows, though, it can lead to health problems. 

Generally, candida-related infections require medication. Some proponents of alternative wellness practices suggest that diet can also control candida growth. 

The candida diet is an eating plan that encourages you to reduce or eliminate certain foods that may contribute to an overgrowth of candida organisms in the body. Candida is a fungus-like microorganism that naturally lives in the human body. If too many candida organisms flourish in your body, though, it can cause health problems such as vaginal yeast infections or gastrointestinal discomfort.

The candida diet, sometimes called a candida cleanse, aims to reduce the amount of candida in the body by eliminating foods that encourage candida growth. Proponents claim that this diet rebalances the candida numbers in the gut. Once candida numbers are at ideal levels, unwanted symptoms should decline.

What is candidiasis?

Candida is a fungus-like organism similar to yeast. There are other fungal microorganisms that colonize humans and make up what is known as the mycobiome. Organisms from the mycobiome interact with bacterial microorganisms that are known as the microbiome. Experts agree that reducing the number of beneficial bacteria in the body can lead to the overgrowth of candida. This can happen as a result of taking certain medications such as antibiotics, which kill both good and bad bacteria. 

There is no question that candida overgrowth can lead to health issues. Overgrowth of candida is called candidiasis and usually requires anti-fungal medication. Vaginal yeast infections are a common condition caused by candida overgrowth. The presence of excessive candida results in irritation, itching, and discharge.

Candidiasis can also occur in the mouth, throat, or urinary tract. Babies who get oral candidiasis can transfer it via breastfeeding, leading to candidiasis in the nipples and breasts. This candida overgrowth on the skin can lead to rashes or exacerbate eczema.

Overgrowth of candida in the gut may be responsible for symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, cramps, and general discomfort. Some people also report brain fog or general malaise as a result of intestinal candidiasis.

In extreme cases, candidiasis can affect the bloodstream. This is called invasive candidiasis, and it is a medical emergency that requires hospitalization and treatment with anti-fungal medication. It can be fatal. Fortunately, invasive candidiasis is rare and mainly affects people with significant underlying health issues, such as HIV or long-term use of immunosuppressive drugs.

How can the candida diet improve health?

Some alternative health and wellness proponents suggest that an overgrowth of candida can cause a general sense of feeling unwell. The symptoms of so-called candida syndrome include:

Supporters of this theory suggest that altering your diet can reduce the overgrowth of candida and eliminate these unwanted symptoms. They suggest a diet low in sugar, starch, and alcohol, theorizing that yeast thrives when they can feed off those substances.

At this time, though, there is no scientific research that supports the concept of candida overgrowth causing general malaise. 

What can you eat on the candida diet?

According to alternative medicine proponents, you may want to begin what’s known as a candida cleanse. This involves a period of several days where you eat very little before starting the new eating plan. The cleanse may include clear, unsweetened fluids, non-starchy vegetables, and lean meats. 

After the cleanse period, your diet should consist largely of unprocessed foods that are low in sugar and simple carbohydrates. Meals should include vegetables, lean protein, dairy products such as yogurt or kefir, and some grains. Avoid foods high in added sugars, gluten, processed foods, processed and fatty meats, many dairy products, alcoholic beverages, and artificial sweeteners

Proponents of the plan believe that candida thrives on sweetened foods and simple carbohydrates. By removing those foods from your diet, the population of candida in your gut will get smaller. Reducing the amount of candida in your body will then help resolve candida-related symptoms. 

Does the candida diet work?

There are anecdotal reports that people who adhere to this diet feel better and experience a reduction in symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and digestive issues. This could be related to the diet changes. Overall, the candida diet is loaded with unprocessed foods, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein. Experts agree that those types of foods are part of a nutritious diet that supports overall good health.  

At this time, though, there is no research to confirm the idea that the candida diet changes the candida population in your body. There is also no research that indicates that chronic candida overgrowth is a persistent problem for most people. 

That being said, the role of gut flora in overall health is still unclear. There have been small studies showing links between frequent yeast infections and certain mental health conditions such as schizophrenia. There is also ongoing research into the connection between gut flora and autism spectrum disorders.

The candida diet is unlikely to cause any harm if you follow it. Before you make any significant changes to your diet, though, talk to your doctor to make sure the changes are safe and appropriate for you. You can also discuss eating plans with a nutritionist to ensure you’re getting a balanced diet. 


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Medically Reviewed on 9/23/2022

BioMed Research International: "Candida Infections, Causes, Targets, and Resistance Mechanisms: Traditional and Alternative Anti-fungal Agents."

CDC: "Candidiasis."

Infectious Disease Clinics of North America: "Invasive candidiasis."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Yeast Infection Linked to Mental Illness."

Mayo Clinic: “What is a candida cleanse diet, and what does it do?"

National Health Service: "Breastfeeding and thrush."

Nature: "Could the gut microbiome be linked to autism?"

Scientific American: "The Candida Diet: Separating Fact from Fiction."

Western New York Urology Associates: "Candida/Yeast Hypersensitivity Syndrome."