Doctors agree that Candida albicans, a yeast-like fungus that is normally found in the mouth, stomach, and vagina, can overgrow and cause real infections in these areas and other areas of your body. These types of candida infection are very common. If your body’s ability to fight off infections becomes very weak from a condition like cancer or AIDS, you could develop a nasty condition in which candida infects your whole body.
But many doctors do not agree that candida is responsible for systemic yeast syndrome, a condition some believe may cause symptoms ranging from fatigue to infertility. The American Academy of Allergy and Immunology, for example, does not recognize systemic yeast syndrome, and states that this syndrome remains unproven.
“I have worked with several clients who have been ‘diagnosed’ with systemic yeast syndrome by an alternative medicine provider. In all of my research, I have not been able to find any scientifically valid evidence that the syndrome exists,” says registered dietitian Debra J. Johnston, director of nutrition services at Remuda Ranch, and a program for eating disorders in Wickenburg, Ariz.
The Candida Diet
According to some health practitioners, overgrowth of candida in the intestinal tract can cause many symptoms, and a candida diet can help eliminate these symptoms. But, says Johnston, “the diet is highly restrictive and eliminates many very nutritious foods while also limiting the consumption of carbohydrates.”
In fact, she says, this candida treatment could add to the problem. “By limiting carbohydrates, the primary source of energy for the body, this diet may actually contribute to some of the symptoms that yeast syndrome reportedly causes, such as fatigue, lethargy, poor concentration, mood swings, headache, and cravings.”
There is not a specific, agreed-upon candida diet. The type of candida diet depends on the beliefs of the diet proponent and the patient’s symptoms.
Here are some common features of candida diets:
- Candida cleanse. These diets often begin with a detoxification process, or candida cleanse. This may be accomplished through fasting, drinking lots of fluids, restricting the diet to vegetable juices, colon cleansing, or using certain herbs that may have anti-fungal properties.
- Avoiding carbohydrates. Supporters of the candida diet believe that candida thrives on sugar. This may explain why people who might have this syndrome crave sweets and other carbohydrates. Simple sugars found in dairy products, chocolate, syrups, and processed foods like white bread are discouraged.
- Avoiding food that contains yeast. This includes beer and wine, aged cheeses, vinegar, breads, baked goods, smoked meats, mushrooms, and leftovers.
- Using probiotics. Adding so-called friendly bacteria to your digestive system may prevent the build-up of candida. Eating lots of yogurt with live probiotic cultures is one way to get at these bacteria. Another option is to buy over-the-counter probiotics that contain billions of live organisms.
- Other candida treatments. Along with the candida diet, people suspected of having systemic yeast syndrome may benefit from nutritional supplements like vitamins B, C, and E, calcium, garlic, ginkgo, echinacea, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Because the possible symptoms of systemic yeast syndrome are so numerous and so variable and there is no proven way to diagnose or treat this syndrome, it remains very controversial.
“Until there is clear scientific evidence that systemic yeast syndrome actually exists, I recommend that people see their primary care physician to help eliminate any medical reasons for their symptoms and then see a registered dietitian for help with planning a diet that incorporates plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and lean meats,” urges Johnston.