Feeling tired all the time? Always getting thrush, or bloating? You could have candida, but there are some effective natural ways to ease this common condition.
Candida is a type of yeast that lives harmlessly in the mouth, gut, vagina, and on your skin.
But if something happens to upset the natural balance of your body, it can lead to fungal infections – 75% of women will get thrush at some point in their lives.1
If you’d prefer to take the complementary route, studies show that natural solutions may be a viable way to tackle candida.
What is candida?
Candida doesn’t normally cause any problems, but sometimes it can multiply too quickly, leading to an infection known as candidiasis.
Candidiasis is called thrush when it develops in the mouth or vagina.
It can also affect the skin and nails, causing infections like athlete’s foot, and may contribute to inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease.
Some practitioners also believe candida can enter the bloodstream, affecting the joints, heart and brain.
Symptoms of candida include:2
- feeling fatigued
- recurring bouts of thrush
- bloating and other digestive complaints
- repeated urinary tract infections
What causes candida?
Stress can affect our immune system, triggering candida to grow, while using antibiotics for long periods of time can upset the balance of bacteria in our gut, reducing our defences.
Eating lots of processed sugary foods or drinking too much alcohol can also feed the yeast, causing an overgrowth of candida.
Handpicked content: What is my immune system and why is it so important?
What is thrush? A guide for men & women
A guide covering all you need to know about thrush, including causes and symptoms.
What is thrush? A guide for men & women
How digestive enzymes could help
Candida cells are protected by sturdy, hemicellulose walls and a tough ‘biofilm’.
In a laboratory trial in 2007, American researchers discovered that digestive enzymes that help break down the hemicellulose cell walls of fruits, vegetables and grains, may also help break down candida cell walls, and even prevent biofilms from forming.3
These digestive enzymes are made by ‘good’ gut bacteria but can also be found in supplements.
The role of beneficial bacteria
Some types of good gut bacteria, such as lactobacillus, can stop candida from multiplying.
In fact, one study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology in 2016 concluded that ‘beneficial bacteria, especially lactobacilli, could be regarded as a good alternative for the prevention and treatment of candida infections’.4
Up your garlic intake
Garlic is a potent natural anti-fungal, thanks to powerful active compounds called allicin and ajoene.
In 1987, Japanese researchers discovered that ajoene could inhibit the growth of candida, while a laboratory study carried out by University Putra Malaysia found that allicin was effective at tackling candida.5,6
Add some oregano
Trials by Italian scientists carried out on essential oils including mint, basil, lavender, tea tree and oregano, revealed that oregano oil could inhibit the growth and activity of candida cells.7
However, larger studies are needed to work out how the oil can be used as an alternative remedy for candida.
Handpicked content: Discover the health benefits of oregano
The coconut connection
Caprylic acid, found in coconut oil, is a known natural anti-fungal agent.
Joint research by the Kannur Dental College and Kannur Medical College in India confirmed that coconut oil had ‘significant antifungal activity’ on samples of oral candida.8
What to eat to beat candida: How can diet fight candida?
Your doctor may not diagnose candida, as it’s only medically recognised in people with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV.
So if you have the symptoms listed above and they’re not clearing, see a natural health expert who can diagnose candida with a saliva test.
An anti-candida diet is considered the best way to tackle the condition. It effectively starves the yeast by removing the foods that help it thrive.
But be warned: the anti-candida diet is tough.
There are lots of foods and drinks you have to avoid, and you need to follow it for at least three months to stop the candida growing again.
Avoid sweet foods
Candida feeds on sugar and having excess amounts in your diet may be one of the factors that caused the yeast to thrive in the first place.
You need to cut out all cakes, biscuits and sweetened foods, from breakfast cereals to ready-made sauces.
Check labels and prepare food from scratch to cut your sugar intake.
Beware of natural sugars
It’s not just added sugar you need to avoid – many fruits are high in natural sugars, particularly dried fruit, and these fruit sugars can also encourage overgrowth.
Fresh apples and pears are lower in sugar so are fine to eat, but always go for the whole fruit; in juices, the sugars are concentrated.
Dairy contains lactose, or milk sugar, so you’ll need to avoid most dairy products as well.
Stay away from fermented foods
Yeast in your diet can also feed candida. So avoid fermented foods, including yeast extract, bread, vinegar, blue cheeses, soy sauce and ketchup.
Watch your drinks
As alcohol is fermented and contains sugar, you need to avoid it. But you should also stay away from all sweetened drinks, including smoothies, squashes, fruit juices, and fizzy soft drinks. Instead, try herbal teas and still or sparkling water.
What can I eat on the anti-candida diet?
While it may sound a long list of foods to avoid, there’s a lot you can still eat while fighting candida.
- For breakfast, try porridge made with water, topped with chopped apple, seeds and sweet spices such as cinnamon
- You can also eat soda bread, as it isn’t made with yeast, and instead of jam or marmalade, try nut butters such as almond butter
- Plain live yoghurt is, unlike some dairy foods, low in lactose, and the friendly bacteria it contains are beneficial for fighting candida
- Lean meat, fish, eggs, lentils, all vegetables, rice and rice cakes are also on the menu
It may be tough, but remember if you’re strict for just three months, it could make a real difference to your symptoms.
Last updated: 17 September 2021