Hey everyone! I am sorry to say that this may be my last Focus On post for a few weeks! These are the most time consuming posts I write during the week since they take so much research….and I am anticipating that I am going to be quite busy with settling into school these next few weeks! But don’t worry, this series is most definitely not going away! I love writing it and I have gotten a ton of great feedback from all of you.
On that note, like I mentioned above, with college starting on Wednesday my schedule is going to fill up pretty quickly. I have the best intentions of continuing to blog throughout my freshman year but until I adapt to my new schedule, my new living situation, and my new LIFE in general…posting and commenting may be a little sporadic! Please be patient with me….and rest assured that I will keep you all updated. Writing this blog is one of my favorite hobbies and I definitely intend on staying connected with all of you.
And now for this week’s Focus On topic….
What is it?
Candida, also known as Yeast Hypersensitivity syndrome, is short for Candida albicans, a yeast that can cause diaper rash, vaginal yeast infections, and thrush. It lives naturally in and on our bodies and typically causes no dangerous symptoms. In fact, Candida levels are kept in check by the immune system and beneficial probiotic bacteria in the body.
Doesn’t really sound like it has anything to do with food or diet, right?
Well, these days it seems anyone can turn something into a cause for an overhaul on their diet. What was originally meant for people with severely weakened immune systems, such as those with cancer or AIDS, who were at risk of developing widespread Candida infection, has become yet another fad diet to add to the long list.
Popularized by alternative practitioners who believe that overgrowth of Candida albicans yeast in the intestines is responsible for a yeast syndrome that results in symptoms such as fatigue, headache, mood swings, sinus congestion, depression, poor memory and concentration, and cravings for sweets, the Candida diet has gained many followers who swear by its rigid, restrictive dietary rules.
The basics of the Candida diet are as follows:
Foods to Avoid
Aged cheeses, alcohol, chocolate, dried fruits, fresh fruits, fermented foods, mushrooms, vinegar, glutenous foods (wheat, rye, barley), all sugars, honeys and syrups (that includes any ‘ose’, like lactose, sucrose etc), and foods that contain yeast or mold (breads, muffins, cakes, baked goods, cheese, dried fruits, melons, peanuts – although nutritional and brewer’s yeasts are not harmful, as they do not colonize in the intestines)
Foods to Eat
Vegetables (including plenty of raw garlic), protein foods (beef, chicken, eggs, fish), live yogurt cultures (both dairy and non-dairy), whey, acidophilus, green algae (such as spirulina and chlorella), nuts, seeds and oils, and non-glutenous grains (like millet, rice, rice bran and oat bran)
And typically when diagnosed with Candida, a person would take these steps to “rid themselves” of the bacteria (which is actually impossible since it naturally lives on and within us):
Stage One: Complete a cleanse to flush toxins out of your system.
Stage Two: Start a strict anti-Candida diet, and begin courses of probiotics and antifungals.
Stage Three: Start to reintroduce foods once your Candida overgrowth has gone.
(Stage 3 is hardly ever reached however, because Candida followers claim to still have symptoms even with the cutting out of more and more food from their “safe lists”)
Where did it originate?
Originally proposed by Orion Truss, who wrote a book on yeast sensitivity, the diet provoked true hysteria in the 80’s and 90’s with the release of William Crook’s Yeast Connection. Crook created his theories based on two notions that don’t even necessarily correlate with one another: having too much Candida in the body and having an allergy to Candida. You can have one without the other, but not according to Crook. He frequently claimed that “sugar feeds yeast” and that eating sugary foods sped up the creation of yeast within the body, yet never provided any empirical evidence for these statements.
With the increasing attention on the Candida diet, many naturopaths who had once praised fruit for its health benefits and nutrition began to shy away from recommending it in their patients diets.
The Candida diet gained an unhealthy, cult like following when it was first introduced due to Crook’s outright condemnation of certain foods. He also insisted that allowing any of the “restricted” foods in to ones diet would cause a severe Candida “explosion” in the body as well as many unwanted symptoms. Sometimes believing so strongly that something will happen is enough to make a person think its their food that’s causing it.
There are many other far fetched components of the Candida diet, including Crook’s theory that eating foods that contain fungi (ie. fungi, tomato paste) will cause more candida to form in your body. This isn’t even physically possible as one fungus can’t be magically transformed into another.
The followers of this diet are largely fear driven. The only people that truly have to worry about an excess of yeast in their bodies are people with AIDS or advanced stages of cancer who are immunocompromised.
Most people who follow this dietary theory don’t even have a real problem with Candida. They just think they do. And even if by following this diet they are able to reduce the amount of yeast in their bodies, they will never be able to totally rid themselves of it. It will come back because it belongs in our bodies and if we go by Crook’s standards, everyone should feel horribly ill all the time then.
There is very little scientific evidence showing that candida yeast overgrowth is common, or that diets, herbs, and supplements can help.
Where is it popular?
As I mentioned, it reached its peak of popularity in the 90’s and has since stayed pretty low key in the mainstream of diet trends. But the people that do follow a Candida driven diet are usually said to be very devout and use the diet as more of a lifestyle and gospel, rather than just an eating style.
It is also reported that the Candida diet is most popular on the West coast of the United States.
Apparent health/lifestyle benefits:
People with the following conditions/lifestyles may benefit from a Candida diet:
- those who use oral contraceptives, steroids, antacids, anti-ulcer medications, or frequent or long-term use of antibiotics
- High-sugar diets
- Food allergies and intolerances
Apparent health/lifestyle disadvantages:
–The Herxheimer reaction: when a large number of harmful bacteria die off, they release toxins and thus your liver, kidneys, skin and lungs all need to work overtime to rid the body of these toxins, signs of the Herxheimer reaction include chills, muscle pain, fatigue, fever, headache and skin breakouts
-recommends 100% compliance with the rules otherwise the yeast will continue to grow (which would happen any way since its naturally occurring)
-contributes to obsessive thinking
-inconvenient because it requires many specialty foods and social food gatherings would be hard to adapt in
-Expensive: recommended supplements and specialty foods are costly
-restriction of certain food groups causes nutrient deficiencies
Are we seeing a common thread here, people? These restrictive diets have so many similarities! With Candida in particular I think it is crazy that an average person would choose to follow this diet. Only people with the aforementioned conditions can truly benefit from this type of eating so why would someone choose this rigid lifestyle if they don’t fit that criteria? I really couldn’t tell ya.
Candida seems like on of those diets that people follow to have some sense of control in their lives. Maybe by being so strict with what they can and can’t eat it helps them stay under control and calm in other areas of their life. In my research I found a lot of medical proffesionals talking about a kind of “spiritual” aspect to the Candida diet. Almost like people begin to follow its rules as a gospel and adopt it as an all encompassing lifestyle that can, in a way, consume them. I think when a diet becomes this powerful in someones life, its time to remind ourselves that we need to eat to live not live to eat. Diet should not be our main focus in life when there is so much LIVING to do!
(Sources: Health Food Junkies, http://www.everydiet.org/diet/candida-diet, http://www.naturesintentionsnaturopathy.com/weight-loss/fad-diets.htm, livestrong.com, http://www.thecandidadiet.com)
Have you ever heard of Candida before?
What are your thoughts on it?
Before I go, I just wanted to mention that I have gotten about a dozen emails from readers over the past few days, some out of the blue, some with questions, and some with just kind words of support and encouragement….but all very much appreciated! I love connecting with my readers in ways other than the comments section so if you ever feel like writing me, feel free! It’s great hearing what you all have to say!
Today’s Healthy Help: Today at the gym an older man was having trouble starting the treadmill next to me. Just as he was about to get off and give up, I asked him if he needed some help. He told the problem he was having and I was able to get the treadmill up and running for him. We ended up chatting a bit and he told me about how he used to be a distance runner! Seemed pretty fit still!