Most women know what it feels like to have Candida, or yeast, overgrowth. The itching, burning, and discomfort that comes along with a yeast infection are hard to miss. Having experienced quite a few of these myself over the years, I finally decided I needed to take a good long look at the foods I’m eating. Following a vegan diet usually steers a person in the right direction when it comes to healthy food choices, but without some conscious effort it’s easy to fall into the “vegan junk food” pattern. Think vegan ice cream, baked goods, white bread, too much processed fake meat products. I’ve even been known to take a spoon to the peanut butter jar (hey, it has protein, right??).
These foods can have a place in a healthy vegan diet, but frequent overindulgence here can spell trouble for your health. Obviously weight gain, blood sugar spikes and even cholesterol issues are problematic, but what I want to focus on right now is Candida, or yeast overgrowth. Often it can have no symptoms other than lethargy and a generally unhealthy feeling, but when the natural balance of yeast in your gut becomes out of whack it can cause havoc. For women, vaginal yeast infections, especially recurring ones, are an indication that Candida could be overgrown throughout the digestive system. The most common problems are skin, mouth, or vaginal infections. It can be more difficult to identify in men but itchy rashes can occur.
I’ve found that a vegan diet can sometimes be problematic when dealing with ongoing Candidiasis. Since vegans don’t eat meat or meat byproducts like eggs or dairy, we often supplement our diet with a lot of carbohydrates. Glutinous starches turn into sugar in our digestive system, which feeds the yeast, exacerbating the issue.
So when I once again found myself with one of those lovely little infections I decided I’d had enough. But what can be done? I’m not interested in going back to eating animal products. A little research online helped me determine some changes to make – hopefully these strategies can help anyone else who’s in my same boat.
Grains are a wonderful and healthy part of a vegan diet. But glutinous grains turn very easily to sugar, which feeds yeast. Solution? Non-glutinous grains. These should be a very important part of a vegan diet, not only because they are incredibly nutritious, filling, and unprocessed, but because they help control Candida. You may be able to tolerate processed versions of these as well (quinoa pasta, buckwheat flour, etc.).
List of acceptable non-glutinous grains:
Nuts And Seeds
While nuts and seeds provide loads of important nutrients, fat and protein for vegans, they often contain mold. Peanuts in particular contain high levels of mold. Yeast is essentially a type of mold, so avoiding high-mold content foods is important to get Candida under control. The following nuts and seeds typically have a low mold content so they are good options. Coconut and almond flour are also excellent choices for baking.
Cold pressed and organic are always the best way to go with oils, and this is no exception. Special shout out to coconut oil which has naturally anti-bacterial, anti-yeast and anti-fungal properties. Ladies out there – go here to see another amazing and effective way to use coconut oil to combat yeast infections. It really works!
Red palm oil
Seasonings and Spices
Many herbs and spices have antioxidant and antifungal properties, and they can also improve circulation and reduce inflammation. Special shout out in this category goes to garlic, which again is incredibly anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. My own motto is to eat garlic as often as possible! Coconut Aminos is an excellent alternative to soy sauce, and apple cider vinegar is great for making up your own salad dressings.
Raw, Organic, Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar
Many herbal teas have anti-fungal properties. Here are just a few. Chicory root is a natural pre-biotic (it feeds the good bacteria which helps balance yeast).
Chicory root coffee
Licorice root tea
These sweetening agents do not feed yeast and have a very small effect on blood sugar.
Who could forget our veggies?! Non-starchy veggies should be a staple in everyone’s diet! Starchy veggies are delicious and nutritious, but the higher sugar content feeds yeast, so while fighting a Candida overgrowth avoid beets, sweet potatoes, yams, corn, winter squash, peas, parsnips, and beans. I know, you’re probably screaming about hearing that beans are off limits. I sure did. But they contain a lot of starch which, again, feeds the yeast. So keep calm and fill up your plate with some of the following (incomplete list of non-starchy veggies):
Garlic (especially raw)
Olives (as long as they are not pickled in vinegar)
Some Additional Notes
As always, be sure to consult your primary care provider before going on any sort of restrictive diet. These guidelines not meant to be a long-term diet, although it can be a good framework for a healthy vegan diet if used carefully. Avoiding excess sugar and processed carbohydrates is the first best step. For vegans who don’t eat yogurt, a good probiotic supplement is also very helpful in controlling Candida. For more information, visit http://www.thecandidadiet.com/. This list of foods is modified from their guidelines, and there are a lot more helpful tips and recipes.
Ever had symptoms of excess Candida? What are the ways you re-balance your body? Share in the comments!