Okay, cool, the only catch is you can’t have gluten, sugar or alcohol for at least a month, but probably longer.
No, it’s not a deal with the devil — it’s a Candida cleanse, the latest wellness trend that claims it can fix all of the above. And let me tell you, the diet is also a real pain in the dick.
Candida albicans is a fungus among us — a type of yeast we all have in our bodies that shouldn’t cause problems in normal amounts, but when there is an overgrowth, it can lead to infections. The most common of these are women’s yeast infections, which can be passed to guys during sex. However, a growing number of wellness experts believe that many people have too much Candida built up in their guts from shitty diets full of sugar, gluten and processed foods, all washed down with a few yeasty beers.
This buildup could theoretically cause tears in the stomach lining, a condition known as “leaky gut,” which can allow toxins, bugs and food to seep in. This leakage causes inflammation, imbalances in good gut bacteria and a hell of a lot of other health problems — studies have linked leaky gut to Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, fibromyalgia, lupus, acne, obesity, allergies and mental illness.
“Both men and women may experience similar symptoms, such as digestive problems like bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation, inability to recover and heal from the common cold, being sick all the time, impaired immunity and flaring of autoimmune conditions,” nutritionist Heather Hanks explains. “Your case and symptoms may depend on the severity of the overgrowth.”
Basically, it’s like having a yeast infection, but only inside your body and pretty much all the time. The only way to get rid of it is by cleansing the system with a highly restrictive diet that deprives the body of the sugar, gluten and alcohol that Candida thrives on. “Eliminating sugar intake and focusing on gut-restoring supplements, such as probiotics, can help get rid of Candida,” Hanks confirms.
Unfortunately, probiotics are one of the few things people can eat on the Candida diet, along with lean proteins, good fats and non-starchy vegetables. In fact, the Candida diet is even more restrictive than cutting out sugar, which is hard enough as it is. Likewise, because the cleanse is all about rebooting your microbiome, proponents recommend it as a lifestyle change, as if you should consider probiotics as a food group forever. Understandably, this isn’t practical for most people, but other experts recommend sticking it out for at least a few months, which is a long time to not be able to eat much of anything.
There’s also the possibility that the extreme diet might lead to a Herx reaction, or Candida die-off — similar to the keto flu, people on the Candida diet can experience a fever, chills, muscle aches, rapid heartbeat, decreased blood pressure and skin rashes. But more often than not, this is actually a reaction to the antifungal medication often prescribed by doctors to help kill off the Candida. Either way, consulting with a physician if you’re having an adverse reaction to the Candida diet is the best move. Generally speaking, it’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor before trying a diet as restrictive as the Candida cleanse.
Much like the trend of quitting sugar, the idea that all of our annoying health issues are caused by yeast overtaking our bodies doesn’t check out in the lab. German biologist Bernhard Hube, who studies fungus in the human body, went as far as to call claims about the Candida diet “absolute hair-raising nonsense.” Likewise, it’s entirely possible that this highly restrictive cleanse won’t even work. According to dietitian Abby Langer, “Diet doesn’t cure serious candida overgrowth, antibiotics do.” When antibiotics are blamed for throwing off the balance of the gut in the first place, then, the Candida diet starts to seem like just another way to run in circles while you starve.
But let’s say you try it, are able to stick with it for a few months and feel great. There are no guarantees you’ll be able to reintroduce the foods you were missing out on again without the same problems, so unless you plan on eating a bowl of broccoli for breakfast for the rest of your life, the Candida diet is probably not the solution to all of your problems.
That said, if cutting back on alcohol, sugar or gluten makes you feel good, by all means keep it up. Just do it for yourself, not the fungi.