The Candida Diet
A theory of systemic changes to the body and a potential solution.
This is something that is probably controversial and more of a hypothesis than a theory. But, at least for me, a lot of what the Candida concept described resonated with my experiences, so I thought I would share them.
“Prior to my systemic symptoms, I had kept a terrible diet high in refined sugars and carbohydrates (think a doughnut and a bottle of coke for breakfast every morning).”
I was first introduced to the Candida diet by my allergist, who practiced with a holistic approach. After finding out about my autoimmune diagnosis, he introduced me to the writings of Ann Boroch, who believed there was a connection between Candida overgrowth and the development of autoimmune disorders.
If you google some of the symptoms of Candida overgrowth, you’ll find recurrent sinus infections, yeast infection, fatigue, and brain fog. These were all of the symptoms I suffered from at the onset of my Sjogren’s. Moreover, prior to my systemic symptoms, I had kept a terrible diet high in refined sugars and carbohydrates (think a doughnut and a bottle of coke for breakfast every morning). The connection made sense in the context of everything I experienced, enough for me to try the Candida diet.
Now, I’m not saying this connection exists for everyone or that it is the only explanation. For me, it is equally plausible that suffering from an autoimmune disorder causes the body to become more susceptible to Candida overgrowth and the symptoms associated with that. Nevertheless, the Candida diet and treatment course I followed did make a significant difference for me.
The Candida Diet
Regardless of how much you believe Candida to be a factor in causing autoimmunity, the Candida diet itself is a low-inflammation diet that should help with your symptoms.
Depending on which websites you consult, there are some more restrictive and less restrictive plans. The main tenet of the diet is to avoid gluten/refined carbs, dairy, and sugar/artificial sweeteners (what I call the “Big Three”), which is similar to other anti-inflammatory autoimmune diets. Some Candida diets will also restrict intake of fermented foods, mushrooms, and vinegar (except apple cider vinegar). What I have tried to do is be strict in avoiding the Big Three, but allow my self some leeway with respect to fermented foods, mushrooms, and vinegar. I also try to avoid nightshade vegetables (e.g. potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants). Ideally, we would just avoid all types of food that has the potential to cause us to not feel well, but that is extremely difficult and may deprive us of a lot of the joy that comes with food. For me, the trick has been finding a balance between avoiding the most inflammatory foods and allowing little indulgences here and there so that I am most likely to stay on the diet.
Prescription Treatment Plan
When my doctor first introduced me to the connection between Candida and autoimmunity, he put me on a course of Diflucan and Nystatin. This was a temporary measure to cleanse my body of excess Candida. In the beginning, I felt significant die-off symptoms, which included body aches and severe brain fog. However, after about a week, my symptoms improved tremendously. I had more energy, my brain was focused, and I finally just felt good. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel sick. This was enough to convince me to stick with this treatment and the diet.
From then on, the tough part was maintaining the Candida diet so that the overgrowth did not recur. Over the years, I’ve fallen off the wagon several times (this was exacerbated by the fact that I went through periods of taking high dosages of Prednisone, which made me more susceptible to Candida overgrowth) and have on occasion had to repeat the medication plan. One of the tricky things for me was once I start to feel better for a while, I would tell myself that maybe my body has healed and is able to defend against Candida now, and I would start to be more lax with my diet (eating a little bread and sweets here and there, because let's face it, I still love them). Unfortunately, that has never worked out well for me.
I do find that when I have been able to stick to my healthy, anti-inflammatory diet, I have gone on long stretches without feeling unwell. The lesson for me has been to maintain the course and stay on the diet, even when I do start feeling better again. It has been a hard-learned lesson that, with a chronic condition like mine, feeling back to normal does not mean being healed; maintenance is a big part of coping with Sjogren's.
Have you experimented with any particular diets or detoxes that worked for you? I’d love to hear your experiences. Please feel free to share your diet plans and any recipes through comments or by contacting us.