What Not To Feed Yeast --
The Candida Diet
There's not much to explain about the Candida diet. It's very simple. Yeast eats sugar. Therefore, if you don't want to feed your Candida don't eat sugar. But there's one complication. Carbohydrates -- which are the starches like potatoes, pasta, breads, and so on -- are converted directly into sugar in the digestion process.
Understanding the relationship between carbohydrates and sugar is fundamental to understanding the Candida diet. Plants use the magic of photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H20) into sugar -- primarily into the simple sugar molecules of glucose and fructose, referred to as saccharides. Some of that sugar (maybe most of it) is converted into carbohydrates for storage. That process is two-step, but simple. First two sugar molecules are linked together into pairs called disaccharides, and then thousands of disaccharides are linked together into long chains (called polysaccharides -- these are the carbohydrates). That's all starches are -- just long chains of sugar molecules.
We burn sugar for energy in exactly the reverse process. In our metabolic processes, we convert sugar molecules back into CO2 and H2O -- that's the main energy cycle of nature (at least on our planet). The process of digesting starches into sugars is very efficient and fast. It starts with saliva which contains (among other things) the enzyme amylase which breaks the carbohydrate bonds that link the disaccharides together. Amylase from saliva will digest up to 60% of carbohydrates before being inactivated by stomach acid. As a result, most of the potato that you ate is broken down into basic sugar within minutes. Amylase digests carbohydrates into disaccharides. After exiting the stomach, enzymes produced by the pancreas and small intestine (including more amalyase) complete the digestion of any remaining carbohydrates into disaccharides. Other enzymes that they produce break the disaccharide bonds, with each disaccharide releasing two monosaccharides (simple sugars) such as glucose and fructose which are immediately absorbed. Because carbohydrate digestion is such a simple chemical process, your blood sugar can start rising within ten minutes of the time you eat a slice of bread.
So if you eat a Big Mac and fries, the hamburger bun and potatoes are feeding your yeast just as certainly as if you ate a Snickers Bar.
One version of the Candida diet is the Atkins diet, invented by Dr. Robert C. Atkins, M.D. The Atkins diet gives you very little -- almost no -- carbohydrates. The other version of the Candida diet is a variation of the Atkins, the relatively recent "low-carb" diet.
Low-carbohydrate to no-carbohydrate diets are becoming popular, and several good books are available describing them. There's a big metabolic difference between the low-carb diet and no-carb diet, and you'll need to decide which one to go with. Here's the difference. Human metabolism has two basic modes of operation: feast or famine. In the feast mode food is abundant and the body burns sugar as its primary nutrient. In the famine mode the body switches to burning fat to avoid starvation. A low-carb diet will still give your system enough carbs to continue operating in the normal feast mode. The Atkins diet restricts carbohydrates to a level that causes the metabolic shift into fat-burning mode.
To keep your metabolism in the fat-burning mode, the Atkins diet requires you to eat high percentages of protein and fat -- the more fat the better. Surprisingly, eating large amounts of fat doesn't make you fat, and not only does it not increase your blood cholesterol, it actually lowers your cholesterol and triglycerides. If you eat fewer calories as well, you will lose weight preferentially from your fat stores rather than from muscle. But even if you don't decrease your caloric intake, you will be doing your arteries some good because instead of cholesterol being deposited from your blood into your arteries, it will tend to dissolve from your arteries into the blood, and then be burned as fuel.
It's easier to switch back to sugar-burning than it is to get into fat-burning -- it takes your body several days (up to two weeks for some) to switch gears into fat-burning mode but eating a pizza can throw the gearshift right back to sugar. Cheating does more than just make you feel guilty, so the Atkins diet requires more discipline. When you are in fat-burning mode, your metabolism will produce ketones as a metabolic byproduct. Little urine test strips are available from some pharmacies to detect these ketones and provide a way to let you know how well you are doing, as well as giving you a bit of day-by-day encouragement to be honest.
Although the facts just expressed about the Atkins diet had been controversial and not generally accepted by the mainstream medical community, recent studies have validated Atkins' propositions. In addition to receiving resistance due to the traditional notion that "eating fat makes you fat", and "eating fat raises your cholesterol", the Atkins diet raises another concern about the liver's ability to process the waste products from eating large amounts of protein and fat. It's an open question, and maybe you shouldn't be on a Atkins diet for your whole life (although Atkins argues to the contrary), but millions of people have survived just fine for very long periods of time, and six months or a year might be all you need to beat Candida. If you are concerned, you could ask your healthcare practitioner to periodically order a standard blood test to check your liver function -- you might be doing occasional blood work anyway, and if so, its just another tube.
The low-carb and no-carb diets are sometimes called the cave man, or Paleolithic, diets since presumably they resemble the diets of early man. If true, this lends support to the Atkins proposition that the body is designed to work in either metabolic mode, and can function in the fat-burning mode for extended periods.
THE ATKINS DIET, HYPOGLYCEMIA, AND DIABETES
Another surprising fact about the Atkins diet is that it stabilizes blood sugar, and can allow a hypoglycemic or diabetic to heal (at least, type II diabetics who represent 99% of all diabetics). Fasting blood sugar for a healthy person is somewhere around 90 mg/Dl (milligrams per deciliter) (the reference range is 65-110). In your normal metabolic mode, the sugars and starches that you eat flow right into the blood stream as glucose, so your blood sugar rockets up if you eat a high-carb or sugary meal. The pancreas then starts releasing insulin which causes the blood sugar (glucose) to be converted to glycogen and stored, or converted (indirectly) to fat and stored (perhaps in your arteries?).
In the hypoglycemic, the insulin switch is worn out so the pancreas produces too much, and the blood sugar dives -- maybe to as low as 50 or so (actually, even though the low end of the reference range is 65, you can feel pretty bad at that level). This causes weakness, trembling, pallor and lightheadedness -- there just isn't enough sugar in the blood stream to keep the engine running. If it drops much lower you faint.
The diabetic's insulin switch isn't worn out, it's broken. The pancreas has exhausted its ability to produce insulin. Without insulin to control the rocketing blood sugar, it just keeps rising. After a meal heavy in starches, a diabetic's blood sugar may exceed 200 (and maybe much higher). The excessive blood sugar in diabetics causes all sorts of horrible effects -- the worst of all is the destruction of blood vessels causing reduced blood flow to the extremities; this causes skin ulcers (like bed sores) especially of the legs, ankles, and feet, and then gangrene. You perhaps know of a diabetic who is receiving the standard medical care -- first they amputate a toe or two, then the front half of the foot, then the rest of the foot, then the lower part of the lower leg, then up to the knee. They whittle you away a little at a time. Eventually you die from "complications" because the diabetes has also ruined your immune system. Amazingly, the mainstream medical community would rather chop you down an inch at a time than recommend that you go on a low-carb diet -- it’s too dangerous -- might affect the liver, you know.
However, without an intake of sugar, neither of these extreme blood sugar conditions can take place because the body has a different mechanism of regulating blood sugar produced by burning fat. Your system burns enough fat to keep your blood sugar at a normal fasting level of 90-100 -- hypoglycemics don't pass out, and diabetics don't lose their toes. The Atkins diet allows the overloaded pancreatic/insulin system to rejuvenate, and a hypoglycemic or diabetic can go on to lead a normal, healthy life.
THE DIET DOESN'T KILL CANDIDA
Keep in mind that a low-carb diet is still feeding your yeast, and so, ideally, every Candida sufferer would follow a strict zero-carb diet until the infection is overcome. But don't delude yourself into thinking that you are starving your Candida no matter which diet you are on. You just aren't giving them extra food. They still are sucking sugar (glucose) out of your blood, and there will always be an unlimited supply of that as long as you are alive. What you can do with diet, and the only thing you can do with diet, is avoid aggravating your condition by giving the yeast extra food.
HELPFUL HINTS AND CAVEATS
Watch out for diets and diet books (and Candida books) that say you can eat whole grains. That simply isn't true. Whether it’s a whole grain or only part of a grain, the starch content of the grain still gets digested into sugar. It might take a bit longer to digest the whole grain to release the starch content, but it gets released and digested. As stated above, the digestion process for carbohydrates is fairly direct -- from carbohydrates to disaccharides to glucose. To the Candida, it simply doesn't matter if the glucose originated as a whole grain or a refined grain. Yum.
Both the Atkins diet and the less-restrictive low-carb diet requires label reading -- bring your bifocals to the grocery store because you are going to need to read every label on every food product you buy. During the first few days on the Atkins diet you are allowed about 20 mg of carbs per day. After your metabolism has shifted to fat-burning mode you can increase your allowance to about 40 mg or so -- the actual number varies by individual in the range of 15-90, and you really need to read Dr. ATKINS' book to determine this allowance for yourself.
A typical slice of bread is good to use as a standard for measuring everything else; it is basically pure starch (pure carbohydrate) and will have about 18 mg of carbohydrates. So on your first few days, you are allowed the equivalent of one slice of bread for the entire day. Later on, you are allowed the equivalent of perhaps 2 slices of bread. (You are allowed that much on the Atkins diet, but you many not want to feed your Candida that much sugar). Most starchy beans like kidney beans, navy beans, lima beans, and so on will have about 18 mg of carbohydrates per half-cup. A standard can has 3.5 cups, so you can see that a half-cup is quite a small serving.
Fruit is high in sugar (fructose) and is just completely off your diet -- so are carrots. You not only need to bring your bifocals to the grocery store, you need to have a listing of the carbohydrate content of standard foods -- who would guess that carrots are high in sugar? So get a low-carb or Atkins diet book -- any of them will have a carbohydrate chart. See our book selections below. The list includes several highly rated Candida cookbooks for meal preparation -- you can eat quite well without eating starches. The meals are different and take some getting used to (no toast, bagels, or cereal for breakfast, for example), but you can make great-tasting meals to make your diet enjoyable.
Watch out for "health bars" and dietary products like Ensure. Many of them are simply candy in disguise. Here's another factoid to remember: One ounce is 28 grams. Now to demonstrate the point, here are a couple of products to use for comparisons. A 2 oz. (61 gram) Snickers bar has 34 grams of carbohydrates, 28 of that being sugar; a 1.5 oz (43 gram) Hershey bar has 25 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of which are sugar. In both cases, almost exactly half the weight of the candy bar is sugar, and more than half is carbohydrates. Then compare those to a "diet" Slimfast Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar weighing slightly under 2 oz (56 g.) which has 37 grams of carbohydrates and 24 grams of sugar. It has a greater percentage of sugar by weight than either of the candy bars. Go figure! You just can't believe the word "diet" on the label.