From Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS

If you’ve experienced the intense discomfort associated with yeast infections, you know how persistent they can be. And while you may have treated symptoms like vaginal itching with over-the-counter creams and suppositories, it’s unlikely that you actually got to the root of the problem.

The most common type of yeast infection is known as candidiasis, caused by the fungus Candida albicans. And unless you take steps to kill candida directly, those pesky yeast infections (and a slew of other symptoms) are likely to return again and again.

How do I know if I have candida?

While candida usually lives in the intestinal tract and skin without any problems, an overgrowth can cause symptoms to develop in the mouth, vagina, skin and other mucous membranes. Yeast infections are certainly one consequence of this overgrowth, but it’s definitely not the only one. If your immune system is compromised because of a leaky gut, candida can then enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body—even to the heart and brain.

Candida may present differently in different people, sometimes making it hard for a physician to diagnose. But some common candida symptoms may include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Mood disorders
  • Recurring vaginal infections and UTIs
  • Oral thrush
  • Sinus infections
  • Intestinal distress
  • Brain fog
  • Skin and nail fungal infections
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Cravings for sugary treats
  • Lower sex drive
  • Bad breath

What Causes Candida?

There are many causes of candida, including a diet high in sugar, processed carbs and refined grains. Any food that breaks down to sugar in the body can become a food source for candida, and if you’re eating an excess of those foods, candida overgrowth becomes even more likely. Other causes of candida overgrowth can include:

  • Use of broad-spectrum antibiotics
  • Birth control pills
  • Pregnancy
  • Oral corticosteroids
  • Cancer treatments
  • Diabetes
  • Weakened immune system

Getting more rest and limiting antibiotic and steroid use can help manage candida infections. Also, if you suffer from vaginal yeast infections, wearing cotton underwear and using oral or intravaginal probiotics may help, as the good bacteria in a high-quality, multi-strain probiotic supplement can crowd out the candida yeast, as well as any other bad bacteria in the system.

But the key to truly ridding yourself of candidiasis lies in fighting candida directly, and one of the best ways to and get rid of candida—and boost your immune system—is to completely overhaul your diet.

3-Step Plan to Kill Candida

Step 1: The Cleanse

Before starting the candida diet, it’s a good idea to cleanse your digestive tract. This will help flush out excess candida and prime your body for additional healing. You can either do a liquids-only cleanse or a gentle cleanse with food. Or you can combine both cleanses.

First, you’ll want to start by doing a liquids-only cleanse. Make a broth by simmering organic garlic, onions, celery, kale, sea salt and water. Discard the vegetables and sip the broth throughout the day for one to two days. Or you can make a homemade bone broth and add the vegetables for an extra, gut-soothing effect.

For the next few days, you can either continue the liquid cleanse, or you can switch to a gentle foods cleanse. If you choose to eat food, you will still eliminate sugars, fruits, starches, grains and alcohol. You will eat only organic vegetables for the next three to five days, avoiding starchy vegetables like carrots or potatoes. It is best to eat the vegetables lightly steamed, but no more than once per day, you can eat a salad of leafy green vegetables with a bit of coconut oil and apple cider vinegar or lemon juice as a dressing. And, of course, you’ll want to drink plenty of water as well.

Once you’ve completed the cleansing stage, you’re ready to move on to the 3-step candida diet.

Step 2: The Candida Diet

Much like an elimination diet, you’ll first need to stop eating all problem foods on the candida diet. If you completed the cleansing stage first, you’ve already started doing this. You’ll need to continue to avoid sugar and processed foods. Candida feeds off of sugar, so it’s critical to lower your sugar intake to get rid of candida. You’ll also want to eliminate any foods to which you have an allergy or sensitivity, as those foods can further aggravate the immune system while you’re trying to heal and make eliminating the candida even more difficult.

Focus on eating high-quality proteins and leafy green vegetables. Warming vegetables like sweet potatoes and lentils as well as gluten-free grains like quinoa and millet are okay, but only in moderation. I would limit your consumption of starchy foods to nor more than once per day.

Next, increase your consumption of candida-killing foods from the list below. In order for this diet to be successful in killing off candida, you will need to follow it for several weeks or months. How strictly you follow the diet and the severity of your candida will determine the length of time it takes to clear up your infection.

Top candida-killing foods:

Step 3: Reintroduction

After the infection clears up, you can start to reintroduce some of the off-limits foods. You’ll still want to avoid foods high in sugar, but it’s okay to reintroduce certain low-sugar foods, such as green apples. It’s best to reintroduce foods one at a time so you can assess whether or not they cause candida flare-ups.

Following these steps closely will help you eliminate candida and achieve some relief from any nagging symptoms that the yeast may have caused. But even after you’ve noticed improvements, it’s important to continue to follow a low sugar diet and limit antibiotic and steroid use going forward, in order to avoid dealing with further candida aggravation.

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