15 August 2011

Candidiasis and diet

Candidiasis is an infection caused by strains of Candida fungi, especially Candida albicans. Learn the basic dietary principles to prevent and treat this disease.


Candidiasis is an infection caused by strains of Candida fungi, especially Candida albicans. Learn the basic dietary principles to prevent and treat this disease.

Step 1: Understanding the relationship between candidiasis and food
Candidiasis, also known as candida infection or yeast infection, is an infection caused by strains of Candida fungi, especially Candida albicans. Candida normally lives harmlessly in the body, but under certain conditions it may multiply out of control. Candida can affect different parts of the body, causing either localised infections or overwhelming illness, depending on the individual's general state of health.

The following are factors that can predispose you to candida overgrowth (the dietary links are indicated in bold):

  • Antibiotics can reduce the number of friendly intestinal bacteria which normally help to keep candida under control.
  • Alcohol abuse.
  • Medications such as steroid hormones, immunosuppressant and anti-inflammatory drugs, chemotherapy drugs and ulcer medications or acid blockers used for prolonged periods.
  • Immune deficiency. Diseases such as Aids and cancer can weaken the immune system. The immune system can also become weaker in the elderly.
  • Poor diet.
  • Diabetics are prone to yeast infections, especially when their blood sugar levels are not well controlled. High levels of sugar in the blood and urine, and a low resistance to infection are conditions that encourage yeast growth.
  • Certain genetic disorders, such as coeliac disease (which involves intestinal malabsorption) or haemochromatosis (in which iron accumulates in body tissue).
  • Hormonal imbalance, as a result of menstruation, pregnancy, diabetes or birth control pills (usually in the first three months of taking them) or thyroid disease.
  • During their lifetime, about 75 percent of all women are likely to have at least one vaginal candida infection before they reach menopause, and up to 45 percent will have two or more. Women tend to be more susceptible to vaginal yeast infections if they are under stress, have an inadequate diet, have lack of sleep or are ill. Although it is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection, yeast infections are common among younger women (ages 20 to 40), especially after becoming sexually active.
  • If a woman has a vaginal yeast infection when she gives birth, the baby may get yeast (thrush) in its throat or digestive tract.
  • When the balance between commensal (friendly) and pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria in the normal intestinal flora is disturbed, for example due to excessive alcohol consumption and certain chemicals.
  • A moist, warm environment. Yeast infections often develop where a moist, warm environment encourages fungal growth. Prime areas include the webs of fingers and toes, nails, genitals and folds of skin. This is particularly the case in diabetics.
  • Tight clothing, especially underwear, that promotes moisture build-up.
  • Being obese (over 20 percent overweight).
  • Thrush is a common minor infection in babies and young children.
  • People whose work requires that they spend long periods of time with their hands in water, or who wear rubber gloves, are predisposed to cutaneous candidiasis.
  • Candida in the male genital area (balanitis) has been found to be more common in uncircumcised males or diabetics, and can sometimes result from intercourse with an infected partner.
  • In rare cases, the candida fungus may invade the body at certain sites: intravenous (IV) tube, urinary catheter, tracheostomy, ventilation tubing or surgical wounds. If the infection spreads through the bloodstream to the kidneys, lungs, brain or other organs, it can cause serious systemic complications. These develop only in people who are seriously ill or who have other health problems that weaken the immune system.

Step 2: Adopting new healthy habits

  • Keeping the skin clean, cool and dry.
  • Avoiding frequent or prolonged use of oral antibiotics if possible.
  • Limiting alcohol intake.
  • Sticking to a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Losing weight if obese.
  • Keeping blood sugar levels as normal as possible if suffering from diabetes.
  • Wearing rubber gloves if your work involves keeping hands in water for long periods. Each time the gloves are removed, the hands should be washed and dried. Applying a mild, over-the-counter antifungal cream may be of additional benefit.
  • To help prevent vaginal yeast infections:
    • The skin of the vulva and anus should be washed regularly and kept dry after bathing. Other people's towels or washcloths should not be used.
    • The use of chemical products such as bubble bath, hygiene spray, irritating soaps, perfumes or talcum powder should be avoided or kept to a minimum.
    • Dry cotton or silk underclothes allow better airing and evaporation of excess moisture, compared to synthetics. Any tight-fitting garments should be avoided, particularly when exercising.
    • Vaginal douching should be avoided. The vagina does not require cleansing other than normal bathing. Repetitive douching disrupts the balance of normal organisms that live in the vagina and can actually increase the risk of vaginal infection.
    • If a genital candida infection is present, a condom should be used during sexual intercourse. Although uncommon, candida organisms can also be transmitted through kissing and orogenital contact.

Step 3: Understanding the basic principles of a diet to treat candidiasis
Candidiasis is usually treated with medication but you could follow the below guidelines to prevent and treat the condition:

  • Stick to a well-balanced diet, especially if you are HIV-positive.
  • If you are overweight, restrict calorie intake in order to reach your goal weight.
  • If you suffer from a vaginal yeast infection, drink unsweetened cranberry juice to curb candida overgrowth.
  • Avoid refined sugar, white flour, white rice, canned or processed foods, alcohol, fizzy drinks, coffee, fruit juices, bananas, grapes, fermented foods such as cheese, smoked fish, dairy products, honey and mushrooms for 30 days.
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruit (apart from those mentioned) and vegetables, natural unflavoured yoghurt, fibre-rich foods, brown rice, fresh fish, chicken, olive oil and oatmeal porridge, and drink plenty of water.

- (Health24, updated August 2011)

Read more:

Yeast infection
Combat candida with probiotics
Cheers to bad bacteria


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