Vegan Salt –the blog

{August 8, 2011}   Taking on Candida!

My current adventure, like countless others in this world, began in a second-hand bookshop.  Last week, I was browsing the shelves, picking out a few novels and philosophical essays, when an enormous medical reference book caught my eye. Optimal Digestive Health: A Complete Guide.

Complete! For ten dollars, how could I go wrong? I purchased it and presented it to my husband, who has suffered from undiagnosed, chronic digestive problems for about eight years.

That evening, as I read mindless teen fiction (a guilty pleasure), he browsed the book, flipping back and forth, intent on his research. At last he said, “I think I have candida.”

Candidiasis is an imbalance of yeast in the body, primarily in the gut, usually brought about by prolonged stress, use of antibacterial drugs, use of birth control pills, or a high-carb or high-sugar diet. Although my husband has none of the surface symptoms, internally, it all adds up. Even the foods he’s learned by trial and error to avoid (like sweets, gluten, and starches) are on the list of candida aggravators.  It all suddenly made sense! The two of us spent the next several days reading everything we could find on candida.

I read that when women have persistent candida, one of the most telling clues is recurring vaginal yeast infections. Unfortunately, when men suffer from candida, it can remain in the digestive tract for years, and from there it spreads to the heart, liver, and kidneys. Yikes!

Even if the long-term complications didn’t include heart attacks, asthma, leaky gut syndrome, depression, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and cancer, we would be impatient to start him on an anti-candida diet, just to relieve his suffering.

It didn’t take me long to decide that I would undertake this dietary change with him. It’s easier to stick with a restrictive diet if the whole household does it together. Besides, according to one source, as many as one third of people suffer from candida. (Even if I’m not among them, I know I feel better when I eat a cleaner diet.) Symptoms of candidiasis include sugar cravings, fatigue, foggy-headedness, acne, PMS, anxiety, and a white coating on the tongue. Yes, I said sugar cravings are a symptom of a highly dangerous illness. But the good news is that it’s treatable by nutrition. My husband and I will be doing this together, and I’ll be posting recipes as we go along.

This is a very. strict. diet.

Note: We aren’t directly following the advice of any particular anti-candida expert or book. Instead we’ve pieced together an anti-candida diet that most of our hurried research seems to agree on, and what works for us. For starters, we’re remaining fully vegan, of course, which only eliminates eggs, cow milk yogurt and kefir from the Accepted Foods list. All other animal products are already off limits on most anti-candida diets. No loss there!

Forbidden foods include, but are not limited to:

  • All animal products (that’s the easy part)
  • Sugar: This means sugar, sugar cane, evaporated cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, rice syrup, dextrose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. (Except Stevia.)
  • Gluten and Starch: No wheat, barley, rye, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes or corn.
  • Alcohol: Not even an occasional glass of organic vegan wine. Nope.
  • Caffeine: No coffee, no black or green teas.
  • Fermented or Yeasty foods: No breads, pickles, vinegar (except raw apple cider vinegar), mustard, tempeh, soy sauce, and no mushrooms, since they’re a fungus.

And here’s the heartbreaking kicker:

  • FRUIT: No fruit juice, no dried fruit, no fresh fruit except citrus fruits and berries.

What we can still have:

  • Vegetables: Anything but corn or potatoes. Tomatoes and carrots cannot be cooked.
  • Some Fruit: Lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges, and berries. No juice.
  • Liquids: Almond, coconut, or soy milk (unsweetened). Herbal teas. (Edit to add: non-sweet fruit juices, such as pure cranberry or pomegranate juice. Kombucha!!)
  • Beans and Lentils: Pretty much anything goes here.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Anything except peanuts, so no peanut butter either. Tahini (sesame paste) is a go!
  • Other: Tofu, quinoa, hummus, plain vegan yogurt, and basically any herbs and spices.

Best foods to fight candida:

  • Raw garlic
  • Lemon
  • Fresh ginger
  • Yogurt and probiotics
  • Green vegetables like broccoli, kale and spinach
  • Raw apple cider vinegar, according to some

So far, we’re just two days into this, and still struggling to eliminate fruit and sugar (my shortcomings) and coffee (his). We’re both going through typical detox symptoms of headaches, fatigue, and in my case, serious fruit cravings. But we’re managing to find things to eat, and hopefully the detox stage won’t last too long. At the end of this adventure, whether it lasts a month or a year, I anticipate that we’ll feel healthier than ever, and we’ll have a bunch of gluten-free, sugar-free recipes figured out.

If you have overcome candida, particularly as a vegan, I would love to hear how you did it, how long it took, and what your favorite candida diet recipes are!


Rob says:

Congrats on deducing a probable cause for “Mr. Salt’s” problem! Whether it turns out to be candida or not, the process of reducing or eliminating dietary sources of sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and yeast may itself be beneficial. Your new diet will have many fewer processed foods as a result, which can only be a good thing!

Bragg’s Liquid Aminos sauce tastes a lot like soy sauce but is unfermented so may be OK for candida.

Something to consider: tofu and tempeh are also fermented, and seitan and TVP are made from wheat. With mushrooms also off the list, most common meat analogs are out the window. You still have the excellent option of eggplant and squash slices though, which are easily flavored and grilled, roasted, or baked.

The list of acceptable food above is still wide enough to allow an enormous range of possibilities. Combining ginger, lemon, garlic, veggies, and soy yogurt makes me think immediately of Indian food. Check out some Indian cookbooks. A good place to start is A Vegan Taste Of India Those ingredients minus the yogurt, but plus the coconut, make me think of Thai food. Most vegan versions of Thai food replace the usual fish stock with soy sauce, so just use Braggs instead of the soy. And of course use almonds or cashews instead of the peanuts!

Replacing coffee is like going vegan and replacing cheese. There isn’t anything that tastes identical; you just enjoy similar things for their own qualities. One that I have in the house is a freeze-dried drink called Pero. It’s made from malted barley, chicory, and rye. (“Malting” is simply wetting a fresh grain, allowing it to sprout, then roasting it). If for some reason that can’t be on the list, try dandelion tea. That’s really earthy and roasty tasting, and about as close to a coffee substitute as I’ve found in tea.

Just a note to the above – I’ve followed this plan (very recently, too) and I can assure you that tofu is okay to eat. Tofu is *not* fermented, if you’re eating the straight up bean curd cakes that are in the sealed packages with water in the grocery stores. It’s probably better to look up information on the process of how tofu is made, but I’m pretty confidant that plain ‘ol tofu is not fermented. I ate it without any problems, and there are some anti-candida eating plans that allow for it.

Also, barley and rye, which are commonly found in coffee replacement drinks like Pero, are related to wheat. Barley and rye are usually not permitted in anti-candida diets. If you can find straight-up chicory, it’s totally fine to use this as a coffee replacement. There are some yerba mate teas that are roasted and somewhat resemble coffee in their flavour. Rooibos teas are also a good caffiene-free anti-candida-friendly alternative that can be used in tea and faux coffee lattes. Be careful of dandelion tea – it’s a strong diuretic, meaning it’ll help purge water from your body and have a stong “cleansing” effect on the liver that you might not be prepared to deal with at the moment.

Braggs is a good alternative to traditional soy sauce, but it is very high in salt, just like soy sauce and tamari. Many tamaris are wheat-free, and if soy is something you have decided is okay for you to eat on your plan, it might be an idea to look into a few brands that might fit in with your diet.

While mushrooms are a good idea to avoid on an anti-candida diet, there is a lot of research that has been done on shiitake mushrooms and their antifungal properties. (Take a look at scientific articles using the Google Scholar search.) They’re well-known for their healing properties, so they might be something else you could consider including in your diet.

Since quinoa and amaranth are technically seeds, I decided to include these two items in my anti-candida plan and they worked just fine for me.

I also wanted to mention that in following an anti-candida diet I figured out, by accident mostly, that it’s not candida causing digestive problems for me. Rather, it’s weak stomach acid that allowed the candida to flourish. I started taking a plant-based digestive enzyme and it works really well for me, so this might also be something that could help your husband. Good vegan probiotics will go a long way too.

Good luck! 🙂

[…] = ''; } Yeast Infections: They affect both Women AND Men.Taking on Candida! var _gaq = _gaq || []; _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-10699154-37']); […]

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