Can The Paleo Diet Banish Yeast Infections?


This is the second part of a two part series on candidiasis, its effect on the gut and how the Paleo diet can be a valuable part of treatment and prevention. Part 1, Candidiasis and Leaky Gut, discussed what a pathogenic yeast infection is, what causes it to flourish and how this can contribute to leaky gut. In this post, I’ll explain how the Paleo diet and lifestyle help to keep pathogenic yeast in check.

candida-vegetables2-e1425588554780.jpgIs Paleo Preventive?

There are over 20 species of Candida that can cause a yeast infection with C. albicans the most common culprit by far. C. albicans is a normal resident of human microflora on our skin and mucus membranes. When conditions allow C. albicans to flourish, it invades surrounding tissues and creates inflammation known as a yeast infection or candidiasis. In the GI tract, it can create leaky gut. Treating candidiasis involves killing off as much candida as possible and correcting environmental conditions that favor yeast overgrowth. In addition to working with your health care practitioner on an appropriate course of anti-fungal therapy, the Paleo diet and lifestyle support gut health and healing which can go a long way in the prevention of repeated infections.   Maintaining a strict Paleo diet and possibly the AIP, controlling carbs, avoiding foods that cause sensitivities, taking probiotics, optimizing digestion, minimizing stress and getting enough quality sleep are all tenets of Paleo and all work to keep C. albicans in check.

Try Strict Paleo

A strict Paleo diet eliminates inflammatory foods including grains, dairy, legumes, highly processed food, refined seed oils, and refined sugar, which can all contribute to gut dysbiosis and leaky gut. The diet’s emphasis on grass-fed and pastured meat, wild game and fish – all high in anti-inflammatory omega-3s; bone broth that contains gut healing amino acids; healthy fats such as coconut oil which contains anti-microbial fatty acids, and fermented vegetables that provide probiotics, may be enough to promote healing, positively modulate intestinal flora and suppress Candida colonization. However, for those with autoimmune disease, taking extra measures for healing by following the autoimmune protocol may be necessary. Check out this great post by Kinsey, which explains the what, how and the why of the AIP.

What About Carbs, Nutritional Yeast and Moldy Food?

Yeast feeds on carbohydrates and you may find that avoiding all sugar and keeping your intake of starchy carbs on the low side helps heal and prevent infections. You definitely want to keep some carbs in your diet however, because yeast actually has a higher affinity for ketones* than sugar! Both Mark Sisson and Paul Jaminet recommend about 100-150 grams of carbs a day from mostly starchy carbs with a little bit of fruit (if tolerated) for best results.

candida-nutritional-yeast-300x247.jpgNutritional yeast is the deactivated form of S. cerevisiae, the same genus as bakers and brewers yeast. S. cerevisiae does not belong to the Candida family, and only very rarely in immunocompromised patients is it known to cause yeast infections. However, if you’re allergic to C. albicans, other strains of yeast might result in crossreactivity. In fact, crossreactivity may also explain why people feel better and heal faster when avoiding typically moldy foods such as dried fruit, mushrooms, over-ripe fruits and vegetables, processed meats, dairy, nuts and tomato products or foods made from yeast fermentation such as alcohol, vinegar and vinegar containing foods. Because several of these foods are common on a Paleo diet a little extra vigilance may be necessary even when following the AIP. Keep in mind that all food gets moldy over time and buying smaller portions more often  may be the safest option.

Probiotics, Spices, Herbs, Extracts & Essential Oils Can Help

Cumin, oregano, garlic, barberry, red thyme, grapefruit seed extract and caprylic acid are just a few nutritional elements that have anti-fungal properties. Various essential oils are also used to control yeast, however they can have toxic side effects if taken in excess for extended periods.  It’s a good idea to consult a knowledgeable health care practitioner on dosing if you decide to use them.

candida-sauerkraut-300x192.jpgIn addition to killing pathogenic yeast, populating your internal environment with plenty of healthy microbes is highly recommended. Paleo food sources of probiotics include anything that’s been lacto-fermented (fermented with lactobacillus bacteria) such as homemade or store bought coconut yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut. If you’re buying kimchi or sauerkraut, make sure to purchase raw, unpasteurized products. Want to make your own and need a recipe? This post from Mark’s Daily Apple provides step by step instructions for sauerkraut.

Probiotic supplements can also be very helpful.   Make sure your supplement has multiple (at least 5) strains of live, active cultures including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and that it contains some type of controlled-release technology to help the delicate microbes survive the acidic environment of your stomach and make it to your gut. You may also want to consider a supplement that contains S. boulardii, which is a strain of yeast that’s protective against Candida and has a beneficial effect on gut flora.

The Paleo community has increasingly embraced soil based probiotics which may be more likely to make it to the small intestine intact and colonize the gut effectively.  This makes sense when we consider that our Paleo ancestors ingested plenty of beneficial microbes directly from soil clinging to plant food.

Highly regarded brands of probiotic supplements among the Paleo Community include Jarrow (which is what I take), as well as Klaire Labs and Prescript-Assist.  All three brands can be found on-line and Jarrow is also sold over-the-counter.

Improve Digestion

If you suffer from indigestion or acid reflux, this is a sign that your stomach acid is too low, not too high as commonly assumed. Since low stomach acid can lead to SIBO, taking steps to increase gastric enzyme production and maximize digestion is recommended.   It takes 20-30 minutes for stomach acid to rise to peak levels and to trigger this process in advance of your meal, try drinking a cup of ginger tea or 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar diluted with a few ounces of water 10-20 minutes beforehand. Drink any additional liquids at least 30 minutes before or after meals so as not to dilute digestive juices. Finally, during meals, sit down and slow down. Chew food thoroughly and enjoy each bite.

Lower Stress Levels

Stress lies at the root of many debilitating health conditions and diseases because it promotes inflammation. Losing yourself in a good book, taking a walk or spending more time with loved ones – whatever it is that relaxes you, do it and do it as often as possible. During busy days just taking a moment to breath deeply or to meditate for a few minutes can reset neural pathways and lower stress hormone levels.

Get More Sleep

candida-sleep-300x189.jpgGetting 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night protects your circadian rhythms and reduces levels of the inflammatory stress hormone cortisol, a critical step in healing gut permeability. Getting a dose of sunshine in the morning, avoiding too much caffeine and minimizing artificial light at night all helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. For more tips on how to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep, see this post,

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