In my many years of treating patients for Candida overgrowth, I saw a surprising number of people who were surprised to learn that eating fermented foods could actually be making their condition worse. That’s probably because a number of Candida treatment plans suggest adding fermented foods to your diet to feed the good bacteria in your gut. While fermented foods do feed your gut’s population of beneficial probiotics, they also feed Candida. What’s more, some fermented foods are already yeast-containing, and can directly contribute to your gut’s overgrown population of Candida albicans. This is exactly why I recommend everyone dealing with Candida remove fermented foods from their diet.
Let’s discuss how you can overcome Candida overgrowth by eliminating fermented foods and restore the friendly bacteria that keep Candida in check.
A Recap on Candida
So, what exactly is Candida? Candida is a yeast—a simple fungus—that is naturally present in your digestive tract. It helps you digest what you eat, and assists in drawing nutrients from food. Your body only needs a very small amount of Candida to perform these essential functions. Normally, the “good” bacteria in your gut keep Candida levels from getting out of control, however, there are several common circumstances that can easily lead to Candida overwhelming your “good” bacteria. These include:
- A high carb and high sugar diet, which can fuel the growth of Candida
- Excessive alcohol consumption, which weakens your immune system
- Antibiotics that kill your body’s good bacteria along with the bad
- Chronic stress, which impairs your immune system and negatively impacts your digestive system
- Immunosuppressant drugs used to treat autoimmune diseases that reduce your body’s infection-fighting abilities
Once Candida albicans overwhelm the “good” bacteria in your gut, they can break down the walls of your intestine and enter into your bloodstream. This is why Candida overgrowth can quickly become a full-body problem and lead to an array of health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, skin issues, fatigue, and mood swings that can affect every part of the body.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, take this short quiz to determine if Candida overgrowth is the culprit.
How Fermentation Works
All yeasts — including Candida — need sugar to thrive. Your gut microflora naturally ferments the food you eat by breaking down sugar to use as fuel. There are two main types of fermentation: alcohol fermentation and lacto-fermentation, in which the lactobacillus species of bacteria convert sugars into lactic acid.1
Fermentation not only produces nutrients and enzymes, it produces prebiotics. Prebiotics feed your gut’s natural population of probiotics. And because fermented foods are very high in probiotics, you’re getting double the probiotics when you eat them. Fermented foods are also high in lactic acid, which helps slow the growth of “bad” bacteria. This is why fermented foods don’t spoil quickly.2
What Are Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are prepared using either alcohol or lacto-fermentation processes in which bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms break down the sugar and starch in food and convert it into lactic acid. The problem is that this is hardly a clean and neat process. While good bacteria or probiotics are present, bad bacteria and yeast are also present during the fermentation process.
This means when you eat fermented foods, you’re adding to the population of bad bacteria in your gut. A diet full of fermented foods creates the perfect condition for Candida albicans to thrive and multiply. If you have Candida, I recommend eliminating fermented foods that feed Candida and replace them with whole, nutrient-dense foods.
Whether you have an active Candida overgrowth, you’ve recently overcome Candida overgrowth, or you’re trying to prevent it, here are nine common fermented foods to avoid.
Common Fermented Foods List
You’re probably already aware that foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, and vinegar are fermented foods. Yet, did you know that wine, beer, champagne, and yogurt can be fermented as well? Fermented foods are a large portion of many people’s diets; if you’re battling Candida overgrowth, it’s important to know which foods could be contributing to your condition.
Wine and Beer
Hopefully, you’re limiting alcohol already, however it is particularly important to cut out beer and wine while getting your yeast in check. Wine is not only fermented, it is also high in sugar. And beer, which is also fermented, contains gluten. All of these factors contribute to Candida.
In addition, alcohol can worsen leaky gut, which is one of the most dangerous impacts of yeast overgrowth. It leads to so many other symptoms and health problems because, once your gut is leaky, the Candida can leak into your bloodstream and colonize in other parts of your body. Alcohol also suppresses your immune system, and a strong immune system is needed to not only fight off invaders in your body, it also keeps your yeast population under control.
The signature bubbles that everyone loves about champagne are actually a result of the second fermentation of white wine with added sugars and yeast. That’s three inflammatory foods all in one bottle!
Kefir is traditionally fermented using cow’s milk. Over time, the microorganisms in kefir grains multiply and ferment in the sugars in the milk, turning the mixture into drinkable kefir. While dairy-free versions can be made, kefir grains are actually colonies of yeast and lactic acid, both of which contribute to your gut’s population of Candida.
Kimchi is shredded cabbage and radishes that have been fermented with garlic, salt, and spices. It’s rich in prebiotics that feed both the good and bad bacteria in your gut.
There is little regulation on commercially produced kombucha. Nothing specifically states how long it has to be fermented for, whether or not it can be pasteurized, if it can be carbonated after production, or even run through a filter to stop any yeast strains from remaining. Therefore, when you drink kombucha, you’re introducing unknown amounts of bacteria to your body.
Sauerkraut is made using a lacto-fermentation that allows air-borne bacteria culture to grow on raw cabbage leaves. Lacto-fermentation uses salt to create an acidic environment that preserves the cabbage. While this process is what gives sauerkraut its distinctly tangy flavor, it’s also what adds to the population of bacteria in your gut.
Making vinegar is a two-step process of fermentation from a carbohydrate to an alcohol to an acetic acid. During this process, wild yeasts are added to help convert sugars into alcohol. Finished vinegar still contains those yeast cells, adding to the overgrown population of yeast in your gut.
The main cultures in yogurt are lactobacillus bulgaricus, which is used to ferment milk sugar. This process produces lactic acid, which causes your pH to decrease and contributes to fungal growth inhibition.
Dairy is also a highly inflammatory food. Inflammation damages your gut lining, which is already leaky due to an overgrowth of Candida. This allows the yeast to continue escaping into your bloodstream, along with toxins, microbes, and other particles.
Benefits of Fermented Foods
While the risks of eating fermented foods might turn you off for good, it’s important to remember that fermented foods are perfectly fine for those who have their yeast in check. In fact, fermented foods actually come with a range of health benefits. While fermentation began as a way to preserve food, eating fermented foods can help your gut’s beneficial bacteria produce essential nutrients. Other benefits of eating fermented foods include:
- Support digestive function
- Reduce the risk of autoimmune disease
- Support immune function
- Impact allergy and eczema symptoms
- Support a healthy inflammatory response
- Impact cholesterol levels
- Balance your metabolism
- Support bone health
- Balance your hormones, boost your mood, and relieve stress
Can Probiotics Make Candida Worse?
You might think that probiotics make Candida worse by adding to both the good and the bad bacteria in your gut. However, probiotics can actually help you maintain the correct balance of gut flora in your body.
Probiotics contain good bacteria, which support your microbiome by protecting the cells in your intestinal wall from invading pathogens by crowding them out and breaking them down. Probiotics also promote the repair of damaged tissue by supporting your immune system and the cells that build a structure called the extracellular matrix, which keeps your intestinal lining in good condition.
They also prevent bad bacteria and Candida from overgrowing and causing problems. Many experts believe they do this by producing bacteriocin proteins that kill pathogenic bacteria, including Candida. We do know that probiotics are able to crowd out harmful strains by multiplying and physically dominating the space, making the environment unfriendly for bad bacteria. For these reasons and many more, I recommend anyone dealing with Candida overgrowth take a high-quality daily probiotic.
Who Should Not Eat Fermented Foods?
The high concentration of prebiotics found in fermented foods feeds the good bacteria, bad bacteria, and yeast alike. So if you are dealing with Candida overgrowth or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), and already have an overpopulation of bad bacteria or yeast, eating fermented foods adds fuel to the fire.
That’s why, after working with thousands of patients at my clinic, I recommend avoiding fermented foods until after you have restored the healthy balance in your gut.
Many of my patients included high-quality fermented foods in their diet after their gut issues had cleared. This actually helped support the population of good bacteria in their gut. However, everyone is different and you know your own body best. If, after overcoming Candida overgrowth, you still find that you don’t tolerate fermented foods, there is no reason to add them in! You can easily maintain a healthy level of good gut bacteria by eating the foods below.
Foods That Fight Candida Overgrowth
By now, you’re probably wondering what you can eat while treating Candida overgrowth. Fortunately, there are a number of anti-Candida diet foods that fight yeast that you can incorporate into your diet. If you’re looking for inspiration, I have a ton of diet-friendly recipes on my blog that contain anti-Candida foods such as:
- coconut oil
- apple cider vinegar
- cruciferous vegetables
- olive oil
- wild salmon
- lemon juice
Treating Candida Overgrowth
Removing fermented foods from your diet is a great first step to help resolve Candida overgrowth. However, diet alone will only go so far as to treat your symptoms. To fully recover from Candida overgrowth, you’ll need to restore the “good” bacteria and repair your gut so that Candida cannot enter your bloodstream. You can take on Candida today by following my 30-day Candida Breakthrough® Program, and find relief from chronic symptoms such as digestive issues, fatigue, brain fog, recurrent fungal infections including jock itch and athlete’s foot, skin problems, mood swings, and more.
By following the simple and proven three-action approach that includes all of the powerful, pharmaceutical-grade supplements you’ll need and an easy-to-follow anti-Candida diet meal plan full of foods that kill Candida, you will:
- Step 1. Starve the Candida by removing the foods that feed it from your diet. This means eliminating all sugar and alcohol, and restricting carbohydrates such as fruit, starchy vegetables, grains, and legumes. It also means ditching all fermented foods.
- Step 2. Attack the Candida by taking supplements that destroy Candida’s cell walls. I like to use Candifense® as well as Caprylic Acid, both of which are excellent at breaking down the walls of Candida cells to destroy them.
- Step 3. Repopulate your gut with good bacteria by taking a high-potency probiotic that keeps Candida under control. While battling Candida, I recommend a probiotic supplement containing 100 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) to restore your gut’s healthy microbial balance.
For the highest level of support for dealing with stubborn, recurring Candida, start on my Candida Breakthrough® Program today.
- Alcoholic and Lactic Acid Fermentation in Food - A Primer. Savory and Sour Test Kitchen.
- What Are Probiotics?. WebMD.