The connection between candida yeast infection overgrowth and sugar everything you need to know to better get rid of your candida.
Before I continue with this article, you should know I've recently compiled a list of science-backed ways to get rid of candida yeast infections. You can download my free Candida Report here if you haven't yet.
The infection causing ability of candida is firstly due to its strong ability to survive various environments in the human body. It is well known that diabetic patients are at higher risk for developing candida yeast infections. However, you will be surprised to know that candida employs several different mechanisms to utilize high-sugar levels to its advantage. These are:
- Increase in the number of candida cells in presence of glucose: Researchers from USA in 1993 found evidence in mouse experiments that dietary glucose increased gut colonization and invasion by candida. In 1999, a study evaluating high-sugar diet on the number of candida cells in the human gut, in contrast, found only a limited correlation between these – only in the people who already had higher candida counts in their mouth, was there an increase in the number of candida cells in the faeces after a high-sugar diet. This study mentions that the people who were tested here had normal immunity and that there may be a much larger increase in candida cells in people who had lowered immunity due to various reasons.
- Candida sabotages our immune system under high-glucose conditions: An article that reviewed research studies by a scientist from USA described in 1990 that an increase in blood sugar impairs our immunity in several different ways. It also described how candida becomes more infective in a high-glucose environment by producing some protein molecules which bind to our immune cells and do not allow them to be active against candida. Scientists from Germany showed in 2001 that several of the immunity molecules produced by our cells are be broken down by a protein molecule that candida produces when it changes from oval to filamentous form; and to that effect,
- Candida is able to use very low amounts of glucose to change from oval to filamentous form: A 2004 study conducted by scientists from New Zealand studied the components in our serum that change candida into the infectious filamentous form. They found that glucose was the major inducer of this change and was active at a pH between 7 and 8. If glucose in the serum was destroyed enzymatically, candida could not change from the oval form to the infectious filamentous form. In 2014, scientists from Taiwan showed that candida can use even the normal levels of blood sugar of around 0.1% to develop the invasive filamentous form.
- Candida can use many different kinds of sugars: Candida has evolved more than 20 different hexose sugar transporters. This means that candida can utilise many different kinds of sugars, and is not dependent totally on glucose for its growth, and this ability also allows it to grow in different environments in our body – even in areas where glucose levels are minimum.
- Glucose promotes stress resistance in candida: Candida responds to glucose by switching on the stress response – it becomes resistant to environment that our immune cells would create against it. This was shown by research done by scientists from UK, published in 2009.
Glucose intolerance and candida infections
Glucose intolerance is having higher amounts of glucose in your blood than is normal after intake of sugar. A study published in 2002 by researchers from Belgium highlighted that women suffering from chronic vaginal candidiasis were distinctly more intolerant to glucose (without being diabetic) as compared to women who did not have the infection. This could possibly mean that if you are slightly more glucose intolerant (even though you are not a diabetic) then your risk for developing vaginal candida infections is higher if you take more sugar.
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On the other hand, a study by researchers from Sweden showed that there was no significant difference in the vaginal glucose levels between women with or without vaginal candida infection. They also did not find significant difference in their blood glucose levels after intake of sugar.
These two studies do sound conflicting at the first instance. However, we must note that the second study measured blood glucose only after 2 hours, whereas the study by Belgian scientists showed significant difference only 30-60 mins after intake of sugar. It is also important to note here that the vaginal candidiasis does not necessarily originate at the vagina – there is a high likelihood of transfer of candida from the bowels to the vagina due to the close proximity of vagina and anus (which is also why it is recommended that, to avoid vaginal infections, women wipe or wash themselves clean in the direction from vagina to anus and not the other way round). Thus, if you have the infective form of candida in your gut, it could get access to the vaginal tissues if not enough care is taken. It does not take time for candida to adapt to different environments and you could be especially vulnerable if your normal microbial balance in the vagina is already disturbed.
Sugar cravings and candida
Sugar cravings can be due to many reasons – low-blood sugar, high-blood sugar, pregnancy, stress, diabetes, menstruation, hormonal imbalance, nutritional deficiencies, sugar addiction etc. – there is a scientific evidence for each of these. Although a high-sugar diet (possibly also due to sugar cravings) may cause you to get candida infections, there is no scientific evidence so far that candida infections can fuel your sugar cravings. It is too simplistic to say that candida lives on sugar and that is why it can cause you to have sugar cravings. As we have learnt, candida can survive and grow on very small amounts of glucose and it can use various other types of fermentable (glucose, fructose, galactose) and non-fermentable (amino acids, organic acids like lactic acid) carbohydrates.
Caution with artificial sweeteners
We are so used to sugar in our food that the mere thought of having to cut down on sugars can be a horrifying thought. Knowing that taking too much sugar can cause many metabolic issues, people turn to artificial sweeteners. They think that a simple replacement of sugars with these sweeteners can be a simple solution. However, there is some evidence that artificial sweeteners by themselves can make you glucose intolerant as they cannot be digested and therefore interact directly with the gut bacteria. A study from 2014 by scientists from Israel showed that artificial sweeteners quickly caused changes in gut bacteria in some people. The gut bacteria changed to the type of bacteria that are also seen in people with obesity. These bacteria also cause glucose intolerance and glucose intolerance directly means higher susceptibility to candida infections.
Now what this means is that there are some people who can tolerate artificial sweeteners and there are some who can’t. What this means for you as someone already having issues with candida is that you should be extra careful while taking anything with artificial sweeteners. You would not want to disturb your gut microbes more than they already are.
Reducing sugar intake when you are craving for it
The more sugar you eat, the more you will crave it. Cut down your sugar intake slowly. As you cut down on sugar, your cravings will reduce. Here are a few simple pointers to how you can reduce your added sugar intake:
- Cut down on added sugars like those in fizzy drinks.
- Read labels on different products for added sugar. Anything that has added sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, molasses, hydrolysed starch, invert sugar, corn syrup, honey should be avoided.
- Switch to no added sugar cereals like plain porridge, plain whole wheat cereal. After 2-3 weeks on candida diet you can add fresh fruit to the plain cereal for sweetness
- Use wholemeal bread.
- Eat fresh home cooked food – these will not have any hidden added sugars like in ready-made soups and sauces and ready meals. Don’t add sugar to food.
- Have healthier snack options: rice cakes with avocado, nuts, homemade popcorn etc.
- Avoid fruit juice. Fruit juice is high in sugar. It is better to eat a fruit (after2-3 weeks of candida diet).
- Make rules about dessert.
- Don’t skip meals
- Have a balanced diet. Include vitamins and omega oils in your diet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can candida cause sugar cravings?
There is no evidence that candida can cause sugar cravings. However sugar craving could be a symptom. Eric did a case study which you can watch below.
Can eating too much sugar cause candida/can sugar cause candida?
Yes, there is evidence that in some people eating too much sugar can cause candida infections.
Can I chew sugarless gum on candida diet?
No, we do not recommend that you chew sugar free gum on candida diet as it contains artificial sweeteners. The reasons are mentioned in details in the article above.
Can I eat sugar free chocolate on candida diet?
No, we do not recommend that you eat sugar free chocolate on candida diet as it contains artificial sweeteners. The reasons are mentioned in details in the article above.
Can I have sugar free jello on candida diet?
No, we do not recommend that you have sugar free jello on candida diet as it contains artificial sweeteners. The reasons are mentioned in details in the article above.
Can I have coconut sugar on candida diet?
Sugar of any kind is not recommended on candida diet.
How long can candida survive without sugar?
Eric will be doing a video to answer this very question in the near future.
What is a good substitute for sugar if I am on candida diet?
Unfortunately, there is no good substitute for sugar when on candida diet.
Can I ever eat sugar again if I have candida or got it treated?
Yes, you can have sugar again once you have got the candida infection treated. Moderate amounts of sugar are generally fine. However, you must remember that you are perhaps more susceptible to candida compared to other people and so you should try to have less sugar even after you are cured.
Is cane sugar better?
No, cane sugar is not better than any other sugar.
Can I eat low sugar fruit on candida diet?
Yes, you can eat fresh organic whole fruit on candida diet, but only after 2-3 weeks after starting the candida diet.
Is palm sugar good?
No, palm sugar is not better than any other sugar when you are trying to fight candida.
Does candida feeds on sugar?
Yes, it does.
Is natural or raw sugar acceptable?
No, it is not.
What is sugar assimilation test?
Sugar assimilation test is used to find out whether certain yeast can utilize different sugars to fulfil their carbon and nitrogen requirement. For example, Candida albicans can utilize glucose, maltose, galactose, sucrose (although some strains cannot); and cannot utilize lactose, raffinose, D-arabinose.
This is one of the tests used to find out exactly which species is causing the infection, as every species of yeast has its own sugar assimilation profile.
Sugar and metabolism, are they connected?
Our body needs energy for activity. The processes of our body to obtain and use energy are together known as our metabolism. We get energy from food. A healthy diet is able to provide the body with most of its energy needs. During digestion, the food is broken down into sugars, fats and their components, proteins and their building blocks etc. These are then transported to all the cells in our body via the blood vessels. Insulin helps the cells to absorb sugar from blood stream. Sugar is one of the main sources of energy, but too much or too little sugar in the cells can be harmful – so this is balanced by producing insulin when the cells need sugar and another hormone glucagon when they don’t. Glucagon converts the sugar to glycogen and stores it in the liver for a day when no sugar is available. When no sugar is available, the stored fat is broken down to provide energy.
When one takes refined sugars, it is broken down too quickly and the blood sugar levels rise too high. This leads the pancreas to produce large amount of insulin. This can remove sugar suddenly causing low-blood sugar because of which the liver suddenly has to produce glucose from glycogen.
If these sudden surges happen a lot (like when one eats too much sugar), the sugar control mechanism wears out and can lead to uncontrolled sugar levels in the blood and injury to pancreas.
On the other hand, completely restricting carbohydrates and sugars in the diet causes your body to use the stored fat and then protein for energy. A low carbohydrate diet can affect your thyroid function. A 1985 study found that when one is on a low carbohydrate diet, replacing the carbohydrates with polyunsaturated fat resulted in lower insulin response and lesser sudden decrease in blood glucose.
It is therefore not good to totally restrict all carbohydrates in your diet. Overdoing anything is bad for the body. There is no alternative to a good balanced diet.
What are sugar withdrawal symptoms?
Excessive sugar intake can lead to sugar addiction. Thus when you stop taking sugar, you can have withdrawal symptoms which are similar to withdrawal symptoms for drugs. The most common symptom of sugar withdrawal is craving for sugar or carbohydrate rich food. The best way to reduce your sugar intake is to gradually taper your sugar consumption. Going cold turkey when you have been binging on sugar for years can give stronger withdrawal symptoms like dip in mood with more irritability and anger or low grade depression. Anxiety is another symptom that can occur – this is because sugar influences dopamine levels and activity. Some people can feel dizzy when they stop taking sugar. Some people may get withdrawal headaches.
Scientific evidence of sugar withdrawals has been obtained in rats. A recent study from Brazil also found that increase in impulsive behaviour is another sugar withdrawal symptom in rats.
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Can I get candida without sugar?
Yes, you can. If there is an imbalance in the ecosystem of your body, you can get candida even if you are not taking too much sugar. Candida can grow and become invasive on very low amounts of sugar as well. So, while having too much sugar increases your risk of getting candida infection, not having it does not protect you against it if there are other imbalances in your body due to some other reasons.
How long to avoid sugar to kill candida?
Highly concentrated forms of sugar (in sugar or dried fruit form) should be cut off from your diet for several months. The duration will vary from person to person depending on the level of your yeast infection. The WHO recommends that a normal person cut down the total sugar intake to not more than 25g (6 teaspoons) per day for additional health benefits. So, once you are cured, keeping well under this limit would be beneficial.
How many grams of sugar a day on candida diet?
Absolutely no sugar of any kind is recommended when on candida diet. Incorporate Canxida remove and restore in your diet if you are following candida crusher diet.
Please let me know if there is anything else that I missed to cover.