Q. “I've been told I have candida and I've been given quite a strict diet, including no yeast, sugar, dairy and processed foods. I feel I could be sacrificing beneficial foods unnecessarily. Is there a test for candida? And will this diet help?”
(Name not supplied)
A. The diet you describe is controversial, unproven, and also difficult to follow because it excludes foods containing sugar (including natural sugars such as those found in fruits, milk and yoghurt), yeast (in breads and baked products), and gluten (in a wide range of foods). Some people do report they feel better when they follow this diet, although that is likely to be for reasons other than the avoidance of yeast or sugars.
The diet won't do any harm in the short term, but if you were to follow it for more than a few weeks, you would need to find alternative sources of fibre, calcium, and B vitamins in particular. I wouldn't recommend following this diet for long: a gluten-free diet by itself can be very limiting, and fruits have a wide range of health benefits and there are no alternative sources of their unique phytonutrients.
From the few studies available, it seems there are strains of probiotic bacteria which can be effective in slowing the growth of candida (Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14), but these are not widely available. The probiotic yoghurts and drinks found on the supermarket shelf are different strains. However, they certainly won't do any harm as probiotics may help re-colonise other good bacteria in the gut.
Chronic fatigue syndrome
You may have heard claims that the candida diet can help people with chronic fatigue syndrome. There have in fact been few trials, but a 2008 study published in the UK Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found a low-sugar, low-yeast diet followed for 24 weeks was no better than a standard healthy diet for people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Some people believe intestinal candidiasis is related to fatigue, allergies and poor immunity, and recommend the candida diet as a remedy. However, there is no good science to back up these supposed links and other causes should be investigated.