OK, so you might be wondering at this point what a candida cleanse involves — what are the rules of engagement? I’m going to break it down by rules for diet, supplementation and then the logic behind it all. Here we go!
OK, so honestly this diet is actually called the Body Ecology Diet, and is a system developed by a woman named Donna Gates, who has apparently helped thousands of people overcome candidiasis (yeast infections) and autoimmune conditions. She notes that the diet “shows you how to restore and maintain the important “inner ecology” your body needs to function properly and to eliminate or control the symptoms that rob you of the joy of living.”
She wrote a whole book about it that looks like this:
It’s a lot like Whole30 for anyone who’s done that before. The main differences here (to me, a barebones beginner), seem to be that you can eat grains here (provided you don’t eat them with animal protein), plus there are more restrictions on types of nuts and oils you can consume.
From what I understand, the tricky part here is that it’s not black and white, in terms of what you can and cannot consume, as in “no meat” or “no starch vegetables.” It’s more nuanced, as in “meat is OK, but only with non-starchy vegetables and before dinnertime.” A little tricky.
There are also 2 phases of the diet. The below is about phase I, the strictest phase. After all symptoms of candida overgrowth have disappeared, you can reintroduce certain foods. But if you’re here, chances are you’re in Phase I. It’s recommended to do Phase I for 3-4 months (hence, the 90 days).
Simple Rules to Follow
Here are the easiest rules of thumb:
- Eat any kind of meat/fish/eggs with leafy greens, OR
- Eat seeds (except sesame) and/or pseudograins (quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat) with most vegetables (except the starchy ones and the nightshades. Honestly, I would just trash any of the oils that you have lying around that aren’t coconut oil, ghee, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, or olive oil. There’s really no point in tempting yourself.
- Have fun with seasoning! Pretty much everything is OK here except sesame seeds/oil. Think garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, curry, turmeric, rosemary, oregano, basil… this is what will make things fun and not BORING. Oh, and fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi 🙂
Things To Watch Out For
OK yes, there are exceptions to the above rules or just things that are specific and tricky.
- No nightshades. That means no peppers, eggplants, or tomatoes. This is tricky in any kind of Mexican food, because bell peppers and tomatoes are in everything (think salsa, fajitas, every burrito…). Ceviche has peppers. And tomatoes. Thai food is also full of peppers. No curries with tomatoes (spoiler alert: almost all curries have tomatoes). No shakshuka. No tomato sauce. Definitely no pizza (for many reasons, but you probably already knew this one was out).
- No starchy vegetables (in phase I). sweet potatoes, yams, beets, parsnips, mung bean sprouts, mushrooms (cooked shiitakes are OK)
- No pseudograins with meat/fish/eggs. So, no buddha bowls that have quinoa in them if there’s also some sort of animal protein.
- This also means no to most BAKED GOODS, even the keto ones made with monkfruit. Think about it… almost all of them have EGGS. Which is an ANIMAL PROTEIN. No eggs + nuts/seeds. Vegan keto baked goods might be OK… definitely something I’m going to explore 🙂
- No seeds means no sesame seeds which means NO TAHINI. Watch out for the sesame seeds in ALL ASIAN FOOD.
- No legumes – which means no hummus! Get creative with dips and find ones that are NOT made with beans or cashews. It’s hard. A good alternative is Bitchin’ Sauce which is made with almonds. Again, you can have these in Phase II (sparingly).
- No legumes means NO SOY. That means no soybeans, no tamari, and definitely no SOY SAUCE. Again, you can have these in Phase II (sparingly).
Here’s a more comprehensive breakdown of what’s allowed/not:
- Best for anti-candida: dandelion greens, garlic, ginger, oregano, fennel, apple cider vinegar
- All leafy/salad greens (cooked except for lettuce salads — apparently weakened systems struggle to digest raw veggies): spinach, chard, collard greens, kale, leeks, sprouts, mustard greens, escarole, endive etc. Sprouts are cool too.
- All sea vegetables: AMAZING for anti-candida. These go by names like dulse, kombu, arame, hijiki, nori, sea palm, wakame. The Japanese knew WASSAP.
- Squashes: zucchini, yellow squash, spaghetti squash
- Onion-type things: onions, shallots, scallions, chives
- Cruciferous veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, collard greens, arugula, bok choy, kale, watercress, beet greens
- Certain root veggies: carrots, turnips, radishes (those 2 are also cruciferous FYI), jicama
- cucumber, radish, daikon, burdock root, asparagus, bamboo shoots, beleriac, celery, celery root,
- Non-legume “beans”: green beans, lima beans. Yes, they SOUND like legumes but are actually NOT, so they are OK!
- Other veggies I didn’t know how to categorize: fennel, okra, tigernuts (technically a vegetable, even though it has “nut” in the name. Slightly sweet, anti-inflammatoryfull of fiber. My personal fave.)
- Certain starchy vegetables: butternut squash, kabocha squash, delicate squash, acorn squash, red potatoes, sweet corn (mild starch when cooked, non-starch when raw), artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, English peas, water chestnuts. These will be reintroduced in Phase II.
- Certain fruits: lemons, limes, tart cherry juice, pomegranate, cranberry, black currants
- Animal proteins– but only with non-starchy vegetables and preferably only for early meals (breakfast/lunch) – chicken, fish, shellfish, pork, beef, eggs
- Specific grains: buckwheat, amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum, teff. These should be soaked, sprouted, and cooked.
- Almonds, coconut (coconut milk also OK apparently — hurray!)
- Seeds (except sesame): so sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds are all A-OK. Make sure they are raw (NOT ROASTED!) and ideally soak them (I have not been doing this).
- Coconut aminos: these are a great soy sauce substitute (remember, no soy — not even tamari!)
- Certain fats: AVOCADO, animal fat (think bacon fat), coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, ghee, butter, pumpkin seed oil, flax seed oil, hazelnut oil, hemp seed oil, macadamia nut oil, unrefined and raw safflower or sunflower oil. Also allowed but not common: palm oil, cod liver oil
- Fermented foods: kimchi, sauerkraut, coconut kefir/yogurt (no added sugar), raw miso, raw natto (no MSG!)
- Seasonings: salt, pepper, red pepper, all herbs pretty much (basil, cumin, coriander, cardamom, oregano, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, parsley), garlic, ginger, mustard, sea seasonings (kelp stuff), shiso, yuzu, umeboshi (Japanese plum, very tart tasting)
What’s not allowed:
- Fruit (with certain exceptions – listed above): remember that OLIVES are a fruit!
- Nightshades: tomatoes, eggplant, peppers
- Certain starchy vegetables: beets, parsnips, sweet potatoes, yams, russet potatoes, jicama
- Legumes: all beans (black beans, pinto beans, mung beans, chickpeas), lentils, soy (incl. tofu, tempeh), except for green beans, lima beans, and English peas which are NOT actually legumes (even though they sound like it!). In Phase II, you can have legumes that have been soaked overnight.
- Any nuts that could carry mold: peanuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios. From what I’ve been reading though, you MAY be able to have them if you soak them. See here for more.
- Sesame seeds
- All other oils besides the above (e.g. sesame oil, canola oil, soybean oil)
- Nutritional yeast, yeast extracts
And these are pretty straightforward (ya knew you weren’t gonna be able to eat any of this):
- Flour products (baked goods)
- Sugar, candy, soft drinks
- Alcohol (wine, beer, etc.)
- Refined vinegar
- Artificial sweeteners (except stevia and monkfruit)
**NOTE: I realize this list is probably not exhaustive. It’s a work in progress on my part as I’m figuring this out.
- Candida supplements (most important!): Aqua Flora (2 tbsp on empty stomach, 20 min before breakfast), Candex (follow suggested use on bottle, work up to 2 capsules twice daily).
- Fiber Supplements: my gf Jocelyn recommends Natren. I’ve historically used psyllium husk as well.
- Prebiotic: This can just be ground flax seeds mixed in with water, taken with the probiotic!
- Probiotic: Sacchromyces Boullardii — this is a killer probiotic that I’ve taken for years. There’s actually an NIH paper on this if you’re curious to peep.
- Herbs before bed: Pau D’Arco, Chanca d’Piedra, Red Clover. More on these in another post.
Week 1: Start with the Aqua Flora and Candex supplements, taking a probiotic as well. Follow the food rules above — most simply, the non-starchy vegetables with meat and allowed starchy vegetables with allowed grains, nuts and seeds (I’ll post examples of my meals..all super simple, I promise!).
Weeks 2-4: Same as week 1, but start with herbs if experiencing symptoms of detox (take herbs before bed).
Weeks 4-8: Same as previous weeks, but can start adding in starchy vegetables and beans.
Week 8 on: Same as weeks 4-8, but can experiment with different foods if combining alkaline/acidic foods together to balance (again, NOT SURE about this yet. More to come as I get closer).
The general thought behind this is around expansion and contraction, alkaline v. acidic, yin v. yang. The nay on many of the foods in the first phase are that they contain too much sugar (starch breaks down into sugar– why rice is not OK. The sugar feeds candida). Certain nuts can carry mold (peanuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, pine nuts), which is why they are to be avoided. Mung beans also tend to carry mold, as well as most beans, which is why they’re out the first 4-8 weeks.
You start with the diet and just the 2 specific candida products (Aqua Flora and Candex), then start with herbs if you experience detox symptoms (at earliest, week 2).
Apparently, after the gut healing is replenished, you can start to add certain items like the above back in, and balance other meals (alkaline v acidic) to accommodate. I’m not really sure how to do this yet, but hopefully I will learn as I go!
Major thanks to my dear friend Jocelyn for teaching me all about this and providing me with all the candida resources for the cleanse 🙂