Is sugar making you sick?

How is sugar impacting your candida overgrowth?

When I was struggling with monthly yeast infections, not once did any doctor ask me, “what are you eating?” or talk to me about how much sugar was in my diet. It’s not that I had an “unhealthy” diet overall, but I would definitely say that I’ve always had a sweet tooth. It wasn’t until I began doing my own research that I learned about the connection between sugar and candida overgrowth. 

Everyone has the bacteria candida albicans in their body (specifically in the digestive tract/gut), but the problem is when regular growth turns into an overgrowth of candida, called candidiasis. 

Though Candida overgrowth may be a result of a leaky gut, a weakened immune system, or an absence of the “good bacteria” that usually keep Candida in check, adding sugar to any of these conditions is essentially throwing fuel on the fire. 

The Candida/Sugar Connection

One of the biggest things I learned along my candida-fighting journey is that sugar cravings are actually A SIGN of candida overgrowth. 

Yep, right along with yeast infections, depression, anxiety, thrush, skin irritation, bloating, gas, brain fog and myraid other symptoms — just the fact that you are craving sugar could be a sign that you have an imbalance (called “dysbiosis”) in your gut. 

Candida thrives on sugar. When you have an overgrowth of candida albicans, your body craves sugar as a way to continue to “feed” the candida. Sugar helps candida move from a pesky bacteria into a full on fungal overgrowth. Basically, candida is a selfish jerk who is fighting to feed itself and keep growing — all at the expense of your health. If you want to kill the candida, the first step is to STOP feeding it. How do we do that? Kick the sugar habit. 

One of the biggest lessons I learned through studying Integrative Nutrition is that “If given half a chance, your body will heal itself, by itself.” So, if you think your body is experiencing an overgrowth of candida, why not give yourself half a chance to heal itself, by removing the food that is likely feeding it and keeping you sick?

What should be avoided?

If you’re at the start of your own candida-fighting journey, check out my FREE Candida Diet Checklist, which gives a snapshot of the things that feed or help to heal candida. If you want to learn a bit more about the WHY behind the foods to avoid, lifestyle changes that will support your healing, or if you want some easy, delicious recipes to try, make sure to check out my Candida Diet Survival Guide. But here’s a quick snapshot of things to avoid:

  • Refined sugar
  • Condiments (ie: ketchup which is very high in sugar)
  • “Low fat” things like yogurt which often have a lot of sugar in them
  • Fruits with a high glycemic index
  • Sugar alternatives like honey, maple syrup, agave
  • Drinks that contain a lot of sugar, including soda and fruit juices
  • Refined carbohydrates as they are higher in sugar

So you’ve managed to cut the sugar out. What’s next?

Coping with sugar withdrawal:

Sugar affects our brains similarly to a drug. So removing it from our diet can create similar withdrawal symptoms.

  • Signs of a sugar withdrawal: Intense cravings, a lack of energy, anxiety, nausea, headaches, insomnia,chills, gas and bloating.
  • How to fight it: Make sure to drink a LOT of water! Keep in mind that it takes at least 28 days to break an addiction, but if you can get through even 3 days of no sugar, you are well on your way and will start to feel so much better soon! If you start to feel a sugar craving come on, try to take a moment to think about why you may be craving it — are you bored, hungry, tired, low energy? And try to use an alternative in its place (for example, if you crave chocolate, you might actually need more magnesium). Also try grounding & breathing exercises to help the craving pass. 

Is cutting sugar right for you?

The first question I almost always get from people when I tell them they may want to remove sugar from their diet, is “for how long??” or I hear “I can’t cut sugar out! It’s the one pleasure I allow myself!” This answer is obviously different for everyone, because of bio-individuality. Everybody is different, and every body will respond to adding or cutting sugar from a diet differently. You need to listen to your own body. I personally followed a very strict diet for 60 days with no refined sugars or carbs and very low natural sugars, and then followed a very low-sugar diet for months afterward. I’ve learned that for my body, a low-sugar diet in general is best for me. And if I notice that I start really craving sweets (specifically chocolate chip cookies — my Achilles heal!), I know that my body is likely experiencing a dysbiosis and it’s probably time to cut back on the sugar again. 

Even if you’re not fighting a candida overgrowth, cutting or limiting your sugar intake could be highly beneficial. A diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates or sugar alternatives may also be contributing to chronic inflammation in your body. Sugar intake and inflammation are linked to so many health issues–from diabetes to cancer, thyroid issues, heart disease, obesity, IBD and more. 

Have you cut sugar from your diet? Share what you’ve learned on your own sugar-free journey below! If you haven’t yet, are you ready to take the plunge?

*Please note: I am not a medical doctor and am not providing medical advice or diagnosis. I am providing information based simply on my own experience and my training as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. If you are planning to make any drastic changes to your diet or lifestyle, you should always consult your own medical doctor.

Some references for this post:

https://www.verywellhealth.com/thyroid-patients-should-avoid-artificial-sweeteners-3233020

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sugar-and-inflammation#section3