A Carbohydrate Is A Carbohydrate Is A Sugar. Except When it’s Not.

I have been eating a no sugar, very low carbohydrate diet for four and a half years because of an overabundance of Candida.  When I first started this diet, I didn’t know anyone else with Candida who was eating like me: whole, unprocessed foods, mostly green vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy fats like coconut and olive oil and protein from healthy animals like eggs, cheese and bacon.   If you are diabetic or trying to eat a low glycemic diet, this is good information for you as well.  And frankly, when you think about it, there are essential fatty acids (fat) and essential amino acids (proteins) that we need to eat to survive but there is no such thing as an essential sugar or an essential carbohydrate.  More food for thought like that can be found in the bestselling bookWhy We Get Fat and What To Do About It’ by Gary Taubes. 

Today, this low sugar, low carbohydrate way of eating is getting more and more popular- it’s the perfect diet for diabetics, the book Wheat Belly’ is a groundbreaking top seller and, unfortunately, because of our typical American diet and lifestyle, more and more people are discovering that they too have an abundance of Candida.  Candida, a type of yeast, lives in all of our bodies and can get out of balance for a number of reasons: stress, anti biotic and prescription drug use, eating too many refined carbohydrates and sugars, hormonal birth control methods and more.  So, here’s some information about the Candida diet which has broad spectrum applications.

When you first start out on the Candida Diet the most important thing to remember is that a carbohydrate, be it from a whole grain, a gluten-free baked thingie or a potato, will be broken down in your digestive system into simple sugars.  Candida is a type of yeast that feeds off of sugars and it’s not picky.  It does not care if its sugar comes from a whole food source like brown rice or from a hostess cupcake.  You must remember: a carbohydrate is just a complex sugar.  Likewise, when you are in a health crisis, a sugar is a sugar: honey comes from a natural source and has immune boosting properties but it will feed the yeast just as well as cane sugar, corn syrup or fruits.    All sugar sources are sugars, no matter where they come from.  In order to reduce the amount of Candida in your body and your digestive system, you’ve got to stop feeding it the sugars it needs to survive in abundance.  No matter how you got sick: antibiotics destroyed your internal rainforest, birth control pills wacked out your hormone balance, a junk diet high in carbohydrates and sugars, too much stress not enough sleep-  they way back to balance involves nourishing your body while starving the excess yeast.

This is the idea behind the Candida Diet: eat foods that feed your body, avoid foods that feed the yeast until the Candida is back to normal levels, your digestive system has healed and you feel healthy and strong again. Then, you move beyond the crisis stage.  You even move beyond the maintenance stage- you feel healthy, your stomach isn’t bloated, you have energy, you want to eat a wider variety of foods.  And now here’s where things can get tricky: not all sugars or carbohydrates were created equally.   The sugars mother nature made for us to eat are just one element of  foods that contain other essentials like vitamins, minerals, fiber and anti oxidants.  Fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole gains have a very different effect on your body then say, fruit roll ups, tater tots and wheat pasta.

Your body is smart; it can tell the difference between honey or fruit (healthy, whole foods) and highly processed crap like soy nuggets and corn sugars- I hate those pro corn syrup ads, what a bunch of bull! For example, I sometimes eat dark chocolate which usually has a bit of cane sugar as a sweetener.  After eating a few pieces of what I thought was high quality chocolate I got a nearly immediate negative reaction: stomach bloating and itchy skin.  I realized I hadn’t read the ingredients, turns out there was corn syrup in it!  The other variety, of the same brand, but without the corn syrup, had never bothered me like that.  Once you have gone to such lengths to clean up your diet and heal your body there is little chance that you will be able to tolerate chemicals, preservatives, overly processed sugars or carbohydrates, and good riddance!  But how and what should you add back in?

Complex carbohydrates are actually easier to add back in than any other form of sugar.  I’m not a scientist or a biologist but I do know that complex carbohydrates break down slowly over time during digestion.  So, unlike the jolt you get from a handful of grapes, a serving of quinoa will be broken down slowly, giving your body time to deal with small amounts of sugar at a time.  I’d say that beans and quinoa are good foods to start with since they have a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fiber.  And they are not going to send your blood sugar through the roof like potatoes or wheat bread will.

What you add back in and in what quantities will also be determined by how you got sick in the first place.  I had been eating refined carbohydrates, candy and overly processed soy foods (along with other lifestyle factors) right up until I got so sick I couldn’t eat much of anything.  I am still, after four and a half years on the Candida diet, very sensitive to anything processed, especially wheat and simple sugars.  I over dosed on these strong substances and now my body has a very strong, survivalist reaction to anything like the foods I ate that made me so sick in the first place.  If your Candida overabundance is due to too many antibiotics or hormonal birth control, chances are you will have to avoid those substances and eat a moderately low sugar diet in order to maintain a healthy balance.  Figure out what your trigger is so that you can replace it with something healthy for you!

Your body is looking out for you and it wants nothing more than to maintain a healthy balance.  Your body will make the best out of what you eat and how you live your life but at a certain point, if you are abusing yourself with unhealthy lifestyle choices or punishing yourself with excessive use of drugs: sugar, wheat, alcohol, prescriptions or worse, eventually your body will begin to put up a fight that will be impossible to ignore!  Not a fight against you but a fight for survival against these substances that, in abundance, can be incredibly toxic.  So listen to the feedback you get from your body.  The more you listen, the more you know and the better you will look and feel!  It can be a long road, but not always, back to a healthy balance and you will learn a tremendous amount of fascinating things about yourself along the way.  When it’s time to add things back into your diet, go slowly, one food at a time, listening carefully, and you’ll be glad that you did.