If you seem to get yeast infections way more often than you would like, (and even one seems like too many!), a sugar-free diet may be exactly what you need to keep the yeast infections away.
Research studies have shown that the yeast population in mice will skyrocket (and become infectious), if the mice are fed a high-sugar diet.
Exactly the same thing happens in humans. Unfortunately, most of us in the Western world do eat a diet that is high in refined sugar and simple carbohydrates, which creates the perfect environment for a yeast infection.
What are refined sugars and simple carbohydrates?
All types of sugar (white, brown, powdered, raw, Turbinado, etc.), white flour, corn syrup, maple syrup, and white rice are all examples of simple carbohydrates, and all of them feed yeast. Simple carbohydrates are found in any flour made of grain that has been refined to remove the nutritious germ and high-fiber bran.
Honey is also a simple sugar, but small amounts of honey may be beneficial to the important bacteria in your gut. For this reason, a teaspoon or two of honey every day may actually be good for you.
Many people find their chronic yeast infections clear up when they start eating a sugar-free diet. Others need to stop eating foods made from white flour, too.
These seem to be easy lifestyle changes, but some people do find a sugar-free diet far more difficult than they expect. It isn’t simply a matter of doing without a morning muffin or afternoon candy bar – it requires diligence in reading labels, especially if you eat a lot of processed or prepared foods. Sugar and corn syrup is added to an amazing variety of processed foods.
Another problem is the fact that many people are addicted to sugar, without knowing it. As soon as they do without sugar, even for a few hours, they begin to experience mild withdrawal symptoms or strong sugar cravings. Sugar addiction is far more common than most people realize – it contributes to many different illnesses and conditions, including chronic yeast infections, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
If you do decide to go with a sugar-free diet, you may get a bonus - this one change can help you lose the extra pounds you’re carrying around, since sugar and white flour are full of calories.
Simple sugars and refined carbohydrates have almost no nutritional value at all, so your health is certainly not at risk if you give them up.
White flour, which is used in most commercial breads, pastas and pastries, is almost as inviting to yeast as plain sugar, and has almost as little nutrition. For that reason, it’s wise to avoid both sugar and white flour, at least for a while, if you currently have a yeast infection. Once your current infection has been cured you can then consider cutting down or eliminating these products permanently to keep your yeast infection from coming back.
One reason that a sugar-free diet can help is that eating lots of sugar (as most Americans do, even if they don’t realize it), can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes or a pre-diabetic condition. Hormone changes, like the ones that happen in diabetic patients, can also lead to yeast infections.
One of the most effective things you can do for your long-term health is to grab a good, well-researched book on nutrition and learn as much as you can about maintaining a healthy sugar-free diet. Two of the best books on nutrition (for overall health, and not just yeast infections) are Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, MD and Eat More, Weight Less by Dean Ornish, MD.
If you still aren’t convinced that diet matters, try this little experiment.
Although bakers’ yeast is not invasive and does not cause infections, it can help us understand the conditions that encourage an overgrowth of Candida albicans, which is the form of yeast that does cause infections.
Pour ¼ cup of warm (not hot) water in the bottom of three clear glasses or clean plastic drink bottles. Add a package of bakers’ yeast to each glass and stir.
- Leave one glass with just water and yeast.
- Add a teaspoon of sugar to the second glass.
- Add a teaspoon of white flour to the third glass.
Stir or shake the mixture after these additions, and then leave the glasses in a warm place for ten to 15 minutes.
When you come back you will find the yeast has expanded far higher in the glasses or bottles that contain their favorite foods – sugar and white flour. You can see from this experiment why eating sugar or white flour is not a good idea if you suffer from chronic yeast infections.
Just a note about the difference between white flour and whole wheat flour – the fiber in whole wheat flour cannot be broken down by yeast and the bran on the wheat seed itself has mild anti-fungal properties. For these reasons, bread made with whole wheat flour does not rise as much as white bread, and bread made from whole flour does not encourage an overgrowth of yeast as much as white bread. Whole wheat bread also contains all the nutrients that are lost when the bran and germ of the wheat are removed to make white flour, so it’s much better for you.
Unfortunately, true whole wheat bread is hard to find unless you bake it yourself – many of the “wheat breads” on the market are made of colored white flour, and bread made from true whole wheat flour often contains large quantities of sugar. Until you are free of yeast infections, it may be best to avoid bread, or make your own. And while you’re in the habit of checking labels, be sure to find out how much sugar, corn syrup or glucose is in your favorite processed foods – the information you gain from a bit of diligence can help you reduce your dependence on sugar. If you suffer from chronic yeast infections, you should definitely consider a completely sugar-free diet, at least for a while.