I have long questioned the naturopathic wisdom put forth since the 80s that promotes the idea that people who have a candida overgrowth should avoid ALL fermented foods, yeasts, and mushrooms. The healthy bacteria and yeasts found in raw fermented foods are known to have benefits to our microbiome. Mushrooms, including tasty ones such as cremini, oyster, and shiitake as well as medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, have many benefits for our immune systems and are one of the best food sources of Vitamin D available. This is something that I have been thinking about for years.
There are at least 70,000 members of the fungus Kingdom (yeasts, molds, etc.). There are at least 78,000 known species of bacteria. To propose that a person with an overgrowth of a single yeast species or a sensitivity to some types of mold needs to avoid all foods containing any of 148,000+ members of these two kingdoms is like saying that no one should ever eat any plants because hemlock is a poison.
Suggesting that a person avoid probiotic bacteria-rich lacto-fermented foods because they have a yeast overgrowth isn’t even logical (they are different Kingdoms entirely). I would suggest that it is not based in fact-based research but in misunderstanding that has become alt-health superstition.
In my acupuncture practice, I have had clients refuse immune-enhancing (and Qi enhancing) medicinal mushrooms such as reishi because they mistakenly believed that they would promote yeast overgrowth simply because they are in the Kingdom of Fungi. Fortunately, I have been able to convince most of my clients that that is unwise with excellent results. One such client, with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and a debilitating respiratory allergy to mold, started to use medicinal mushrooms regularly and turned around a years-long pattern of hospitalization for pneumonia at least twice a year and stopped catching colds 5 or 6 times a year. Even his hyper-sensitivity to environmental molds improved. Another client took my advice and recovered from a serious fungal infection of the lung in record time by taking a formula containing cordyceps, a Chinese medicinal in the fungus family.
Of course, high-sugar foods promote yeast overgrowth and bacterial overgrowth. Of course, an under-active immune system has trouble dealing with these overgrowths. Of course, we need to support digestive health and restore healthy metabolic function. But isn’t one of the ways to support the immune, digestive and hormonal systems through consuming healthy fermented foods in order to add biodiversity to the gut? Suggesting that clients supplement with probiotics while restricting healthy probiotic foods (full of great pre-biotics, too!) doesn’t make sense to me.
While some people have sensitivities to certain fermented foods for reasons besides a yeast overgrowth, and poor gut health often requires more care than just eating fermented foods, I cannot find any good evidence that consuming low-sugar fermented foods such as raw sauerkraut or unsweetened kefir has any pro-candida effects. They are beneficial as long as the person consuming them isn’t otherwise sensitive to the ingredients, such as cabbage or dairy, and isn’t histamine-sensitive. They may need to be added slowly to avoid unpleasant gas as the populations of bacteria in their guts shift. These foods may need to be part of a gut-healing plan. Unless a person has a sensitivity or allergy to mushrooms (and they are all different!) they are a very healthful and delicious food to consume regularly.
What are your experiences with fermented foods or mushrooms?
This article was posted in Allergies
, Herbal Medicine
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