Our Need for Choline; Reconsider the Egg

Choline is a critical nutrient for our health, but many people are deficient in it. It might just be time to reconsider eggs, a natural source of choline, in our diets.

— Tieraona Low Dog, M.D.

Choline doesn’t get a lot of press, but just like the nutrients, we hear a lot about (vitamin C, iron, and folic acid) it is vitally important to our health. Essential for helping to maintain memory, cognition and muscle control, fend off fatty liver disease, and ensuring proper development in the womb, our need for choline begins even before we are born.

Choline and Pregnancy

Studies suggest that choline may be a very important partner for folic acid (another nutrient essential in prenatal nutrition) in reducing the risk of birth defects, such as spina bifida. Both folic acid and choline are important for the closure of the neural tube during the early weeks of pregnancy, setting the stage for the proper development of the spinal cord and brain.

Choline, like omega 3 fatty acids, also appears to give the brain a boost during the third trimester of pregnancy, enhancing the ability of the child to learn and retain information. But when it comes to choline in pregnancy, the area that intrigues me the most is the possibility that this nutrient helps protect the baby from maternal stress, actually changing the expression of epigenetic markers associated with the regulation of stress hormones in the developing baby. When babies are subjected to high maternal levels of stress hormones, it can increase the risk of preterm birth and likelihood of depression, anxiety, hypertension, and diabetes later in the child’s life. While it is too soon to know for certain, ensuring adequate choline intake during pregnancy may offer the child a lifelong edge against stress driven disorders. Unfortunately, studies show that many pregnant women do not meet the RDA of 450 mg per day of choline. And if you are breastfeeding your baby, the RDA is 550 mg per day!

Choline and Liver Health

Our dependence on choline, however, is really just getting started after we are ushered into the world. Once the fats and cholesterol we’ve consumed in our diet have made their way to the liver, they get repackaged in the form of very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) and carried off to other parts of the body for use. However, choline is needed to produce VLDL. Without adequate choline, fats build up in the liver, leading to a condition known as the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD. It is estimated that roughly 1 in 5 American adults have NAFLD, which can lead to cirrhosis and even liver cancer. Treatment is possible but your best bet for liver health is definitely prevention.

Where to Find Choline

So where to get this relatively unknown yet vital micronutrient? Fortunately, choline is surprisingly easy to add to the diet. Specifically beef, wheat germ, scallops, salmon, chicken, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, peanuts, and milk all contain choline, but the goldmine source is eggs, which contain a choline-rich yolk center. Many of you know I raise my own chickens and I love enjoying their free-range, omega 3-rich eggs. One whole egg contains about 30-40% of the recommended daily intake of 425mg of choline per day for adult women, and there is as much choline in one egg as there is in a whole pound of cauliflower! Famous for being on the “on this list, off the list” health guidance, in my opinion, the egg has gotten a bad rap. Knowing what we know about choline’s lifelong benefits for our bodies, I think it’s time we put eggs back on the menu.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19593156 http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/choline FASEB J. 2012 Aug; 26(8):3563-74. Lazo M, et al. Am J Epidemiol 2013; 178(1):38-45.

Comment:

From Harvard School of Public Health, “A solid body of research shows that for most people, cholesterol in food has a much smaller effect on blood levels of total cholesterol and harmful LDL cholesterol than does the mix of fats in the diet. Recent research has shown that moderate egg consumption—up to one a day—does not increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals and can be part of a healthy diet.” And the US government is considering dropping its recommendation to limit cholesterol in the diet, as many other European countries have. I would say that the jury is not completely in when it comes to those who already have established heart disease and diabetes. If you fall into one of those categories, it still might be wise to limit egg yolks to 3-4 per week.

The Ultimate Candida Diet Program

Ten years ago, few people knew about the significance of candida overgrowth, let alone the health benefits of embarking on a candida diet program. But today, thanks to new attitudes on the detriments of excess sugar consumption, and a growing interest in natural health and nutrition, more and more people are asking about diet as a way to cleanse candida. Here we’ll explain everything you need to know about candida and candida diets so you can determine if a candida diet is right for you.

What Is Candida?

Candida is a type of fungus (a yeast to be exact) that resides in your body’s microbiome—which includes the intestinal tract, skin, mucosa, and genitals. There are many strains of candida, but the most common is Candida albicans.

Candida is nothing new—nor is it necessarily something to be feared. Candida is not a “bad” thing in and of itself. In fact, every living person is harboring multiple strains of candida at all times. Candida becomes an issue when it overgrows and crowds out other beneficial microbes. When this happens, it disrupts the balance of beneficial bacteria, fungus, and yeasts in your gut microbiota, resulting in a slew of symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

What Causes Candida Overgrowth?

The main factors that lead to candida yeast overgrowth include:

  • A weak immune system
  • Antibiotic use
  • Steroid use
  • Chronic stress
  • Overconsumption of sugar and starches
  • Overconsumption of alcohol
  • Diabetes
  • Surgery and time spent in an intensive care unit.
  • Use of the birth control pill

Common Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth in Men and Women

Sugar cravings are the most common symptom of candida overgrowth, and the reason is that sugars and refined starches(AKA carbohydrates) are candida’s preferred source of fuel. Other common symptoms include:

  • Fungal infections of the skin, throat, esophagus, and blood
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Chronic yeast infections
  • Mood swings and mental health issues (due to the disturbance of the gut bacteria)
  • Weakened immune system
  • Psoriasis and eczema

The Candida Diet Plan: Your Best Defense Against Candida Overgrowth

The best natural way to overcome candida overgrowth and restore balance is to abide by a candida diet plan coupled with specific natural remedies. The candida diet is a simple, sugar elimination diet that restricts sugars, starches, and a few other foods, while still offering a great variety to choose from.

The candida diet works by “starving” the excess candida and taking away their primary food sources (namely sugars), while simultaneously rebuilding your gut microbiota with nourishing, probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods. Although you won’t go hungry on this diet, there are some foods that you’ll need to avoid. Let’s take a look at some of those foods.

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The Candida Diet Plan Part 1: Foods to Avoid

Though there is much to be said about bending the rules when it comes to traditional “dieting” (a practice I don’t recommend), in a candida diet these rules must be followed to achieve results. When you’re done with the diet and your candida is in check, you can go back enjoying a more flexible eating routine.

1. All Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

Since sugar is candida’s preferred food source, removing sugar is the most vital key to your success. The same goes for artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are not allowed as they often contain harmful chemicals or allergens. They have been linked to a slew of health issues including weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. The list of sugars and artificial sweeteners to avoid includes:

  • All artificial sweeteners, including sugar alcohols
  • Barley malt
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Date sugar
  • Honey (raw or otherwise, which I normally recommend, but not when it comes to candida)
  • Maple sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado sugar
  • Palm syrup
  • Panela sugar
  • Rapadura sugar
  • Sucanat
  • Sugar-containing foods including sauces, beverages, etc.
  • Tapioca syrup
  • Turbinado sugar
  • White sugar

2. Gluten and Gluten-Containing Grains

Though some experts recommend removing all grains while on a candida cleanse, I allow gluten-free grains because of their nutritional value. The gluten-containing grains to avoid include:

  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Durum
  • Einkorn
  • Kamut
  • Oats (unless they’re gluten-free)
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Teff
  • Triticale
  • White and whole wheat

Some grains are approved for the candida diet, and we’ll cover those later on. Additionally, watch out for products that contain gluten, such as soy sauce, cereals, prepared and packaged sauces, and other packaged goods. Look for labels that indicate the product is gluten-free.

3. Refined Vegetable Oils

Though fats do not feed candida, the following types of fat are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids, when consumed in excess, can cause inflammation which has been shown to irritate the digestive tract and delay healing, leading to more candida overgrowth. The following processed, highly refined oils should be avoided while on the candida diet (if not all the time):

  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Hydrogenated fats or partially hydrogenated fats
  • Margarine or fake butter spreads
  • Peanut oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Walnut oil

4. Non-Cultured Dairy Products

Dairy products, including milk, cream, and cheese, contain the milk sugar known as lactose, another food source for candida. I recommend staying away from most dairy during this cleanse, and in general. However, there are some allowable dairy products on this diet for those without dairy sensitivities which I’ll cover in another section.

5. Alcohol

Alcohol contributes to candida overgrowth and is therefore not allowed on the candida diet.

6. Peanuts, Cashews, Pecans, Walnuts, or Pistachios

Though other nuts are allowed on the program, these five are known to contain molds and fungus which can exacerbate candida.

7. Coffee

Since coffee can irritate the gut lining it is best to eliminate it from your diet. However, if one cup of coffee a day (without sugar or cream) is enough to keep you going on this diet, go ahead and have it with the goal of phasing it out week-by-week. Keep in mind that once you get through that first week or two, you will have gained back so much energy you likely won’t miss the coffee. If you’re ready to go cold-turkey, we’ll cover some alternatives in the next section.

The Candida Diet Plan Part 2: Allowed Food

Now that the “can’t” foods are out of the way, let’s get to the good news: what you can eat on the candida diet.

1. Gut-Supporting Superfoods

Success in your candida diet is as much about what you take out of your diet as what you put back in your body. The following fermented foods will help replenish your microbiome with good bacteria in the form of probiotics and prebiotics:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Cultured vegetables
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Naturally fermented, non-alcoholic beverages
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Miso
  • Beet kvass

2. Gluten-Free Grains

As mentioned above, certain gluten-free grains are allowed because they contain nutrients, protein, and fiber, which will keep your colon moving.

Look for these gluten-free grains flours in the gluten-free aisle of the grocery store:

  • Quinoa (whole grain and flour)
  • Millet (whole grain and flour)
  • Buckwheat (whole grain and flour)
  • Tapioca flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Almond meal (though not a grain, I am listing it here as it is a great grain alternative for breading, baking, etc.)
  • Amaranth (whole grain and flour)

3. Healthy Fats and Oils

Despite their controversial reputation, new research has confirmed healthy fats are not the enemy and play an essential role in keeping us full, synthesizing key vitamins, and keeping our hormones in balance.

Thus, you may enjoy the following healthy fats on the candida diet:

  • Avocado oil
  • Avocados
  • Butter (preferably organic, pasture-raised butter)
  • Coconut oil (which contains anti-fungal properties and has been shown effective against Candida)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Ghee
  • Omega-3 rich oils like fish oil, krill oil, and evening primrose oil

4. Vegetables

You can enjoy unlimited amounts of fresh vegetables while on the program. While some programs recommend staying away from starchy vegetables, I allow them as they contain a wealth of nutrients and fiber and are alkalizing to your system. Don’t forget about sea vegetables, which are rich in minerals and iodine.

5. Fruit

Though there is some debate over whether fruit should be included on the candida diet, I wholeheartedly recommend consuming fruit while on the candida diet, provided you eat it in conjunction with your body’s biological rhythms.

By that, I mean that fruit should be eaten by itself in its whole, fresh state (do not combine it with other non-fruit foods), and wait thirty minutes to one hour before eating anything else.

This is important because consuming fruit sugar alone causes it to alkalize your bodily fluids while providing essential nutrients, which helps kill candida overgrowth. Conversely, if fruit is consumed with other foods, such as starches or proteins, it turns to glucose which feeds candida.

In a nutshell: fresh, whole fruit eaten by itself in the morning is anti-candida; fruit eaten with other foods feeds candida. Be sure to avoid fruit juice, canned fruit (which typically has added sugar), and dried fruit (which have a concentrated sugar content).

6. Healthy Proteins

Protein provides the building blocks for growth and repair and is therefore important while on the candida diet. The key with protein is choosing quality over quantity. I prefer vegan sources of protein. Beans and legumes are allowed (except for peanuts, which are a legume). However, pay attention to how your body feels as the sugars found in beans can feed in some cases candida, especially in the early stages.

If this is an issue, substitute other high-protein foods like quinoa, millet, hemp protein powder, nuts and seeds, and cultured soy products like tempeh (since the culturing breaks down sugars).

If you choose to eat meat, consume only non-processed, organic, grass-fed sources, such as grass-fed red meats (beef, bison, etc.), chicken, turkey, organic eggs, and wild-caught, low-mercury fish like wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies, and herring.

7. Dairy and Milk Products

Though I recommend avoiding most dairy products while on the candida diet, cultured organic dairy products (ideally from pasture-raised cows, goats, or sheep) are allowed, as the culturing process naturally reduces the milk sugar, lactose while adding probiotic value.

Non-dairy milk products are also allowed (except cashew milk and soy milk), provided they are unsweetened:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Cultured butter
  • Cultured cheeses
  • Unsweetened coconut milk
  • Unsweetened almond milk
  • Unsweetened hemp milk

8. Nuts and Seeds

Enjoy all nuts and seeds, preferably raw, soaked, or sprouted, except for peanuts, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios which commonly contain mold and fungus. Nut butters are fine, provided they do not contain any added sugars. Remember that chia and hemp seeds are a great source of healthy fats and protein.

9. Beverages and Coffee Substitutes

Staying hydrated is one of the key components for success when you’re following the candida diet. Aim for half your weight in ounces per day to speed elimination and promote efficient cleansing. You can also add a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar to the water to help alkalize the body and promote healthy detox.

Replace alcoholic beverages with probiotic-rich beverages like kombucha or kefir water. Again, water should be the main thing you consume but for a little variety, try unsweetened cranberry juice mixed with water and a bit of stevia or homemade stevia lemonade. Just mix the juice of 1 lemon or lime with 8 ounces of water and stevia to taste.

In place of coffee, try green tea or yerba mate, which contains a little caffeine and loads of antioxidants. Chicory coffee is another popular coffee substitute. A lot of people also enjoy herbal teas. Peppermint and nettle provide a natural, refreshing boost, while Pau d’arco, cinnamon, and turmeric teas will help support normal candida balance.

How Long Should You Follow the Candida Diet?

How long you should follow the candida diet depends on your symptoms, health history, the severity of the candida overgrowth and how faithfully you follow the diet and supplement recommendations.

The general recommendation is one-month minimum, then slowly reintroduce foods and see how your body reacts. If your issues flare up again, go back on the diet for another two to four weeks or consult your healthcare practitioner.

How to Maintain Candida Balance for Life

Since it exists naturally in our bodies, candida is always going to be part of our lives. The key to living with it healthfully is to prevent overgrowth from happening in the first place.

  • Avoid antibiotics as much as possible, and if you must take them go on the candida diet afterward and take plenty of probiotics and prebiotics
  • Eat a sensible diet that’s low in sugar, refined grains, and processed foods
  • Nurture your gut’s bacterial balance by eating probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods regularly
  • Enjoy alcohol in moderation, or, better yet, avoid it entirely
  • Keep your stress levels in check
  • Get enough sleep
  • Nurture your immune system

Have you used diet to remedy a candida balance? What tips and insight can you provide? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.