I Cut Out Sugar, Carbs & Caffeine For 90 Days & It Wasn't As Bad As You Think
As the health editor at mindbodygreen and someone with a natural curiosity who has worked in wellness and integrative health for years, I've experimented with my fair share of nutrition plans, supplement routines, healing modalities, and alternative therapies.
Some of them have been more challenging to follow than others, but I pride myself on my ability to set a goal and just do it, without cheating or complaining. This philosophy has led me through a five-day fasting-mimicking diet and several doctor-approved detox programs, but when a holistic doctor suggested I try a 90-day candida diet to improve my health, I couldn't help but think, "Wow...90 days? I'm not so sure about that one."
The list of "foods to avoid" while on a candida diet is almost comically long and includes most fruits, starches, all grains, corn and rice, coffee, alcohol, sugars of any kind, some nuts, and pretty much all packaged foods. The idea is to avoid anything that sugar-hungry yeast in your GI tract might like to feed on.
So what can you eat? Essentially, you munch on leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and plenty of protein and healthy fats from foods like olive oil and avocado. You can eat as much as you want and whenever you want, as long as you stick to the approved list of foods. My diet was already very healthy, so I didn't think that cutting out a little bit of sugar, coffee, and a few cocktails a week would be such a huge deal. Boy, was I wrong. The first two weeks of the candida diet felt like going through withdrawal. I was cranky, tired all the time, anxious, achy, and uncomfortable. I almost gave up.
Then, around day 10 or 12, I started feeling like myself again. And then a few days later, I started feeling way better than that. Here are some of the biggest benefits I got from doing the candida diet:
1. Better sleep and groggy-less mornings
I slept like a rock while on this diet and suspect that was due to the lack of stimulants like caffeine and sugar and zero alcohol intake (alcohol can disrupt your sleep). Before the candida diet, I would sleep for nine hours and still wake up groggy. After about two weeks on the plan, I would wake up naturally after seven or eight hours feeling energized and ready to take on the day. I missed the taste of coffee and the ritual of a latte in the morning, but I didn't miss the caffeine boost at all. I didn't need it!
2. Very consistent energy levels (and no 3 p.m. slump)
This could have been a result of better sleep, instead of directly related to the foods I was eating, but my energy during those 90 days was better than ever. I experienced no afternoon grogginess, and I felt like I recovered from my workouts really quickly so I was at the gym more often. This was a lifesaver, because the diet was so restrictive, a lot of my socializing was done at group fitness classes or jogging with friends.
3. A worry-free mind
After the first two weeks on the candida diet—when I wanted to bite everyone's head off and cry all the time—my mood was extremely consistent. I felt light and positive and didn't feel my mind going into worry mode like it sometimes can. I stressed sometimes about packing snacks and making sure I didn't go hungry if I went out with friends, but I didn't find myself worrying for no reason.
4. Better breath
This one surprised me, but a few weeks into the diet I realized that I was waking up without morning breath. It was really strange, but there was just no icky taste or plaque in my mouth in the morning. It sounds strange, but even my tongue looked different—healthier. This was a random benefit but a nice added bonus.
5. No more "hanger"
Before the candida diet, I was the kind of person who constantly carried granola bars around in her purse. I just never knew when I'd be hungry, and I couldn't go that long without food or all of a sudden, I'd be hit with nausea and dizziness. This all changed during this experiment, and I could suddenly go hours without even thinking about food. It's not that I lost my appetite, because I was still hungry, I was just in control over when I ate instead of at the mercy of my plummeting blood sugar.
I'm proud to admit that over those 90 days—three full months—I only fell off the wagon a few times. I had one glass of red wine to be polite at a business meeting and a few cups of decaf coffee here and there. It wasn't easy, but the benefits have been massive, and many of them have lasted well beyond the 90 days (even though I've added back the occasional sweet and cocktail). It's not for the faint of heart, but the candida diet goes down as one of the best things I've ever done for my health.
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