I recently completed a 4-month therapeutic diet to address systemic candida, or candidiasis, a condition I’ve dealt with for years after taking copious amounts of antibiotics and eating a high sugar diet as a young girl. Only in recent years have I learned how to address this condition with diet and for a while I seemed to have things under control. But after a few months of being slightly more liberal with my intake of fruit, red wine and dark chocolate, I could feel that it was time to get serious and I started the anti-candida protocol that I’ve created for my clients.
My protocol is fairly simple – no sugar, alcohol, fruit, grains or starchy foods and lots of organic vegetables with a little clean protein and small amounts of nuts and seeds combined with broths, probiotic foods like sauerkraut, and a few specific supplements. But even as a nutrition expert I found myself wanting to better understand why I was eliminating certain foods and what benefits I was getting from what I was eating, so I turned to the industry expert in candida diets, Donna Gates and her book the Body Ecology Diet™. Donna Gates developed this protocol to combat yeast overgrowth and help restore the body’s “inner ecology” and her book turned out to be a great resource for me. While the protocol was developed specifically to treat candidiasis, it has also been found to benefit the immune system as a whole.
Candidiasis is a systemic fungal infection of candida albicans and it can wreak havoc on the body by overwhelming the immune system and leaving the patient vulnerable to other types of illness and infection such as HIV, herpes, Epstein Barr, chronic fatigue syndrome and cancer. According to The Body Ecology Diet™, we can boost the body’s ability to fight off or prevent these illnesses if we can eradicate any existing candidiasis.
The Body Ecology Diet™ was designed to support the immune system, organs and digestion, starve the yeast, and restore balance to the body’s internal chemistry and microbiome by applying 7 key principles. These principles draw on the wisdom of both ancient and modern medicine and nutrition, including Chinese medicine Ayurveda, macrobiotics, traditional fermented foods and food combining.
The first of these 7 principles is that of expansion and contraction, also known as the Chinese concept of yin and yang. Certain foods are considered yang/contracting while others are yin/expanding. Yin foods are cool and tend to moisten the body, while yang foods are more warm and dry. If one consumes too many yang or contracting foods, the body may become too tight leading to poor circulation, detoxification and elimination. On the other hand, if too many yin or expanding foods are consumed it can make one feel spacey, confused and lacking focus. The goal is to consume a balance of both yin and yang foods and to eat mostly foods that are more balanced in nature.
Maintaining the acid/alkaline pH of the body is the basis of the 2nd principle. This concept has become somewhat controversial in light of recent studies disproving the theory that diet can alter the pH of the blood (1, 2, 3). The Body Ecology Diet™ is based in the belief that our diet determines the pH of all of our bodily fluids and that by eating more alkaline-forming foods we can ensure the ideal, slightly alkaline pH (about 7.4) within the body. These alkaline-forming foods include most vegetables, sea vegetables, herbs, raw seeds (except for sesame), almonds (soaked & sprouted), fermented/cultured vegetables, raw kefir, raw apple cider vinegar, filtered water, lemon, lime, cranberries and blackcurrants (both unsweetened). A few acid-forming foods are also permitted on the diet, including eggs, fish, poultry, beef, buckwheat and unrefined oils (all organic).
Principle 3 of The Body Ecology Diet™ is Uniqueness, meaning that we are all unique individuals and will respond differently to diets, treatments, etc. depending on our individual needs, health, physiology, background and preferences. The importance of listening to one’s body and intuition is emphasized in this principle.
Cleansing is the 4th principle and possibly the most important since this process is the body’s way of ridding itself of toxins, impurities, aging cells and tissues, and waste. Our organs of detoxification (liver, kidneys, lungs, colon), our skin, our urinary tract and even bodily fluids like tears also help to carry away impurities. Disease occurs when those channels of elimination are overwhelmed and the body cannot cleanse itself effectively. During the first 3 months of following The Body Ecology Diet™ people may feel worse before they feel better. This is because the candida produces toxic substances when it dies off which can cause symptoms such as fatigue, flu symptoms, skin rashes, headaches, depression, aches and pains. While this may be unpleasant, it is a sign that your body is eliminating those nasty toxins. It may be tempting to abandon the diet when this happens but this is the most important time to stay the course, and it is necessary to go through this stage in order to heal and feel better. Simple practices like drinking lots of pure water, sweating in a sauna, and colon hydrotherapy can be extremely helpful in alleviating die off symptoms.
The 5th principle is proper food combining. This theory is based on the belief that eating compatible foods at each meal can promote proper digestion, promote fat loss, and increase overall health. This practice is often bypassed in traditional candida diets but it can be extremely effective since it can prevent undigested food from rotting and fermenting in the gut. When food ferments in the gut it produces sugars that provide food for yeast and parasites, thereby worsening the problem and putting additional stress on the immune and digestive systems (I explored this concept in more detail in this article). The basic rules of food combining as outlined in The Body Ecology Diet™ are: 1. Eat fruit alone and on an empty stomach, 2. Always eat protein with non-starchy vegetables and sea vegetables, and 3. Always eat grains or grain-like seeds (amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, millet) and starchy vegetables with non-starchy and/or sea vegetables.
The 80/20 Principle is #6 and it is two-fold. Rule number one of the 80/20 Principle is to eat until your stomach is 80% full, leaving the remaining 20% to do the work of digesting your meal. This can take some time to get dialed in, especially if you’re not particularly in touch with your body’s signals, but once you learn to identify that point at which you are 80% full you will appreciate the benefits of this step. Rule number two is to fill 80% of your plate with vegetables, and the remaining 20% with protein or grains and starchy vegetables. By practicing the 80/20 Principle you will feel less bloated and will most likely enjoy healthier digestion and elimination.
Last but not certainly not least is #7 - the principle of Step by Step. One’s health doesn’t just suddenly deteriorate, it happens step by step in small increments over time in ways that we are often unaware of. The healing process works the same way. If we don’t follow each necessary step to heal and restore our inner ecosystem, we cannot achieve true health and vitality.
The Body Ecology Diet™ first steps to healing are:
- Create a hearty inner ecosystem in the gut and intestines
- Create energy by supporting and nourishing the adrenals and the thyroid
- Eliminate any existing infections, especially fungal infections like candida
In addition, we can help speed the healing process by:
- Be gentle and patient with yourself
- Eliminating stress in every way possible
- Follow the diet exactly
- Eat cleansing foods such as lemons, limes, cultured vegetables, coconut kefir, and raw apple cider vinegar.
- Avoid medications that inhibit the cleansing process
- Make colon cleansing a priority
- Rest during times of cleansing / detoxification
- Use probiotics to increase beneficial bacteria in the gut
Another concept that Donna Gates refers to in The Body Ecology Diet™ is that of the Blood Type Diet, pioneered by Dr. James L. D'Adamo. Dr. Adamo believed he discovered a connection between blood types and dietary requirements, and although there is some research that suggests there is no such connection (4), there are many others who report that eating according to their blood type has been positively life changing. I believe this is a prime example of bio-individuality – what works wonders for one person may have no effect or a negative effect on another. Body Ecology believes that while the blood type theory may help you better understand your body, it is still a work in progress and needs further research and study to prove it’s validity.
In conclusion, The Body Ecology Diet™ can be a very effective way of restoring balance and health to your “inner ecosystem”. But as with any dietary protocol it is important to keep in mind that there is no one size fits all when it comes to nutrition and healing. For example, some people thrive by including certain grain-like seeds in their diet, while others (like me) have more success following a completely grain-free autoimmune paleo style diet. Listen to your instincts, consult your health practitioner, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Chances are with a little guidance, detective work and flexibility you can discover the best approach for your body. As you heal and your body becomes stronger you can enjoy a wider variety of healthful, whole foods but in the meantime, approach any dietary protocol as a fun experiment and do your best to enjoy the process.
The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates with Linda Schatz © 2011 Donna Gates
The Body Ecology Diet by Tess Masters, The Blender Girl
Yin and Yang Healing by Lawrence Wilson, MD
Yin Yang Nutrition by The Healthline Editorial Team, Published on May 1, 2013
The Acid-Alkaline Myth: Part 1 - June 21, 2013 by Chris Kresser
The Acid-Alkaline Myth: Part 2 - June 28, 2013 by Chris Kresser
Nutritional disturbance in acid–base balance and osteoporosis: a hypothesis that disregards the essential homeostatic role of the kidney. Jean-Philippe Bonjour (2013). British Journal of Nutrition, 110, pp 1168-1177.
The Kidney and Acid-Base Regulation by Bruce M. Koeppen - Advances in Physiology Education Published 1 December 2009 Vol. 33 no. 4, 275-281
Examining the Relationship Between Diet-induced Acidosis and Cancer by Ian Forrest Robey - Nutrition & Metabolism 2012, 9:72
Phosphate decreases urine calcium and increases calcium balance: a meta-analysis of the osteoporosis acid-ash diet hypothesis. By Fenton TR1, Lyon AW, Eliasziw M, Tough SC, Hanley DA. Nutr J. 2009 Sep 15; 8:41.
Blood type diets lack supporting evidence: a systematic review by Leila Cusack, et al. First published May 22, 2013, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2013 - vol. 98, no. 1 99-104