Thrush loves sugar, Candida loves candy: it’s a piece of naturopathic wisdom. Or is it just folklore? Is there any real evidence for it?
Many women who have experienced chronic or recurrent vaginal thrush suspect it: Sugar is not the vagina’s friend. I treat women with ongoing thrush problems all the time, and when I regretfully bring up the sugar issue, they stop me even before I have finished.
“I know, I know…I’ve got to get rid of the sugar. It’s just so hard!”
But gynaecologists will rarely tell you to cut out the sugar, or watch the carbohydrate load in your diet. Why is that?
Modern medical practice is ruled by research evidence, and there just isn’t that much evidence for sugar and vaginal thrush in humans.
Back in 2002, a study looked at the effects of sugar on Candida in women.
They looked at the link between Candida in the mouth and faeces of women who eat differing amounts of carbohydrate, and didn’t find a connection between high-carb and Candida. Then they got the women to eat high-sugar diets, and reported a “limited effect” on Candida counts. But when looking at the fine detail, they did find that in some women with high Candida in their mouth, the high-sugar diet increased the Candida in the faeces. So even back then there were signs that sugar was not completely neutral when it comes to Candida.
Now this has been confirmed. A recent study using pretty fancy DNA technology to analyse gut microorganisms did confirm what we suspect: Candida was higher in those with higher carbohydrate diets, and lower in those with diets higher in fats and protein. The highest likelihood that they would find thrush? If you just ate carbohydrates. Now, this was thrush in the bowel, but we can presume that this will increase vaginal thrush as well.
Yes, it appears that Candida loves sugar.
So why doesn’t every woman have raging vaginal thrush, considering our society’s sugar addiction? Well, maybe many women do. Maybe overgrowth of Candida is a part of foggy brain, low energy, gut symptoms as old naturopathic folklore tells us. But that’s a discussion for another time.
For now, suffice to say that women with vaginal thrush issues probably handle sugar worse than women who don’t.
A study found that women with recurrent thrush actually had impaired glucose tolerance – the same thing you find in pre-diabetes! And could this be the reason why so many women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) have chronic thrush issues? PCOS is linked with blood sugar dysregulation and insulin resistance.