Smorgasbord Health Column – Project 101 – Resilience – The importance of a healthy gut (part three) #Candida by Sally Cronin

Project 101 – Resilience is aimed at developing a strong  immune system and a body that can fight off disease at any age. One of the key factors in achieving that level of robust health is being a healthy weight. There have been a number of risk factors identified that put certain groups of the population at a higher risk of a critical outcome from being infected with the virus or being unable to manage the severity of the resulting infection.

One of the cornerstones of our health is based in the lower half of our body in the intestines. Our gut health determines the efficiency of many of our operating systems, including our immune system. Although I have posted on Candida Albicans and the Digestive system in the past, I would like to being the two together to emphasize how important eating fresh food ‘cooked from scratch’ is to our health and resilience to not just Covid-19 but other diseases too. You can find Part Two of a Healthy Gut Here

Candida Albicans – Controlling the fungus without starving your body.

Over the years clients have arrived at their first appointment, tired, depressed, still suffering from skin problems, infections etc, who have been following the most rigid diet possible to eradicate the overgrowth of candida. They were surviving on a narrow range of foods, with greatly reduced nutritional variety and values, and were terrified of putting certain foods in their mouths.

The problem is balance – starving the fungus is essential. But, in the process you can also starve the body of the nutrients it requires to rebuild the immune system which you need to work on your behalf internally. The overgrowth is not restricted to the intestines, as I described in an earlier post – the symptoms are caused because it has got into the bloodstream and has free access to the entire body. You are going to need the immune system’s power to push back the fungus to the gut where it belongs at normal levels.

I do think that it is a good idea to reduce the levels of your yeast in the diet simply because it comes in combination in so many processed foods with sugar which I consider to be the real cause behind so much of our ill health today.

Things have moved on – the fact is that most natural produce is absolutely fine to eat. This includes mushrooms which as a fungus are usually one of the first foods to be banned on a Candida Diet.

In the last 20 years I have experimented with natural ingredients in and out of my diet and I have found no reaction to mushrooms or any other natural food on my Candida levels. I have however, reacted quickly to drinking too much alcohol, eating cakes, sweets, biscuits, fizzy drinks, processed sauces, ketchup, soy sauce, milk chocolate with low cocoa content, processed cheap fruit juices etc. In the case of alcohol it is possibly the combination of yeast and sugar (or too many glasses) – and if you look at the ingredients of a great many processed foods that I included in last week’s post, it is the sugar content that is likely to be the main culprit.

I have some key indicators for a rise in levels of Candida overgrowth in my system. The inside of my ears begins to itch irritatingly and my eyes start watering. If I continue to consume sugars in excess I can develop thrush symptoms.


Mushrooms might be a fungus but they are also immune boosting foods and some are actively anti-candida. Mushrooms are on my Food Pharmacy list and I eat at least two or three times a week. Especially on a non-meat day as they have an impressive list of nutrients that make them a great alternative.

According to the ancient Egyptians, over 4,000 years ago, eating mushrooms granted you immortality. The pharaohs even went as far as to ban commoners from eating these delicious fungi but it was probably more to guarantee that they received an ample supply. Mushrooms have played a large role in the diet of many cultures and there is evidence that 3,000 years ago certain varieties of mushrooms were used in Chinese medicine and they still play a huge role in Chinese cuisine today.

There are an estimated 20,000 varieties of mushrooms growing around the modern world, with around 2,000 being edible. Of these, over 250 types of mushroom have been recognised as being medically active or therapeutic.

More and more research is indicating that certain varieties, such as Shitake and Maitake, have the overwhelming potential to cure cancer and AIDS and in Japan some of the extracts from mushrooms are already being used in mainstream medicine.

Apart from their medicinal properties, mushrooms are first and foremost an excellent food source. They are low in calories, high in B vitamins, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc – and supply us with protein and fibre. They are versatile and they are easy to cook and blend with other ingredients on a daily basis. For vegetarians they provide not only protein but also the daily recommended amount of B12 a vitamin often lacking in a non-meat diet.

Mushrooms of all varieties will boost your immune system in the fight against Candida and are more beneficial in your diet than out of it.

Matured Cheese

Aged cheese is usually banned from a yeast free and sugar free diet but I have found no major problems when using as part of a balanced diet. It is unlikely that by the time the cheese has digested and reached the gut that it is in a form that is utilised by the fungus.

Cheese on toast or cauliflower cheese once or twice a week should not cause you a problem and provides variety and nutrients to feed your body.

I do caution you however if you are trying to lose weight.. A little cheese from time to time is okay but how many of us actually have that kind of restraint? Also if you suffer from gallbladder disease you will have to monitor your fat intake carefully and you will find that cutting right back on cheese to a very occasional use to be the best option.

I suggest organic mature cheddar made from grass fed cows (it should say on the packet) as it is only grass fed dairy cows that provide milk in vitamin K2 which is not found in grain fed cattle, sheep, chickens in any great quantity.

The one staple that most of us find the hardest to give up. Our daily bread.

Industrially manufactured bread, particularly the cheap, plastic wrapped, white flour variety with its abundance of additives including sugars, is perfect fodder for Candida.

I enjoy and include some white breads in my diet…occasionally. I enjoy some of the sourdough breads, but as a rule, I will only buy wholegrain artisan breads with minimal preservatives. You know that they have little added to them when they go stale in 24 hours, instead of still feeling fresh after a week or longer!… I buy, slice and freeze and then take out what I need over time.

I usually make my own yeast and sugar free Irish Soda bread as it suits me and does not cause the same symptoms as the white processed breads. The jury is out as to whether yeast in bread contributes to an overgrowth of candida, but certainly the sugar does.

Luckily I was introduced to Irish Soda bread in the late 90’s which is yeast free and has little sugar. Today there is a wide range of yeast and sugar free breads available in health food shops and online (do check the labels carefully for added sugar and other preservatives), but it is much better and easy to your own bread at home.

Recipes can be adapted to include additional nutritional essentials in the form of seeds and nuts. I make a couple of loaves at a time, and when cooled, slice and freeze – cost about £1 a loaf to make. There are also unleavened breads – corn and wholegrain tortillas etc that you can enjoy too.

Apart from being able to feel that you are at least including normal foods – bread does not stand alone – we put things on it – an egg cooked in a variety of ways is a great supper on toast and is good for you. Sandwiches made with your own bread for lunch with fresh salad filling and cooked chicken or tinned tuna etc are far better than buying already prepared and expensive varieties with unknown ingredient.

Here is my recipe for soda bread with reduced sugar and even those who are not avoiding yeast will find it delicious.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees – put the rack mid oven. Prepare two 14 inch bread tins – I use grease proof paper cut to size and a little olive oil around the tin so that the paper sticks.

Ingredients – for two loaves.

• 600gm strong whole wheat plain flour (or 500gm flour and 100gm porridge oats – or 500 gm flour and 100gm dried fruit)
• Four teaspoons of baking powder
• Two teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
• Two teaspoons of salt
• Two teaspoons of sugar
• Two eggs
• 600ml milk (I use full fat)
• Juice of two lemons (to sour the milk)


1. Add the lemon juice to the milk and stir – leave for about 15 minutes until it thickens.
2. Sift the flour into a large bowl (add porridge oats or fruit if using)
3. add in the bicarbonate, baking powder, sugar and saltmix in gently.
4. Pour in the soured milk and using a fork gently stir together.
5. Add in two eggs and mix in.
6. Pour the mixture into the tins and place in the hot oven for approximately 60 minutes.
7. Check after 45 and the loaves should have risen and be brown on top.
8. When baked take the loaves out of the oven and remove from tins. (peel of the paper if you have used)
9. You will know they are cooked if they sound hollow when you tap them on the bottom of the loaf.
10. Wrap in clean tea towels to stop the crust getting too crisp and leave on a rack until cool.
11. I wrap one in clingfilm and put in freezer and because there are no preservatives you need to eat over a couple of days. I keep one in the fridge

This is just one adjustment to your daily diet that will feed your body but starve the fungus.
So, now you have bread still in your diet (yeast and sugar free such as Irish Soda Bread) and also mushrooms and cheese.

And here is the complete shopping list of food groups that you may help you reduce the sugar in your diet.

Since Candida Albicans thrives on the sweet stuff, it is a good idea to cut out all additional sugars and sugary foods for at least six weeks. And then only consume occasionally. Do be aware that artificial sweeteners, including those that claim to be natural can behave in the same way as sugars.

Your craving for sugars will not be reduced and some, such as those containing aspartame, can be very unhealthy.

To help you establish which are the main foods to focus on and which to avoid, I have devised a colour scheme.

Green – Free to eat
Blue – in moderation
Red – Avoid
Pink – Very occasionally.

Vegetables – carrots, red peppers, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, corn on the cob- any dark cabbage or Brussel sprouts, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, watercress, dark lettuce leaves, cucumbers, celery, avocados and potatoes. Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut are very beneficial for the gut.

Fruit – Bananas, apples, pears, oranges, kiwi and any dark berries that are reasonably priced – try frozen. When in season – apricots, cantaloupe melon, watermelon.

Wholegrains – brown rice- wholegrain yeast free bread – whole wheat pasta – weetabix – shredded wheat – porridge oats. If you make your own yeast free bread use wholegrain flour.

Please do not buy sugar or chocolate covered cereals or white flour products.– more sugar than goodness.

Reduce your carbohydrates for the first six weeks. Two slices of yeast free bread, one large tablespoon of brown rice, one Weetabix, two tablespoons of porridge oats etc daily.


Fish Salmon fresh and deep sea not farmed (usually sound in the frozen foods)and you can buy sustainable sourced salmon canned. Cod – haddock (again frozen can be a good option) any deep sea white fish on offer – shellfish once a week such as mussels. Tinned sardines, tuna and herrings – great for lighter meals. Check all cans for source of fish and worth paying a little more.

Meat and poultry and Tofu- Organic or free range chicken or turkey – lamb, beef and pork (avoid grain fed chickens (corn) and other meats as only grass fed livestock provide sufficient amounts of Vitamin K2. Lean ham (unsalted) easy to boil your own and slice for sandwiches, (processed meats should be used sparingly) Venison if you enjoy it. Liver provides a wonderful array of nutrients served with onions and vegetables is delicious. Tofu for vegetarians has become more accessible and can be used by non vegetarians once a week to provide the other benefits of soya it offers. There are a number of vegetables, especially in the bean family that can provide good amounts of protein.

Nuts and seeds – to put on your cereal in the mornings or as snacks – check prices out in your health food shop as well as supermarket. Almonds, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts. (Nuts and seeds have healthy fat. However, if you are wanting to lose some weight make it a small handful each day).

Dairy and Eggs– In moderation. Look for grass fed herds for their milk, butter and cheese (better to have the real stuff than whipped margarine) – yoghurt. Free Range Eggs – have at least three or four a week.

Oils – Extra virgin Olive Oil (least processed) – great drizzled on vegetables with some seasoning and also eaten the Spanish way with balsamic vinegar on salads and also drizzled over toasted fresh bread. If you do not like the taste of Olive Oil then use Sunflower oil – do not use the light version of any oil as it has been processed heavily – use the good stuff. I use coconut oil in moderation… it is organically produced and liquid for drizzling over vegetables and toasts.

Honey and extras –You really do need to avoid sugars refined and in cakes, sweets and biscuits but honey is a sweetener that the body has been utilising since the first time we found a bee hive and a teaspoon in your porridge is okay. Try and find a local honey to you.

Dark chocolate – over 70% a one or two squares per day particularly with a lovely cup of Americano coffee is a delicious way to get your antioxidants. Cocoa is great with some hot milk before bed – antioxidants and melatonin in a cup.

Next week – Project 101 – in a nutshell and moving forward.

©Sally Cronin – Just Food for Health – 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020

Your feedback is always welcome and if you do find that following any of the programmes that I have shared are beneficial then it would be great to hear about it.. you can email me on

Smorgasbord Health – Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Stop and Rewind.

Thank you for the emails with questions about various aspects of nutritional health. There have been a number with questions about Irritable Bowel Syndrome and as I have not done a post on the subject for over a year over the next two days I am going to cover the condition and some strategies to manage it.

I am not surprised that so many people are interested in finding out more about IBS since it is a health issue that affects millions of men, women and children worldwide. There is a massive amount of information out there on the condition and it can become confusing as to the why, how and what to do about it when it effects us personally.

Stop and Rewind.
I am afraid if there is a disease with a syndrome in the title it means that the professionals really do not know the why, how and what to do either! In diseases like this symptoms are lumped together and given them a collective name. As in Irritable Bowel Syndrome……..

In working with men, women and children who have these symptoms for the last 18 years I too cannot give you a definitive cause. However, I have found it useful to stop and rewind.

Infant years
It helps if you have a parent alive who can tell you if you were a colic prone baby, cried a great deal, demanded a bottle frequently but failed to put weight on and thrive and had several stomach upsets. This is probably due to lactose intolerance – milk sugar basically which is in human milk and then of course dairy which babies tend to be weaned onto.

If that was not the case then I would look at anti-biotic prescription from as early as the client could determine. If not then would track back to when the early stage symptoms of intestinal issues first presented. I could track mine to age 11 when I had six courses of anti-biotics before finally having my tonsils removed. I put on three stone in three months and developed an unhealthy addiction to sugar.

Hormonal imbalance, dieting, lifestyle
Then teenage years – hormonal fluctuations or prescription drugs such as those for acne that might have affected intestinal flora – also any eating disorders,anorexia in particular that not only starved the gut of food to produce bacteria but also caused nutritional deficiency.

Late teens early twenties – perhaps taking the contraceptive pill- start of drinking more alcohol – busy lives and very often symptoms being ignored. By this time many people have developed an overgrowth of Candida Albicans and of course diet plays a role, especially if high in sugars and processed foods.

Here is the posts for Candida and sugars that you should read if you have IBS symptoms.

Women will continue to experience hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy until their 60s when menopause is complete. Certainly taking HRT may effect the intestinal flora resulting in an imbalance for as long as that is taken.

Men are affected in a similar way during their lifetimes especially in relation to hormonal changes in the teen years and middle age, although IBS is more associated with women which leads weight to the hormone contributory factor.

Then from around 70 there is a decline in both activity and appetite. Less food is eaten and if dental health is not great, the variety of food is also decreased. To add to this lack of nutrient variety, you have to add in the natural decrease in digestive enzymes and acids which means that food is processed less efficiently.

Throughout a person’s lifetime suffering from this embarrassing, painful and life affecting health problem, you have to add the element of stress. The more we stress about the symptoms the more they will intensify. You become obsessed with finding bathrooms and what you eat. I have had clients come to me worn out, depressed and stressed out, trying to exist on a handful of foods that someone has told them they can eat – with a far longer list of prohibited foods – FOR LIFE. This leads to an increase in the problems and the far more dangerous risk of severe nutritional deficiency and even more severe health problems.

So – here is a brief look at the syndrome and then tomorrow I am going to give you a simple but effective way to reduce the symptoms, increase the healthy bacteria in the gut and lessen the stress associated with the problem. It will also help you identify the particular cause of your particular symptoms. This is tried and tested – so many of my clients presented with these symptoms that we had plenty of opportunity to see the process evolve into a successful management of the condition.

IBS – Where is the problem?
The bowel is the term used for both the large and the small intestine.In the case of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, it is usually the large intestine which is involved, as this is where our stool is stored and is likely to cause the most problems. When I was working with clients, I found over a number of years that there were strong links between those who were lactose intolerant (milk sugar) from birth, Candida Albicans from childhood antibiotics and as adults following gastric upsets and taking medication, and a lifelong consumption of refined sugars. These all result in a bacterial imbalance in the gut leading to the most common symptoms experienced by those diagnosed as suffering from IBS.

What sort of symptoms are involved?
These will vary from person to person. They will also vary in severity and timing. The most common symptoms are:

  • · Abdominal pain or cramping
  • · Bloated feeling after eating.
  • · Gas.
  • · Diarrhoea and or constipation
  • · Mucus in the stool
  • · Depression.
  • · Lower back pain
  • · Chronic fatigue
  • · Panic attacks and palpitations
  • · Heartburn
  • · Light-headedness after eating

What causes these symptoms?
The walls of the intestine are lined with layers of muscle that contract and relax as they move the food from your stomach, through the intestinal tract and the rectum. Normally, this is co-ordinated and rhythmic but if you suffer from IBS, the contractions are much stronger and last longer. This causes the food to be rushed through the system. It is not processed properly – because it is not digested – and it can cause diarrhoea in the first instance. This leads to dehydration – and that affects the balance of fluids and causes further undigested food to block the intestine and – leading to constipation and stomach bloating and cramps. It is a typical vicious circle. As the nutritional deficiency develops there will of course be an affect on the whole system and the organs, hence palpitations, dizziness and could lead to heart disease, diabetes and cancers.

Later this week – a six week plan to reduce symptoms, increase healthy bacteria and function to the intestines and to identify which foods or one food is causing your IBS.

I am happy to answer questions confidentially by email if you prefer at If your question is general and might help someone else then please include in the comments.  I hope this has been helpful.