Disclaimer: Before we begin, let us state that we’re not doctors, homeopaths, naturopaths, or scientists. We’re simply moms trying to sort out information and share OUR OPINIONS with you.
Excerpt from The Sweeter Side of Candida
What is Stevia?
Stevia is a naturally derived sweetener from a stevia rebaudiana shrub originally found in areas of Brazil and Paraguay. The leaves of the shrub are made into an extract that’s 200-300 times sweeter than sugar and doesn’t raise blood sugar levels because it’s calorie free. High levels of antioxidants have also been found in stevia leaf extracts.
Stevia has been used for over 1,500 years without side effects. In fact, you can grow the plant in your own backyard!
Unfortunately, as stevia has gained in popularity, there have been off-shoot brands created to fool people into thinking they’re buying beneficial stevia, when they’re actually only buying a small percentage of stevia mixed with other questionable ingredients. Some of the more popular brands to avoid are Truvia, Nature’s Place All Natural Stevia, Stevia In The Raw, Pure Via, and others.
When you’re looking for stevia – even organic stevia – be good and cautious of any that contain these ‘added’ ingredients:
- erythritol – a naturally occurring sugar sometimes found in fruit, but unfortunately it’s not allowed on a candida diet because it can’t be metabolized by oral bacteria, (unlike xylitol). Erythritol is absorbed into the bloodstream after consumption. Naturopath doctor, Dr. Bakker, recommends caution because, “any sugars that stay in the bloodstream too long may feed candida”.
- natural flavors – is another ingredient that can mean just about anything anymore – whether it’s safe or not.
- dextrose – a sweetener that’s created from genetically engineered corn.
- maltodextrin – a type of sugar that can feed candida and affect your blood sugar levels.
What to Look For in Stevia
- whole leaf stevia
- anything that is 100% pure without added ingredients. Paula uses NOW Better Stevia.
The Xylitol Controversy
When it comes to ‘alternative’ sweeteners, xylitol has been getting a lot of time in the news. We want to break down the benefits and cautions, as best as we can untangle them, to sort through whether xylitol is a good guy or a bad guy.
Just What is Xylitol Anyway?
Xylitol is a 5-carbon sugar that can replace sugar in cooking, baking, and as a sweetener for beverages. It’s similar in taste and texture to sugar, but has benefits that sugar could only dream of.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol which means it’s not as sweet as sugar, AND it contains 40% fewer calories and 75% fewer carbs. (Doing the happy dance already!)
It is naturally found in fibrous vegetables and fruit – higher amounts are found in plums, raspberries, and cauliflower. It’s also found naturally in us. It’s true – our bodies produce up to 15 grams daily during normal metabolism. Go figure.
1.) Because xylitol isn’t completely absorbed into your body, the much-heard-about abdominal gas and diarrhea can happen. It’s not the most pleasant thought though it seems that it’s mainly due to the amount a person eats and what they can tolerate – and that’s going to vary for everyone. Most adults can tolerate at least 40 gm/day while anything over 90 gm/day may have a laxative effect.
One holistic doctor noted, “My experience with clients is that this initial reaction indicates an existing imbalance in the GI tract which is important to be addressed on its own. Once this is cleared, xylitol is well-tolerated and the client is healthier than before.”
Our simple words of advice would be to eat xylitol in moderation, just as you would any other food. Since it’s used in higher volumes in desserts, let us go ahead and give you this warning now, before you start baking: desserts can not make up an effective candida diet and should not make up the bulk of anyone’s candida diet. They should be eaten occasionally – not as an everyday occurrence.
2.) We also want to note that xylitol is toxic to dogs and other pets. One of the arguments we see a lot is that if xylitol is poisonous/dangerous to pets, why in the world would we eat it ourselves.
Well, just to play good cop, bad cop here – so is chocolate, avocados, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, onion, chives, garlic, milk and salt. To us, that argument doesn’t hold water – first of all, dogs metabolize foods differently than humans and you can’t convince us that since a dog can potentially die from an avocado or garlic, that we shouldn’t eat them. Not gonna happen.
Just be sure to keep human food out of their four-legged reach. Feed them the kinds of foods they should eat, don’t let Fido or Sylvester have access to the counter while you’re gone, and they should be fine. 😉
- First – and why we’re all here, is that it helps fight candida by inhibiting yeast. Xylitol is alkalinizing (as opposed to sugar which is acidic) to our systems, which makes us less appealing to harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Xylitol and stevia are the only sweeteners that do not feed yeast. It also doesn’t cause fermentation so in essence, it’s fighting on our side!
- Xylitol has a glycemic index of 7 (sugar is 60), so there are no highs and lows for your moods and cravings. Xylitol actually helps keep your insulin levels balanced. (This is unlike maltitol, a different sugar alcohol that actually spikes blood sugar.)
- Non-carcinogenic – unlike sugar. Need we say more?
- Remember we mentioned that xylitol is a 5-carbon sugar? 5-carbon sugars are antibacterial. Xylitol is also alkalizing to the body which is why it’s used in a lot of oral hygiene products like toothpaste, gum, mouthwash, mints, etc. Some reports claim it inhibits the development of plaque and dental caries.
Studies show it decreases ear infections in children. During World War II in Finland, xylitol was produced from local birch trees. The locals noticed a significant drop in ear infections (and tooth decay). Several studies since then have concluded that xylitol inhibits the growth of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae, both the primary bacteria that causes ear infections.
Conclusion about Xylitol
While fighting candida, natural sugars like local honey aren’t an option, though it would be our first choice. We’re still a little leery of anything processed however so we do encourage you to use xylitol in moderation. A good idea would be to use stevia as much as possible in a recipe, and then add xylitol as needed to get a nice balance of sweetness.
Unfortunately, as xylitol has become more popular, several brands are being made from corn which is a concern for GMO’s among other things. Be sure that when you look for xylitol, you search for the kinds made from birch. One of our favorites is Xyla. (Their pkg. doesn’t state it, but in talking with them personally, they are non-GMO.)
The Sweeter Side of Candida
We’ve been baking up our favorites – over 70 of them! – in our new cookbook, The Sweeter Side of Candida. We’ve learned some great tips about using stevia and xylitol from all our baking! If you need a new supply of recipes that will help you stay healthy, lose weight, and fight candida – give us a try. 🙂