Do you really need to avoid mushrooms when taking anti-candida measures? For most people, no.

Many people have been told that a) their gut issues/health problems are due to overgrowth of candida and that b) this calls for a strict ‘no sugar, no yeast’ plan. This likely became common wisdom after the ground-breaking book The Yeast Connection by Dr William Crook (which became widely distributed after its release in 1983). While the book laid down a platform that practitioners of our time should be grateful for, the idea that mushrooms were a no-no has proved to be inaccurate.

Fungi do not eat fungi. They eat sugars (well, they mainly eat sugars… they can also catabolize fats and proteins, which explains why you cannot expect yeast issues to resolve by simply cutting out sugar and why removing all carbohydrates can easily become worse for you than it is for these hardy microbes… but this is another subject).

Whether we’re talking about the humble white button mushroom or the more glamourized shitake variety, those that grow on wood (turkey tail) or those that grow out of the heads of insects (cordyceps)… all mushrooms have a variety of complex chemicals that can have important impacts on immune activity. The prebiotic effects of the mannans, galactans and polyols can have major impacts on the microbiome and the polysaccharides are well-characterized for their impacts on Th1/Th2 balance, obesity and blood glucose control.

However, it is also possible for the proteins they contain to cause cross-reaction…. If your immune system has manufactured an army of antibodies against proteins in candida albicans, what if these are similar enough to the proteins in dietary mushrooms? This can see them accidentally raise the alarm when they encounter these proteins in the gut, and inflammatory chaos ensues (type B allergic reaction, aka ‘food intolerance’). In the population I work with, this has been about 1 in 15 people. It has been interesting to see how many people who think they react to mushrooms simply had SIBO issues (in these cases, avoiding white button mushrooms and going for the low-FODMAP option of King Oysters has been a win).

I hope this explains a) why some people have such issues with mushrooms and need to avoid them for some time in order to achieve the improvements that they are after, and b) why most people are just fine and can stand to gain advantages by eating them. As always, personalization is key; your your best option is doing what’s best for you. Trialling various options and seeing how you feel is a sensible step for most, although another option is running a stool test to better understand which varieties are most likely to be support your goals (eg. Shiitake have been shown to reduce the populations of bacillus, staphylococcus and endotoxin-producing proteobacteria, while Turkey Tail can boost lactobacillus and bifido while helping control clostridium, enterococcus and proteobacteria… the list goes on).

Mushrooms are therefore neither good or bad. However, they are a fascinating food group with a rich cultural history. Most importantly, they can offer huge benefits for some when used thoughtfully!