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Monday, January 19, 2015

Do you have Candida?




A few years ago, I decided I was done with gluten.  Last year, eating mostly vegan recipes became the norm.  This year, sugar is on my list. 

Most of you have heard about Candida, the yeast that is present inside all of us.  But do you know what happens when it grows out of control in your body?  I'm not talking about the more common infections, such as yeast infections, bladder infections, and skin irritations and rashes.  I'm talking about intestinal overgrowth.  I was shocked when I recently discovered that this could be the cause of some of my recent health problems. 

First, a little background about Candida.  Everyone has a population of Candida albicans in their intestines.  It's completely normal, and usually kept in check by your body.  Problems arise, when it begins to grow out of control.  "Well that wouldn't happen to me," I thought, "I'm super healthy!"  Wrong.  When my doctor went over my lifetime health history, she looked up at me and said she could tell I had a severe case before we even began the testing.  Why?  Antibiotics since childhood were the biggest culprit.  Chronic sinus infections, 1 in particular that I recall when I first started working as a flight attendant and my sinuses went haywire, forcing me to be on antibiotics for 2 months straight.  I cringe now to think that I took those without supplementing with a probiotic to help repopulate the good bacteria, but I hadn't even heard of them in those days.  But there were plenty other times that I was on antibiotics, as are most people.  Taken before dental work preventatively since I have a heart valve deformity.  During and after childbirth, and every illness in childhood that I was given them.  Oh, and that nasty infection I contracted while on a layover in India,  from either the food or water. 

All of those instances wiped out the good bacteria in my gut.  I didn't start taking probiotics regularly until 5 years ago.  That, combined with sweet cravings, bread, pasta, even healthy foods like fruit and root vegetables allowed the Candida to feed and grow out of control.  Through high school and college I was a vegetarian who hated vegetables.  Which means, lots of bread and cheese.  Oh yeah, I also used to love a glass of red wine a couple nights a week with dinner, one of the best things to drink if you want Candida to thrive!

After seeking a second opinion from my holistic doc, who agreed that I had an overgrowth, I began my Candida cleanse.  I will warn you, it is not fun!  No fruit, sugar of any kind - (not even honey), dairy, starchy vegetables, vinegars, most grains, etc.  I really didn't think I could do it, and I'm supposed to be on it for months.  This diet starves the Candida of it's food source....it feeds on sugar.  This combined with various anti-fungals and measures taken to heal your gut, are what is needed to overcome it.  But a funny thing happened after the first week of hunger and headaches.  I started to feel better!  I even tried a small amount of sugar, just to quiet any doubts I had about needing to be on such a strict diet.  Bad idea!  My chest instantly tightened and I became nauseous. 

There are so many symptoms of Candida overgrowth that it's almost mind boggling.  But if you have unexplained health complaints, it's worth checking into.  I'll spare you any detail of mine, except to say they caused muscle weakness, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and an overall sick feeling.  Very frustrating when you believe you are leading a healthy lifestyle.  Here are just a few of the more common symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Bloating gas
  • Brain fog
  • Constipation
  • Skin sensitivities
  • Sugar, bread, and alcohol cravings
  • Sensitivities to foods
  • Recurring vaginal yeast infections
  • Shortness of breath
  • Eczema or psoriasis
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Athlete's foot or nail infections (fungal)
If you suspect you might have Candida, it's worth a trip to the doctor.  I will warn you, holistic doctors are usually more helpful in this situation. 

When I started this journey a few months ago and began researching the cleanse required for treating Candida, I was overwhelmed by what I couldn't eat.  I have been tweaking recipes to fit the cleanse requirements, so I will be gradually posting those recipes.  I would have loved to find an eating plan to just follow when I started this, so look for that too! 



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