I'm two weeks into a three month venture of cleaning up my gut. It took five years to get to the root of my symptoms and I think I'm finally on my way to healing and finding a balance. It has been really helpful to know people who have gone through similar experiences. Enter one groovy health nut rock star named Jane. I turned to her immediately for resources on what to eat on an anti-candida diet. I was also curious about how she got her diagnosis and what recovery path she followed. Did she struggle like I had to figure out what was going on (as the symptoms can really apply to a plethora of health issues)? Were doctors knowledgeable and receptive? How did she heal her body? Knowing that she was trying to live a raw foods/vegan lifestyle, how did she reconcile with having to eat meat?
Her story was very helpful to me and I have no doubt that it can help others who may suspect they have candida or are already diagnosed and dealing with it.
When did you first receive a diagnosis for candida? What were your symptoms and how long did it take to get the diagnosis? Who diagnosed it and how?
I received a diagnosis for candida in March of 2009. I met with a holistic nutritionist, Ben Briggs, at Lionville Natural Pharmacy. I was at the end of my rope with dealing with migraine headaches. I was making the decision of whether or not to enter a doctoral program, but I was worried that given the frequency of my migraines (4-5 times per month) I would be unable to keep up with the work load. My husband was missing a lot of work to take care of the kids when I got a migraine. I started to have a lot of anxiety because I was in constant fear of when the next migraine would hit. My energy was low, which I attributed to having two young children, I had frequent headaches, sinus issues, low sex drive (again, attributed that to the kids), and was feeling out of sorts. I wasn't really depressed, but I wasn't feeling like I was on my A game either. I had been to medical doctors, chiropractors, homeopathic doctors, but never received any relief. Before I went in to see Ben, he gave me a questionnaire to fill out. Based on my symptoms, he gave me the diagnosis. He said that the candida probably came up after a long term course of antibiotics I had been on for Lyme’s Disease the previous summer. I got the diagnosis at my first appointment. It was 1.5 hours (unheard of for a regular health care professional) and did not have to have any intrusive testing to get the diagnosis. We went over the history of my symptoms and discussed the game plan in depth.
Did you have any support (literature, meal menus, tips, etc) from your nutritionist (and/or others) when you had to make the transition to an anti-candida diet?
Ben gave me a ton of information about what I could and could not eat. At the time, I was eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) and the thought of cutting out sugar was horrifying to me. That night when I got home, I polished off the end of a pint of ice cream and said, "Fuck it. I'm done feeling like shit. I quit. Whatever he says, I will do." My husband was an amazing source of support. He was my number one cheerleader. He would run to the store and get me whatever candida-friendly snack would pacify a sugar craving; he helped me come up with recipes, kept the junk out of the house, and was a total hero during the transition. I felt horrible for the first two weeks. I felt like I was a crack head. I was constantly pacing the kitchen trying to figure out something I COULD eat that I actually WANTED to eat. I remember the first relief I got was when I mixed 2 packets of Sweet Leaf Stevia with some fresh lemon and lime juice. It tasted like heaven!!! Then my symptoms started to clear and I was feeling so much better.
What was your eating pattern like prior to the diet and during the diet when you changed the foods you ate? Could you provide a typical week or days’ worth of foods you ate on both diets?
I thought I was eating healthy before my diagnosis. That was laughable. I ate a lot of healthy food, but I also ate a ton of crap too. I loved sugar. Sugar was a serious issue for me in general. I ate lots of homemade organic brownies, breads, grain-based foods, protein bars, meat, cheese, cereal. Pretty much the SAD diet but organic.
An anti-candida diet day might look like this:
Breakfast foods: Eggs with spinach and onions cooked in organic butter, Fage Greek yogurt with blueberries, or an egg white protein shake.
Lunch foods: Chicken on a salad with olive oil and avocado; Applegate farms lunch meat; leftovers from dinner the night before; celery with almond butter;
Snacks: nuts and seeds (no cashews or peanuts).
Dinner: Usually a meat and a veggie. Last night we ate grilled Salmon and Chicken with broccoli slaw dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
How long were you on the anti-candida diet? Did you have antibiotics as well as probiotics? What was your doctor's prescription for wellness?
Ben’s prescription was to follow the diet and a supplement regime. I took probiotics, but not antibiotics. At first, because I was so nutrient deficient as a result of the candida, I had to take a ton of supplements, but we eventually weaned off of most of them and now I'm down to a multi-vitamin, iron B12 supplement, and Migrelief (for migraines).
Have you had any recurrences of candida? Have you had and do you test for it or just intuitively go back on the anti-c diet?
I intuitively go back to the diet. I have been experimenting with the raw vegan lifestyle because I want SO badly to follow it, but my candida symptoms always come back after a few months. Once I became in tune with my "health baseline," I can tell almost immediately when symptoms are starting to reemerge. It will usually manifest itself emotionally with me. I will get anxious, sad, and depressed. Then I know it's time to clean house again.
Did you have any "die-off" symptoms that followed the cleansing diet? If so, was there a time frame on that? Did it last through the entire diet or just at a certain point in time?
I had TONS of die off symptoms: fatigue, irritability, weight loss (a happy symptom for me, but not for others), and just generally felt like shit. It lasted for a couple of weeks. I really started getting relief when I purchased a Needak Rebounder and started rebounding. My nutritionist and I both agreed that doing that really helped move the process along.
Have you eaten quinoa, brown rice (rice and pasta), or amaranth as part of the cleansing diet? I've seen them listed as "ok foods" because they are non-glutenous. I'm so confused as some sites say yes to them and others say no. Conflicting info is so frustrating! :)
There is SOOO much conflicting info! I cut those foods out for about 3 months when I first started, then gradually added them back in. I still can't eat a lot of them, though. I don't really eat grains at all unless it is in the form of brown rice protein powder (Sunwarrior brand). I had to cut out almost all fruit too. I ate grapefruit, berries, and granny smith apples and in very limited amounts (like 1/2 grapefruit a day) which sucked.
Reactions are so individual; I think that is why the info is so conflicting. What heals one does not seem to heal another. What worked for me is cutting out all of the crap completely and eating meats, veggies, nuts, seeds, and a little bit of dairy (Greek yogurt and butter). I did a little fruit too. Then, as my symptoms started to clear and after a couple of months of being symptom free, I started playing around with things. When I would notice symptoms coming back, I would fine tune things again. I'm still kind of in that phase with my bouncing back from raw to meat. I end up eating too many fruits when I am on raw and seem cool for a couple of months and then my symptoms come back.
But it's a weird, strange journey and you start to become very in tune with your body.
What is one piece of advice or nugget of wisdom you'd impart to people going through it or those who think they have it?
Change your diet and do NOT look back. You will get over sugar. As a former sugar addict and dealer, you think you won’t be able to walk by desserts and not think about it, but you will. You will get over it and it takes time, but stick with it. It is well worth the results. From personal experience, I also need to be constantly reminded by my decision making that the diet works and to stop messing with it. Even if my personal ethics don’t align (wanting to be raw/vegan but having to eat meat for my health), I can’t live my life feeling like shit. Sometimes I have to be my #1 priority.
Well said! Thanks for your contributions, Jane!
Editor's Note: That last sentence is now my mantra.