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Candida is a species of fungus (yeast) that naturally live in our digestive tract. This fungus thrives on sugar in any form it can get it – candy, cake, cookies, wine, beer and cocktails, all forms of sweeteners (including natural ones like stevia), sweet vegetables and fruits, high carb foods like bowls of pasta, bread, and bags of potato chips. Even if you have a super clean, low-sugar, low-carb diet, candida can still grow out of control from taking birth control pills, antibiotics, steroids and other medications. Stress, illness and a diet high in acidic foods can also disrupt the microbiome and lead to fungal overgrowth. So can eating too many raw foods, eating too many fermented foods and foods that you are sensitive to.
Think of your gut like a forest. The trees are your good bacteria. They keep the environment fresh and healthy. Think of fungus in nature – in small amounts, it serves it’s purpose as part of the ecology. In fact, scientists consider fungi the most important species in the environment because they decompose dead matter, transforming it into vital nutrients for living things. But when it grows out of control, it can destroy trees and alter the entire health and growth of the forest.
“Even we humans have fungal based species within our own bodies, for instance the yeast based organism candida albicans, which comprise an aspect of our inner ecosystem, or gut microbiome.When our internal terrain is balanced and homeostasis prevails, candida is a normal, healthy part of our natural gut flora. However when that physiological balance is perturbed and disrupted, say because of the use of broad spectrum antibiotics which can destroy certain bacteria that would otherwise normally keep candida in check, this can cause an overgrowth of candida resulting in chronic yeast infections or candidiasis.” –The Role Of Fungi In Nature
Our bodies are their own ecology, and we are the park rangers responsible for keeping our inner forests vibrant and balanced, energy flowing. Candida infections are very common, but way too many Western doctors overlook it as a contributor or underlying cause of persistent symptoms making you feel lousy. Chronic candida infections will break down the walls of the intestinal tract, travel into the bloodstream and become systemic. This fungus causes leaky gut, chronic inflammation, autoimmunity and disease.
Symptoms of Candida Infection
- Skin and nail fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus
- Feeling tired and worn down, or suffering from chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, lupus, psoriasis, scleroderma, or multiple sclerosis
- Difficulty concentrating, poor memory, lack of focus, ADD, ADHD, and brain fog
- Skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, hives, and rashes
- Irritability, mood swings, anxiety, or depression
- Vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, rectal itching, or vaginal itching
- Severe seasonal allergies or itchy ears
- Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings
Tests To Detect Candida Infections
- Blood tests through high quality labs to detect candida antibodies called IgG, IgA, and IgM.
- Comprehensive stool test (not standard).
- Urine Organix Dysbiosis Test
- Applied Kinesology (muscle testing)
- Field Control Therapy (a type of resonance testing)
Medications. If the infection has been chronic or severe, a candida-educated doctor will prescribe medication. Sometimes medication is necessary. In my experience, for example, long-term antibiotics, asthma inhalers and birth control bills lead to a chronic candida infection that I tried to starve through a crazy strict diet and the guidance of holistic doctors using herbs and homeopathics. Close to 15 years later, the infection, though milder, still persisted no matter what I tried until I was finally prescribed Diflucan. That combined with a candida-control diet and an enzyme formula finally got rid of the infection. Fungal infections are complicated once they become systemic and sometimes natural remedies just don’t cut it.
Diflucan, generically prescribed as fluconozole, kills yeast systemically. Integrative doctors may prescribe a 2-week up to a 3-month treatment. This is helpful if candida has made it into the bloodstream. Diflucan is also prescribed to cure vaginal yeast infections, which typically only requires about 1-3 pills. Nystatin kills intestinal yeast infections, prescribed if the infection isn’t systemic. Lamisil is a systemic anti-fungal prescribed for toe fungus and is usually prescribed up to three months.
Natural Remedies. I’ve taken just about every candida killing remedy you could think of and the ones I recommend if you’re on a self-treatment path are Klaire Lab’s InterFase Plus, MicroDefense or Pure BIOme Detox from Pure Encapsulations, and Berberine. Interphase Plus is important because it kills candida biofilms. The other formulas kill infections. I also recommend L-Glutamine (an amino acid) to repair leaky gut if that’s an issue, and immune support like Zinc, Bioflavonoids and magnesium. Our clients receive 10% off hypoallergenic Pure Encapsulations formulas which is what our family uses. No harmful fillers! Use promo code WEBFREESHIP for free shipping over orders of $100. If you’re unsure what you need, contact us for a consultation.
Diet. Starving candida of the sugars it needs to keep reproducing is really, really important. Lots of people admit they’ve taken medications or herbal remedies and still haven’t had results because they continued to eat foods that help candida grow out of control. Or they relapse after treatment because they regress to their previous diet and high-stress lifestyle. I know, it sucks, no one likes to live without sweetness or stick to a strict diet, but if you are determined to free yourself yourself from annoying symptoms, it must be done. Once the infection clears and your immunity is strong, you can re-introduce foods and listen to your body to maintain balance. Many of us think we know what moderation is, but it’s not until you beat a nasty candida infection that you really understand what this means for you.
My Tango with The Beast Called Yeast
I am a former “light and sweet” coffee drinker, Diet Coke addict and low-fat consumer who unknowingly consumed cups of sugar daily. An Italian girl growing up in New York, I never thought I’d be happy living with less pizza, breaded meats and veg, and bowls of pasta. I’ll be honest with you, changing my diet was hella hard work. The sugar and caffeine detox alone was insane- shaking, sweats, headaches, belly aches, feeling like I was gonna straight up die. I used affirmations to break my mental attachments to foods that had become part of my identity without me even realizing. I mean, who is a New Yorker without a slice of pizza or bagel in their hand? I AM. I took long walks on the boardwalk and practiced gentle Hatha yoga to feel strong and calm my frazzled nervous system. I didn’t realize how much sugar crashed my sensitive, intuitive nervous system! The vibration is so low, energetically. On a physical level, sugar damages the myelin sheath which protects us from inflammation and neurological imbalances.
I haven’t lived without all these years, I’ve substituted – unsweetened coffee with organic half and half and nut milks, unsweetened seltzer for soda, healthy whole food fats instead of processed low-fat foods that contain added sugars, gluten-free breading a few times a month if even (when I feel like it), and homemade yeast-free pizza. A bowl of pasta is now associated with feeling crappy with all those carbs, so whenever I do make gluten-free pasta, I make sure it’s my only high carb meal of the day and I embellish with a protein and veg.
Evolutionary Life Lesson: Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.
So, drum roll please…here is the Candida Control diet! This diet is recommended to kill the infection and afterward recognizing what sugar or carbs may not ever resonate with your particular body and continuing to avoid them, using substitutions instead. It’s like a bad relationship. Sometimes you don’t realize something isn’t good for you until you’re away from it for a while.
FOODS TO AVOID (CANDIDA WANT THESE BADLY, NOM NOM)
Alcohol in all it’s forms, vinegar, chocolate, all kinds of sweeteners and sweetened foods (yes, even honey, honey), yeast (bread, breadcrumbs), gluten, sweet potatoes, fruit, white and other super starchy potatoes, ham, cow’s milk (high in lactose, a sugar), corn, eggplant, sweet peas, carrots, beets, mushrooms, raw foods, fermented foods. Beware of high carb beans and legumes, eat in moderation if you tolerate them. Read labels – sugar and vinegar is many processed foods like salad dressings, ketchup and mayo. Think no sugar, low carb.
Try to limit your total carb intake to 100 grams daily. Count your carbs.
FOODS TO ENJOY (SIGH, CANDIDA COULD CARE LESS AND WOULD RATHER DIE)
Gluten-free rice and quinoa pastas, organic tofu, rice cakes, gluten and yeast-free breads and crackers, quinoa, rice, red potatoes, peppers, fresh and dried herbs, all sorts of lettuce, beef, poultry, fish, eggs, all leafy GREENS (go Kermit the Frog green all over the joint) and non-starchy vegetables like cauliflower, artichoke hearts, broccoli, all sorts of cabbage (Bok Choy!), celery, cucumber, broccoli rabe, tomatoes, squash, spinach, okra and Brussels sprouts. Fresh goat and sheep cheese. Lemons and limes. Coconut oil, butter, olive oil. Nuts, seeds and unsweetened nut butters. Kale chips. Get creative – try roasting or sauteing red onions and zucchini with olive oil and nutmeg or cinnamon for a truly natural sweet fix. Roasted pumpkin seeds with herbs are super yummy. Check the Recipes section in this blog for ideas. Check your local market for snack ideas – check labels to make sure there are no added sugars and if you indulge in something carby, like veggie chips, make sure you still stick to your carb limit.
Try to buy organic as much as you can.
The Candida Control diet is similar to a low-glycemic diabetic diet, just ultra clean and au natural.
Typical Candida-Control Meals
Breakkie: Organic eggs with one slice yeast-free, gluten-free rice bread or 1 brown rice tortilla. Sprinkle sheep’s feta or goat cheese on top. Add avocado if you’d like. Side of turkey bacon. Yum!
Lunch: Rotisserie chicken slices with roasted red potatoes or side of cauliflower mash or collard greens.
Dinner: Huge salad with mixed greens or if you’re avoiding all raw foods, saute up kale or your favorite leafy green with artichoke hearts, feta cheese, sliced cucumbers, asparagus, grape tomatoes, and protein of your choice (think salmon salad!). Mix together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder and fresh dill for a delish dressing.
Intuitive Eating Tip: Decide each day when you intuitively feel you need carbs the most. Since carbs fuel energy and are best used as fuel to burn off, I prefer using the majority of my carbs in the morning and afternoon and leaning more toward meat and veg in the evening.
Eating Out, Practically. It’s of course great to pack your own lunch for work, but if you don’t have time (totally understandable), go with the flow. You can stick to this diet when eating out. Like if you go to Subway, order a protein with a salad instead of a sandwich. Chipotle offers no-bread options. Chinese food and Thai is easy if you order straight up meat with veg, like beef or shrimp with broccoli and white rice. Just ask for it to be sauteed, no sauce. Use your own coconut aminos or gluten-free soy sauce. I’d get the bunless burger at In and Out Burger when I lived in L.A. Lettuce wraps are seriously so good. Much higher vibration than bread. When you’re at a restaurant, you can order chicken wings, those big protein-packed salads (just ask for fresh lemons and olive oil for dressing), any kind of vegetable, any kind of meat that isn’t bathed in a sugary sauce or breaded, and roasted red potatoes. If you’re in a bind, a regular starchy baked white potato is still better, in my opinion, than opting for the sugary sauce or bowl of pasta. A bowl of pasta has 42 carbs versus the baked potato that has 24 carbs. Ask that starches be substituted with vegetables. I’ve found restaurants to be very accommodating.
Expand Your Palette. If your diet has been pretty stagnant, this is an opportunity to try new things. Be daring, try cooking something you’ve never eaten before! You can make any vegetable taste amazing by adding olive oil or butter, salt and your other favorite spices. Cooking is 99% about the spices. The reason we get so hooked slathering sauces and condiments on is because we’re trying to liven up dishes so they’re not bland and boring. Once you get into herbs, you’ll see that your meal will never be boring again, it will be alive with the most vibrant nature on your plate! And you won’t feel you need all those sugary, filler-drenched condiments anymore.
THE HERX. Candida release 79 different toxins when they die. The more yeast cells you have, the worse you will feel as they die. Feeling flu-like from yeast die-off is known as the Herxheimer reaction. Drink lots of water, rest as much as you can and consider taking liver support like milk thistle to move detoxification along.
Make Life Easier. Invest in convenient cookery like non-toxic nonstick pans, a slow cooker and convection oven. You don’t need to slave over the stove for hours in the 21st Century to eat well and healthy. Here are my favorites that I use:
Convection oven. A must. Cooks whole chickens in rapid speed. So crazy convenient. I’m hooked breakfast, lunch and dinner. I use Oyama TRO-110C Turbo Convection Oven, 12 L, White
Slow Cooker. Put your uncooked foods in at night, it will be done in the morning in time for breakfast or lunch at work. Fill it up in the morning, let it sloooow cook, and dinner will be ready when you get home. I useHamilton Beach Crock-Pot 6-Quart Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker, Digital Timer, Stainless Steel, SCCPVL610-S
Non-Toxic NonStick Pans. I use and love Farberware Nonstick Ceramic pans. Ridiculously easy clean-up. Just don’t use on high heat, low and medium only. Once burnt, they’re toast. Check out this set: Farberware Purecook Ceramic Nonstick Cookware 12 Piece Cookware Set, Aqua
Know Your Cravings and Substitute.
Soda – unsweetened, naturally flavored seltzer.
Fruit juice – add cucumber and lemon slices to your water, or fresh tarragon and mint. Try herbal teas or a bolder flavor with decaf black tea or decaf coffee. Try green juices!
Breaded foods – use gluten-free flour to bread your foods or make home baked bread (it’s really easy, check my recipe section on this blog).
Wheat or corn pasta – rice or quinoa pasta
Chocolate – okay, this one is hard. Really hard. There really isn’t a substitute for chocolate. But if you’re missing the creaminess with that touch of salt, try mashing up an avocado and adding sea salt to it. You can also try cashew peanut or another nut butter for that creamy, salt fix.
Mashed potatoes with milk and butter – mashed cauliflower with chicken broth and butter.
Snacks – gluten-free crackers with goat cheese, rice cakes with guacamole, get creative!
Life After Candida Is Back Under Control and Your Forest Is Thriving Again…
Relapses. You’ve learned a lot about your body, and biology, from this experience. If you start eating lots of sugar daily – whether the white stuff, natural stuff or tons of fruit – the Yeast Beast will start to overgrow again. Don’t live in fear, just in awareness and love for your body ecology. Add a healthy dash of sweetness to your diet, and find other ways like yoga and meditation to get your natural high.
Prevention. Consider taking a probiotic to keep your good bacteria strong. They police candida, keeping it in check. Avoid eating super sweet fruits, candy, cake or lots of high carb breads and pasta regularly. Instead, balance out your week by giving yourself one or two days to indulge and keep the rest of your days clean. Avoid using white or highly processed sugars. Try honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar, instead. Sugars that are closest to their natural state.
Binges. Will you slip up? Yes. Being too strict can result in rebellion. You need to feel that you’re not “missing out” or being “too good.” This is not about being perfect, it’s about intuitively eating for your body so you feel your best. Those times when you’ve had too much wine, chocolate, chips or an entire fruit bowl, take your probiotic and go sugar-free the next day. Balance is an on-going practice. Forget mastering it. Keep learning from it. Experimentation and self-awareness leads to lasting results.
Lastly, for those of you who will be happy to hear this. YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT ON THIS DIET. In my late twenties, when I was unknowingly living with this infection, consuming too much sugar and taking medications I didn’t really need, I went up three dress sizes! I was filled with excess fluid, heavy bloat in my belly, upper thighs and ankles. More like cankles. No matter how much I worked out, I couldn’t lose the weight. When I quit the medications, adhered to the diet and started killing off the infection, I dropped down to the same size I was in high school and it’s where I remained into my 40’s. Ah, balance. I love you.
Happy Healing Lauralyn
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