Monday, August 18, 2014

candida, you suck so hard! dealing with recurring systemic candida (yeast) imbalance

so, i've been a sugar addict my entire life. somewhere at my mom's house in Virginia exists a photograph of me somewhere around age 2, sitting in a drawer i had climbed into from a chair i had pushed over to it, eating a lollipop. i will climb the highest mountains (or drawers) for my beloved sugar. i also remember, as a child, opening the brown sugar canister and eating handfuls of the stuff. those bad habits didn't die away, nor could i reason them away, as an adult. i once nearly killed my body with Ben & Jerry's and Cadbury Creme Eggs. true story, like actually true. 

so, it was no surprise (unless you count the bitter surprise of denial realized) when, in the late '90s (in my late 20's), i discovered that i had systemic candidiasis (an internal yeast infection).

if you're unfamiliar with that beast, here are some of the symptoms, taken from

What are some of the symptoms of Candida or dysbiosis?
While many of these symptoms may be caused by other conditions than candidiasis, a woman suffering from systemic yeast will typically experience a number of the following symptoms:
Generalized: fatigue, lethargy, migraine headaches, weakness, dizziness, sensory disturbances, hypoglycemia, muscle pain, respiratory problems, and chemical sensitivities.
Gastrointestinal: Oral thrush, diarrhea, constipation, rectal itching, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), flatulence, food sensitivities.
Genito-Urinary: Yeast vaginitis, menstrual and premenstrual problems, bladder inflammation, chronic urinary tract infections (UTI), bladder inflammation, cystitis, PMS.
Dermatological: Eczema, acne, hives.
Mental and Emotional: Confusion, irritability, memory loss, inability to concentrate, depression, insomnia, learning disability, short attention span.
Autoimmune: Multiple sclerosis, arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, myasthenia gravis, scleroderma, hemolytic anemia, sarcoidosis, thrombocytopenic purpura.
i had a number of those, plus more. i wasn't digesting much, if any, of my food, so my weight plummeted to 80 lbs! i was terrified. my doctor said i couldn't take difulcan (an anti-fungal) because my liver was already too congested from the toxins produced by the yeast, so i was screwed. all my favorite foods caused the yeast to proliferate. from the above-mentioned website, here are the foods that enable and encourage the yeast to grow even stronger inside the body:

Avoid yeast-containing foods:
  •  Beer, wine and all other forms of alcohol
  •  Breads, rolls, pretzels, pastries, cookies, sweet rolls
  •  B-complex vitamins and selenium products unless labeled “yeast-free”
  •  Vinegar or foods containing vinegar, such as mustard, salad dressings, pickles, barbeque sauce,  and mayonnaise
  •  Commercially prepared foods such as soups, dry roasted nuts, potato chips, soy sauce, cider,  natural root beer, olives, sauerkraut (my note: unless raw)
Avoid mold-containing or mold-supporting foods:
  •  Pickled, smoked or dried meats, fish or poultry
  •  Cured pork bacon
  •  All cheese, aged or fresh
  •  Mushrooms, tempeh, miso, tamari sauce
  •  Peanuts, peanut products and pistachios
  •  Herbs or teas that may be moldy
  •  Malt or foods containing malt
  •  Canned or prepared tomatoes (fresh tomatoes are fine)
Avoid all concentrated sugars:
  •  Honey, maple syrup, brown sugar
  •  Fruit juices (canned, bottled or frozen)
  •  Dried fruits
  •  All processed sugar
  •  Anything containing high-fructose corn syrup
  •  High glycemic index foods
so yeah. LIFE WAS HELL. i thought i was going to die. my doctor was clueless about what to do next, and it looked like the next step would be hospitalization. i was very, very bad off.

i was working (or trying to; it was impossible to get out of bed some days) at Whole Foods market, in the nutrition department. i had already tried every remedy we had there, to no avail. one day, though, i met a customer (who has become a life-long friend) who was also battling candida, and she told me about the raw food diet and fasting to heal from candida.

long story short, i contacted a fasting facilitator and started a slow transition to an all raw-food diet. within a few days of the diet, i was already feeling better (the tunnel vision was expanding to near-normal vision and i had a little more energy). by the end of the month-long transition, i was headed 5 hours north to the fasting retreat. i didn't actually fast, since i was already 80 lbs and was terrified (literally) of dropping any lower, but i continued on a 100% raw diet and did a 3-day liquid-only diet (one day of coconut milk, fresh from the coconuts; one day of just fruit juices, also fresh-made; one day of fruit and veggie juices). by the time i left the retreat 2 weeks later, i had gained a couple lbs and was seeing and feeling better than i had in almost a year.

once home, i remained on the raw-food diet for a few more months, then slowly slipped back into the carnal world of yummy foods. pizza was my first naughty return. i just don't have the will to continue primarily on raw food. i'm too weak. i feel as thought i'm missing out on a significant amount of pleasure by not having these things. could i learn to partake in moderation? maybe. thus far, i've been unsuccessful.

so, in the nearly 2 decades since i first went to war with yeast, i've had a few flair-ups and the monster returned, feeling like cotton balls in my stomach and itching deep in my ears, along with weird vision, intense acne, bad digestion, depression, itchy skin and an itchy vag (oh, tmi alert, by the way). i'm in the midst of another flair up right now, hence the blog post.

i'm on a regimen of very low-carb foods, lots of probiotics (Renew Life are my faves), Candidase (enzymes that destroy the yeasts' cell wall, then digest the toxins for less of a die-off reaction), and Lonicera Complex from my acupuncturist.

the sad part of all this? i can't wait to get it in check so i can have a chocolate chip cookie and a beer. :o\

so yeah, that's my sad state of affairs. whining about it publicly helps, so thanks for being here.