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I’ve recently realized that I was a child of Candida. Literally the moment I entered the world, I was set up for an overgrowth of yeast and all the unfortunate symptoms that come along with that.
What the deuce am I talking about?
The importance of gut bacteria
Well, it turns out a caesarean birth deprives you of all the lovely bacteria your mother’s body has prepared for you, which you’re supposed to be exposed to on your way out. This sets you up for poor gut bacteria, and as a result a poor immune system.
From there, the snowball keeps rolling. A poor immune system from the start, plus a “normal” North American diet of too much processed food, carbs and sugary things (but of course no FAT! who eats FAT! GASP!…. and cue ironic eye roll) adds up to repeated infections.
I grew up with constant strep and tonsilitis, plus various other weird things. Things like dry red rashes in my inner elbows, constant digestive distress, food intolerances, a swelly thing beside my nose for a while, a swelly thing in my earlobe for a while, a swelly thing in my groin for awhile, etc. All sorts of lovely things!
…Which I was inevitably prescribed antibiotics for. As we’re all hearing these days, antibiotics might save your life for now but they sure beat down the immune system even more in the long run.
Contributing factors to Candida overgrowth
Add to that 10 years of taking the pill from my late teens to late 20s, because I never knew any better and of course everyone takes the pill! Doctors literally shell ’em out like candy. Acne? here’s the pill! Painful periods? Take the pill. (here’s how the pill contributes to Candida overgrowth)
Turns out these are some of the classic causes for and symptoms of Candida albicans overgrowth. Who knew!
At some point a few years ago I started frantically researching holistic health and nutrition, because I had discovered the theory behind the paleo diet and I was super stoked to find something that didn’t seem like a fad and was actually based on human evolution. COOL! Along the way I found out about Candida overgrowth, and boy did I tick a lot of the boxes…
My frantic search for Candida albicans remedies
From that point I started a very long, stressful and expensive process of researching, buying and cycling through various candida remedies and protocols. Here are some that I tried:
- bentonite clay with calendula
- diatomaceous earth
- pau d’arco
- turmeric, cayenne and ginger capsules (DIY)
- eating only coconut oil for 3 days (I failed)
- not eating basically any carbs except green vegetables (no fruit no starch)
- oregano oil (health food store brand)
- clove oil (health food store brand)
- tea tree oil (health food store brand)
- caprylic acid
- drinking nasty herbal tinctures and taking heaps of capsules in a kit called Candigone (completed 2 kits, didn’t work)
- Difluconazole from the doctor, twice
- pharmacy yeast infection kits many times
So yeah, I spent a pile of cash, over a couple of years. I actually ingested health food store brands of essential oils, which I didn’t know at the time can be extremely dangerous and toxic. Dumb-dumb! And the thing is I was stressed and miserable! My symptoms were ok sometimes, but mostly came back every month at the end of my cycle, like clockwork. I was constantly researching and going out to buy the next thing, or ordering online. I was super anxious and literally HATED Candida with all my heart and constantly inwardly swore at it and cursed it.
I’m not saying none of the items in the above list work. Some of the other things I listed can definitely be helpful (which I’ll go into shortly). But in general my protocol was very typical of a Candida Diet, in that it was very violently focused on EAT NO SUGAR, CHOKE OUT THE CANDIDA, KILL IT WITH ANTI-FUNGALS.
I was about to lose my marbles and buy some like hundred-dollar capsule product that claimed it would somehow explode the candida, and was really quite sketchy with no solid evidence or backing, in a last-ditch attempt, after the eating-nothing-but-coconut-oil-for-3-days strategy failed at the end of the first day. Duh, I was starving an already adrenally-exhausted stressed-out immune-compromised body…
The problem with the typical approach to Candida
Thankfully I found this blog post from Lauren at Empowered Sustenance first.
She pokes holes in the typical Candida Diet approach, pointing out that it doesn’t affect the root causes of the Candida overgrowth, which are essentially:
- leaky gut
- poor digestion
- and therefore a compromised immune system and systemic inflammation
Lauren also points out that
A Candida Diet impairs metabolism and hormone function. A sugar free diet will elevate stress hormones, which exhausts the adrenals, reduces thyroid hormones, and taxes the body.
I’ve learned about the effects of too-low-carb eating here as well. Taxing the body this way (especially when you are adrenally exhausted and immune-compromised) just exacerbates the 3 root causes of Candida listed above.
According to this article from the American Society of Microbiology,
When Candida albicans encounters stressful conditions, does it curl up and die? No! This crafty pathogen gets to work on its inventory of genes, slashing away until it finds a winning combination that can get it through the tough times.
This includes developing an armoured shell called chitin, building a bio-film, burrowing deeper and deeper into tissues, or casting out long filaments in search of the fuel it needs to survive. *gag, gag* I know, it’s totally freakish.
It’s important to keep in mind that Candida is supposed to exist in a certain amount in a healthy human, and completely choking it out is (clearly a losing battle and) actually not healthy.
Healthy candida levels are vital for proper nutrient absorption and to protect the intestinal tract from other infections. (source)
It’s just a matter of keeping things in a nice healthy balance. And this is where the mind-shift happened.
A new approach to cure Candida overgrowth naturally
Thanks to Lauren’s article, I decided to shift away from the KILL CHOKE KILL approach, and toward a self-love, health-supporting mode of overcoming Candida overgrowth. The theory here is to support the immune system, metabolism and digestion so that the body can naturally re-balance the microbiome.
Here are the key ways that I’ve done this:
- support digestion by drinking lemon juice and/or raw apple cider vinegar a few times a day (juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon, or 1 tsp ACV in a glass of water)
- support metabolism with generous doses of pink salt on my food (always be sure to have some in the morning to support the adrenals), plenty of healthy traditional fats (such as grass-fed butter, coconut oil, red palm oil, avocados, oily fish, etc) and moderate amounts of sugars like raw honey, dark chocolate, fruits and starchy veg (max 3 small servings/day)
- support the immune system by eating probiotic foods like raw kefir, homemade sauerkraut, homemade kombucha.
- consuming fresh garlic, turmeric, cayenne, ginger in cooking whenever I can (yum!)
- I’ve also found that making capsules of powdered turmeric, ginger and cayenne (TCG) helps (take 1-3 capsules of each, 1-3 times a day) I recommend using your own organic spices rather than buying extract supplements, because you never know what’s actually in those or how good-quality they are.
- supporting immunity and healing in general by applying a transdermal magnesium oil supplement quite religiously (1/2 tsp to 1 tsp a day), making/cooking with/drinking bone broth as often as possible, and being sure to sleep enough (check out my post on 3 unexpected highly effective ways to improve sleep HERE)
I’ve linked above to the few products I would recommend on your journey (just these, and save the $hundreds$ on searching!). I still have jars and bottles of random shite I collected over the past couple of years collecting dust in my cupboards…save yourself that!
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Are you going to try this approach to Candida?
What do you think? Has this changed your thinking? Does it make you feel relieved and less desperate to KILL KILL KILL? I definitely felt better and lighter when I decided to adopt this more loving approach. Share your experiences, methods and resources below, let’s all help a friend out!