I’ve been delayed on writing a blog post the past couple weeks because… well… I’m not… well. My nose has been deep in the pages of dozens of books and articles. It appears that my symptoms of Candida Albicans infection have re-appeared.
Let me give you a little history about my issues with Candida… I’m reeeeally going to open myself up here. So I ask that you please be kind because this kind of exposure isn’t easy for me.
My History with Candida
Before I knew I had systemic Candida overgrowth, I’d been suffering from chronic joint pain for the better part of a decade. I have minor scoliosis and early stages of degenerative disc disease, but no doctor was able to tell me why I was experiencing chronic pain in my spine, shoulders, knees, and ankles. By the time I was in college, I had already seen dozens of doctors and orthopedic specialists for my joint pain and already undergone numerous treatments: physical therapy, massage therapy, prolotherapy, rolfing, chiropractic, acupuncture. Some treatments helped periodically, but the pain always came back. I tested negative for Rheumatoid Arthritis. I took a range of supplements, none helped. I specifically remember what the last doctor I saw told me.
My pain is probably going to be a part of my life forever, and the best she can do is perform a minor surgical procedure to cut my nerve endings, or prescribe me a drug for fibromyalgia.
At the same time, I was also battling chronic UTI’s, yeast infections, and sinus infections. The usual routine was that I would wake up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain, unable to sleep or do anything until the doors of the local doc-in-the-box clinic opened and they could prescribe me an antibiotic and painkiller. Flying on planes was an ordeal because the sinus pressure was so horrible it brought me to tears.
I’ve been prescribed the following antibiotics over 30 times in the past 10 years: penicillin, amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin, cephalexin, metronidazole, sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim, nitrofurantoin.
In college I started to have some initial feelings of anxiety, and the summer of 2008 I experienced my first panic attack. I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom at my parent’s house, and I had just finished session I of summer Chemistry classes. It was one of the hardest classes I’d ever taken, because they crammed an entire semester’s worth of Chemistry material into 6 weeks. I thought I had a week to rest before Session II began, but I opened my calendar to double check. When I realized that session II began the very next day, I had a mild panic attack that involved hyperventilation, heart palpitations, blurred vision and ended up with me sobbing, crouched into a ball on my bedroom floor.
After college I worked for a couple different companies, and the stresses of work, along with balancing my personal life, started to compound. I started having more extreme feelings of anxiety, depression, moodiness, and irritability. It’s hard to explain, but I felt like… how can other people function with normal jobs, children, spouses, and still have time to do the things they love? I honestly didn’t feel like I could be a “normal” adult.
I went to my doctor and was prescribed Celexa (citalopram) and Xanax (alprazolam). I had also been through a series of different contraceptive medications by this time. The side effects of the Celexa weren’t terrible, but I was a newlywed and the medication significantly lowered my libido. At the same time I was discovering my interests in health and nutrition, and was learning more and more about the dangers of artificial medications. So in 2015 I titrated off.
But of course, the feelings of depression worsened, and I started to feel extremely fatigued and then the brain “fog” set in. When combined with my chronic pain there were days I didn’t want to get out of bed. I blamed it on the stress of work, so I decided to quit my job. My friendships and relationships with family suffered during this time, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I was blessed with the most caring and understanding husband in the world, I can say that my marriage probably would have suffered as well.
The only thing that gave me any energy and clarity of mind was exercise. So I worked out… a lot. I even decided to compete in a bikini competition, which required daily weightlifting sessions and a very clean diet of only lean meat, vegetables and healthy fats. But my weight never seemed to fluctuate much. It’s like I couldn’t drop the last 5-10 lbs no matter what I tried to do.
My coach couldn’t explain it- she told me to see a doctor because she thought my hormone levels were off, that my estrogen was too high.
I started reading books about diet and its effects on the body, and was convinced that my health was suffering due to my consumption of meat and dairy. So I slowly started to phase those foods out of my diet, and I admit I did feel better at first. But even without eating meat and dairy, I would still have days of low energy, fatigue, brain fog, headaches, and was still experiencing chronic pain every day. I thought, I must not be eating enough raw foods.
So in spring 2016 I started reading up on raw food diets, went on a green juice cleanse and had my first colonic. The practitioner told me I had a massive yeast overgrowth in my colon, something I had never heard about before.
How I Discovered I Had Candida Overgrowth
After that colonic I read even more books and articles on Candida Albicans. This article says it all – it explained EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY SYMPTOMS! I was fairly confident that I had a case of systemic Candida albicans overgrowth. It made so much sense! But I didn’t know how to fix it, and I figured I would just keep eating lots of fruits and veggies and it would eventually go away.
Fast forward to my trip to Florida for my grandfather’s funeral a few weeks ago. This was a very stressful time in my life, as my husband and I listed our house on the market, were selling all over our belonging to prepare for a cross-country move, I was dealing with stresses at work, starting a blog, and then grandfather passed away. The night before we had to leave it was like the twilight zone – I was up in the middle of the night with that horrible UTI pain again, and the only medication I had on hand was some leftover nitro and some OTC pain killers. So I popped those, suffered through the trip, and when I came back home I immediately went to the doc-in-the-box. I did the standard pee in a cup routine and they prescribed me a dose of Bactrim and I was out the door.
But this time…
The infection came back a week later. I thought, I must be immune to antibiotics by this point! So I called the doctor and asked them about the specific bacteria that was present in my urine. And to my SHOCK and utter dismay the nurse told me, “well actually, there was no bacteria present in your urine, and you should probably come in again because you may be experiencing symptoms of something else.” I quickly made a phone call to my primary care doctor, and I tested positive for yeast infection but negative for bacterial infection although my urine was cloudy.
First, I was confused about what was happening. Then, I was furious that the doctor had prescribed me an antibiotic for something that clearly wasn’t a bacterial infection. The Candida was back, and more aggressive than ever.
What is Candida?
According to Wiki, Candida albicans is a dimorphic fungus (or form of yeast) that grows both as yeast and filamentous cells and one of the few species of the Candida genus that cause the infection candidiasis in humans.
It lives in the colon and is healthy in small amounts. But a variety of environmental and dietary triggers and kill of the good bacteria in the colon that keep the fungus in check. Once it grows, it can travel through the bloodstream to other systems in the body and cause infection and more serious health conditions. Once it get to this point, it can be very difficult to kill off without a specific and detailed regimen.
More information can be found in the links below.
Candida and the Plant-Based Diet
First, I thought maybe my recent switch to a plant-based diet caused the flare up? But after doing a bit more research, I realized that the Candida overgrowth was present looooong before I decided to go vegan. My lack of proper understanding of how to treat the Candida ensured that it never really went away. And my recent stresses in my life, along with an obsession with carbohydrates (fruit, grains, more fruit) definitely caused it to get worse. Don’t get me wrong here – a raw food diet is ideal for helping to treat Candida overgrowth, but there are several different types of raw food diets, which I will explain in a future blog post.
Through my research, I learned that excessive overuse of contraceptives, antibiotics, stress, and a diet high in refined carbohydrates feed yeast and cause it to proliferate. WAKE UP CALL! This is me! I also think my previous “cleanses” have made my condition worse, because I didn’t focus on re-populating my gut with the necessary probiotics to keep the yeast at bay.
I also learned that approximately 70% of the U.S. population is experiencing symptoms of Candida overgrowth and most people don’t even know it.
So I’ve officially decided, NO MORE CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE. All prescription drugs have led me to this place, and they definitely won’t help me get better. It’s going to be up to me to use holistic methods, including diet, to heal and become whole again.
Here are the articles, websites, and books I’ve been reading:
My Plan of Attack
If people are looking toward diet to help them feel better because they are tired, lethargic, low energy, brain fog, chronic pain, are experiencing chronic infections, then they are on to something. But what they may not know is that they actually have systemic Candida overgrowth and that diet alone will not cure it! Yes, a diet that consists of organic, raw whole fruits and vegetables will greatly reduce symptoms, but curing the problem for good involves so much more: stress reduction, consistently deep sleep, proper liver function, proper digestion, herbal antifungals, healing leaky gut syndrome, and getting the correct ratios of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients.
So I think what I’m going to do is dedicate a page of this blog to my personal health struggles and the dietary & holistic remedies I’ll be taking to get rid of my systemic Candida.
Please keep in mind I need to reduce stress in order to recover, so I may not be posting as frequently but I will be documenting all of my experiences, struggles, and discoveries and promise to share it with you all.
If you read my story and can relate, please comment below!