I started @Adios_Candida back in July of 2017. Since then I’ve connected and heard from so many people who are also struggling with candida. I’ve heard from people who are looking to find answers, who are struggling with diet or lifestyle changes and looking for support, and many who feel completely confused by the whole process. While I’m in no way an expert, I do continue to see some of the same questions pop up over and over again, so I figured I’d share my answers here, and hopefully can help others who are feeling lost or struggling.
What is candida?
I’m not a doctor, so I’m not going to go into too much detail on this one. You can find a lot on the internet about what candida is, the conflicting info and confusion seems to be more about how to treat candida overgrowth.
In a nutshell, candida is a fungus that lives in your intestines. The fungus is a form of yeast. It’s essential to have some candida in your body to help with digestion, but a number of things can cause it to reproduce on overdrive and cause candida overgrowth, which is not good for your body. Essentially when it’s overproduced it can release a lot of bad toxins into your intestines and blood stream, which can cause a number of issues related to physical, digestive and mental health.
What can cause candida overgrowth?
Antibiotics – they kill the good bacteria along with the bad
Alcohol – especially when high in sugar
Diet – especially one high in refined carbs and sugars
What are the symptoms of candida overgrowth?
Candida is a tricky thing, as it can show itself in SO MANY ways. It can cause both internal and external symptoms. For me, it was mainly through chronic yeast infections over 3+ years. However, the more I learned about it and the further I got into my own recovery, I began to realize how many other issues that candida was likely causing which I wasn’t even aware of (monthly canker sores, anxiety, fatigue, poor memory, to name a few…)
Who has Candida overgrowth?
Anyone can battle candida overgrowth. As mentioned above, it can be seen through a variety of health issues. Who gets candida? Healthy people. Fit people. People who are already health conscious. MEN (I get asked this all the time), and women. Because candida deals with balancing the gut flora, just the slightest thing can set it off – sugar, stress, antibiotics, etc. Unfortunately, no one is off-limits.
I think I have candida overgrowth. What do I do?
First, I suggest talking with a doctor — whether it’s your primary care physician or naturopath/functional med dr, a professional is always a good first person to talk to. They can monitor your progress and do various tests to help you along the way. A doctor can perform a number of tests in order to try and diagnose candida, including blood, stool and urine tests, which are all useful for different reasons.
There’s also an at-home saliva test you can try. I personally never tried it, so I can’t give any glowing review. This image shows what you’re supposed to see if you have candida.
If seeing a doctor is not an option, or if you are still convinced you have candida but need to take matters into your own hands, I suggest you do your research. Get a book and find some online blog posts (like this one!) to learn more. Candida seems to be such a fad buzzword in the health world lately, and I think the term gets thrown around and blamed when it isn’t necessarily the culprit.
If you do your research and still believe you have candida, I suggest you pick a plan to follow and dive in – head first! I read so many conflicting accounts of what is good vs. bad for candida and how to cure it. I was so overwhelmed my head was spinning. I finally decided I was going to tune out all that noise, just pick a program that looked good to me, commit to it, and give it my all. If it didn’t work, then I’d reassess after the 60 days. I personally chose the Ultimate Candida Diet to follow (FYI they aren’t paying me, I just like to share this info!). I found it full of great info that really helped me to understand what was happening inside my body both before I started treating the candida, and throughout the five phases.
The basics of the program involve doing a pretty hardcore elimination diet, cutting out sugars, gluten, soy, legumes, caffeine, alcohol and more, which helps your body reset and gives your digestion a break. Then you slowly reintroduce some foods in 5 different phases over 60 or so days.
While it’s preferred for you to check with a Dr. who can do tests and monitor your health, if you do choose to treat candida on your own, following a program that others have refined is much smarter than just guessing. I also worked alongside my acupuncturist the whole time, and while she’s not a gut health expert, she was someone knowledgable who was also able to support my recovery through her treatments.
I’m 3 days into a cleanse and have THE WORST headache. Is this normal?!
YES! Your body is detoxing like crazy right now. You have likely stopped having sugar, gluten, and probably even caffeine this week. Three super addictive things. That would make anyone’s head throb a bit – it’s a huge adjustment for your body!
If you’re in a detox phase (a very strict liquid-based cleanse for 3-7 days or so), then you especially need to support your liver. As you start to reset your gut and detox your body, you release dangerous toxins into your body which your liver has to work hard to process. Supplements like milk thistle, molybdenum glycinate are helpful.
Moral of the story… keep it up… it WILL get better (and soon!).
How long did you go before you introduced foods again?
This is a tough question to answer, because I introduced foods back into my diet very slowly over a 60 day program that I followed, and now months later I’m still just reintroducing some foods and consuming others way less than I used to. I have a whole new relationship with food, wine, and caffeine than I used to. Essentially I did this:
Days 1 – 7: only liquids, detox drink, herbal teas, eggs & steamed/roasted veggies
Days 8-17: added in salmon, turkey and chicken & more veggies (enjoyed small bites of fruit very sparingly, plus almond butter & sweet potato)
Days 18-33: added back in probiotics to my diet (both in supplement and food forms), including kefir and plain probiotic yogurt, goat cheese, granola
Days 34-60: Added in anti fungal supplements & foods, plus added back in quinoa, (I’m allergic to buckwheat, but you could add that here), more small bites of fruit (but it tasted pretty sweet now!), decaf coffee (sparingly), maintained diet.
Days 60-90: tested reintroductions. enjoyed some glasses of wine and some fruit (sparingly), ate other proteins like shrimp or beef (sparingly), tried new recipes, experimented with almond milk matcha lattes in lieu of coffee, and more.
Days 90-180 +: continue to experiment with adding and subtracting foods as I see how they make me feel. Traveled and let myself eat everything. Leaned back on my detox drink and initial cleanse phase when I felt like I had overdone it or needed to give my digestion a reset/break. I drink way less alcohol and consume way less sugar and soy than I used to. I notice how much sugar is in everything I consume….though I do let myself enjoy it here or there.
**There are a lot of other foods I started to add back in over time, but it’s hard to include everything here. These are the ones most commonly asked about.
60 days without alcohol? How did you do it?
Let me just put this out there: I love wine. I love the taste, I love learning about it, I love drinking it, and I love that it makes me feel more open and confident when I drink it. But wine does not always love me back. The sugar and alcohol content most definitely were aiding in my candida overgrowth, likely contributing to my monthly canker sores, yeast infections, and anxiety too.
Taking a conscious 60 day break from wine (I keep saying wine, but I really mean alcohol….though if we’re talking about me, we really just mean wine), while difficult, was incredibly rewarding. I almost instantly found that I was sleeping better at night. I never skipped things like washing my face or brushing my teeth, and I was suddenly much more productive in the evening. I was so used to coming home from work, totally stressed out, drained and tired, and the first thing I’d do is pour myself a glass of wine. I now realize how this was not only not helping me, but it was hurting me in more ways than one. (Do I still do it once in a while? Duh.)