Read about my journey:
Read the whole story
See my life in pictures
Read the whole story
See my life in pictures
I started to suspect I may have a problem with an overgrowth of the yeast Candida Albicans in spring 2009. I’d been reading a lot on nutrition and whenever I came across writings referencing it I found the information struck a real chord.
Like many, I’d been on the contraceptive pill on and off for many years, prescribed for my PCOS, and now I was reading that this very often upsets the balance of good and bad bacteria (flora) in your bowel. In addition, I’d been prescribed antibiotics often when younger – for the frequent throat/flu symptoms and also in the form of a topical face cream for acne.
Symptoms-wise, I thought that a lot of the things I was experiencing could possibly be due to a bacterial imbalance too. I had recurrent bouts of thrush – vaginally and orally. I had frequent spot break outs (despite being over 30!). I had also been experiencing a real problem with constipation for about 6 months too. In addition, I wondered about the role Candida might play in the muscular-skeletal problems I was experiencing as part of my hypermobility – I’d heard it could cause joint pain.
Knowing that I’d been severely overweight for the majority of my life, I suspected that my abuse of sugar throughout my teenage years had probably left my bowel flora in an unbalanced state and the further abuses I had subjected it to since then could only have compounded the problem.
It didn’t bode well!
What the doctor said:
I had been to my doctor’s about the thrush and constipation I’d been experiencing and she’d given me anti-fungals and soothing cream. At that time I was vegetarian and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables in my diet (at least double the 5-a-day suggestion), so I couldn’t understand my constipation. I mentioned the word Candida and the doctor quickly refuted that there was such a thing.
So I went home knowing I’d have take a different approach in order to find out what was causing my problems, rather than just treat my symptoms. After trying an online saliva test, I decided I wanted to establish for sure whether I had an issue. I went to a nutritionist and had a Candida antibody test and also a stool test. Both of them came back positive for a Candida imbalance. The saliva test showed that I’d had a problem with it for quite some time, and the stool test showed a Candida sensitivity, sensitivity to another yeast and also two bacterial overgrowths.
The Erica White approach:
Determined, as always, to ‘fix’ the issue I read widely around the subject and lighted upon Erica White’s book – Beat Candida Cookbook. It’s practical yet solid approach to dealing with Candida appealed to my ‘black and white’ nature and I decided it was the approach that I wanted to take – despite the nutritionist warning me that the ‘die-off’ reaction I may get could be horrendous. My view was that I was stronger than most, so, in July 2009, I cut out all processed sugar, yeast, vinegar and fruit of my diet and started taking caprylic acid, along with digestive enzymes, and a concoction of other pills to support/assist my detoxification.
It was difficult, but I was single-minded – this is the way I had approached most problems in my life (that’s only changed recently); It’s great as it allows me to muster all my determination to succeed, but it doesn’t allow for other views to get a look in once I have decided on my path.
Through autumn/winter 2009 I gradually increased the caprylic acid dosage as per Erica White suggestions. To say I was very fatigued would be an understatement, but I carried on.
By Christmas I was up to the maximum caprylic acid dose and contemplating my next move. I had spent substantial amounts of money on supplements. I had improved my diet, becoming vegan and increasing my raw food consumption to about 50%. My constipation continued but I figured it was part of the ‘die-off’. I was about to change to an oregano complex supplement to work on the other yeast imbalance my stool test had shown, but wasn’t sure where to go after that. I was terrified of introducing fruit again and the advice I read in Erica White’s book of reintroducing fruit temporarily to check symptoms, and then going back to the strict non-fruit diet for whole year did not appeal to me at all. I knew that there were nutrients in fruit that I needed and being vegan I was finding it hard to get all my calorie needs from grains and vegetables alone, let alone being (even if only subconsciously) depressed because I was lacking variety in my diet.
The fruit decision made for me:
Events brought my pending decision about fruit to a head. Over Christmas 2009 I had the worst bout of constipation I have ever experienced. My bowel had been getting more and more sluggish through December.By Christmas I was having a bowel movement every 2/3 days. Then, just after Christmas, it got worse and I went 4…5…6… days without going. By that time I was in an awful amount of pain. Every time I had a peristalsis (muscle movement you make to do a number 2!) I would be in excruciating pain, with the hemorrhoid I’d had for about a year just adding to the problem.
After 6 days without a bowel movement, a local A&E sent me home with laxatives and told me to wait. After another 3 days of agony my partner decided something had to be done. He suggested ringing the colonic therapist I’d seen earlier that year, which we did. She suggested a colonic was definitely a good idea. Despite the cost there was little doubt in my mind. I wanted the best chance of sorting this out and I felt a colonic was it. I was right – after the procedure I felt like a new woman!
It was during this time that I began to contemplate being without fruit for so long and the affect that it may have had on me. I knew that fruit was always toted as being a laxative, and the people that I had spoken to since having the problem had pretty much all mentioned fruit – apples, pears, prunes, apricots. I’d not eaten any of this for 6 months – and I’d had a sluggish elimination system before that. I started to think that perhaps excluding something with as many potential nutrients as fruit for such a long time was not such a good idea. The thought of going back to the a non-fruit diet for another year, as Erica White suggested, seemed to be potentially plagued with the same digestive issues I’d experienced in the previous months.
A little prior to that I’d been reading some other nutrition books and a more long-term, logical theory jumped out of the pages to me: The idea that naturally, given the right foods and environment, the colon does an effective job at processing our wastes, and if it is allowed to do an effective job then it will pass matter through us efficiently, leaving no waste for potential yeasts or bacteria to live off. At this time I was influenced a lot by Natalia Rose’s book The Raw Food Detox Diet and her explanation of colon health. Natural food, well-timed and combined in ways with which our body can cope will exit quickly, leaving nothing in the bowel to cause an imbalance of flora! Conversely, when natural digestion is impeded, the food in the system putrefies and ferments – becoming a real breeding ground for yeasts and bacteria, just like rotting food is in our waste bins.
A radical approach?
I started eating fruit again immediately after my bout of constipation at Christmas 2009 and years down the ling have had no recurrence of my candida overgrowth symptoms. It is now my belief that to get your colon to do its job properly you should eat natural, unprocessed foods (the foods that our digestive system was designed to digest!). Make your body healthy on the inside by putting in the best fuel and listen to it when it tells you what to eat, when to eat it and when to stop.
This advice doesn’t have the ‘pow’ factor that Erica White’s ‘stop all fruit and you’ll starve the blighters’ plan does, but I believe it is just as effective at dealing with an imbalance of gut flora. It is not about ruling out food or taking supplements, it’s about turning inwards and understanding that if you give your body what it needs when it needs it and nothing more it’ll do what it is supposed to do!
Health is a journey – you can’t just get quick fixes for things that are out of balance in your system – they are out of balance for a reason and that that imbalance and the damage that has been caused needs to be addressed as a whole, rather than a particular symptom of the imbalance being ‘clouted over the head’, with a set of rules or pills.
In addition, the more you listen to your body and give it what it needs the better your overall health will become and the more energy you’ll have – this’ll impact your life in such positive ways that you’ll really start to believe you are becoming a whole new person!