In the past 1.5 years I have talked a little bit about my Candida overgrowth and my subsequent recurrence of that horrible beast here and here. I am sure anyone who has gone through it or is going through it can feel me. It is a sh*t place to be in.
Today I want to share the lessons learned and things I wish someone told me about Candida overgrowth before I embarked on its subsequent treatment. It ain’t gonna be pretty so bear with me.
My Candida overgrowth started after I followed some bad advice and began drinking copious amounts of green smoothies everyday in an attempt to get more nutrients into my body so I can keep getting better and continue my healing from Hashimotos an autoimmune illness. Ironically, I ended up getting worse instead.
After a few months drinking green smoothies, I started reacting to everything I ate. My autoimmune symptoms flared up big time. My eyes became very dry and itched to no end and my hair started falling out again. My skin broke out in itchy rashes. I kept forgetting what I did the day before AKA welcome back brain fog. Waking up every day feeling like I was hit by a garbage truck and walked around like a stiff zombie the whole day just completely exhausted even though I slept 8 hours straight. My joints simply hurt like there was no tomorrow. It took every ounce of strength to function every day.
So there I was back in the doctor’s office again after being well and happy for a long while, having needles stuck in my veins and stool samples being collected. The result: Candida overgrowth & gut dysbiosis.
Besides having to be on a sugar free low carb candida diet, I was put on Nyastatin an Anti-fungal which doesn’t get absorbed into your body and only stays in your gut to kill Candida. I thought Candida flared up my Autoimmune symptoms in a major way but the detox or the die-off from Candida exacerbated my symptoms a hundred fold and they lasted the whole 2 months I took the Nyastatin. It was only later that I found out that it was simply because I do not detox the toxins that Candida was releasing from the die off out of my body well and fast enough which also means they may get redistributed somewhere else in my system wreaking havoc and making my already hyper immune system to react.
After the treatment I got better for a while but not for long. I had a relapse after our move to Singapore. This particular time of my life I would like to refer to as – the year that ALMOST broke me. So for the next one year I was stuck in a place where I was not improving much with anything I did to try heal my body and get rid of Candida. I refused to go on Nystatin again because I reacted so badly to it the first time. Candida had also brought along its best friend to the party: histamine intolerance. So here I was on an extremely restrictive Anti Candida + low histamine diet only getting a little better and I was wondering what I was doing wrong.
I decided then to go off the restrictive low histamine and Anti Candida diet and instead try natural anti microbials namely olive leaf extract and garlic extract this time. I started on a very low dose and after a week noticed a positive difference in my energy levels and I was actually not reacting to everything I was eating anymore or to the anti microbials themselves! I was absolutely over the moon.
It was later that I realised Olive leaf extract contains a powerful antioxidant called Oleurapein which was probably boosting my energy levels besides being a strong antiviral and anti bacterial agent. Given that I was reacting to so many natural supplements and antioxidants that I had tried during this period, why I did not react to Olive leaf extract or garlic is still a mystery to me. Garlic besides being an anti- fungal and anti-viral, also gently chelates heavy metals which later I found out that I have a problem with. Yes, garlic literally is a super hero.
On a follow up appointment to my doctor, I was tested for heavy metals. My mercury levels were very high – as in off the charts. I have talked about my mercury toxicity here as well. Mercury tends to co-exist with Candida and makes getting rid of Candida difficult. In this case, detoxing mercury has to be the first step.
So I started on a gentle detox program to remove mercury from my system and noticed now that I was able to tolerate even more foods. My diarrhea has finally stopped.
This is only one part of my healing. The other part of my healing is self love and care. To really explain what I mean by this would require multiple blog posts so I will try to keep it short here – instead of questioning my body why it was betraying me, I started to love it with my whole heart. This is not just saying affirmations in the mirror but really truly loving my body and every organ and every single cell that has been fighting my illness and holding me together through this journey of healing. At that point I realised, my body is with me and never against me. It loves me just as much or more than I love it. I just needed to see the problem that was hindering my healing process – Mercury.
I turned my daily meditations into loving heart meditations. Instead of just being kind to others I am kind to myself first, I say NO more often especially to people and things that don’t matter and prioritise my time for what was important to me – cooking being one of them. Cooking and eating real whole foods for me is part of self care, the one constant that has never failed to improve my health even if it was only a little during the worse of times.
I am happy to say now I am able to occasionally eat foods like organic dairy and unrefined sugar and other foods that are high in histamines, without major flare ups in my autoimmune, histamine or Candida symptoms. My energy is slowly coming back and I almost feel human again.
I still have some lingering symptoms and have a long way to go with my detox of mercury but as it is with anything, I have to do it in my own time because fast and hard hasn’t worked well for me in the past. Instead of not being able to eat 20 different foods because I was reacting to them, I now can’t eat just 3 foods – Gluten, Soy and eggs. I will take that progress any day.
So here it is… the lowdown…
The nine lessons I have learned about Candida overgrowth and its treatment
Lesson number 1:
One man’s food is another man’s poison – not everything that is supposed to be healthy or works for someone else is going to work for you especially if you suffer from a chronic illness. We all have our own bio individuality and we need to work with that. Green smoothies may be a miracle drink for someone but for someone else it may became their bane of existence e.g. Candida overgrowth.
Lesson number 2:
Eat mostly as our ancestors would as in not straight out of a blender but from a pot, plate or a bowl. Food that you have cooked or made yourself. Something that your body would recognise as normal food and not predigested in a blender. Especially if you have an imbalance of bacteria and yeast in your gut, eat mostly cooked vegetables/ meat and a small bowl of salad. If possible keep them mostly organic. I have talked about why I eat organic here. Simple, normal and real food works wonders, every time.
Lesson number 3:
Diets alone will not heal you, period. An elimination of problematic foods will give the gut and body the opportunity to recover to some extent and calm the immune system down but it will not address any other causes that may be hindering your healing. I have tried to treat my Autoimmune illness and Candida through diet: AIP, Paleo, Anti-Candida diet, low histamine diet, low fodmap diet, nothing gave me long lasting relief. Finding out the real cause of the problem and treating it and eating real whole foods that are nutritious and balanced is what is going to heal the body. In my case it is mercury toxicity. It was feeding the Candida in my gut and was keeping my immune system unbalanced so I needed to get it out.
Lesson number 4:
Not all detox symptoms are good. When you do a Candida cleanse or detox please do it slowly and give your body the time and love it needs to purge the toxins out. The last thing you need is to overload your detoxification system with more toxins than it can handle and make yourself more sick.
Lesson number 5:
Always, always listen to your body. If your Candida treatment or diet is not working for you, consult your medical practitioner for an alternative option. Give yourself a break, try something else and keep moving forward.
Lesson number 6:
If you have reoccurring candida consult with your functional doctor and find out if there may be other reasons why this may be happening e.g. like in my case mercury or heavy metal toxicity.
Lesson number 7:
Keeping your adrenals in check is key for healing to happen. If you suffer from an Autoimmune condition, chances are you probably also have some level of adrenal fatigue or stress. This is the reason why we Autoimmune illness sufferers feel extremely exhausted during a flare up and sometimes outside of it. One way to take care of your adrenals is to get into a good sleep hygiene e.g. 8 hours of sleep, read a book before bed, rub on some essential oils and another is to find a balance between not too little carbs and not too much carbs is key to keeping our insulin levels in check and keep our adrenals functioning normal. For me this meant eating low GI basmati rice with most of my meals which also included quality fats, vegetables and protein, eating a balanced plate like this reduced my cravings in between meals as well. There was no elimination of any major food groups or fad dieting, it is just clean, real and whole foods that I prepare and cook at home.
Lesson number 8:
Self care has been crucial in my healing. Breathe, let go and be kind to yourself. Instead of putting all the undue stress on ourselves to do everything perfectly for everyone, learn to say no when necessary, put yourself first instead and create boundaries. When you are kind to self that is when you can truly be kind to others without compromising your own health and happiness. Go for a massage or take a day off just for yourself and do what brings you joy.
Lesson number 9:
Love yourself like there is no tomorrow. Have no doubts, your body loves you. It wants the best for you. We just need to look past the illness, peel back the layers and see the pure love deep inside our hearts and love ourselves back unconditionally.
Just when I thought I knew what healing is, the universe has shown me that I know nothing. Healing starts when the actual cause of the illness is addressed, everything else is just a band aid solution including green smoothies. I did not know I had an underlying mercury toxicity which probably is one of the big triggers behind my autoimmune illness itself. Without the recurring Candida overgrowth I would not have known that so for that reason alone I am grateful. Now I can start to heal properly.
Self love and care + cooking and eating a real whole foods which focuses on nourishment for both my body and soul is what’s healing me.
The journey of healing an autoimmune illness is never straight and will be an ongoing one. I accept that wholeheartedly and I am also grateful that I have come thus far.
I will keep it real here on my health blog and share my journey as authentically as I can, in the belief that it might bring bring hope to others like myself because we are not alone, we are in this together.
Important Note: This is my own personal journey and experience and it is not meant to be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet/medication/treatment. Mostly I hope you will be able to find a doctor who will listen to you and help you get to where you need to be. Stay strong, be an advocate for your own health and never give up.