About My Candida Journey
Oh, candida. What a doozy. If you already know that you suffer from candida, then I'm sure you can relate. Candida is the chronic overgrowth of the usually benign Candida albicans, a parasitic fungus that loves to torture you by overgrowing in your nooks and crannies, often promoting painful symptoms across the whole body. Candida can manifest in your warm wet mouth (known as thrush), around your warm wet toes (known as athlete's foot), in the vagina (see vaginal yeast infections), or in other warm wet places, such as your small intestine. When candida takes over, it can cause you to develop food allergies, joint pains, hemorrhoids, being "hangry", digestive issues, fatigue, skin problems, mood swings, and can even be the root cause of diagnoses such as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome – to name only a few possible symptoms.
Personally, I have suffered from candida for at least the past 5 years, but possibly longer. I can trace my candidiasis directly to my chronic psoriasis, anxiety, sugar addiction (I now consider myself a recovered sugar addict), and gluten/wheat intolerance. For me, it seems that the candida had taken over my small intestine and made my intestine so sick that it became excessively porous (see leaky gut), thus allowing incompletely digested food particles to leak right into my blood stream. Which then sent my immune system into over drive, leading to my gluten intolerance. So much fun.
Candida is a complex disease state, one that the entire western medical community seems to be struggling to identify, understand, and treat. While I have made great strides in eliminating my own candidiasis, I still have work to do. My joint pain and sugar addiction have been mostly eliminated, but I continue to experience gluten intolerance and psoriasis (although the patches have greatly reduced in size and severity). As I continue on my own journey to finally squash the unwelcome hitchhiker riding around in my guts all day, using food as medicine has made life with candida way less painful and much more bearable.
One last note before I get into my anti-candida morning regimen: in my experience candida is a vicious and highly adaptive creature. You may start a treatment that is helping to reduce your candida, only to find maybe a few months later that you have hit a plateau where your candida levels have reduced but are no longer reducing, and/or you may find that the same regimen just doesn't work as well as it used to. Additionally, if you have a lot of candida or are just beginning treatment, it is important to begin your treatment slowly, so the candida dies slowly. Live candida is filled with toxins, and so killing off a bunch of candida at once will release a large load of toxins into your system, which can be dangerous and highly uncomfortable. I can attest to how horrible candida die-off is from personal experience. The released toxins are fat soluble, which make it even harder for your body to remove them. For myself, I've determined that my body removes these toxins by pushing them out of my skin, in the form of psoriasis. In this way, my psoriasis is directly related to my candidiasis.
Navigating the healing process for those who suffer from candida is complex and nuanced. To seek professional help, I suggest heading to the Contact page of my nutrition coaching practice, Eat Yer Veggies, and reaching out to us to schedule an appointment to begin discussing your individual treatment with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. We are happy to speak with prospective clients in the comfort of their own homes (if you're a New Yorker), on Skype, or over the phone.
My Anti-Candida Morning Regimen
Each of the below suggestions can be used individually, a few at a time, or all together to combat candida. There is no one size fits all solution to eliminating candida – instead, tune in to your body and learn which foods seem to help you the most.
To start, here’s my anti-candida morning regimen in one photo:
Let’s get into the details of using these foods as medicine.
One side effect of candidiasis is excessive mucus production (known as a biofilm), particularly in the sinus or throat areas, which may even be related to sinus infections. My medical doctor explained it by describing that once candida feels like it's under attack, it produces mucus that it coats itself in to prevent your immune system and/or any medicinal foods, herbs, or supplements from killing it off.
For me, this meant that I felt like I always had a lump in my throat, I was constantly trying to clear my throat, I couldn't smell that well, and especially in the beginning of my treatment I had an itchy throat that I was forever making weird noises to attempt to itch, but never to any real avail.
Pineapple to the rescue! Pineapple is an incredibly medicinal food with a special property. This wonderful fruit is singular in the fact that it contains bromelain, which is a set of enzymes unique to pineapple. These enzymes do an incredible job at busting up proteins specifically, and mucus is largely made of protein. So, pineapple can cut right through that nasty mucus to give you the relief you deserve. For the same reason, pineapple can be used as a meat tenderizer.
Pineapple is super easy to buy. Almost every grocery store, whether fancy or not, has packages of chunked pineapple for sale. I prefer buying whole pineapples, particularly for the price savings and because there’s no single-use plastic container involved.
Usage Suggestions: To completely break through all my mucus issues, I ate a few chunks or a ring slice of pineapple first thing or with my breakfast every morning for about 6 months straight. At the beginning of my pineapple regimen, soon after eating a few bites my congestion would noticeably clear, my sense of smell would sharpen, I felt I could breathe better, and often I would have some productive coughing as the mucus broke apart and fell down my sinus passage. Bingo!
NOTE: If pineapple is not tolerated, yarrow tincture is another home remedy that can help break through mucus as well.
GLUTEN FREE (OR WHEAT FREE) INGREDIENTS
Food allergies, especially newly developed allergies, and candida may go hand-in-hand. In both my personal and professional experience eliminating candida, most candida sufferers find the greatest relief from a gluten free, or at least wheat free, diet. I'm still exploring the exact mechanism of this, however my hunch is that the high-gluten hard wheats commonly bred and sold today plus the shortcuts the industry takes while baking commercially prepared bread (such as using fast acting yeast instead of allowing the dough to undergo a true slow sourdough fermentation) have compounded to take a serious health toll on a lot of Americans.
Since gluten-free bread can be rather dismal in taste, I’ve settled on using this spelt sourdough with excellent flavor, from Berlin Natural Bakery. Now, spelt isn’t gluten free. Actually, wheat (Triticum aestivum) and spelt (Triticum spelta) are different species of the same genus, meaning they’re cousins. Regardless, I’ve found that this bread does not seem to aggravate my candidiasis, and actually some gluten free breads (which may be primarily composed of rice flour, a simple carbohydrate candida can feed on) can cause my psoriasis to flare while this spelt bread does not. Again, tune in to your own body to best understand which foods are the most helpful and harmful to your healing process.
Usage Suggestions: Eat gluten free and/or wheat free foods whenever possible!
Coconut is known for its antifungal properties. Coconut contains caprylic acid, a medicinal saturated fat with well documented fungus-fighting characteristics. Not only is coconut absurdly delicious, but it’s a slammin’ medicine as well.
There are endless ways to cook with and consume coconut oil, but one of my favorite is using this decadent oil as a substitute for butter. I often slather coconut oil over the above spelt bread once toasted with my breakfast. Yum!
Usage Suggestions: When using coconut to combat candida, it can be more effective to use coconut oil instead of whole or dried coconut. Coconut oil has more saturated fat than the same volume of whole coconut and therefore contains a denser amount of fungus-fighting caprylic acid, although both are highly nutritious and medicinal. Relief may be experienced by adding 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil to your diet everyday, although more may easily be tolerated.
Oh how I love kimchi! I could sing praises of kimchi all day long. The gold standard is to ferment your own kimchi (my favorite kimchi recipe), but buying kimchi is still a good option. Kimchi is full of probiotics, which happily and healthily compete with candida for space, food, and resources in your body. Store bought kimchi should contain no preservatives, should require refrigeration, and the list of ingredients should be whole foods without any chemical names.
Usage Suggestions: Consume kimchi daily, or as often as desired/possible.
SOLARAY YEAST CLEANSE
I love this product so much that I haven't even tried many other anti-candida supplements out there, although there is a wide gamut of them. I began taking this supplement almost 2 years ago now, a few months after I had finally correctly diagnosed myself with candida after many incorrect self-diagnoses and false starts. Yeast Cleanse is full of anti-fungal agents, such as our beloved caprylic acid plus tea tree oil, Pau d'arco, grapefruit seed extract, licorice, and garlic. This thing WORKS, folks.
When I first began using these supplements, I took 6 a day per the manufacturer's suggestion – 2 pills each with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That regimen worked very well for about the first year, when I switched to taking all 6 pills first thing in the morning. For about the last 6 months, I've been able to significantly reduce my use of these pills and now only take them when I feel my symptoms flare up (for me that means my psoriasis feels tender and inflamed, and/or my bones begin to feel achy), for a total of about 10-20 pills per week. Additionally, I feel that this supplement is even more effective when taken simultaneously with flaxseed oil pills.
Usage Suggestions: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and/or take 2-3 pills when your symptoms flare up.
Last but not last...
FLAXSEED OIL PILLS
Yaaas flaxseed oil!
Flaxseed is hands down my preferred source of omega 3 supplementation (I'll save my comparison of flaxseed versus fish oil for another post). Omega 3 is a component of some healthy fats that helps reduce inflammation in our bodies. The average American diet and commercial agricultural system produces chronically low levels of omega 3 in our food and therefore also our bodies, and we are paying the price!
Inflammation is present in many, many diseases (everything from cancer to arthritis, heart disease, digestive issues, dementia, diabetes, asthma and more) and, while a chicken-or-egg argument is fair, there seems to be little doubt in the medical community that reducing inflammation can eliminate, reduce, and/or help manage a very wide range of diseases. In short, flaxseed oil pills are a staple in my household. We always have them on hand!
Since your body stores fat and fat-soluble vitamins, such as omega 3, it isn't considered necessary to supplement every day with omega 3. You can if you want to though, just take a lower dose. I prefer to take my flaxseed oil pills based on my symptoms, such as when my psoriasis flares up or when my bones begin to feel achy. I really like to take my flaxseed oil pills at the same time I take my Yeast Cleanse pills.
Usage Suggestions: Select high quality flaxseed oil pills by choosing organic, extra virgin and/or first press oil, and by reading the ingredients to select the product with the least amount of extraneous ingredients. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, consume 1-2 pills (with 1,000mg flaxseed oil each pill) per day, and/or take 1-4 pills when your symptoms flare up.
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Hang in there, my fellow candida sufferers! Rest assured that while fighting off candida naturally is a long and difficult process, throughout the entire journey you will gain skills listening to your body and being the healthiest you that you possibly could be. Stay strong, and be good to yourself!
More about the author:
Caylee Clay, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in autoimmune conditions. As a graduate of New York University and Hunter College, Caylee has studied under leaders in the health and nutrition world, including completing an independent study and graduate course with Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics. Caylee has five years experience in community nutrition, working with a wide variety of patients including infants and young children, HIV+ adults, school aged children, expecting and new mothers, and several minority communities. To contact for consulting and counseling, please visit Eat Yer Veggies.
DISCLAIMER: This information cannot be construed as medical advice. See your individual healthcare provider for information and advice pertinent to your particular health concerns, and before beginning new supplements or medications.