Since I wrote this guide, I have found out that Dr. Eric Bakker's (leading authority on topic of candida) ebook Candida Crusher is something that every women should read and follow. You can check his site yeastinfection.org and get a copy of his book. I have read all candida books and nothing comes to Dr. Eric Bakker's researched piece.
Ever since I was a baby I have suffered with candida and yet until I was in my teens I didn’t know this was the case. I was born with a yeast infection and had recurrent bouts of these throughout my childhood. Coupled with those I suffered a great number of ear infections for which my kindly Doctor would prescribe antibiotics, and so I had an endless circle of ear and sinus infections followed by a yeast infection followed by another ear infection and so it went on.
The breakthrough for me finally came when as a nineteen year old; I was spending the summer with my Grandmother and had a bad case of sinusitis. I visited her Doctor and he prescribed antibiotics. Several days later I walked back into the same Doctor’s office and he smiled as he saw me and said ‘Oh, I’ve given you thrush haven’t I?’
This was a major breakthrough in my health although at the time it didn’t seem particularly significant. Over the next few years I continued with my life, aware of the link between thrush and antibiotics, but it wasn’t until my late twenties that I started to consider my health in more detail. Ever since I was young I have suffered with mood swings. My family put these down to being a typical teenager, however by the time I was having proper adult relationships of my own, it was becoming clear that I was a little old for teenage tantrums and tears. At twenty-nine, the man I loved walked out on me without warning or explanation and a few weeks later when it was clear that I would never see or hear from him again, I had a breakdown.
It is easy to write those words on a page, but actually it was a dark and devastating time in my life. I remember very little for the next six months. I was on prescription drugs, I had counseling and I had access to support groups. None of it helped. I was in a bleak and lonely place. My weight plummeted and my immune system tried to give up the ghost.
Again I ran the gamut of infections; the cycle of sinus and ear infections, treated by antibiotics, followed by bouts of thrush. Added to the mix now was the first appearance of eczema I had ever had. I would get horrid areas of itchiness on different parts of my body; between my fingers, underneath my breasts, on the back of one calf and the top of one foot. Some of it was arbitrary and some of it was obviously related to fungal infections growing in warm, moist and dark areas. At the time I was studying for a higher degree so I wasn’t stupid by any means but it still took me a while to make a connection between my poor immune system and my symptoms. In every session of counseling that I had I would be asked whether I was looking after myself. I didn’t know the answer to that, because I didn’t know what looking after myself would mean in practice. Finally, in a moment of lucidity I asked my therapist what she meant and she talked about diet, sleep and pampering myself.
In the intervening months since the breakdown I had suffered terrible anxiety and insomnia. I was lucky to get three hours of sleep per night. I found that my digestion couldn’t cope with anything except nursery food and I lived on a diet of fried eggs (without eating the yolk), baked beans and mashed potato – none of which I actually liked. The other thing I craved was yoghurt.
The penny dropped. I started to look at improving my diet and especially improving the problems with my skin. I expect that was vanity. No-one can tell whether you have a yeast infection, but eczema can look pretty awful. I was a frequent visitor to the library anyway so I started to look into diet and what could help me to improve the condition of my skin. That was the first time I came across candida as a particular medical issue and I realized that my thrush and other symptoms were probably related.
All those years as a child where I had had ear and respiratory problems, mood swings and athletes foot, were all probably related to the candida I had had since birth.
I hadn’t understood that antibiotics killed off all the good bacteria in my stomach and let the candida yeast take over. I could now see the links between candida and my general physical well-being. I also found that stress can have a serious effect on the body’s immune system, attacking it until again; conditions are perfect for the growth of candida. So here was I, a stressed out husk of a woman, and a perfect victim.
In the years since that realization I can’t say it has been easy. I have battled the depression demons for over ten years now although I am now happier and healthy for longer periods of time. I am happily married to a very supportive man who occasionally pulls me up short and we readjust my diet and routines.
Through trial and error what I have found works for me is a fairly strict diet regime that rules out sugar as much as possible. Candida adores sugar so you need to starve it. Cutting out chocolate, sweets and chewing gum is not a problem for me, but actually I have to go further than that and cut out all processed and sweetened foods, even those with natural sugars such as honey. I don’t eat fruit, neither dried nor fresh, and I don’t drink juices. I also avoid milk and dairy as far as possible, because of the sugars they contain.
Obviously I don’t eat yeast products; I produce quite enough of my own, thanks very much! So I avoid bread that is made from yeast, yeast spreads, alcohol and I have to make my own stock to avoid the yeast in stock cubes.
So my diet really relies on my love of vegetables and salad, fish and meat. In recent years I have realized that intensive farming of both fish and animals means that a huge amount of antibiotics is pumped into farmed animals in order to prevent infections because of the conditions they are kept in, and this can also be an issue for cheese and dairy too. Now I really don’t need any antibiotics knocking my immune system out for the count, so increasingly I am relying on organic and free range products and I think that makes a world of difference. As meat becomes more expensive I just buy small cuts and supplement my meals with more vegetarian dishes and I am happy with that.
As my symptoms seem to come and go I occasionally try out new things. I have tried raw garlic although I didn’t get on so well with that; however someone recently gave me garlic pickled in soy sauce which I loved, so I shall introduce that into my diet. Other additions I use include herbs such as oregano, marjoram, rosemary and lemon balm which all have anti-fungal properties so I use them quite liberally in my chicken and vegetable dishes.
I also have probiotic yoghurt daily and I have tried apple cider vinegar from the health shop which you drink with water. The good thing about this vinegar is that you can bathe any itchy areas you have as a result of eczema and it is pretty soothing.
Finally, in an effort to have a healthy balance in my life I try to make sure that my home environment is calm and peaceful. I clean without using chemicals or toxins, I hardly drink alcohol at all, and I try and get 8 hours sleep every night and more if I am starting to feel tired or run down.
My husband helps by supporting me in everything I do and waggling his finger at me when I am starting to get symptoms. We like to use essential oils, such as lemongrass, citrus lemon, bergamot, tea tree, sandalwood and lemon eucalyptus for massage, in the bath and dotted around the house in fragrance dispensers. They have anti-fungal properties and I find that the eucalyptus and tea tree are particularly soothing on my skin.
The most important aspects of my self-treatment for candida have really been recognizing what my body needs in terms of the pace of life, diet and exercise and boosting my immune system. I have built up my immune system by taking a vitamin complex and a mineral supplement from my health shop and I try to make sure I get plenty of sun because Vitamin D is great for you. I fall off the wagon from time to time and suddenly splurge on a huge cheese sandwich and a can of cola, but as soon as my skin starts itching or my mood dips or I seem to be heading for another case of thrush, that’s it. I’m an A student all over again.