Hello friends. Today I'm writing with some sadness. I have decided I need to return to an anti-Candida albicans diet (ACD) protocol. What is Candida albicans? It's a yeast organism that everyone has in their system, but in some of us - the lucky ones - it multiplies and overgrows in our gut and leads to a whole host of nasty symptoms: things like brain fog, chemical and food sensitivities, food cravings, fatigue, skin problems, rashes, headaches, arthritic symptoms, allergies, digestive distress, depression, anxiety, and most notably, vaginitis and oral thrush. When a Candida albicans overgrowth reaches this kind of systemic level, it is called Candidiasis.
Candidiasis can happen to anyone, but some people are more susceptible than others. A history of antibiotic or steroid use, high carbohydrate or high sugar diets, or leaky gut syndrome or intestinal inflammation makes someone more likely to suffer a Candida albicans overgrowth. Treatment methods vary, but most schools of thought agree that dietary changes and antifungals are necessary to rebalance proper bacteria levels in the gut. Since sugar and carbs feed the yeast, dietary protocols generally call for a reliance on low-carb, no-sugar foods, and limiting or omitting entirely starchy vegetables, grains, and fruits, depending on personal tolerance. Fermented foods are discouraged by some protocols, alcohol is a strict no no, as is an excess of mucous forming, dampening foods like dairy. One has to watch out for molds in spices, herbs, nuts, mushrooms, and bulk foods. And there needs to be a strict avoidance of yeasts - they hide in everything.
Last year I was on a strict ACD for about 10 months. It made a huge difference, but was incredibly hard on me. I was very sick when I went on the ACD; my digestive system was thrashed and I was suffering severe Candidiasis symptoms and extreme fatigue. My system was weak, and I wasn't strong enough to withstand the intense cleanse I was putting myself through. I lost weight rapidly, lost a ton of hair, and was completely lethargic. Once I started seeing a naturopath, we tested for Candidiasis, which proved that I was right in my suspicions. She helped me moderate my ACD diet and gave me anti-fungals, and together, we worked on a good protocol. While my blood sugar was still a disaster, I stopped losing such frightening amounts of weight, and started feeling better. Over the next 5 months, I noticed more and more improvement, and then in March, I tested negative for Candida. I had beaten it! I felt really great, inside and out. I was even able to eat fruit again, without the old BActerial Vaginitis flaring up. What a victory!
So, I slowly started letting more foods back in; fruit, agave nectar and maple syrup. More baked goods. More starchy vegetables. Lately, even itty bitty amounts of cane sugar in those allergy-free chocolate chips and tapioca chips. And I had been feeling really good until about June, when I noticed a few things coming back. My carb cravings got stronger. My food cravings in general are sometimes out of control. I have been experiencing more headaches again. More fatigue. Join pain. Some of my old skin issues are coming back, like random hives, more breakouts, and some eczema on my hands. And despite more my active lifestyle, I have been gaining weight like crazy. For a girl with a perfectly function thyroid and pituitary, that's weird. But the most irritating and frustrating symptom is the flare-ups in Bacterial Vaginitis-type symptoms. On a few occasions, after eating more sugar than usual, I experienced a bad hangover type reaction.
I've tried to ignore these symptoms, or attribute them to other things, but my gut tells me that it is a flare-up in the good old Candida. For those of us that deal with this struggle, our systems are susceptible to being overcome by the Candida again, and we need to be careful. While I had hoped I had truly beat it, I'm thinking that I may have been a bit overenthusiastic at the re-inclusion of some of those formerly forbidden foods into my diet. My system is sensitive, more sensitive than I thought. My gut tells me that this is what I need to do. And if there is one thing I've learned from this process, it is that I need to listen to my gut (literally!), no matter how much I want to tell it to shut up.
So, what does this mean? Anti-candida diet, here I come, once again. I like the method used by the Whole Approach website - their diet phases and food lists are very helpful and totally approachable. Fellow blogger Ricki from Diet, Dessert, and Dogs is also using this approach in her current ACD diet. Ricki is a wonderful blogger and inspiring woman; I have gotten excellent support from her, and her encouraging words have helped give me the strength to make this decision. If you aren't familiar with her blog, I highly recommend checking it out - she is a wonderfully creative cook, an excellent writer, and is generous with kindness and sincerity. Someday, I hope to be able to meet her in person! But in the meantime, I read her blog religiously. As for my blog, you'll be seeing a lot less baked goods, that's for sure. More high protein dishes, no more fruit, no more sweeteners other than stevia. Lots and LOTS and LOTS of vegetables, fixed every which way.
The thought of doing this for winter SUCKS. But I deserve to feel better than I do currently, and if this is what it takes, I need to be willing to go back down this road. I think it will be easier on my system this time around - I'm much stronger these days, and I'm way better at cooking with all these restrictions than I was when I first started on this path almost two years ago. I'm determined at making some killer ACD-friendly holiday food. And maybe even treat myself so a little slice of ACD-friendly pumpkin pie.
Yikes, here we go again. Back to the Whole Approach food list , the Jeanne Marie Martin's Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook , and Donna Gates' Body Ecology Diet. Back to the coconut oil. Back to the cleansing baths and being gentle with myself. I know more this time around, I'm in a healthier place, and feel empowered by this decision, not a slave to something I don't understand. I now know how to explain it to my friends and family, and how to ask for support. And all things willing, I'll feel better. I have a strong feeling it will make a big difference.
So, to kick it off, here's a little recipe for some tasty, low-carb, ACD-friendly chicken soup I made last night. Full of chunky chicken, lots of green veggies, flavorful herbs, and one little carrot for spleen meridian-strengthening power, this soup feels satisfying, not restrictive. Freeze leftovers for easy meals later on. I started this chicken soup from scratch, with the whole darn bird, the best way to do it. It is easy to cook a whole chicken, and once you taste the stock, you won't go back. Besides being delicious, the natural gelatin in real bone broth and stocks is ultra-healing to our body's tissues, and can help repair and soothe the lining of the digestive tract. Between a couple batches of stock, and all the meat, one little chicken can yield many many meals.
I like using a crock pot to cook my chickens to save time, but it also works well on the stovetop. I put my chicken in the crockpot last night at 6:30, ate dinner, ran to Whole Foods for a bunch of low-starch vegetables and more coconut oil (argh.), went to the gym, and got home at 9:30 to a cooked chicken and about 6 cups of fresh stock. I cut up the vegetables for the soup and sauteed them in the pot on the stove while I cleaned up the chicken and strained the broth, then finally assembled everything in the pot. By about 10:15, I had a pot of fresh soup cooling the fridge. I also had a second batch of stock going in the crock pot, and leftover chicken for meals later this week! See? Home-cooking doesn't have to take up all your time. The more you do it, the faster it gets.
If you don't want to start with the whole chicken and make your own stock, feel free to use store bought stock and skinless, boneless chicken breasts (or leftover pre-cooked chicken) for a super-fast and easy meal.
HERBED CHICKEN & GREENS SOUP
1 whole chicken, free range, no antibiotic
6-8 c water
2 bay leaves
2-3 whole allspice berries or cloves
handful parsley and fresh thyme or other herbs
2 tsp marjoram or oregano
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 chunk onion
other vegetable trimmings/scraps
3 c cooked chicken, diced or shredded
2 c broccoli florets and chopped stems
2 c celery, sliced
4 large leaves Swiss Chard, leaves chopped and ribs sliced (may sub kale or collards)
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
optional: 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and sliced
2 tsp dry marjoram or oregano
1 Tbsp dry basil
1-2 tsp thyme or savory
1/4 c parsley, minced
8 c stock/broth and water
1-2 T olive oil
salt/Herbamare to taste
COOK THE CHICKEN/STOCK - looks like a lot of instructions, but it is REALLY EASY!
- Rinse off the chicken, and trim off any excess fat or waste. Stuff fresh herbs inside the chicken.
- Place the chicken in large stockpot or crockpot with bay leaves, allspice, marjoram, carrot, celery, and onion.
- Crock pot: cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Stove top: bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 1 hour.
- Once chicken is done, remove it from the pot. Remove skin, setting aside for making another batch of stock later on. Remove meat from bones, setting bones aside with skin. Set aside 3 cups of meat for the soup, and save the rest for later in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Strain broth through a fine colander into a large bowl, and use it for the soup!
- If you want an extra batch of stock, place skin, bones, and the veggies/herbs back in the pot. Throw in some fresh carrot and vegetable trimmings from the soup veggies, more water, and more herbs. Cook on the stove top for an hour or two, or up to 24 hours on low in the crock pot. The longer it cooks, the richer it tastes! When it is done, strain through colander, and store in jars. Use within 5 days, or freeze for later.
MAKE THE SOUP
- In a large stockpot, heat olive oil and saute garlic, celery, sliced chard ribs, carrot, and broccoli on low, covered, for about 5-8 minutes, until fragrant.
- Add chard leaves, cooked chicken, and stock, and simmer until all the vegetables are almost tender. Add herbs and spices to taste, and let cook 5 more minutes to flavor through.