By Be Well Health Coach Kerry Bajaj
Last June, we saw a patient named Charlotte who had fatigue, poor digestion and itchiness all over her body, which are classic signs of a yeast overgrowth. The antibiotics she had taken for Lyme’s disease had upset the balance of the microflora in her gastrointestinal tract, leading to a dysbiosis. As the “good guys” in her body were decimated, the yeast moved in, multiplied and took over. Read on to hear her story and how she restored balance to her body using a specific diet and supplements.
What symptoms you were experiencing before you came to the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center?
In August 2012, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. I had spent the entire preceding months of summer in ignorant frustration of what was wrong with me: I had a constant stiff neck, tingling feet, swollen glands, debilitating fatigue, and such pain in my knees that I could hardly sit down to go to the bathroom without yelping in agony. No exaggerations.
I was desperate to feel better, so when I was prescribed 500 mg of Doxycycline every day by my doctor I practically squealed in excitement at the prospect of feeling OK again after following the doctors orders and popping my daily dose of aqua-colored, bacteria-killing pills.
Fast-forward four months later, during the second semester of my senior year in college. At this point, I wasn’t even sure if I still had Lyme, but continued the meds, as I still felt lethargic and my brain felt foggy. It must be Lyme, I thought.
But other symptoms accrued throughout February and March. Most notably, I was plagued by an acute and incessant itching-sensation all over my body – like bugs were crawling inside and outside of my skin, on all surfaces, in all crevices. In addition, I had stubborn, cystic acne that would not budge and made me feel terrible about myself. My digestion felt slow and painful. I had headaches, low energy, difficulty paying attention, all of which made going to classes and completing assignments feel almost insurmountable. Add to the mix that all I wanted to eat was bread, sugary cereals, and fruit.
After sleepless, itchy nights perusing the Internet for my laundry list of strange and awful symptoms, I figured it out: I had Candida or systemic yeast. I began to research my condition like a mad-woman.
What did you do to relieve your symptoms?
As a result of my research, I ordered myself an antifungal supplement called Fungal Defense and a probiotic called Three Lac. I took them religiously, and began to feel improvements in my symptoms. Plus, I also slathered coconut oil on my body following every shower. I had read on the Internet that coconut was a powerful antifungal – and plus, any additional itchiness from dry skin would no longer be a problem.
I tried my best to avoid sugar, or at least convinced myself I did. But it was my senior spring, when I was “supposed” to feel celebratory and free. So beer, pizza, and candy crept into my diet from time to time. I figured that as long as I wasn’t eating cake and ice cream constantly, the occasional tablespoon of balsamic vinegar on a salad, or scoop of miso in a stir-fry would not hurt. On some level, though, I knew my self-created “program” to kick the yeast lacked the necessary discipline, and felt responsible for allowing myself to continue to feel hopeless about ever feeling well again. I knew I needed to make a change in my life.
What plan did you and Dr. Lipman come up with?
Dr. Lipman commended me on the breadth and depth of my research – particularly regarding my awareness of antifungal supplements, probiotics, and topical treatments such as coconut oil and African black soap.
So Dr. Lipman really focused on helping me get my diet in order. At the time of my visit – June 2013 – I had been avoiding gluten, dairy, and refined sugar, but still was eating vinegar, soy products, high sugar fruits and vegetables without giving it second thought. My immune system was down and it was imperative for me to give my treatment the extra push it needed to get myself back to square one, at the very least. In short, I was to continue my antifungals and probiotics, and to launch onto a food journey that would completely change the way I treat my body. Dr. Lipman and I created the plan for me to avoid eating: all grains (even including “good” ones like quinoa, kamut, millet and more), high-sugar vegetables like carrots and parsnips, fruit (both fresh and dried), dairy, vinegars and processed dressings/sauces (the exception being Apple Cider Vinegar), fermented foods (unless they were lacto-fermented), alcohol, and, of course, all refined sugars that make yeast so very happy.
What was your experience following this protocol?
Following this protocol was difficult – particularly at first. For one, it is quite, quite difficult to go out to eat at a restaurant while following the Candida diet. There are so many “hidden” ingredients in the food we eat – even healthy food: a drizzle of red wine vinegar on a salad, soy sauce in a stir-fry, a dash of sugar added to a sauce. As a result, I became obsessed with cooking, and treated my period of healing as a time to become extremely passionate about making the simple foods I was putting in my body taste great. Naturally, this involved lots of fresh vegetables (almost always seasoned with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice), lean proteins like chicken and fish, healthy fats – mostly from nuts, nut butters, olive oil and lots and lots and lots of avocado (for satiety’s sake).
Admittedly, it was a bit hard for me to be social while first on the diet: explaining your personal food protocol brings with it a certain anxiety. And plus, as I mentioned, it’s hard to find a place to eat out. But the main thing is to remember that following this diet is a step of self-empowerment, and if you can bring that knowledge to your interactions with people, they will only respect you more. Take the opportunity to tell your friends what’s going on, and invite them to cook a healthy meal with you – and you can show off all your cool culinary tricks. And remember, lemon, garlic and avocado really will become your best friends.
How are you feeling now?
I am pleased to say, I am feeling amazing – not itchy, no acne, energetic, and happy.
What are your next steps for going forward?
Now that I am feeling better, I am not completely abandoning all the steps toward wellness that I followed while on the Candida diet. That said, I am eating much more “normally” than before. I followed a relatively strict process for reintegrating particular foods and food groups, as I didn’t want to suddenly overload my system with gluten, sugar, dairy and fermented foods all at once. So, for instance, I first tried green apples as one kind of fruit that was low-sugar but would allow me to have a bit of diversity. No reaction. Then I tried grapefruit, as it was a similarly sour fruit that I did not expect to react to. Luck again – no reaction.
The following week I tried grains, starting with low glycemic index grains such as brown rice and quinoa. No reaction – check. I am now successfully eating apples, pears, and citrus (but staying away from super high-sugar fruits like banana and pineapple). I am now successfully eating all grains but wheat. I think I’ll stick to gluten-free for now. I am no longer eating dairy, as it simply feels better – with the exception of yogurt, as the probiotics make my stomach happy. On that note, I have decided to continue with a daily probiotic capsule as part of my general wellness protocol, and so that, too, remains part of my next steps.
I am not saying I will never have dessert again. I am just trying to exhibit a principle of balance in my diet, exemplified by the way I reintegrated Candida-forbidden foods: taking things one step at a time, slowly, mindfully, and with a sense of self-empowerment!