Life

Candida – What is it? Why should you care? What can you do about it?

Candida Overview from A Thousand Crumbs

The much-anticipated breakdown and discussion of candida is finally here!  I know, you’re all so excited to talk about this!  There is a lot of great information in this post including what candida is, why you should care about it, and what you can do about it.  But before we get started, I also highly encourage you to do your own research and talk to your doctors. I am in no way an expert or diagnosing physician.  I am just sharing my own experience and what I’ve learned combatting my own infection.  So, without further ado, let’s dive in!

What is candida?

Quite simply, candida, or the most commonly discussed candida albicans is a naturally occurring yeast that plays an important role in digestion and nutrient absorption.  Harmless enough, right?  It’s in your body, it’s on your body, it’s everywhere!  And completely normal and healthy when it is in balance with the rest of your naturally occurring bacteria.

However, candida is also an opportunist – when the conditions are right (ie when the balance between your good/bad bacteria is out of whack) candida can multiply, take over, and break down the wall of your intestine, eventually causing a systemic fungal infection.  Sounds gross, I know, but stay with me.

At this point you might be telling yourself, “I don’t feel sick, so I couldn’t possibly have a problem with candida.”  Keep reading!

Symptoms of candida overgrowth

  • Frequent colds, flu-like symptoms
  • Unexplained fatigue, general malaise
  • Frequent vaginal infections, urinary tract infections
  • Bloating, gas, food sensitivities, diarrhea, constipation
  • Brain fog, ADD, ADHD, memory problems, poor concentration, sleep disturbances
  • Mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression
  • Skin issues (eczema, psoriasis, acne)
  • Autoimmune issues (Hashimoto’s, colitis, lupus, psoriasis, etc.)
  • Low libido
  • Craving for processed foods and carbohydrates (sugar, bread, pasta)
  • White coating on your tongue

They are all relatively vague, or common, but they’re important to look at.  If you suffer from one, or a handful, or even all of these things, maybe you wouldn’t necessarily call yourself, “sick,” but the truth is, your body may be fighting an unseen fight and not functioning optimally.  I also want to point out the spectrum of symptoms across all systems in your body (skin, gut, mood, immune) should tell you how invasive it can be.

What causes a candida overgrowth?

As mentioned above, candida is the ultimate opportunist and will strike when your system is not in balance.  This can be caused by:

  • Stress
  • Antibiotic use
  • A poor diet (high in sugar and processed foods)
  • Oral contraceptive use
  • Medications
  • Alcohol consumption

Ok, real talk…couldn’t we just summarize this list into – anyone living in the modern world?!  Let’s be honest…we are all under stress, and I can guarantee at some point, we’ve all been on antibiotics at least once – which is (in my experience) the worst culprit for candida overgrowth.

Why should you care?

I’ll start with why I care about candida so much.  In October of 2010 I got such a severe case of food poisoning (from a very popular restaurant) that it continued to haunt me for 6 long years.  When all of my friends were out celebrating their first years of, “adulting,” I was in and out of doctor’s offices, labs, and the hospital, with two uncontrollable infections, and only brief respites between rounds of harsh antibiotics. While I am thankful for those medications that ultimately saved my life, I had no idea the damage I was doing to my balance of good vs bad bacteria, and ultimate long-term health.  After 6 years of monthly antibiotic use, I still wasn’t absorbing nutrients from my food and I couldn’t process anything I was eating.

It wasn’t until I was introduced to the concept of candida and systemic yeast overgrowth in 2016, that my life completely changed.  I spoke to one of the many doctors who knew my story and the severity of my antibiotic use, and he suggested I go through an anti-candida protocol to rid my body of the fungal infection, and heal my gut.  I consulted with my medical team and they all gave me the green light.

So, in the Summer of 2016 I completed my first round of the Dr. McCombs Candida Plan.  I can happily say that I am the healthiest I’ve ever been!  Neither infection has returned, and I haven’t been in the hospital, or on antibiotics since.  Victory!

But, that still doesn’t tell you why YOU should care.  I mean, I know you all care that I am happy and healthy.  But, what if you too could be functioning at your best?  What if you could heal your body and allow it to function the way God intended it and eliminate whatever symptoms you were able to circle from the list above?  What if you could get off the health roller coaster?  You might be telling yourself, “But you had this nasty infection and went on so many antibiotics.  I’ve never had that happen to me.”  Even one round of antibiotics is enough to cause havoc.  That stress you’re under at work or at home, is enough to cause havoc.  That medication you’re on for X, is enough to cause havoc.  Don’t mistake a lack of catastrophic medical event to rule you out for a candida overgrowth.

What can you do about it?

As I mentioned above – I am not a physician, I am not here to treat or cure, simply educate.  I highly recommend if you’re suffering from any of the symptoms I mentioned above, that you talk to your doctor.  I suggest finding a functional medicine doctor (but that’s just my own preference) for full-body nutrition and functional analysis.  There are a few ways to test for systemic candida, though I’ve heard the stool test is more accurate than the blood test.

I’ve listed a number of resources below to help you find the best solution for you.  There are supplements (Caprylic acid is a common one) and diets out there to help combat candida, just make sure the one you select fits your needs, and not only eliminates the infection, but heals your gut to help prevent future imbalances.

After doing research of my own, I settled on the Dr. McCombs Candida Plan because it was the most comprehensive.  Dr. McCombs is a functional medicine doctor and specializes in treating candida with his 17-week protocol.  Take a look at his website and read each section carefully.  He walks you through eradicating the overgrowth and healing your gut with his formulated supplements, coupled with an elimination diet and sweating protocol (an interesting and unique part to his program).  I started another round of the diet 7 weeks ago and I am feeling great!

You might be wondering, “If you’re so healthy, why are you doing the plan AGAIN?”  Great question!  My doctors and I agreed that in order to maintain this healthy track I am on, I should do this protocol every other year.  Dr. McCombs suggests doing it every year to maintain optimal health, but I decided to start with every other and see how I do.  I completed the first round in the Summer of 2016, so this is my year to do it again!

A caveat on diet perfection and an all-or-nothing mentality

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know health and nutrition are important to me, and now that you know my story, you have an understanding as to why.  With that said, in my day-to-day life, when I am not doing something like the Candida Plan, I generally follow a 90/10 rule.  90% of the time I eat a very healthy well-balanced diet, and the other 10% of the time, I LIVE!  This is why on my blog I have recipes for super healthy things like quinoa tabbouleh, and also cheesecake turtle brownies (they are gluten free, but hey, you get it).  I found that this 90/10 rule works best for me and allows me to maintain my health and wellness while still enjoying life.  You have to do what’s best for you, your body, and the season that you’re in.

So…now what?

I know that was a lot of information, but I hope you found it helpful!

God has given me a platform to tell my story and share my experience, but also to share my love for delicious healthy food.  If you are suffering from health problems, I want you to know first and foremost, that you are not alone.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Keep digging, keep researching, and fighting the good fight.

If you are about to embark on the McCombs Candida Plan, or are doing it right now, there are a number of recipes on my blog that are compliant, depending on what week you’re in.  Just search CANDIDA PLAN in the search box on the top right of the blog.  I realize the food list might sound restrictive, but once you realize all of the possibilities, those 16 weeks will fly by!

I’ve listed the sources I used below for this post, as well as additional resources that I have found helpful during my health journey.

I would also love to hear from  you!  If you have experienced your own battle with candida, or have any questions about the McCombs plan, or candida in general – leave a comment so we can all learn together!

Now, let’s go out there and kick some candida butt!

Sources and Further Reading

*I am in no way affiliated with Dr. McCombs, nor am I receiving any benefit from mentioning his program on my blog.  I had such great success with his program that I am doing it for a second time, and want to spread the word!

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