Someone just asked me if going Paleo cured my candida. It wasn't Paleo that cured my candida, but I believe eating Paleo has kept it away.
I've been meaning to write about it so let me explain in my short, non-long-winded-version. (Ha!)
(If you want to skip the back-story, scroll down to the heading "What Worked To Rid Me Of Candida".)
Long before I went Paleo, back when I was eating bread and cheese for every meal, followed by M&Ms and brownies and...you get the picture, I suspected I had candida. After all, I was still overweight from my first pregnancy and the kid was almost three years old, so that was clue. That and my crankiness and bloating and how I would snarl and bare my fangs if anyone tried to snag one of my cookies.
I bought The Candida Control Cookbook and, by myself, without any doctor or holisitc person's help or diagnosis, I went on the diet for three months. I lost all of my pre-baby weight, felt amazing, and hated the diet because it was so boring I wanted to put salt on cardboard and eat that just for a change of pace but hot damn, I looked good. So good in fact we got pregnant with our second kid and I promptly went back to my old eating habits and gained a ton of weight once more.
Fast forward another three years.
I am hoarding girl scout cookies. In the garage . Away from the children. Bloated. Cranky. Brain fog (but didn't know it). Tired. I so did not want to do that candida diet again. Dear God, please do not make me have to eat like that again. So instead I went gluten-free.
The light! I can see the light!
The change in me was amazing. A-ma-zing. No more bloating, brain fog, snarling, food hoarding, cravings, need for a nap. I went from unwashed, nose-flaring woman to Super Nice Mom is 24 hours without having to go on the candida-free diet. I could still eat cookies! Gluten-free cookies, but still... cookies!
Then I went dairy-free.
And then, because of testing on my oldest daughter, we all went soy-free. I still wasn't a great cook and so we spent $1,000,000,000 dollars a month at Whole Foods buying gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free junk food substitutes like donuts and cupcakes with frosting made from gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free what? I don't know. Perhaps sugar and whipped plastic. But still, I felt better than ever, had lost 20 lbs and was happy.
And I did not have to go on that icky candida diet. Happy, happy day.
Until I hit a plateau. Or a wall. Or a hole. Something that squished me and made me cry "hey!"
It was at my dad's house. I was doing the gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free dance in his kitchen on a family vacation (bought my own pots and pans, coordinated separate cooking times, sterilized the kitchen at every turn) when I realized I was still overweight, turning 40 soon and doing an awful lot of work for feeling and looking only as good as I did.
I could do better.
I demanded better. And I was scared that if I was still 30+ lbs. overweight on my 40th birthday - the day I enter (cue ominous music) middle age - it would be like a magic spell was cast over me, dooming me to being overweight for the rest of my life. (Life....life...life..)
Dramatic, I know, but there you have it.
So I went nuts and, based on the movie Fat Sick & Nearly Dead, I came back home and immediately went on a 30 day juice fast.
OMGosh, what wonder was there now before me! What new life! What amazing feelings of freedom! That is, after the first four days of face-clawing sugar withdrawal and then the two weeks of detoxing and horrible bathroom experiences of which we shall not go into detail here in mixed company.
I had no idea I had joint pain until I went on a juice fast and it went away. No idea. None at all.
In fact, I had no idea I was feeling so crappy and.... old... until I went on a juice fast. I had no idea. None at all.
It must have snuck up on me, over the years, that feeling of weight and the literal weight. Sigh. But now I knew. Now I knew and I could not unknow what I knew. I must maintain this feeling. Forever!
By Week Three of my juice fast I contemplated juicing for the rest of my life. Not only did I feel incredible but by not chewing all of my emotional eating habits vaporized. I was invincible! By Week Four I realized the error of my thinking. It was time to chew. I was dreaming of meat. But now I was scared. What if I felt like crap again?
I did 20 hours of research those weeks, obsessed. What diet could I do after juicing? Raw? Um... ug. I really, really like food that I don't have to chew so much and for so long. And again: meat. I love meat. Vegetarian? Without dairy that sounded like vegan and we needed to be dairy free for my casein-intolerant daughter. And then I saw it. A website on Paleo.
Paleo was already gluten-free, diary-free and soy-free. And it also answered my question of "What am I not eating on this juice fast?" Sugar. Grains. Dairy. Legumes. I wept. I seriously wept when I read about eating Paleo.
But I was still juicing, so like a good mother I tried it out on my children first. "Here kids, go Paleo while I stand here and watch how you react." That was when, after 48 hours of Paleo, my daughter who was seven at the time said "Mom, I finally feel good. I'm Paleo for life!" (Cue inspirational music. Camera shot of the family hugging in slow motion.)
As soon as my juice fast was over I went Paleo, too. Except I had problems. Problems that looked a lot like my old nemesis candida. After I ate a banana or balsamic vinegar (both Paleo) my ears junked up and I felt horrible and exhausted.
But this time I vowed I would not tackle candida alone, because that felt, frankly, lonely. And I didn't want to mess around - I wanted it gone. For good.
What Worked To Rid Me Of Candida
I did research and found a holistic clinic here in the Bay Area that has a candida-cleanse program. You may not live in the Bay Area but I'll put the link here in case you want to read how they handle it. These are the people who taught me that a fat belly isn't always made up of fat.
Their diet is a bit different from the Candida Cleanse Cookbook. For one, you are supposed to eat an apple a day. Oh, sweet daily apple, how you saved my life and made the diet bearable. They also give you supplements. And a special mineral water to drink. And then they do the thing. You know. The thing where they, um, clean out your colon directly. From your bottom. With a hose. It's called a colonic for slang, or colon hydrotheraphy technically, and it is intense.
Their program called for a 10 week program with weekly colonics. I had so much (close your eyes if you are squeamish) impacted feces in my colon I had to go for 12 weeks. It took 12 weeks. Twelve sweaty, fist-clenching vacuum-hose sessions for my colon to be actually cleared. This is why I never, ever blame my friend for asking me if I was pregnant. I looked pregnant. I really did. But no, it was just poop. My poop baby. That innocent question of hers freaked me out enough to say yes to colonics and I am forever grateful for her.
So I ate my clinic's version of a Candida Free Diet for about 4 months. I took their supplements. And at the end of my program they literally re-populated my intestines with good bacteria directly. That is, from the hose that was, you know, down there. Filled me up and let it sit so my newly-cleaned gut could bask in the beauty of healthy flora.
THEN I went Paleo and I have never looked back. It's been 1.5 years.
Do I think the Paleo diet would have cured my candida? No. I honestly think it was the total program that worked - from the diet to the supplements to mineral water to the colon hydrotherapy to the re-populating treatment. At the very least I finally had a flat stomach again, and that is nothing to sneeze at.
(And since I was determined to keep it that way we bought a platform so we could squat in the bathroom. After the initial adjustment our platform became family. We even take it on vacation with us.)
The clinic I went to recommends a quarterly colonic for ongoing health. I went back after about six months to check on my colon. Was the platform working? Was eating Paleo working? Was my colon working?
Yes. Yes, it is.
I was so relieved to get a glowing report from my awesomely sweet and amazing colon hydrotherapy technician who, honestly, would be mortified about my description of getting a colonic so let me back-pedal.
It's not that bad.
Really. I mean, I went for twelve and then I went back again and I will go again as well, later, after this real baby of mine is born, if just to un-kink my inner tubes after junior #3 has squashed them up into my lungs.
But while eating Paleo would not, I think, have cured my candia, eating Paleo since has, I believe, kept me healthy once my gut was repopulated. If I had gone back to my pre-gluten-free days of fast food, white bread, cheese, and sugar it all would have crept up on me again and one day I would look in the mirror to find myself carrying extra weight, crankiness, joint pain and exhaustion and, if I didn't know any better, calling it "getting older".
I'm 41 and five months pregnant, candida-free and eating Paleo and feeling amazing while looking, if I do say so myself, hottt with three "t's" because I am experiencing for the first time a healthy pregnancy weight-gain and not a "get out of my way that cake is mine" pregnancy-hormone-food-addiction-mood-swing-50-to-70-pounds-weight-gain.
Life is good.
I like the easy Paleo stuff.