Why there’s harm in labeling everything a “candida problem”

AUTOIMMUNE, autoimmune disease, candida, chemicals, chronic illness, dairy-free, diets, fermentation, food allergies, gluten-free, grains, heavy metals, holistic, hormones, low-carb, nutrition, probiotic, vitamins and minerals, vitamins and supplements, water

My foray into holistic health and wellness started after a Hashimoto’s Disease diagnosis in 2007 which I could find no relief from. Medication didn’t help my thyroid or symptoms. So, what would?, I wondered. Enter The Yeast Connection and Women’s Health by Dr. William Crook — a book I just so happened to find in a book store while I was living half of the time in Brooklyn, NY and half of the time in Westchester. Books made for great companions on long train rides to and from the city.

After abiding by The Yeast Connection diet, in four short months my thyroid lab work improved by half. It was no coincidence; it was basic cause and effect. After that time, and with many other dietary tweaks, I was able to completely get off of all medication and keep my thyroid numbers stable (even during and post pregnancy). Needless to say, this information about yeast, or candida, it’s often called, was a life-changer. 

But over the years since going to nutrition school and working as a Health Coach, I’ve seen behind the scenes at some of the biggest wellness brands in the industry. Big names, big circles, big ass facades, big product to sell. In these companies, we were directed to assign most clients to one of two or three categories: they either likely had yeast problems, parasites, or they had SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). We couldn’t diagnose or treat, of course, but we could offer information for the consumer to do with what they pleased. 

While almost all of the time (which I take very seriously), my clients left happy and wrote back weeks or months later reporting how much the information had helped them, I couldn’t shake the few who seemed to be unable to rid themselves of candida, no matter what they did. Short of seeing a functional medicine doctor, there was little more that could be done for them. And often, the functional medicine doctors they were seeing had less information or help for them than the health coaches I was working alongside, which put clients in a difficult position. Mainstream doctors wouldn’t even acknowledge yeast overgrowth and holistic doctors had few answers. Just how could they kick their candida “problem” for good?

In the holistic health and nutrition community, candida is seen as a means to an end. That is, tell someone who has all the symptoms of candida about candida and what to eat for it or what to avoid — or which products to buy — and voila! problem solved. This leads to super strict paleo, keto, and no-fruit-whatsoever diets which are nearly impossible to maintain for the long term. (Check the social media of your favorite paleo celebrities and you will likely see that even they have reintroduced gluten-free grains or legumes at some point).

Clients ended up coming to me “post paleo” or post other-famous-paleoish diets other nutrition experts had recommended because they not only still had yeast problems, but they lost way too much weight, developed anxiety from the constant food prep and kitchen demands, lost their social life, and worried every food under the sun was making them sick. This just isn’t helpful. 

First, know that yeast overgrowth is a real phenomenon and I am not trying to insinuate it is not. I have seen it on lab work, and I have seen it in, well, “graphic” pictures my clients have sent to me over the years (bowel movements, mucus, etc etc.). Our modern foods, combined with stress and lack of healthy bodily flora, hormonal imbalances, and overuse of antibiotics has led to yeasty people. “Autointoxication syndrome” and raised levels of acetaldehyde are but two mainstream recognitions of this.

However, that said, if you have candida overgrowth that you cannot kick no matter which diet, supplements, or other remedies you try, there is a deeper underlying issue and you need to seek medical support. Throwing supplements and yet another strict diet at yeast over and over again for years will likely not stop the problem. You likely have an underlying health condition that is causing the yeast in the first place. You see, yeast is a symptom. 

Some common underlying medical conditions that can cause yeast include: kidney disease, liver disease, chronic dehydration, adrenal fatigue, gene mutations or methylation problems, rare inherited genetic diseases, urea cycle disorders, heavy metal poisoning, chemical exposure, hormone imbalances, autoimmunity or depressed immune responses, cancer, nutritional deficiencies, G.I. diseases, contraindicated medication, and more. 

I am not saying these things to scare you into thinking you have a terrible disease. I am telling you these things so that, if you are at the end of your rope with trying to improve the yeast problem, you won’t give up and will get proper medical attention. Please don’t go years thinking the next diet will rescue you. Healthy diet (in which you avoid your personal allergens, such as gluten, dairy, oxalates, salicylates, histamine, and/or sulfur) is essential. Getting in adequate nutrients daily is essential. Herbs and remedies are sometimes great. But at the root of the candida problem that cannot be helped is a medical issue and I encourage you to seek proper testing and diagnostics from a medical professional who can analyze your individual history and symptoms. 

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You’re only as healthy as the life force of your food

AUTOIMMUNE, autoimmune disease, chronic illness, diets, energy, ferment, fermentation, food, low-carb, mind-body, nutrition, probiotic, stress, thyroid, vitamins and minerals, water

Despite being told we “don’t know” why diseases happen or they only happen as a result of a shitty genetic Russian roulette, the truth is that illnesses come about for numerous external and internal reasons according to the individual’s gene mutations, experiences, core wounds, health history, chakra imbalances or karma, chemical exposure, and more. Therefore, the specific diet a person should be eating will vary according to this personalized history. It is why, although I believe there are dietary practices or theories that are in many ways superior to a standard western diet, there is truly no one-sized-fits-all approach. Who you are determines what you should be eating, not the other way around.

This is the standard I have held myself to over the last 8 years while directing clients in comprehensive nutritional plans. You are unique, your diet should be equally unique. Unfortunately, we are saturated with programs, books, classes, and internet experts telling us there is only one perfect diet (Paleo, Autoimmune Paleo, Keto, Vegan, etc etc). Will you trust your body or will you trust these money-making schemes?

Like I said, there are certain nutrition practices I think we should all to a large degree adopt (unless there is a specific contraindication for you personally). Take, for example, the fact that indigenous cultures and peoples instinctively understood things about food that our modern society overlooks and takes for granted: food should be consumed in its whole forms, it should come directly from the earth, it should be organic and unsprayed or not irradiated, and that you should consume what is local and available to you.

Another principle that transcends time and peoples worldwide is the idea that every meal should contain a raw or fermented food that is rich in enzymes. In Eastern Europe, we see this practice as the dollop of sour cream on the soup or the raw butter on toast; in Latino societies, we see it as the unpasteurized alcohol or fresh condiments consumed with food (tepache, chicha, salsas, curtido); in Asian cultures we see it as the fermented vegetables added to meals or used as side dishes (banchan, for example). These traditions are not “primitive”, they are ancient wisdom that should be respected. 

You see, enzymes aide in digestion and not only help your digestive tract to break down foods so they do not end up as inflammatory immune threats, they also help the kidneys and liver in processing foods. Enzymes can also be called life force or energy: they are living and alive and killed by cooking processes. Energy isn’t just about picking up the bad attitudes of others when you walk into a room, it is about what you intake in other ways, including what you eat.

When you eat dead foods, your body has to compensate for the lack of enzymes or water that would normally be found in unprocessed foods. Over time, this creates a deficit that forces your digestive tract, kidneys, and liver to work extra hard. Imagine the consequences of a lifetime of eating foods with no life force. Think back to how many modern meals we eat that are completely dead and devoid of any enzymes: fried potatoes, meats, pizza, pasteurized dairy, roasted vegetables, rice, bread, and on and on. While many of these foods can be healthy when sourced from quality purveyors, or when prepared in certain ways (grass-fed burgers, for example), they are still dead and force your body into an energetic deficit.

Another way I’ve heard “life force” interpreted when it comes to food is this: the kind of food you eat, when, how, and at which pace, affects how you feel afterwards. For example, you will feel differently eating a salad versus a bowl of pasta. One will probably leave you feeling light and energized afterwards, and one will leave you feeling stuffed, lethargic, and ready for a nap. 

In nutrition school, I also learned that coming together for a meal is about more than a social gathering; it is also an exchange of energy between the people sharing the food. Sure, you will get to talk, enjoy the people you are with, and get energized (or, perhaps, brought down) by their personal energy, but you will also end up collectively feeling the same way afterwards if you all eat the same thing. It’s one reason we congregate for meals: to get into a kind of positive groupthink with family or friends. This is in large part due to the fact that if you are sharing one big meal rather than everyone ordering something different so you will likely have similar blood sugar responses, levels of satiety, and therefore the same energy during and afterwards. On the flip side, we also know that having inhibitory responses (ie: getting stressed, nervous, holding back, being ashamed, etc) slows down the thyroid immediately and prevents thyroid hormone from being released, which aides in digestion. Food brings people together for many reasons, and energy is one of them. 

My nutrition school professor also described the energetics of food with this example: a famous and highly sensitive Japanese nutrition expert (a leader in the Macrobiotics movement) was so energetically sensitive he could always feel the energy with which the food he was eating was prepared. So once, a man tried to purposefully trick him to see what his interpretation of the food “energy” would be. This chef danced around the kitchen, clapping his hands, yelling, jumping up and down as he cooked. When the food arrived to the table, the nutrition expert took a few bites and said he was very confused with what had been done to this food. While it tasted delicious, he said the energy was chaotic and crazy and couldn’t understand what had happened while it was cooking. Despite not being in the kitchen while it was cooking, he knew something was “off”.

If you are a highly sensitive person, you may not feel the food life force quite to this degree, but your body will likely internalize it and it could stimulate or sedate you based on who prepared it and the emotion with which it was prepared. Now think about what happens when you go out to eat: the food you’re eating may be prepared by a worker who doesn’t particularly care for their job, slaps the meal together in a hurry with little love or care, and gets it to the table as quickly as possible. It’s one reason home cooked food tastes so good and we crave holiday gatherings or food from the “mother”: most likely, she put her heart and soul into it and prepared it with love.

The takeaway here is that you are an energetic being with constant energetic requirements. You must in-put good energetic sources of food, and be surrounded by positive energy while eating in order to aide the digestive tract and other vital organs. 

Ready to reclaim your health and self? Click here to learn more about Nutrition Consultations, Energy Readings, and Body Readings. 

 

 

Is the acid/alkaline balance a myth?

article, AUTOIMMUNE, autoimmune disease, chronic illness, dairy-free, diets, endocrine disruptors, food, grains, low-carb, mind-body, nutrition, raw food, summer, thyroid, vitamins and minerals

Everywhere you look online, health “gurus” are warning us about the acid/alkaline balance — telling us to eat more fruits and vegetables to remain “alkaline”.  They say that living in an “acidic” condition makes us prone to diseases and by alkalizing your body, you can prevent or reverse disease. 

Some experts even go so far as to tell people to avoid all foods that contribute to acidity, such as animal products, and instead encourage a vegan diet, juicing, or fruitarian diet (where all you eat is fruit). It’s important to get to the bottom of this idea so that you can integrate elements that are helpful and not stress over those that are simply not true — and certainly not limit your diet unnecessarily. 

Myth versus fact

The truth is that the acid/alkaline balance in the body is a real phenomenon. Yes, it is possible to become too acidic. In the medical community this is called Metabolic Acidosis and can occur when your body:

  • Makes too much acid (due to stress or a poor cortisol response, over-exercise, poor diet, dehydration and mineral loss, ketone build-up, genetic problems)
  • Can’t effectively remove enough acid (due to methylation problems, kidney problems, lack of bicarbonate, etc)

In reality, anyone who is suffering from a chronic health condition is going to veer in and out of states of being too acidic. So while you may not have a life-threatening acidic condition, you should still think about ways to become more alkaline. However, instead of suggesting clients eliminate complete food groups, I prefer to make some very strategic dietary and lifestyle changes to restore the acid/alkaline balance more gently. 

8 ways to restore the acid/alkaline balance:

  1. Juicing. You need minerals to restore you to a more alkaline state. Making fresh-pressed juices daily is the quickest way to do this. Celery and cucumber juices are especially alkalizing, but I also like to suggest carrot, romaine, jicama, beet, fennel, pear and apple. Really, the sky is the limit but be sure to avoid goitrogenic (thyroid-suppressing) greens such as kale if you have a thyroid condition. If you don’t like the taste of fresh juice, use it as a base in a fruit smoothie to mask the flavor. 
  2. Reduce your protein intake. You don’t need to completely eliminate meat, eggs, or dairy unless you are in a terribly acidic state based on labs. Begin to eat large portions of raw vegetables daily and instead have smaller portions of dairy, eggs, or meats. 
  3. Limit grains. Grains are also acidifying and if you are in a very acidic state, even healthy gluten-free grains can make it worse. Relying mostly on fruits and vegetables to make up the bulk of your diet is best, then add in some healthy beans, legumes, grains, and animal products as needed to meet your daily calorie needs. 
  4. Use supplements to alkalize. 
    • Mineral complex. This should include magnesium and potassium, in addition to other minerals. I find the citrate or bicarbonate forms of minerals works best. 
    • Chlorophyll. An alfalfa-based supplement or parsley works well. I prefer these to other “greens” supplements because they are not goitrogens (thyroid-suppressing foods).
    • Yucca shigidera. This helps mitigate the toxic byproduct that is produced upon eating animal products. You can take this with each meal that contains protein.
  5. Reduce your salt intake. While I consider unrefined mineral salt to be an essential part of a healthy diet, while you are acidic, anything that dehydrates you will make the problem worse. So limit your salt intake — even the good kind of salt.
  6. Completely avoid refined sugar and alcohol. Both are extremely acidifying.
  7. Avoid stressful thoughts. Stressful thoughts begin a cascade of unhealthy responses in the body, which depletes you of minerals and creates acidosis. You have been programmed from childhood to respond to stress in a very specific way. Deconstruct your stress responses — what triggers you? When you are triggered, where do you hold tension in your body? How can you release it? You are likely triggered by much smaller circumstances that you realize and since these happen on a daily basis, you keep repeating the acid cycle each day.
  8. Avoid intense exercise. While you are too acidic, anything that dehydrates you will contribute to the problem. Choose gentle forms of exercise and exercise indoors during the heat of summer. 

Tests to ask for

If you are curious if you are too acidic, you can get testing through your doctor to determine this.

  • Anion gap test. This tests for metabolic acidosis and will tell you if you are in fact too acidic. 
  • Electrolyte or mineral panel: magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium. Ask for an Intracellular test because blood tests are notoriously incorrect. Minerals help alkalize the body so if you are low in these, it indicates a greater need for dietary minerals or supplements to restore the balance. 
  • Urine test for ketoacidosis

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