This post will be VERY detailed and specific. I’ve been asked countless times to share my story and this seemed like the perfect place! Perhaps it will help someone else out there but if it’s a bore – feel free to skip right over.
I’ve had debilitating allergy-like symptoms since I moved to Columbus. They would get worse in the spring (through the fall) but they’d be present year round. I figured I was allergic to some pine tree, my dog or mold lurking somewhere in the house. I knew I never wanted to get allergy shots and so I lived with it. FOR SEVEN YEARS.
Throughout those seven years, I had also experimented with going gluten-free, eliminating sugar for periods of time, eating grain-free and trying out Whole30. None of my allergy symptoms went away but I saw weight loss, less headaches and more energy.
Sometime in 2015, I stumbled upon the Candida diet because I was experiencing constant yeast infections. I remember reading the symptom list and thinking, “HOLY CRAP. THIS IS ME.” Here were some of them that described me perfectly (and some that might speak to you!):
- Feeling tired and worn down, or suffering from chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, lupus, psoriasis, scleroderma, or multiple sclerosis
- Difficulty concentrating, poor memory, lack of focus, ADD, ADHD, and brain fog
- Skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, hives, and rashes
- Irritability, mood swings, anxiety, or depression
- Vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, rectal itching, or vaginal itching
- Severe seasonal allergies or itchy ears
- Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings
I checked out a Candida diet online and decided I would embark on this restrictive lifestyle right after the new year. On January 9th, 2016…I jumped right in.
The Worst Of It
I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. The first month was shitty and hard. The diet plan I was following called for a week long detox where you basically just eat green vegetables, cut coffee and drink an apple cider vinegar drink. I prepared a pitcher of the drink, bought all my vegetables, planned out my meals and turned on Netflix.
I only lasted a day. Between the extreme caffeine headache and sugar cravings, I decided to start with the regular diet instead. I wish I had a photo of myself that next day. I probably looked like death. Thankfully, the caffeine headache was gone the next morning and I stayed off caffeine for 11 weeks.
After starting the diet, I realized that I would probably start suffering from “die-off.” When yeast cells are rapidly killed (aka starving them of sugar), a die-off occurs and metabolic by-products are released into the body. The Candida yeast cells actually release 79 different toxins when they die, including ethanol and acetaldehyde.
YEAH THEY DO. Over the course of four weeks (almost the entire month of January) I experienced flu-like symptoms where I would wake up and get sick throughout the night. I also developed a staph infection in my nose which was incredibly painful and forced me to stay in bed for a week. Thankfully, I was rewarded later that month with a good sign: healthy digestion!
Getting Into A Routine
After the worst of the worst, I realized I needed help navigating this beast. I called Dr. Kanodia‘s office to set up an appointment for March 1st, 2016. By the appointment, I had been eating according to a strict Candida diet for almost 8 weeks. I was still learning how to cook with my limited list, I wasn’t very social but I was seeing results!
My first appointment with Dr. Kanodia was amazing. He spent over an hour with me asking about my symptoms and issues, sharing his short-term and long-term plan and answering questions. Without going into too much detail and boring you, my doctor concluded that something was faulty when it came to my body and its ways of detoxing. Whether it was a past diet, stressful job or getting a dog…something got thrown off. And the way my body was expressing these issues was through my sinuses. I was left with the following instructions:
- Drink A LOT more water. It sounds cliche but in order to detox, you have to drink and absorb water. He also gave me an electrolyte supplement to add to my water to ensure I’m actually absorbing it.
- Sleep A LOT more. I learned that sleep is one of the most powerful ways our body detoxes.
- Get his suggest labs done (blood work, stool test, urine test)
- Continue eating according to his anti-yeast diet (which allowed me to have sweet potatoes occasionally, seafood and pork).
I scheduled all my labs (btw, I spent about $2,700 on these first labs) so that I would be able to talk to him about my results at my next appointment. I see him every 8-10 weeks.
Uncovering More Answers
I got my blood drawn and sent in my stool/urine tests and patiently waited. And slept. And drank water. And continued the diet. I was about to tackle my next hurdle: travel. We drove to Charleston, SC and then to Tampa, FL and then to Savannah, GA and then home. We kept a big cooler filled with my food and I drank La Croix like they were my sponsor. It was easier than I thought but at times it was frustrating. We moved into a new house and I was excited to learn about all my labs.
On April 26, I saw Dr. Kanodia again and he helped me break down what they learned through my labs. Here’s a summary:
- My DNA doesn’t detox fully. I needed to get on two supplements to assist. Believe me, I was just as confused as you might be. I had no idea that our DNA detoxes!
- I don’t process carbs (which explained a lot about my digestive issues or why I felt better being grain-free for all those years). I needed a supplements for that, too.
- My blood reacted negatively to the following foods: brewer’s and baker’s yeast (surprise, surprise), peanuts, black and white pepper, sunflower, zucchini, celery and kidney beans. I needed to avoid these foods!
- Start up a few probiotics and general detoxification supplements.
Within a few weeks of starting all of these supplements, I never had a bad allergy day again. Honestly, I haven’t even had much of a sniffle or a sneeze. I started seeing regular, healthy bowel movements and I felt great.
The biggest struggle with avoiding those new foods is that celery powder and sunflower lecithin are both ingredients that show up in A LOT of foods. I’ve had to eliminate things like bacon, deli meat and most almond milks from my diet. While those foods aren’t staples or that great for you, they were easy and convenient.
Yeast Is Back
After all of this YAY….I did experience a bit of a NOOOOO. Around April 17, I started noticing early signs of a yeast infection. I kept an eye on it and after the course of a few weeks, it got worse. I ended up going on an anti-fungal and it cleared up after a week. I really struggled with this because it felt like such a giant step back. I had to remind myself that I was still allergy-free and had seen such great progress.
I also snagged a 30 minute appointment with my doctor and he had the last lab result back (a urine test) and it helped shed some light onto the issue.
Most normal people wake up and their adrenaline is pretty high. You’re ready for the day and you wake up energized. Then it slowly lowers throughout the day. It should be at its lowest before you go to sleep. Hence, you sleep. My adrenaline levels are the complete opposite. I wake up with low adrenaline and it slowly rises until I go to sleep. I have the most adrenaline pumping through my body right before I try to sleep. This explains so much!
Not only has that made it difficult to sleep (and be a morning person) but these adrenaline levels could also be contributing to yeast growth as well. My doctor put me on a supplement that lowers my adrenaline and I’ve been taking that for about a month.
Where I’m At Now
To be honest, I’m still paranoid that I’ll get another yeast infection. I have to remind myself that stress doesn’t help anything at all (it actually makes things worse) and to relax. I’m still eating according to my doctor’s anti-yeast diet but I’ve definitely slipped up a few times due to parties, events, summer + house guests. As of right now, I’m back to a pretty strict version of this diet. There was a point where I was eating too many carbs (rice, baked goods) and my digestion issues came back a bit.
I’ve also stopped taking oral birth control (the pill) over the past two months and because of my ultra clean diet, I saw absolutely zero “negative” symptoms from doing that. I’m currently reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility and I cannot recommend it enough. It’s totally changing my life and my understanding of my body!
I’ve also lost about 10 pounds over the course of this 6 month period. The pounds came off slowly and the last few disappeared right after I went off the pill.
*The photo on the left is from the first week of January and the photo on the right is from June 19th. Both photos I’m not “sucking in” or flexing and you can see how bloated I was before the diet!
This upcoming week, I’m going back to my doctor’s office for 4 new labs (all blood work) that will test things like my antioxidants and nutrients. I’ll also be refilling a lot of my supplements. I’m just now starting to think about a normal fitness routine because I do feel like I know how to keep my energy up and eat enough food for cardio and weights.
This journey has not been easy or cheap but it’s still BLOWS MY MIND that my allergies are gone. I enjoyed my birthday without laying in bed covered in kleenex. I can have meetings before 2pm because I’m not sneezing my face off. It feels like a dream.
If you’re at all interested in chatting, you can contact me directly! You can also follow my health/candida-specific Instagram! I post the food I’m eating, tips or things I’ve learned. It’s been incredible to get so many messages from others who are struggling with similar issues. It’s easier with a community! Don’t forget – everyone is unique and not everyone will receive the same treatment or see the same results. I highly encourage each person to find an integrative, functional MD near them! My doctor sees patients all over the country and would always recommend him in a heartbeat! I’ve spent about $5,000 out of pocket and haven’t had any regrets. I would have paid $10,000 to feel the relief I’ve felt!