Ricki Heller, the creator of Diet, Dessert and Dogs, is an educator, writer, cookbook author, natural nutritionist and lover of all things canine. She studied natural nutrition at The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and is currently a college teacher who works as a part-time cooking class instructor/chef and a part-time freelance writer.
I have asked Ricki to contribute a guest post on Candida Related Complex aka Candida, a condition that arises when someone has an overgrowth of yeast (usually candida albicans) in the body. Ricki has been sharing her personal struggle on her blog since March 2009 and today she is giving you the opportunity to learn more about candida, the effects it has on the body and what you can do about it. She also has included a anti-candida (ACD) friendly recipe for you to try and trust me her recipes are a must try, she is an amazing chef (source).
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Can Do Candida!
Receiving a diagnosis of candida (Candida Related Complex, or CRC) can be both scary—and devastating. Candida albicans, the most common reason for the diagnosis, is a fungus that normally lives in the body in harmony with other micro-organisms such as “good” bacteria (probiotics) in the gut, to maintain equilibrium in the digestive tract.
Even though candida albicans exists everywhere, both on our skin and in our digestive tracts, most healthy individuals aren’t aware of its presence because it’s kept in check by “friendly” bacteria, digestive enzymes, and other organisms that normally reside there.
When the delicate balance is disturbed (by antibiotics, stress, poor intestinal transit time, or a heavy refined-sugar-and-flour diet, for instance), the candida flourishes and easily grows out of control. The result is a syndrome that causes fatigue, cravings, fuzzy thinking, yeast infections, and a host of other debilitating symptoms.
In addition to messing with proper digestion, candida also produces toxic by-products that can infiltrate the bloodstream. These toxins will then be identified as foreign invaders by the body’s immune system. According to Paul Pitchford (author of Healing with Whole Foods), the toxins “stimulate the immune system’s production of antibodies, and in serious yeast infestations tax the immune system to the point where it cannot respond to invading viruses or other harmful substances. Immunity ultimately breaks down, which opens the way for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus.”
Could You Have Candida Syndrome?
While it’s possible to find a few renegade MDs open minded enough to accept the existence of candidiasis, for the most part, allopathic (conventional) physicians still don’t formally recognize it as a bona fide condition. In alternative circles, however, candida is often pinpointed as the culprit in a host of physical and emotional problems. As Jeanne Marie Martin and Zoltan Rona, authors of the Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook, put it, yeast overgrowth is a “hidden epidemic” in North America.
So how do you know if you’ve got candida?
Many of the symptoms—such as anxiety, allergies, bloating, cystitis (urinary tract infections), cramps, constipation, chronic fatigue, fuzzy thinking, food (and especially sugar) cravings, memory problems, sore muscles, lethargy, PMS, psoriasis, skin rashes, sinus problems or repeated fungal infections (such as vaginal yeast infections or athlete’s foot)—are also evident with various other conditions besides candida.
One of my favorite resources is the Whole Approach website. They offer a detailed questionnaire that you can take (for free) online to see if you are likely suffering from yeast or something else. (And no, I’m not affiliated in any way with Whole Approach; I just think they offer great information on the topic).
In addition, Louise Hay, author of the classic You Can Heal Your Life, suggests that there is one personality type most prone to problems with candida. People who feel scattered in their lives as well as their thoughts tend to be prime breeding grounds for yeast overgrowth. If you’ve spread yourself so thin that you can’t keep track of your innumerable obligations and feel as if there’s no time for you, you may be susceptible.
In my case, candida hit after I’d been writing a cookbook, freelancing, maintaining a food blog, teaching as a full-time college professor, organizing a house move, teaching cooking classes, and making frequent trips to my dad in another city—all while endeavoring not to neglect my family at home. In essence, I issued an open invitation to the yeast beasties to “c’mon down and party!”.
What Can You Do About Candidiasis?
If you suspect that you’ve got an overgrowth of candida, the first step is to consult with a holistic health specialist (such as a holistic nutritionist or naturopath) or a holistically-minded MD. They can determine whether or not your symptoms are caused by an excess of candida albicans or something else.
Your practitioner will most certainly advocate an anti-candida diet, which is imperative, though not sufficient on its own, to clear up a serious case of yeast overgrowth. The basic diet eschews all forms of sugar on which yeast thrive (such as cane sugar, refined sugar, maple syrup, sweet fruits, etc); as well as any other foods that might encourage yeast to grow (vinegar, alcohol, moldy cheeses, mushrooms or nuts that harbor molds); and refined foods, which convert easily to sugar. It also bans glutinous grains and common allergens such as dairy products and citrus fruits, since they can create additional burdens on an already-overtaxed immune system.
One thing I’ve learned from being on the diet twice (this most recent time for more than three years) is that there is no single “candida diet” that fits everyone with candidiasis. For some people, non-sweet fruits are acceptable from day one; for others (like me), all fruits must be eliminated for several months. Some practitioners might allow apple cider vinegar; others consider any kind of vinegar verboten. If your case is relatively mild, a month to six weeks on the diet may be sufficient to clear up your symptoms. If you’ve got a severe condition, as I did, you may need to be on the diet for months (or, in my case, on the diet in one form or another, likely for the rest of my life).
The Future After Candida: A Sugar-Free Healthy Lifestyle Can Still Be Sweet!
Once you’ve completed the candida protocol, keep in mind that a return to former eating habits can just as easily spark a return of candida symptoms. For me, it’s imperative to avoid all refined sweeteners or other refined ingredients, or (as I’ve learned from experience) my candida symptoms will return. In general, once you’ve had an overgrowth of candida in the body, you are more prone to a recurrence; and each recurrence tends to be more virulent, and more difficult to get under control, than the last. The solution is to remain on a relatively low glycemic, whole foods and sugar free diet most of the time. As with most areas in life, moderation is the way to go.
Recipe: Cinnamon-Walnut Loaf
Here’s an ACD-friendly bread recipe that’s perfect for breakfast or brunch. For a savory loaf (from which you can make sandwiches), omit the nuts and use only 4-10 drops of liquid stevia.
1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp (25 ml) whole psyllium husks
1 tsp (5 ml) apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp (30 ml) smooth natural almond butter or tahini (sesame paste)
enough unsweetened plain or vanilla soy or almond milk to make 1-1/2 cups/360 ml (see instructions)
1/3 cup (55 g) teff flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) potato starch
1-1/2 tsp (7.5 ml) baking powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) baking soda
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
1 Tbsp (15 ml) cinnamon
1/4 tsp (1 ml) pure stevia powder or liquid, to your taste
1/3 cup (40 g) lightly toasted walnut pieces or chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Lightly grease a regular loaf pan, or line with parchment paper.
Place the psyllium husks, apple cider vinegar, vanilla and almond butter in a glass measuring cup. Add enough milk to reach the 1-1/2 cup (360 ml) mark. Using a small whisk or fork, whisk everything together until the almond butter is well dissolved in the liquid and no lumps remain. Set aside while you measure the dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, sift together all remaining ingredients except for the walnuts. Whisk well to distribute all the ingredients evenly. Add the walnuts.
Whisk the liquid again to ensure that it’s smooth and everything is incorporated, then pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients and stir just to combine (do not overmix!). Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake in preheated oven for 65-75 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through, until the bread is well browned on the bottom and sides, and the top springs back when touched lightly (there will be a fairly thick crust by this time, but it should still spring back). A knife inserted in the center should come out moist but clean.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan allow to cool completely before slicing. The bread is very moist on the first day and dries a bit by the second. Store, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator up to 3 days, or freeze for later. Makes one medium loaf, or 8-10 slices.
Thank you Ricki for this wonderful post! If you would like to learn more about Ricki head over to her blog Diet, Dessert and Dogs and check out her amazing recipes. I was a tester for her Desserts Without Compromise book and it includes so many amazing recipes perfect for those looking for ACD friendly recipes and for those who just love desserts.