I have just completed a lengthy journey to healing that took 2 ½ years of my life, a ton of money, many tears, a whole lot of strain on those I love, and countless prayers. After a multitude of tests, doctors, treatments, injections, medications, and 2 surgeries, I was still not well. The medical profession could only agree there was a problem, but none of them could find its source. Although I have several theories on what may have precipitated the downward spiral, I’ll never know for sure. The important part of this story, is that I discovered a diet and two supplements that rapidly changed everything. My heart’s desire is to share my experience with others and provide an account of what worked for me, in hopes of helping those who journey through chronic illness without resolution. Perhaps my experience will help you find restoration for your own health.
Disclaimer: I must of course state at the outset, that I have no formal medical training, that I am not making any recommendations, but am simply relaying the story of what worked for me, and providing information so you can do your own investigation and draw your own conclusions. I also wanted to get this information out as soon as possible for all of my friends and family who saw how it worked for me and are eager to begin this process as part of their New Year’s resolutions. So this is the first draft and I will continue to improve upon it over time.
My condition began as a throat infection that I never recovered from. After multiple unsuccessful rounds of antibiotics, an ENT (Ear Nose & Throat) doctor put a scope up my nose and told me that I had cysts on my adenoids and they needed to be removed. Being uninsured, I asked for antibiotics to help me put off surgery. After several months, the chronic issue transformed into a sense of swelling, inflating in the left side of my head. It involved my throat, left ear, left eye, and left temple. It was as though someone had put an inflatable balloon inside the left top front quadrant of my head and was slowly but surely blowing it up. I likened it to someone forcefully holding a pillow over the left side of my face. The energy I had to exert to focus around that pillow, to engage another person in conversation, to drive and participate in the world around me, was completely exhausting and impossible to make others understand. And it was getting worse.
The next ENT hinted at brain tumors, which led to MRIs and CT scans that ruled them out. An Allergist and Neurologist were consulted, but neither could define the source of the problem. Blood sugar tests were run to confirm what I already knew; I was hypoglycemic, but that was easily managed by eating a diet including lots of protein at each meal. I’d already been doing that since I was a teenager.
Yet another ENT removed my adenoids, which overcame the issue of chronic infection, but the pain and swelling and drooping left eyelid remained. A nuclear scan test for bone infections came back clear. So off I went to multiple Neurologists to investigate the possibility of migraine headaches. More medications were tried that increased the pain. Finally I was given a steroid in combination with a beta blocker (more typically used to treat high blood pressure) which removed the pain within 24 hours, but the pressure and swelling were un-phased. This new medication further reduced my already low blood pressure and slowed my heart rate to dangerously low levels, so that medication was discontinued. Back to square one, but at least I was now free of pain and pain-meds. It was time to try something else.
I saw an alternative medicine Nurse Practitioner who tried various supplements and hormone prescription changes, which eventually led to developing a condition of estrogen dominance (estrogen levels going off the charts even though I no longer owned a uterus or a set of ovaries). Further hormone medication adjustments left me with incessant hot flashes, preventing me from getting a decent night’s sleep for over 6 months. Insomnia had been a recurring issue throughout my life but this, repeatedly waking up on fire each night,was a new form of hell. I also developed hypothyroidism.
Because the syndrome affected my left eye, the eyelid, and caused my vision to blur, I saw an Ophthalmologist who decided I had narrow angle glaucoma, and he performed laser surgery on both eyes. It didn’t change a thing, except adding significantly to the stack of ever deepening medical bills. If it prevented me from one day suddenly going blind, then of course it was worthwhile, but frustrating to be that much further in debt and no closer to an answer.
A Chiropractor joined the team. She collaborated with the Nurse Practitioner, and I was given Trigger Point Injections in my head, neck. and back a handful of times, to try to alleviate the pressure, and persistent neck and back pain. The numbing effect of the injections made me feel ‘swirly’, but essentially left the symptoms unchanged. We speculated about the possibility of Lyme’s Disease.
Finally, food allergy testing was done which revealed a significant sensitivity to baker’s yeast. The Nurse Practitioner who ordered the test suggested I ‘look into Candida’. This was the third time in the past 20 years I’d considered the subject of Candida as a cause for chronic illness, exhaustion, and brain fog, when all other test came back normal. I’d had two previous seasons of undefinable chronic illness (one of the gut, and one of the sinus) in my lifetime, both involving lots to tests and treatments with dire possibilities, never finding a diagnosis and eventually resolving. But I never pursued treatment for Candida until now. The third time was a charm : )
I spent the next two days reading everything I could find on the Internet and came across a Candida symptom checker that fit me like a glove. I fit the profile for a condition known as Systemic Candida Overgrowth or systemic chronic yeast infection (not necessarily the vaginal kind although that can be part of it, however it was not an issue for me). It seemed that the copious amounts of antibiotics I’d been given since I was a small child until my tonsils finally abscessed and ruptured causing someone to finally agree to take out my tonsils, had set me up for a lifetime of infection challenges. But the surgeon had failed to remove my adenoids; a fact which would return to haunt me with chronic infections for years before they would finally be removed when I was 47 years old.
All of that to say that chronic infections followed by repeated doses of antibiotics, plus a MRSA infection following my hysterectomy that led to IV antibiotics delivered for 10 days through a PIC line in a hospital, leaves one prone to developing the condition of Candida Albicans, or yeast overgrowth, which can hamper the functioning of all your major systems and organs, really messing with your immune system as well as your hormones.
I’ve come across so many people whose health challenges seem a bit mysterious and lingering, that I wanted to share the information that was most helpful in my journey to healing. I’ve included some of the links I found most useful so you can see if you find your own story on these pages the way I did.
There are a couple ways of treating the condition: one holistic, the other involving powerful prescription drugs. And finding a medical professional to help you in your quest can also be disheartening at best, since most practitioners don’t believe in the condition, thus are not educated regarding its treatment. I opted out of taking any further prescription medications and instead saw a very elderly Naturopathic physician known for treating Candida. He agreed with my self-diagnosis and recommended I begin the Candida Diet and taking the Formula SF722 supplement manufactured by Thorne Research, as well as a natural hormone replacement, and a calcium/magnesium/vitamin D supplement. I had nothing left to lose.
My sweet husband joined me in the rigors of the diet. Within two weeks the symptoms of Candida Die-Off were lessening, and I was seeing an improvement in my focus and energy. Then one morning I woke up and realized that the pain I’d had under my left shoulder blade for roughly 5 years was simply gone. The neck and back pain that I’d been seeing the chiropractor for also just gradually disappeared. The brain fog dissipated and I felt fully present to my life and conversations with friends and family. And my husband and I both lost 1-2 pounds a week. Definitely an added bonus!
Below, I have compiled a list of the websites I found most helpful. CAUTION: Please note that many websites are selling products that I did not use and many suggest eating foods that are not allowed on the diet. After much research, I decided to eliminate ALL the foods that some sites recommended eliminating. I decided to err on the side of caution. I have also given summary notes on what/how I ate on the diet. I do not endorse, nor have any affiliation with, any of the sites listed here. I simply found useful information, and am sharing it here.
I will caution you that many of the Candida sites are set up by individuals trying to sell you their products, many of which have been given really bad reviews on other Candida boards as you will see if you dig around the Web much on the subject of Candida, so be aware that they are highly biased. Therefore, I will simply tell you what I did and how it impacted me, and you can do your own research and decide what, if anything to do for yourself.
THE SUPPLEMENTS that I used while on the diet and continue to use are the following:
I used Formula SF722, which is believed to kill the yeast overgrowth in our bodies. I found this supplement available on a site recommended by the manufacture, that offers free shipping and no sales tax: pureformulas.com
I have never been able to stomach calcium pills in the past, but given that I don’t drink milk and the Candida Diet doesn’t allow milk products, one practitioner recommended this calcium supplement, and it has worked well for me. No stomach upset, and there is some research that shows it may be part of why my pain went away.
After reviewing this article I went to a health food store and found a 5+ strain of REFRIGERATED probiotic that had both the lacto- and bifo- strains of cultures listed as critically beneficial in multiple articles. I have changed brands several times and not seen any noticeable difference between brands. NOTE: Always buy the refrigerated types.
I stayed on the diet, being extremely disciplined for 45 days (the minimum, but many sites recommend longer), while taking only the recommended supplements. On day 45 I began to add back the eliminated foods and did not detect any problems other than the more carbs I ate, the more the pain returned under my left shoulder blade, and the less energy I had. But I was still living in hotflash hell.
I finally saw Dr. Lisanne Laurier, an Endocrinologist specializing in women’s hormone and thyroid health. I will note she is not a follower of the candida theory. But my bloodwork verified hormonal depletion which were quickly remedied with an estradiol patch and progesterone topical cream, and I’m now able to sleep through the night without hot flashes or night sweats. Praise God! When resolving the hormonal issue still did not improve my energy or brain fog complaints, given that my thyroid function was on the low side of normal, thyroid medication was added that rapidly improved my focus. I also came across this interesting article that summed up so much of what happened to me. Candida – Hormone – Thyroid Connection. It doesn’t explain the pain and pressure I experienced in my head, but it does explain how Candida may have been an instrumental part of the hormonal component of the problem.
After a year and a half of mostly being recovered and essentially pain-free, I saw a new family doctor who said the three-pronged pain in the left side of my head was most likely Trigeminal Neuralgia, which she suggested may have been brought on in my case by shingles, an infection, or a tick-born illness. I have suspected that the intense hot flashes may also have played a part, but that is unconfirmed. From what I’ve learned of this illness, I am very fortunate to be free of it.
I have learned that in order to stay healthy, the simple basics of proper diet (especially as close to yeast, sugar free, and gluten and refined carb free as possible), ample nightly sleep, with intermittent days of rest are critical. I stay healthy as long as I don’t over-do. It’s as simple as that. Go too far, too long, eat junk, get sick. There you have it.
I stress that I am in no way offering medical advice, but am simply sharing my story, and my journey to healing in hopes that it will help others to find their way out of the maze of chronic health issues that seems to be afflicting so many of us today.
The following is a more detailed overview of the candida-reducing eating plan.
SUMMARY OF WHAT YOU CAN EAT:
The easiest way to think of what you can and cannot eat is to remember that if it is slightly sweet, it has a natural sugar of some sort in it, and that sugar or carbohydrate feeds the yeast that you are trying to starve and kill. Once you have successfully killed off the yeast overgrowth, and reestablished a healthy gut by taking proper probiotics, then you can begin reintroducing foods, one by one, to determine what, if any adverse reaction you have to them.
You can eat chicken, beef, fish, eggs,all GREEN vegetables, cauliflower, onions, garlic, cabbage, avocado, coconut milk, coconut, (the only fruits allowed).
Anti-fungal foods to enjoy: Onion, garlic, olive oil, coconut oil, and coconut milk are your friends. Coconut milk makes a really yummy sauce for stir-fried veggie and meat dishes, but be sure to find a brand that doesn’t have fillers or sweeteners.
Grains: Brown rice, brown rice pasta, brown rice cakes. (NOTE: there is a lot of information from the Paleo Diet side of the story that all grains should be eliminated from the diet.)
Nuts: Almonds, almond butter, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds.
Oils: Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Organic Coconut Oil (now available at Costco).
Beverages: filtered water-64 oz. per day, chamomile tea, peppermint tea, ginger tea. Beware that teas must be without other added ingredients. You may add pure stevia, Stevita, or ground cinnamon. You can have rice milk but finding one that has no other additives is tricky.
Sweetener: Pure powdered stevia with no additives, or Stevita liquid stevia. CAUTION: Almost all stevia sold includes other ingredients (such as maltodextrin or inulin) which are are NOT allowed because they are believed to feed the yeast.
Carbohydrates: The goal is to restrict your carbohydrate intake to 50 gms per day. This is really challenging when you start snacking on nuts, rice cakes, or eating rice pasta.
SUMMARY OF WHAT YOU CANNOT EAT:
No bread, grains, sugar, sweeteners, honey, yeast, yeast extract, soy sauce, vinegar, condiments, dressings, broth, bouillon, gravy, soup, pickled anything, fermented anything, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, fruit of any kind, coffee, tea, no caffeine, cheese, milk, milk products, cottage cheese, yogurt, crackers, chips, noodles, prepared packaged foods, beans of any kind, corn, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, sauerkraut, soy products, peanuts, peanut butter, butter, margarine, potatoes, sour cream.
No sweeteners including maltodextrin, honey, corn syrup, sweetened cane juice, sugar, artificial sweeteners, inulin, xylitol, sorbitol, Splenda, Equal, Sweet & Low, raw sugar, dextrose, mints, gum.
When buying salt, check the label to be sure there are no other additives. One of the most common brands of salt has dextrose, a sugar, added to it.
You MUST read the label on EVERYTHING you consume. Even your vitamin supplements will have hidden ingredients that can feed yeast. Buy only supplements that say “yeast free, gluten free, sugar free”.
I know it sounds overwhelming, but when you read some of the testimonials by Linda Tripp and others who have stories like mine, going from doctor to doctor for years and years without improvement, feeling terrible but finding no diagnosis, let alone a cure, then finally finding relief by taking some supplements and changing how they eat… Well it’s a choice I was willing to make, and a lifestyle change that was worth it.
I am off the diet now, but continue to aim at a sugar, yeast, and gluten free eating lifestyle, and I continue to feel better than I have in years. I am 95+ percent recovered and grateful every day for a pain-free life, with energy and mental focus that is better than I’ve had in years. It is still a journey however. I still have low-grade recurring infections involving my left sinus, ear, and throat. I’m still in the battle to fully regain my health. Some days I am better at eating right than others. We aim for eating Paleo style because it is the closest to the Candida diet I’ve found with readily available recipes. And I still pray to get to find the root of the problem and remove it once and for all.
I can also honestly say I am grateful for this extended challenge because it has drawn me much closer to the Lord, and it has answered my life-long prayer to be made useful to others. Nothing gives me great satisfaction than to know that I have encouraged someone else who is struggling to find their way.
I pray this information blesses you or someone you know who has grappled far too long with chronic health issues.
SPECIAL NOTE: I am sorry, but I can not respond to personal emails asking for medical advice about your specific health conditions. I am only able to offer the story of my own journey toward healing as a prayer that it will aid others in finding hope and healing for their own unique circumstances. I can only say that we must educate ourselves and prayerfully, ACTIVELY, seek healing.