YES, you're in the right place. Yes, I meant to post "continued" in the title because my health journey is ongoing. If you've been following along with me, you know that I've always done my best to live a healthy lifestyle. Then, in October 2016, I started to transition to a plant-based diet and became more conscious about what I put in and on my body. In May, I took the Minimalist Challenge and got rid of more than 500 items from my home. Over the past year I have really gotten into spin and yoga and even tried some meditation in an attempt to help reduce my anxiety and stay active, even as a busy mom. All of this has improved my overall health: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
* Note before you start: this is a long, personal, sometimes rambly, and repetitive post. I have brain fog because I am mentally drained from it all! It's just been a lot ... as you will read ...
Now, in July, I continue to improve my health. This time, specifically, I am attempting to improve my gut health. It has been hard for me to say out loud that, "I am sick". I don't look sick, I don't always feel sick. But, I don't feel myself. I am not my best self right now. I have been battling, with what I now know is, Candida overgrowth in my gut. I bet some of you are wondering, but how is her gut unhealthy? She eats a well-balanced, plant-based diet, how could her insides be sick? OR maybe some of you are thinking "She did this to herself: she doesn't eat animal products. This must be her fault" Well please read on, because my diet has nothing to with how I got sick, but has everything to do with how I will get better (and let me tell you, it doesn't include animal products!).
When I first started researching Candida and actually obsessing about it, there was the same message coming up over and over: each individual needs to find the ROOT of the candida in order to be rid of it for good. Otherwise, you can get rid of Candida temporarily, but if you do not change your lifestyle (DIET), then the Candida will likely return. As I read articles, blogs, watched documentaries, listened to podcasts, and reached out to nutritionists, and the general public (via Instagram and Facebook), I learned the ROOT of my Candida. My gut is unhealthy because of THREE things: giving birth, antibiotics, and taking the oral birth control pill. As put by my naturopath, my gut "was the perfect environment for yeast to grow, survive, and thrive". Because of those three things, my health has been severely impacted and I am finally doing something about it.
A little background about my Candida, and how I ended up where I am today:
May 19, 2016 - Gave birth to my twins. Hormones are all over the place.
May 27, 2016 - Had severe postpartum bleeding and ended up taking antibiotics through IV for 24 hours.
May 28th, 2016-June 5, 2016 - Took oral antibiotics to clear up the infection that was causing the bleeding.
July 2016 - Started taking the birth control pill. No choice but this particular pill because it was the only birth control without Estrogen. I continued on this BC until May 2017. Also, had only ever been on the pill once before in 2007 and I experienced my first and only vaginal yeast infection in that time. I then started to use the Nuva Ring, and never experienced any problems with yeast again.
End of September 2016: I developed an itchy, red, bumpy rash on my groin. After two weeks of thinking it'd just go away (I thought it was the result of chaffing from wearing running shorts), I finally dragged my butt to the doctor. My doctor told me it was a skin-yeast infection. She gave me a steroid cream and an anti-fungal cream. Within days, the rash was less itchy and had started to disappear. Right as this was starting to go away ...
October/November 2016: I noticed small, red, itchy bumps under and between my breasts. I had a sinking feeling that the "yeast" infection had spread. I went on the local Facebook mom's group, and asked for natural remedies, because I was breastfeeding and didn't want the boys to come in contact with anything medicated. I got so many responses and heard from other mamas how common yeast was, especially around the breasts due to excess sweating during breastfeeding. I tried everything!! Baking soda, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, witch hazel, wearing no bra, wearing cotton clothing, a sweet mama even made me a band to wear between my bra and t-shirt to absorb the sweat, tried the yeast remedy oil from Healing Hollow. Believe me, I tried it ALL. Nothing worked, and the rash spread, down my ribs, around my sides.
It was so uncomfortable and I was very insecure about how it looked. I finally dragged my butt back to the doctor (and honestly, I think I went a few times in between... I went so many times I have lost count). She suggested Lamasil and Nystatin (two different appointments) and stronger steroid creams. I tried them all. By about December, the rash and itching and redness was gone. I have NO idea what worked because I was applying so many different things to my skin.
December 2016 - April 2017 - NO yeast problems whatsoever. No itching, no rash, no bumps, no redness. Nothing.
May 2017 - My skin started to itch again. This time it was bad. I was itchy ALL over. It started as small bumps on my fingers and toes. Then it started to spread: I got bumps that came in red/itchy/bumpy patches on my legs, behind my knees, behind my thighs, on my butt, armpits, scalp, neck, hips, ribs, breasts, groin area, inside of my elbows .... I was extremely uncomfortable. These rashes were different though, not quite the same as the "yeast" I'd had on my groin the first time.
Mid-June 2017: I decided it was eczema and quit dairy for two weeks. Here is where I want to thank Jess, a Holistic Nutritionist in Toronto, for giving me suggestions throughout this process. We used to work together in Victoria! She has given me lots of advice and answered all of my questions about health! Throughout May I hadn't been sticking to my plant-based diet because of all the parties, BBQs, and family in town. I found it hard to keep the dairy and processed foods and meat out of my diet. I cut out dairy, and nothing happened. It seemed the rash and itchiness continued to spread. At this time, I started to really get obsessed about what was going on. Lo reached out to me and shared her story about her experience with Candida (yeast) overgrowth in the gut. It sounded A LOT like what I had. But, I wanted to believe that it wasn't candida because to get rid of it sounded like absolute HELL. Lo has given me so much information (she seriously should've co-written this with me!) and support, she has truly been my saving-grace in this health journey. Candida is complicated. And if I did in fact have Candida, I needed to find out the ROOT of it in order to fix it.
I went to the doctor YET again. I asked her about Candida overgrowth. She said NO this is not Candida overgrowth (Lo warned me that many doctors don't know a lot about Candida and that she would likely just keep pushing the steroids). My doctor told me that Yeast doesn't grow in the places I had a rash. She told me that my rash looked nothing like Candida. Lo had suggested a cream, with no steroids, that basically saved her from Candida and future outbreaks. I brought some info about this cream to the doctor. My doctor said she NEVER prescribed this cream for yeast, even though it is an anti-fungal cream. But, she told me if I really want to try it, I could get it over-the-counter from the pharmacy. I marched over to Safeway and got the cream. It is called Clotrimaderm. It definitely helped with the itching (for my case), but didn't help the rash disappear.
Beginning of July: I became obsessed with researching Candida on Google. Seriously paranoid that I had Candida, I started to prepare myself for the Anti-Candida Diet. Basically NO SUGAR (feeds Candida), no alcohol, no caffeine, small amounts of good grains, no starchy vegetables, no fruit, basically NOTHING GOOD. And being plant-based, basically I could eat vegetables. I read blogs from Earthy Andy and listened to podcasts by Kimberley Snyder. A family member and ex-coworker shared their struggles with Candida. I went to Nutters, our local health food store, and loaded up on Candida be-gone pills (anti-fungals). Basically, I knew that if the Candida had gotten to my gut, I needed to starve it, kill it off, and then start to re-grow healthy bacteria (with probiotics). While in Nutters, I broke down and cried to the sales lady. I was at my whit's end. I had been living with this rash on and off for 8 months. The rash to me was debilitating. I did not want to wear the new bathing suits I bought. I did not want my husband to see me naked. I didn't want to touch people in fear of spreading this awful rash. I didn't want to explain myself to people. I was physically and mentally exhausted. I was sad, frustrated, anxious, depressed, fearful, and MAD, I was even resentful towards healthy people.... the "why me" circled my head quite a few times. Thank god, for my oldest pal, LO who has been so supportive, positive, and uplifting during this time. She has given me hope and has been my bright star through all of this!
July 4, 2016 - I had an appointment with a Naturopath. At this point, I pretty much diagnosed myself with Candida in the gut. Basically, he confirmed that it likely was Candida based on my health history and the rash. He told me that the rashes were NOT Candida, but as he put it, "Taylor, your rashes are beautiful. They are your body's way of having a conversation with you." Basically my body was breaking out in an attempt to say, "HELP, something is not right on the inside". That is pretty fricken' cool, don't you think? And what's even more amazing, is that Lo had basically told me the exact same thing days before. Her and my Naturopath are on the same wave length.
So, once we decided that we would treat me for Candida overgrowth in the gut, I was prescribed two supplements which are anti-fungals, used to kill the Candida. The two supplements are: Paraban and MycoPlex. I was to take Paraban 3 times a day, in between meals, and two capsules each time. The MycoPlex, 3 times a day, in between meals, two capsules each time for one week, and then up the dose to 3 capsules 3 times daily. Once I was finished the Paraban, I would continue to take MycoPlex until I was finished (about 4 weeks worth). Now, in order to truly kill off Candida, you have to starve it. SUGAR is the leading cause to F E E D I N G Candida. So, my Naturopath said to cut out added sugars like Maple Syrup, Agave, Coconut Sugar ... sugars found in other drinks and food. NO ALCOHOL. I knew that this part was coming, but I was still nervous to go without sugar. I like sugar (who doesn't) and it's a regular staple in my diet. When you start looking at labels, sugar is sometimes hard to avoid. BUT, I was serious about getting rid of my Candida, so I went full force into this diet. My naturopath said that fruit was still okay, 3-4 servings daily if I wanted. I decided to cut out fruit unless I absolutely needed it. Also, I tried hard to cut out caffeine and I quit Kombucha too. I decided to track my water intake and make sure I was eating enough fibre. * Fun Fact: you really have to make sure you're staying hydrated and not getting constipated because you've got to flush out the Candida through bowel movements. It's got to go somewhere and I sure as hell don't want it sticking around in my gut, dead or not. So, lots of bowel movements! He said that carbs and starchy veggies were still okay because of my plant-based diet. In his opinion, the strict Anti-Candida diet is unrealistic and only used in rare cases where the Candida is extreme. He said because it seemed I'd been living with Candida for less than a year, that I most likely didn't have an extreme case. I asked how long did I need to do this diet for. He said a minimum of 2 weeks. I knew that I could do it. It was actually perfect timing because I was going to Vancouver and would be distracted enough to stay away from sugars. If was at home all day, that's when I get bored and go for some treats.
***** Totally random too, but you guys, this DIET has nothing to do with losing weight. I, in NO way endorse DIETS and think diets are ridiculous actually. But to kill the Candida, it requires special attention through DIET. Also, sugar doesn't make you fat. Excess animal protein can do that. GO watch What The Health on Netflix and you'll see for yourself. OH, and plant-based eating isn't a diet it's a L I F E S T Y L E. End rant *****
At the end of appointment we talked about my Anxiety. He told me that I need to stay away from Google! We meditated and he taught me how to ground myself. He told me that I need to be more body-ful (the new mindful?!). It is amazing how much he confirmed my strong believe in gut health and mind health being related. They both need to be happy in order for us to thrive. If one is off balance, likely the other will be off balance too. Did you know that your GUT is your second brain?! Pretty interesting stuff, you guys!
July 5 - 17, 2017 - I took my "supps" and followed the no-sugar diet for 2 full weeks. At first, I was miserable. I was tired. I was hungry. I wanted to "gag" at certain foods. I tried Stevia (only sweetener that doesn't feed Candida) and it made me want to puke. Horrible. Never eating that again. Olives (did you know olives are a fruit?! but very low sugar), I sort of overdosed on and now I'm not huge into them. Um, what else. Thyme and Rosemary ... they just remind me of those weeks. Chia seed pudding and almond butter ... too much of that ... Oh, peanuts gross me out. They are considered a "moldy" nut, so I stayed away from those. Hmmm what else... Anyways, during these two weeks, I napped at least once a day, sometimes twice. The first few days were the hardest because I was so hungry and no energy to even care for my babies. Luckily my parents were in Vancouver and very helpful. I tried to rest as much as possible, another piece of advice from my beacon of light, Lo.
But then guess what you guys, after only a few days, I noticed that the rash was fading. The bumps were going down, the redness less, and the itching slowing down. I would look at the rash, only in the morning and night to check its progress ... at first I didn't believe it. It was actually going away. This progress M O T I V A T E D me to keep going with the supps and the diet. I could handle no sugar (or little sugar) if it meant no more rash. I started to feel more confident in my body. I even bought some clothes in Vancouver and was excited to wear them without fear of the rash showing or the clothes irritating my skin and making me itch. I started to get excited about going back to the Naturopath and tell him all about my journey. Every day the rash was looking better. Every day the itching was less. There was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was brighter with each day.
July 18, 2017 - Follow-up appointment with my Naturopath. Today marks two weeks that I had been taking my supps and eating without added sugars and alcohol! I had really eliminated MANY of my favourite and beloved foods, but I was so excited about my progress, that I couldn't wait. The appointment was good, but truth be told, it was $85 for a 15 minute appointment (after waiting 45 minutes and I was only the second appointment of the day), and I really could have come to some conclusions on my own. However, it was good to check in and get professional advice about where to go next. So, moving forward, I will continue to take the Myco Plex until it's gone (about 2 -3 more weeks) and I will start taking a Probiotic. My naturopath did not want me taking Probiotics until this point because he said it would be a waste of resources if I still had bad bacteria in my gut. He is now confident that enough of the yeast is gone that I can start to build good bacteria back (with Probiotics). Also, I am allowed to eat some sugar again!! I specifically asked about wine. He said yes, but the coming weeks will be trial and error. Also, I am seriously done with DAIRY for good. I believe it's one of my Candida triggers. I will go slow when it comes to eating and drinking certain things. I do not want to go overboard and have another flare up. I am paranoid. But when I got home, I had a Theo's dark chocolate and almond butter cup (I've been saving it since Vancouver). It was so good and satisfied my sugar craving (also it's VEGAN! hell ya!). But it's weird, today now I have been sporadically itchy in random spots. I think my mind instantly goes to C A N D I D A ... but I need to think positively.
Other things we went over at my appointment: BIRTH CONTROL. I am currently on the Nuva Ring. However, I have learned that not only is ORAL contraceptive a trigger to Yeast, but ANY type of BC can trigger a flare up. This is something I need to seriously consider and talk to with Tim. We haven't come up with a solution yet. We are definitely not ready for baby #3 (maybe #3 and #4), but I also don't want to deal with Candida any longer. I am leaning towards choosing MY HEALTH and taking control of it. We shall see.
We also discussed future overgrowth situations. My naturopath said that since we caught it early enough, I likely should be okay, but not necessarily. There may be times in my life that I need to go back on my supps and cut out sugar to control the Candida. I am okay with occasional flare ups, now that I know what I need to do. I cannot completely cut out sugar from my life and sometimes antibiotics are necessary (like in my postpartum bleeding case, that was the best possible thing for me to do, unwise I would be at risk for something more serious!!). So, I may have to deal with the Candida from time to time. I will have to come to terms with it. Lo has really encouraged me to stay positive, to not f r e a k out if the Candida returns, stress less, and RELAX. It is important to keep my stress and anxiety levels down, because that only aids to the Candida. Easier said than done, but I am trying.
I am to re-visit my Naturopath in 3 weeks. That will give me some time where the supps aren't in my system anymore and he will do a "test" on my muscles to see if Candida is present. He, himself described the test as "hokey" and painless. So we shall see.
TODAY: Today, I am hopeful, happy, healing, and on the road to total HEALTH. I am more present, grounding myself when I feel anxious, and I am conscious now, more than ever, of my lifestyle. I am educated, but I am always learning. I find this stuff so incredibly interesting, and I guess the blessing is that it took me getting sick to truly get to know my body (inside and out) and to APPRECIATE its magical qualities (like my gut sending me a VISIBLE, PHYSICAL message that something was wrong). We only have ONE body. We need to treat it well.
My going-out message:
1. BE CURIOUS: when I was not getting better from going to the doctor and taking medications and steroids, I knew that I needed to do something different. In my case, seeing a Naturopath (thanks, MAMA) was the best thing that happened to me. I cannot tell you how important it is to be curious when it comes to your health. Ask questions if you're not sure about something, or QUESTION your doctor/naturopath/healthcare practitioner about things they tell you. You must be your own body's advocate!! You have that right. It is YOUR BODY.
2. BE EDUCATED and OPEN to learning about your body: how they work, what we are putting into and onto them, and how to heal them PROPERLY when they get sick (because they will).
3. STRESS is related to like 90% of health issues .... we need to focus on making our lives less anxious and stress-ridden by doing things we love... self-care, me time, whatever it is that makes us feel good and/or get our passions flowing ... do it! I read this quote today and it spoke to me and reminds me that I need to DO ME and you need to DO YOU:
"The shit that makes your heart beat faster and your eyes glow when you do it or talk about it, no matter if it's hiking, yoga, gardening, painting, sex, meditation, photography, going for walks, helping others - do that. Do it as often as you can. Because that's what life is about. Creating as many passionate, happy moments as possible. Don't let anyone stop you from doing the things you love - not even yourself."
4. BE HONEST: You guys, I cannot tell you how many "picture-perfect" accounts I see on Instagram and how lonely it makes me feel. Real life is not perfect 24/7. Yes there may be some perfect moments, but get real here ... So, the reason I am opening up to you is because I want to share my story. Obviously it is very personal, and not everyone is comfortable sharing their shit with everyone. But I have a passion for health and wellness, and with that passion comes honesty and openness. When I first starting wondering what the Hell was going on with my body, I was scared shitless. I went online and went into dark holes of information that made me terrified of my future. I couldn't find blogs that shared similar stories. But, as I reached out to people: family, friends, nutritionists, health advocates, I learned how common Candida in the gut is, and I slowly started to feel a little less alone in my journey. So, if I can reach ONE person who is dealing with something similar, that would make this whole journey and post worth it.
Be kind and gentle with yourself. Respect your body and listen to it.
I love you for reading this.
MRS. + MAMA