My Candida Story
My candida issues started back in June 2014 — the same week I got engaged. Awful timing! We were staying at the beach for a week when I came down with a case of BV. I was put on the most intense antibiotics that I’ve ever had in my body, which completely RUINED my gut. The medicine was so intense that it gave me panic attacks and hot flashes. It literally felt like I could feel my blood moving throughout my entire body.
About a month later, once it seemed like the BV was gone, I started to have an intense sharp pain in my abdomen and a lot of digestive issues. I went to the doctor numerous times. They did numerous tests, but nothing really came up as the cause. They told me to eat a diet of bread, rice and bananas for a while. No one mentioned a possible connection to the antibiotics that I’d been on the month prior.
Soon after, I started to get recurrent BV and yeast infections (almost monthly!), which doctors treated with topical ointments, diflucan pills, etc., while never addressing that it could possibly be related to the stomach problems I was having or the antibiotics I’d recently taken. After about a year of this, the yeast infections led to something called Lichen Simplex Chronicus, which essentially felt like lots of little paper cuts…down there. It was THE WORST. I was in chronic, excruciating pain. I spent so many mornings crying as I tried to motivate myself to get moving, and so many uncomfortable, painful days at work. Some days I couldn’t even sit because I was hurting so badly. I felt like there was no one I could talk to. Friends who I started to mention these issues to said things like “Oh yeah, I had a yeast infection once.” But what I was experiencing was so different, and the issues I was dealing with felt shameful for some reason. Doctors kept prescribing me strong steroids and anti-fungal treatments, while simply lecturing me on hygiene as if that’s all I needed to fix and I’d be better…Spoiler alert: Hygiene wasn’t the issue!
Despite everything I was doing to avoid infections (skipping baths & hot tubs, changing out of sweaty clothes immediately, taking prescribed medications.) I was still getting infections every month or so, which made it impossible for me to regularly exercise, to be intimate, or to feel like myself. I started to gain weight, not sleep well, and crave sugary foods. I felt isolated and alone, and experienced a lot of shame and body issues. And a sex life with my now new husband? Nonexistent.
I saw a naturopath who had me do a lot of tests, take a lot of pills, and try home remedies like hydrogen peroxide washes, but I didn’t find her to be super helpful. I started going to regular acupuncture and talk therapy, which helped my body and my mind, but weren’t getting to the root issue either. I went off birth control, hoping to eliminate anything from my body that could be contributing to my health issues.
I did internet searches to try to find others experiencing chronic yeast infections or BV, but just kept finding horror stories of broken marriages and people who never found a cure. I felt so discouraged. Was this something I would always have to live with? After 3 years of pain and frustration, I feared a life where I could never really be active again, and I truly feared what would happen to my relationship (both with myself and my husband) if this were to never get better.
The Tipping Point
I found out a friend of mine had experienced something similar, so I reached out, desperate to connect with someone who understood what I was feeling. She shared that after 2 years of constant infections, it was diet and the right balance of probiotics & supplements that made all the difference for her. She completely changed her diet, eliminating almost everything and then slowly adding things back in over time (like a “Whole 30” on steroids) and it did the trick! She was now 2 years free of infections!
I almost cried as I realized that there could be a happy ending to my story!
It took me a few months after that meeting with my friend to finally build up the courage to make a big lifestyle change. But in that time I started to dip my toes in. I tried whole 30 for a month and felt great — But once I stopped, I had 3 more months with back to back to back yeast infections. I felt like I’d finally hit my rock bottom.
I decided it was time to make a change.
I went on vacation to Paris with my husband as we celebrated our second wedding anniversary, and while there I decided: I’m going to enjoy alllll the cheese, bread and wine now, because when I get home I’M FINALLY DOING IT. And that’s just what I did.
I came home and immediately started researching what plan I wanted to follow. I found an e-book online that resonated with me. I read everything I could and learned so much about candida and gut health. And on July 10, 2017, I began my candida cleanse.
The Candida Cleanse
I was so determined to kick this that I did the longest length suggested for each phase. The first cleanse phase suggested 3-7 days, so I did 7, and followed the same pattern through 5 more phases. The diet is essentially a low-sugar, anti-inflammatory diet. There are a number of key food restrictions at first (including grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol, caffeine and soy). There are many other foods to avoid too, like shrimp (which made me cry), corn, vinegar, and more. I also paired this diet with a number of recommended vitamins and supplements for each phase.
My goal was to make it 60 days. And through determination and lots and lots of tears (seriously, I think I cried for 4 weeks straight – in grocery stores, at home, in the bathroom at work…), I finally made it. to 60 days. In the end, I was so darn proud of myself, and I felt so good that I decided to keep going. I ended up going for 60 more days with many of the same restrictions, and since then I’ve been working to find a balance that works for me around travel, work, pregnancy & postpartum, new motherhood, and the rest of my life. I work daily to strike a healthy balance between indulging in life’s little pleasures and prioritizing my health above all. It means sometimes I have a piece of bread, or sometimes I eat cheese, or have a bite of peanut butter, or sip on coffee or wine. And many times, I say “no, thanks.” But when I do enjoy these things, it’s less often than I used to, and I do so now with full knowledge of how these ingredients affect my own body. And I think I can only enjoy those things once in a while now because I was SO strict back then.