My teen daughter was recently put on a yeast-free/sugar-free diet in order to bring the level of candida (yeast) back to normal in her system. In short, a healthy body usually contains a mix of healthy bacteria. The bacteria are especially important when it comes to aiding in digestion and the synthesis of nutrients in the intestinal tract. There are certain factors, however, that can upset this level of good bacteria in the body. When this happens the yeast known as Candida albicans can increase and cause a variety of health problems. This infection is called Systemic Candidiasis (or Polysystemic Chronic Candidiasis.)
Some of the factors that can upset the bacteria levels include:
- Antibiotic overuse
- High sugar diet
- Birth control
I’ll give a brief run-down of what Meghan has been dealing with for the past year and a half, for those who may want a little background info on what led to this diagnosis. I’m hoping this might help someone else who is searching for similar symptoms or a similar story. Up until October 2008, Meghan was one of the healthiest kids I knew. While the rest of the household would be knocked down by a nasty cold, she would sneeze once and never really get much worse than that. (That’s obviously an exaggeration, but you get the idea.)
In October 2008, she started complaining of pain in her lower right side. It was rather tender – sometimes sharp, sometimes dull. We took her to the emergency room once, fearing that it was her appendix, but it wasn’t. A few weeks later (on Halloween, to be exact) she got very sick with a sore throat and a fever that lasted a few days. She was tired and lethargic for another week or so past that. The side pain also continued.
Blood work showed that she had flare-up of the virus associated with mono – that explained the fever, sore throat and fatigue. CAT scans showed that she had an ovarian cyst – that explained the side pain.
The pain continued for months and she was put on pain killers and then birth control in March 2009 to help shrink the cyst. I took her off the birth control 2 months later because it was affecting her mood. (Crying spells, depression, etc.) I switched her to a low-carb diet and a month later the cyst was gone. I have no idea if the diet helped or the birth control did the trick. I only tried the diet because I read that it helped other people suffering from PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome.)
Meghan seemed to be better except for stomach aches from time to time. The doctors thought that perhaps her stomach lining was irritated by the high doses of Ibuprofen she had been on. They put her on Prilosec for a month to see if that would help. It really didn’t.
In September 2009, she also started having bad headaches and sporadic low-grade fevers. Her doctor prescribed an antibiotic for what they thought was a sinus infection. She also went to see a gastroenterologist for her stomach aches, which were getting more frequent and debilitating. They gave her an antispasmodic (Levsin) which didn’t really provide any relief at all, sadly.
By December 2009, she was on her third round of antibiotics to clear up her never-ending sinus infection. She was also put on another antispasmodic (Bentyl), which also provided no relief whatsoever. The sinus infection finally cleared, but the stomach aches did not.
The stomach/intestinal pain was sporadic, but we couldn’t pinpoint any kind of trigger. She would sometimes get them at night after dinner and sometimes they would start first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. We tried cutting out dairy, but that didn’t help. We tried triggering it with dairy, but that didn’t produce any reliable results either. She described the pain as strong – not really sharp, but incredibly uncomfortable and painful. It would last for about 5 or 6 hours and then she would spend the rest of the day with a stomach that was incredibly sore…almost like her stomach had been punched for hours. It wasn’t always directly in her stomach, either. It would occasionally cover the entire stomach and intestinal area.
Finally in February 2010 (last week) I took her to see a holistic healer. I was pretty much at my wit’s end with this issue. She had missed her 20th day of school for the year and her grades were starting to drop…and her pain was intense on the really bad days.
After a number of interesting little tests – some which included something called muscle testing – it was determined that she was dealing with a yeast overgrowth in her system.
Now…I must admit that I am well-aware that the diagnosis of a Candida overgrowth is considered to be a quack diagnosis – something that holistic healers will use when they can’t find any other diagnosis. This one, though, really seemed to fit. Meg had been on birth control, multiple rounds of antibiotics and had a diet filled with sugars and simple carbs. Those three factors are the top causes of an imbalance of Candida in a body’s system.
On a side note, I do plan on having her gastroenterologist weigh in on this diagnosis and test to confirm it. In the meantime, I have my daughter on the special diet necessary to get the body back into balance again. I used to think the gluten-free diet (usually used by those with Celiac disease) was tough, but this one is proving to be quite a challenge. While a gluten-free diet will allow sugar, the Candida diet does not. Yeast thrives on sugar so in order to stop its growth we have to deny sugar to the body. This includes artificial sweeteners, honey, agave nector, etc. The only sweeteners allowed (according to the holistic practitioner) are Stevia and xylitol. As for the rest of the diet, there seem to be a lot of conflicting information online. We have only tried the diet for a week and we are still tweaking and learning.
Unfortunately for Meghan, I am a horrible cook. I kid you not. Recipes inexplicably fail under my command. I have to make so many things from scratch now. Spaghetti sauces, mayonnaise, soup, pancakes (which I still haven’t gotten right…they taste horrid.) The diet is supposed to last for 6 weeks. She is also on 4 different supplements: sugar/starch enzymes, probiotics, Gastrex, and Spore-X.
In any case, I’ll try to post some of my menu plans and recipe successes. I hope that might help others who are struggling to find some new recipes for the Candida diet. She lost 2 pounds on this diet in the first week…which was kind of nice since she gained 15 pounds on the birth control last year. I sure hope the weight loss wasn’t due to my poor cooking…thinking about it now, she really didn’t finished too much of what I cooked for her last week. Poor thing!