Guest Blog: Could This Be Causing Your Digestive Issues, Headaches, or Depression?

by Jessica Mishra on April 4, 2012

The following blog post was written by a friend of mine, Conni Dennison. We were connected a while back by a mutual friend and share an interest in health and nutrition. I have really enjoyed getting to know her! She is currently studying nutrition at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as well as Bauman College. In addition to starting her own blog, she will soon be taking on clients as a Certified Health Coach. Stay tuned for many good things to come from her and enjoy her wonderful recount of her journey to health! She will be sharing with you her diagnosis and treatment of a very common issue known as Candidiasis. As she explains below, Candidiasis can contribute to digestive issues, fatigue, acne, depression, headaches, and more. If you experience any of those symptoms, read on!

Two years ago, I reached a point where I was completely frustrated with my chronic stomach aches and digestive issues. It had been going on for years and, while it ebbed and flowed in terms of frequency/intensity, it was always present in my life. ‘It’ refers to the constant state of turmoil my stomach was in on a daily basis. Knowing what I know now, it is frighteningly obvious what was going on. But, at that time, I had no idea that my daily eating and drinking habits, along with my use of medication to treat occasional illnesses/infections and my long-term use of birth control pills were all contributing significantly to ‘it’.

I began researching online, talking to friends and generally trying to educate myself on what might be at the root of all of this stomach unrest. I knew it was common for people to have stomach issues from time to time, but this was different and I knew it. I was certain there was (unfortunately) more to it and I was determined to figure out what it was and identify a solution.

After a fair amount of homework on my part, I ended up speaking with (and ultimately meeting with) a Naturopath. When I read through her background and various reviews written by her clients, I felt fairly confident in her expertise and was interested to see if she could help me resolve this ongoing issue in my life.

Our initial call was brief, but informative enough to give me confidence in moving forward with her and booking an in-person appt. In the spirit of full disclosure, one of the major hurdles for me was the financial commitment. It was definitely a substantial cost, but I can assure you it was worth every penny. It was an investment in my health and the results were a reward I couldn’t put a price tag on.

In our first meeting, my Naturopath (ND) did an extremely comprehensive health history with me. She asked questions ranging from what my diet consisted of to how often I had taken medication over the years to the type of walls, rugs and ventilation in every apartment I had ever lived in. To be completely honest, there were a few times during this line of questioning that the cynical side of me came out and I wanted to roll my eyes and ask what possible relevance this could have to my stomach issues. But she asked her questions in such a methodical and thoughtful way that I felt fairly certain she was going somewhere with all of it, so I cooperated.

At the end of our initial meeting, which was approximately 1.5 – 2 hours in duration, she told me what she thought was going on with me, but said that she wanted to take some tests in order to be certain and give me a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. What seemed odd, but now makes complete sense, was that she told me to continue with my current (terrible) diet for the next couple of weeks so that the tests could be administered under the conditions my body was accustomed to over the past few years. I cringe – literally – to admit how bad it was, but I will be honest.

An average day included a grande, non-fat (sugar infested) chai latte, which sometimes served as both breakfast and lunch. Lattes have always just stifled my appetite, so I would nurse one for a good couple of hours and then not be hungry at all after I had finished it. Sometimes snack on high sugar, low fat candy at work (think Swedish fish, twizzlers, hot tamales). Dinner varied, but almost always involved something high carb/sugar as well. Whether it was a lot of bread or sometimes even frozen yogurt – calling it nutritionally deficient is an understatement. In all fairness, sometimes I would have big salads and I also loved sushi, so on occasion I had healthy meals. But it could have been much, much better.

I took the tests – which were not too pleasant (stool, saliva…etc are standard testing methods) – and submitted them. Those next couple of weeks felt like an eternity waiting for the results. My ND called to set up an appointment when she got the results in. I still have my notes from that call. What upset me most was the level of concern in her voice. She was basically like ‘you have severe Candida and you need to get it turned around now’. I knew a little about Candida, as I had two friends who had it pretty bad over the years, but I didn’t know enough. I was determined to educate myself on it though.

I won’t go into the details of my specific test results, but it basically showed that I had serious Candida and that my immune system essentially did not exist. This explained a lot because I got sick constantly – and also had other chronic infections, none of which were life threatening but were certainly not healthy or normal. For those of you who are not familiar with Candida, here is a brief description:

According to “Prescription for Nutritional Healing”, Candida albicans is a “parasitic yeast-like fungus” that lives in the body. It’s found in the intestines, throat, genital tract and mouth. It normally lives in balance with other bacteria in the body, but it can multiply and weaken the immune system, resulting in candidiasis. Candidiasis has many symptoms, ranging from constipation or diarrhea to bad breath to headaches, mood swings, vaginitis, arthritis and depression. The book also says food allergies are common in people with an overgrowth of Candida. A Candida detox diet will help cleanse the body and get the overgrowth of Candida back under control.

My ND put me on a super strict treatment plan. Candidly, when she laid out the guidelines for me, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. In a nutshell, I was told to eliminate – for 30 days – all bread, dairy, sugar, alcohol and coffee, among other things. But these were the 5 main categories that were crucial for me to avoid. I felt like air was the only thing not on the list. But, once we discussed it in greater detail, it turned out there was quite a bit I could still have – most meats, fish, quinoa, brown rice, vegetables, most nuts (no peanuts)……not really fruit because that feeds candida, but that wasn’t too big of a deal.

I knew I had no choice and, at this point, I was committed and determined to eradicate this awful candida from my system so I just accepted this treatment plan and dove in. I won’t lie – the first 3 or 4 days were brutal. It was true withdrawal, not unlike what drug addicts and alcoholics experience from what I’m told. Sugar is that powerful of an addiction. I had massive withdrawal headaches and my body was BEGGING me for carbs, sugar and caffeine. My ND had warned me that this would happen and just said to do everything I could to resist the temptation and that it would eventually pass. She was right. And once it did pass, I felt great. Each day, I felt better and stronger and healthier. I never believed it would happen, but within less than two weeks, my body didn’t even want bread or sugar at all. The thought of it was totally unappealing to me. It was so liberating!

One of the hardest parts for me (and I am sure for most other people who have gone through this) was giving up alcohol. I have never been a huge drinker, but I definitely enjoy drinking wine/beer at dinner with my husband 1-2 nights/week and it’s one of the things we look forward to most together. It was tough to have an entire month of eating out with him and ordering nothing but water with lemon. I guess in hindsight it was good practice for when I am ultimately pregnant, but it was still very challenging, I can’t lie.

As the days/weeks progressed, I felt better and better and better! I had tons of energy and started to sleep like a baby. I’ve always exercised in the mornings before work, but it has always been a struggle when the alarm goes off because I have never been a morning person. By the end of week 2 of this cleanse, I was practically leaping out of bed in the morning. I went on longer runs and honestly just didn’t want my workouts to end. I felt incredible.

By the end of the 30 days, I really didn’t even want to reward myself with having all of the things I had given up for that period. I allowed myself to have some wine on the 31st day because we were visiting friends back east and it was fun to imbibe a little. But I truly wanted to keep my diet on the same regimen going forward. My body craved healthy food and wanted nothing to do with the junk I had been ingesting for years prior to this cleanse.

There have definitely been times (primarily the holidays and vacation) over the past two years since I did this cleanse that I have slipped up and indulged in too much sugar/alcohol/carbs for brief periods and I won’t beat myself up over that. Sometimes it’s almost good in that it reminds me of how bad I felt all those years prior to ridding myself of the candida. As long as I stay on track 80% of the time, I am ok with indulging the other 20% or so. The more important point is that it shouldn’t have to be a sacrifice or an effort. It really does feel that good to feed your body nutritious, whole foods and the rewards come in so many forms – better moods, energy, sleep…..just a better quality of life.

Candida is something we all have to an extent in our bodies and always will from what I’ve read and been told. But if you have it as bad as I had it, you need to address it and deal with it. Trust me, your body will thank you for it.

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Danielle (elleinadspir) May 16, 2012 at 5:48 am

>really great information. I haven't read about Candida before and this is really interesting.

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Junia May 16, 2012 at 6:20 am

>what a great post! i've been struggling with systemic candida as well along with a compromised immune system and a constantly growing list of food sensitivities. i've been on the anti-candida diet since november and i'm finally starting to make some progress. good to know that there are others out there that have overcome this battle. thanks for sharing :) .

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Beaming with Health May 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm

>Yes, Candidiasis is such a common thing these days since we are exposed to so much overly processed foods, antibiotics, etc. Once it is diagnosed and treated through diet changes, though, it is amazing what relief people see. Thanks for checking out this post! If you have any more questions about Candida, please let me know! You can also post questions at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Beaming-with-Health/144849112220676. Have a great week! -Jessica

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Beaming with Health May 16, 2012 at 1:43 pm

>Hi Junia! Thank you for checking out this post! I am glad to hear you are making progress. It should just continue to get better and you should see improvements in both your immune system and food sensitivities. I myself overcame Candidiasis and so did my mother, so I can confirm that it definitely can be done. If you have any more questions about Candida, please let me know. I work with a lot of clients who have it as well. You can also post questions at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Beaming-with-Health/144849112220676. Thanks again and have a wonderful week! -Jessica

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