Back From Hiatus, Leaky Gut and Candida

Alright, friends (if you’re still out there), I’m FINALLY back. Not that you probably missed me, but I’ve definitely missed writing. It’s been a busy little bit. I’ve spent the past year or so trying to get to know my body. No, not in a dirty way. Although, that’s perfectly acceptable, too. I’ve really been struggling with weight loss, fatigue, aches and pains, and ugh, like I said, weight loss. I’d tried everything. From limiting my calories to under 1400 a day. For the record, I do drop a few pounds the first few weeks on this, but the hunger NEVER subsids. I was hungry all the time, light-headed, and grouchy. And it didn’t get better after a few weeks. When I gave up! I’ve tried lifting heavy weights and ignoring cardio. I’ve tried adding more cardio in and lifting lighter weights more often. I’ve tried cutting back on grains and sugars. I’ve tried giving up all wheat. And I haven’t done these things as fads, I’ve done them to try to figure out where my body performs best. And I have concluded that I was getting way too many carbs. Carbs in general, although I probably could figure out more specifically if I had the money to get lipid panels all the time. I mean, I COULD allocate the money, but generally knowing my triglycerides fall into the normal range when I eat less carbs was good. I dind’t realize what I was eating (mostly whole grains/complex carbs) was hurting me. Until I realized once it’s in your body a carb is a carb is a carb. Yes, I know that’s not specifically true. Some carbs have more fiber in them. Some carbs are natural, others are chemicals. But for my experiment, my triglycerides went from the danger (around 250) zone to well into the healthy zone (60s) by simply watching the amount in each meal. I kept it under 50 per meal. But now I even try to keep my daily total around 100, so even less per meal. Common assumption is less carbs equals less calories taken in. In my case, I suppose that might have initially been true. I dropped about 5-10 pounds. But over the past year it’s all come back. My best guess is when I elminated the extra carbs, I wasn’t sure what to eat, so I ate less. Over time, I found lots of delicious lower-carb alternatives, including eating more meats, more fats, etc. And now my caloric intake has leveled off where it was when I was taking in more carbs. And the solution wasn’t that I was less hungry. Rather it was that I had adapted and found other foods I liked to keep me full.

But, the good news is I feel so much better now than a year ago this time. And some of the things I’ve done have been inspired mostly by Robb Wolf (author of Paleo Solution).

First, I’m eating a lot less processed crap. On “diets” of the past, I only focused on calories in, and was eating a LOT of processed “health foods.” A lot of low-fat dairy products that are probably hardly dairy anymore. Frozen “diet” foods. Low-calorie baked goods and products. Hell, I used to eat sugar-free Jello pudding almost everyday. Once I cut it out and added it back, I realized it actually made my stomach hurt. I also was addicted to these three-in-a pack mini muffin and cupcake things. Now I realize those were empty calories. Sure, they might temporarily relieve a sugar craving, but it was also supporting one. So, in the short term, maybe I was eating 100 less calories, but in the long-term, I was creating the habit of NEEDING something sweet. I still struggle with this. In the past, I hardly ever craved sweets. And now I think about them incessantly. Ugh. Damn you mini cupcakes and muffins and pudding packs! So even though I’m eating less, I still have my sugar cravings, and still eat things I shouldn’t. I’ve been on frozen yogurt benders. I’ve sat down with a carton of ice cream and a spoon. I’ve made cookies late at night. Overall, this is still a huge struggle. But I feel hopeful I’m making some progress…

Second, I fixed my bedroom. In listening to Robb Wolf, he kept putting so much emphasis on a good night’s sleep. He said rooms should be totally dark, which means no cell phone lights, no alarm clocks with lit up faces, no street lights coming in the windows. He suggested blackout curtains and setting a bedtime routine that avoids electronics. I believe he suggested putting alarm clocks in other rooms or finding one that didn’t light up until it was time to get up. He suggested avoiding late afternoon caffeine. None of it was really that big of a surprise, but it motivated me to dump my alarm (which I really wasn’t using anyway), buy blackout curtains, and get my butt in bed before 10:00. When I started listening to him it wasn’t unusual for me to screw around on the Internet or watching TV utnil almost 1AM. Now I’m in bed no later than 10:00. Some nights by 9:00. I still struggle falling asleep and some nights are more restleess than others, but I’ve made good progress. And with that progress means more energy during the day. Since Robb is also a believer in adrenal fatigue, and the cortisol/belly fat issues associated with it, and I had self-diagnosed adrenal fatigue a few years earlier but hadn’t found much of a solution, I was intrigued and knew I needed to get my sleep in order. Robb also suggested lower intensity workouts over high intensity. So I did switch from trying to get back into running to longer daily walks. However, I lost interest in this in about a month, and also haven’t re-committed to running. He suggested walks near an hour. Whereas if I’d run, the runs were usually 15-20 minutes. So it was quite the time commitment. And as the weather got hotter, I lost interest.

Third, fish oil and vitamin D. I was taking both casually. Now I am committed to taking them. In fact, if I miss them for a day, I feel tired and blah. I know I don’t get enough sun because I’m at work all day. And in the heat of summer, I avoid the outside. And on days I do sit outside, I always wear sunscreen since I have such pale skin. As for fish oil, I take it for a whole host of reasons, but have upped my dosage from around 2g per day to about 6-8. Robb says if you’re overweight, you probably have a lot of systemic inflammation. If I take too much, my gums seem to start to hurt, but 6-8g per day seems about right. If I’m getting sick, I might take a little more, along with some zinc.

Fourth, I’ve been working on fixing my leaky gut. I’d never even heard of such a thing, and came upon it one day during a Paleo Solution podcast while I was walking. Earlier in the year I’d discovered I was allergic to/sensitive to eggs. This was a new thing for me, but I thought maybe it was only coming up since I was eating more protein, and therefore more eggs. It was surprisingly easy to diagnose since I’d recently cut so many foods out of my diet, and had added in very few new ones. My solution: eat less eggs. It seemed weird that suddenly even one or two eggs would make my face break out, but in my mind I told myself, “It’s because you hardly ate eggs before and probably didn’t correlate the breakouts.” Then his podcast said that it’s not unusual for someone with leaky gut to suddenly have a sensitivity to eggs. And in fact, sudden new food sensitivities is one of the more common symptoms of leaky gut. He suggested many people are actually only sensitive to the whites, and if you really want eggs, you could eat just the yolks. Or eliminate them all together, fix your leaky gut, and you’ll likely be able to eat them worry-free. So, “leaky gut” you say? He’d mentioned this “thing” in passing multiple times on the podcast, but I’d ignored it. Just like references to autoimmune disease. I figured if I had it, I’d be diagnosed with it, right? Anyway, as I started to research, I realized I had almost all of the symptoms: IBS-like symptoms (switching between constipation and diarrhea, gas, bloating, etc.), fatigue, sudden food sensitivities, joint pain, skin issues, etc. I know these are random symptoms and I probably would have ignored it if it weren’t for the sudden food sensitivities. The more I read, the more I realized it was likely I had this. Long-range use of antibiotics, or a severe reaction to antibiotics. In college, my face was randomly breaking out, after hardly doing so in high school or junior high, when it was most common. When I asked my doctor, he put me on antibiotics. This worked, and I was on them for over a year (maybe near two years). When my mom found out, she was frustrated the doctor had done that and said no one should be on antibiotics that long. She referenced the stomach, and also building up a tolerance to them. So I stopped taking them and switched to birth control (which also irritates the gut, I’ve read). At the end of grad school, I got on antibiotics (there were two meds, I can’t remember what they were). After I got off of them, I got what I thought was a weird stomach flu bug. Everything I ate went right through me. This lasted for over a month. It was to the point that I’d drink something, and it would come out as diarhhea, not digested at all. This was particularly scary when I drank a pink energy drink. I’d eat somtehing like salsa, and it would come out red, undigested. I lost about 20-25 pounds in less than a month. My doctor was complacent about it, acting like I was being dramatic. She gave me somethign to stop the diarhhea, but didn’t do anything to fix the actual problem. ALl this did was stop me up, but I was still sick. I stopped taking those, and stopped calling my doctor. By this point, even when I’d try to eat stuff like yogurt, it would go right through me. A friend of mine suggested a small amount of bananas followed by a small amount of yogurt. I was finally able to start digesting food again. of course, the weight loss was nice, and I did keep it off for around a year, but of course it came back. And suddenly! During that year, I was drinking a lot (also terrible on the stomach), and working a ton, so I was eating a lot of crap. All in all, I contribute this to my leaky gut. All of these things (long-term use of antibiotics, a bad reaction to antibiotics, birth control, alcohol, NSAIDS (which I took for hangovers sometimes) and crappy food, especially gluten if you’re sensitive) contribute to leaky gut. So, yeah, I was pretty sure I’d done this to myself, and was ready to fix it. One suggestion was to avoid grains, especially gluten. This has been a battle, as I crave breads like crazy (more on that in a bit). But also one thing I saw over and over was introducing bone broth in my diet. Also something suggested by Robb, but I kind of dismissed it thinking all it was doing was soothing the stomach like chicken soup when you have the flu. Afer more research, I discover bone broth actually pulls nutrients out of the bones that soothe your stomach in a different way. Especially the gelatin in the broth. So on Thanksgiving, with the carcass of a turkey, I started on my bone broth obsession. Bone broth is similar to chicken stock or broth in that it comes from cooking down bones and maybe some meat. The difference is, bone broth is cooked much longer, and the goal is to get the nutrients out of the bones and marrow. You put a bit of vinegar in with the water, and many people smash or cut the bones as they get brittle to give the broth more access to the marrow. I started drinking this stuff the weekend after Thanksgiving, and my body craves it like it hasn’t craved anything in a long, long time. I feel like it’s something my body needs. And I’m trying to give it what it wants. So, that’s what causes leaky gut. But what IS leaky gut? Well, I’m not sure I’m the best person to explain it. It’s also called permeable gut or permeable intestines, I think? Anyway, what all of the things listed above do is weaken or injur your gut lining. The lining is supposed to keep everything in your stomach until it’s digested and release the nutrients into the blood. But what leaky gut does is allow certain foods through undigested. The body doesn’t know what these are, and tries to attack them like they’re toxins, which is why you have weird things happen wehn you eat certain foods – like my acne caused by eggs. And after awhile, your body can start to attack itself. This is what an autoimmune disease is, and sometimes these are caused or worsened by leaky gut. The thing that triggered me to take this more seriously was when my cousin was sick for an extended amount of time, and doctors coudln’t figure out  what was wrong with him. Then he suddenly loses his eyesight and the ability to go to the bathroom. And he’s diagnosed with a very rare autoimmune disease. Now, I’m not saying is problem was caused or worsened by leaky gut. However, if autoimmune disease is a genetic thing (I’m not sure if it is or if they even know – but it sounds like this one specific disease can be genetic), then I’m not doing anything that increases my chances of going blind. YIKES!

The more I read on leaky gut, the more I find that it’s tied to Candida, which is an overgrowth of yeast. Like a yeast infection many women get. Now, I originally wrote off yeast as an issue because I’ve never had a yeast infection. I hear this is rare. So I thought, “Surely if I have a yeast issue, I would have had a yeast infection.” However, some of the other more generic symptoms. One symptom of candida is actually leaky gut. So candida causes leaky gut, I guess. But other smptoms are again fatigue, vaginal yeast infections, anal yeast infections (in TMI news, anal itch is also a symptom, and I DO have this – I always assumed it was mild hemmroids since I’m constipated a lot – and that might still be the case, but I’m too chicken to talk to a doctor! And if this is the only symtom that subsides because of this treatment, it will be money well spent!), athlete’s foot, nail fungus, thrush in the mouth, bloating, depression, ANXIETY, even irritibility and random anger! And I’d noticed over the past few years I’d become more anxious about everything, especially death. Death of myself and those close to me. It felt really irrational, but I coudln’t control it. I also found myself worried about a lot of weird stuff I shouldn’t worry about. And getting anxious in a lot of social situations. I know this could just be part of “getting old.” But the depression symptoms were also kind of an eye-opener. I’ve never been suicidal, but I could feel the “darkness” many people associate with depression. I’d even started taking St. John’s Wort and saffron. Also a recommended supplement is fish oil. I was desperate to not feel so blah and unhappy, all the time. Now, I don’t know for sure any of those things are tied to yeast. However, when I started researching some of the yeast treatments, I found that most said it won’t hurt you to try them for a week or two, as long as you aren’t pregnant or nursing. I’m not! So I figured what the heck. I bought a host of things to try: goldenseal root, grapfruit seed extract, black walnut hull, olive leaf, pau d’arco tea, acidophilus. The only one of these I’d heard of was acidophilus, which my mom had my sister start taking when she had yeast infections right after she got married. She also tried to get her husband to take it since the infections are passed back and forth. And the reviews on eveverything else were good. Many are taken as natural antibiotics. Others are taken daily. Some people take them long-term, others short-term. But all of them said they were safe, if taken as recommended. When I read reviews of most, the recommended dosage was lower than what it said online could safely be taken. For example,the first supplement I started with was goldenseal root. 500mg twice a day. And online I read that it can safely be taken in doses of 500-1000mg, three times per day. Everything I read said that if they’re working, most people get a variety of reactions, most is your body’s reaction to the yeast (or other infection) die off. Flu-like symptoms, such as stomach ache, diarrhea, swollen glands, general achiness, etc. And the recommended response is to drink a lot of water, get extra sleep, and ride it out as much as you can. For me, the symptoms have been swollen glands all over my body, fatigue (mostly just getting tired earlier in the night, not all day fatigue) and general achiness. So I feel like how you feel right before you get sick. I assume this is related to the goldenseal root, and not to actually getting sick!

So, that’s a lot of back story. But the reason I’m telling it is, I’m going to get back to writing a lot more often. First, because I actually have a computer at home (and not just an iPad, which is frustrating to try to write from). And second, because I’m not getting a lot of support anywhere. Many people think I should “workout through the pain” or “massage the swollen glands.” I did suck it up and try to workout last night, only to feel absolutely miserable. Now, I’m not saying I shouldn’t do something, but I think maybe in this case, walking is more appropriate than heavy lifts. I could probably lift on days off when I can get more rest. But working out when I feel achy, have swollen glands, feel light-headed and am putting myself under a barbell with 150 pounds on it might not be the best idea. And I’ve read conclusively online not to rub on your swollen glands. So, rather than take advice from what has always been my support system, I think I’m going to go off into a bit of a seclusion. And track my progress here, in “my safe area.” :) So, of course feedback is welcome, but I’m going to commit to and follow my own path, at least through a few rounds of the anti-candida process. I’ll document how I feel, what’s changing, what’s not, etc. And probably complain a lot since I generally feel blah, and am sick of it being dismissed. Hey, it’s my blog!

Anyway, you’re welcome to ride along, learn from my experience, and know that I’m NOT selling anything (many of these leaky gut and candida posts seem to be incahoots with supplement brands). The biggest revelation for me so far has been bone broth, and I plan to post a lot more about that because I think it’s something most of us can easily incorporate, even if it’s just making broth out of the one whole chicken you cook twice a year. You already have the bones. Water and a few tsps of vinegar are practically free. So, free nutrients! We all love that, right?


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jennewby71
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 15:07:55

    wow…well I applaud you for your dedication in trying to figure it all out. That takes some dedication and patience! I feel like we are so similar in our diet struggles but I have no idea what is the cause of mine other than laziness and lack of motivation and sticking to anything. But I too will work out like crazy, eat mainly right and still don’t lose. I just don’t have the patience to look into it more. I’ve had some tests run over the years and even those come back in the “normal” range for everything but on the “border” of other stuff (PCOS). But I also know I eat like crap. I’ll eat good all week then blow it on the weekends. When I go out to dinner, I order whatever I want including dessert sometimes, when really, if I was truly dieting and sticking to it, I should order a salad, no dressing, no dessert, no alcohol. Another killer of my good week, when I go out on the weekend and then drink like a fish! ;) So I know I play a huge part in my lack of weight loss. I need to eat clean, no processed crap, and exercise. i just can’t seem to get back into it.

    I’m slowing trying and I’ll be reading up on you to see what seems to be working for you and may be try to incorporate some of the stuff you find out. For now, I’m trying to get into the eating clean thing, but it’s so dang hard! i like my pasta! I also started a 100 day Burpee and pushup challenge. I know it’s not much, but it’s a start. each day from 1-100 you do a burpee and a pushup for the number of day you are on. I’m on day 6 today and so far so good. Talk to me when I’m at day 40!! haha! But I also hope to start running again. I’m a slow and beginner runner, but I can go 3-5 miles. I noticed that when I was doing that regularly (at least 3 days a week) my clothes fit better, I slept better, had more energy and just felt better in general. I’ve got to get my belly down and that’s what somewhat seemed to work. We’ll see…..winter is here and I’m in RI, so it’s starting to get real cold!

    Good luck and nice to have you back!


    • stumbletowardhealth
      Dec 04, 2012 @ 17:54:25

      Jen!! Yay! You’re the one I was referring to when I said I wondered if anyone was still out there reading! :)

      First, I have to say, I have a lot more time on my hands to research and experiment since I don’t have a husband or kids or anything else really going on in my life! You’re a lot busier.

      Second, I think you’re not giving yourself credit for how much you are doing. And I think this whole weight loss thing can be a losing battle. First of all, I don’t think health and weight are definitely 100% correlated. With you eating well most of the time (or at least average or probably bette rthan the average person – at least your’e aware of what you’re eating!), and exercising. Seriously, five miles? I’m jealous! Not many people can do that! You’re probably actually much healthier than a lot of people. And probably healthier than a lot of people who are thinner than you. Health isn’t determined solely by weight. And being thin doesn’t always mean you’re healthy. So keep on keepin’ on. I feel like there’s more to the story than simply calories in versus calories out. I know that’s part of it. But I think there are a lot of additional variables. I think science about health and nutrition only knows a small sliver of what there is to know and understand. And we probably won’t even know everything in our lifetimes.

      Just like the leaky gut and candida stuff – it’s kind of taboo with general doctors. A lot of times you have to do your own reserach or talk to holistic doctors. Hell, I saw a clip of Dr. Drew being a total ass to an actress where he didn’t even know what leaky gut was. And rather than admitting it was a total tool to her.

      So that makes me think there are lots of things out there that your doctor or my doctor or that doctor over there may not know about, or understand. And rather than admitting there’s more to it than they know, they give an answer or try to prescribe a medicine. I’mpersonally looking for the best body I can have. Trying to lessen the unhealthy things I’m eating, and increase the healthier things. I’ll NEVER be perfect. I love pizza and chips and cheese dip and beer. I eat considerably less than I used to, but I still eat and love them! And even if my diet is “perfect” I still imagine I’ll eat things that aren’t 100% what I should, all the time. And that’s OK, too! It’s hard to not ever indulge in things. And I don’t think we’re meant not to. But society makes us feel guilty about it, which, in my opinion, only creates things like eating disorders. I shouldn’t feel like I have to hide eating pizza. Or lie about it. I should just be able to say, “I’m having pizza this weekend. I can’t wait!”

      As far as the leaky gut/candida stuff goes, maybe it’ll be a flop. But it’s worth a shot since I hav emost of the symptoms. So I’ll try it. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll keep looking for whatever it is that’s making my body feel “off.”

      Thanks for commenting!


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