The truth behind food's magical powers towards curing inflammation, allergies & chronic illness.
When I was first told I had Candida, 1) I had no idea what that meant, & 2) I had no idea food would be so involved towards healing it.
A yeast overgrowth can mean many things, but the one thing that remains constant for everyone who suffers one is chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can reveal itself in a variety of different forms. For many, chronic inflammation looks like chronic back or joint pains, chronic migraines or insomnia. For others, chronic inflammation can unfortunately take form in other illnesses such as asthma, chronic rhinitis, arthritis, lupus, Crohn's disease, IBS, and more. For me, the chronic inflammation hit my sinuses and lungs, causing me chronic rhinitis, immune deficiency and croup cough - things that have required years of healing to undo. Praise God, we made it out alive and well to tell the tale.
So here we go.
So in order to kill this yeast overgrowth going on somewhere in my 28 foot long intestinal track, I had to do two things: 1) cut out its food source that was allowing it to grow and 2) kill what was already living and thriving through using natural herbs... But more on that later. Let's talk about food first, shall we?
Yeast cultures thrive on two things: sugar and more yeast. While yeast was arguably pretty easy to cut out (no breads, baked goods or doughs), sugar was an uphill battle. Cutting out sugar is still to this day one of the most frustrating allergens to have simply because there are added sugars in roughly 60% of the items in our local grocery stores. SIXTY PERCENT!!!! Are you shocked, or not even surprised by that number? For me, I was a little bit of both. After all of those crazy food Netflix documentaries, I knew the food industry was messing with our bodies in ways more than we could count. But SIXTY?!
And by the way, cutting out sugar doesn’t mean just added sugars in every day products. But I mean like – anything with high sugar. That means: honey, dried fruit, agave, dates, melon, banana, apples, grapes... - WAIT. DOES THAT MEAN? ON NO... THE HORROR. Yes… Unfortunately, that means no wine. And no alcohol for that matter too because 1) yeast is one of the most important ingredients in beer, wine and champagne, 2) excess alcohol can kill beneficial bacteria in the gut (which I needed all I could get) and 3) alcohol is a toxin, which puts unnecessary additional stress on our bodies, more specifically our livers, causing inflammation.
Ah yes. Back to inflammation, the cause of many chronic illnesses. Killing the yeast wouldn't be enough. My body was on overdrive: fighting chronic inflammation for the past 2 years; any little bit of inflammation would send it right back up to hyper inflamed. So how the hell do you get an inflamed body relax and go back to normal, and attain a leveled out, healthy immune response? AKA how do you tell it to chill TF out?
After a brief, and I mean tops 10 seconds brief, explanation of what yeast and bacteria do for our bodies – I was told by my homeopathic doctor that I had food allergies.
“What? No, that’s not possible. I’ve been tested for foods, actually I’ve been tested for about 60 different foods and didn’t react to one of them,” I told him confidently, my head held high..
Note of advice: don't tell homeopathic doctors what's possible and impossible. We know nothing compared to them, and you're saving yourself an awkward chuckle at your naivety kind of moment.
Little did I know, there are different kinds of food allergy testing. The one I had experienced growing up, with the tiny 60 different pricks in your back at once, injecting micro amounts of the allergen’s protein under your skin, only tests for immunoglobulin E levels. If you ever had allergies as a kid, this is probably the uncomfortable memory you remember. Either that or going into the allergist's once a week for immunology shots. But there are actually three more immunoglobulin (Ig) types: IgM, IgG and IgA.
Okay wait - immuno wut?
Stay with me here.
Immunoglobulins is just a fancy word for antibodies - aka proteins your body naturally produces to fight off the bad guys. If there are different types of threats to our bodies, it only makes sense that there are different types of antibodies, right?
These things are so important to understand about our bodies because they explain how and why our immune systems react to certain things differently. Understanding these different antibodies as unique to our bodies, gives us the tools to avoid the things that cause unnecessary stress, and thus, lower inflammation. A simple way to understand it: if we have too little antibodies, we have a greater chance of catching illnesses because the body isn't ready to fight off bacteria. On the other hand, if we have too many antibodies, it may mean our bodies will overreact to certain things, causing allergies or an overactive immune system. You catching my drift now?
There are four kinds of immunoglobulins: IgE, IgM, IgG and IgA. Your IgE antibodies are those that most of us are familiar with in the sense that they are the antibodies that are responsible for allergies. They are antibodies that act against things that are relatively not harmful, such as peanuts, pollen, etc. Even though peanuts aren't deadly to me (thank God), they could kill someone with a high IgE response to peanuts.
IgM antibodies are produced to protect you from any new infection or disease with which you come in contact. For example, if you've never had strep or been around strep before, being around your friend Jane who has strep throat will produce IgM antibodies to rush to protect you from those invaders. In time and after the threat is gone, that's when your IgG antibodies kick in.
IgG antibodies are those that fight on your behalf long term because they remember the diseases with which you've come in contact before. (AKA say you've been exposed to strep throat before and your IgM antibodies protected you correctly; if you become exposed to the same strand again, your IgG antibodies will take over.)
Lastly, are your IgA antibodies, which are antibodies found in the mucus membranes of the lungs, sinuses, stomach and intestines. (Ding ding ding!!! IgA is majorly important for those with respiratory and digestive track issues, for obvious reasons.) In summary, any substantial lack of activity or overactivity of these antibodies can cause suffering and chronic illness.
Before you think, "eh - that's not me. I can eat whatever I want and I'm fine" - news flash: it is.
Every single human being has food sensitivities.
Yeah, I know. What? Why didn't they teach us this in human bio?
Your IgA antibodies might react slightly differently to broccoli than it does to rice, or your IgE antibodies react to pollen more than dust mites; it's just how your body is. So while I didn't react to 122 different allergen protein pricks on an IgE level, with a quick blood test for my IgA and IgG levels, I found that indeed, I had some severe food allergies.
Check it out.
Reactivity: If it isn't obvious, green = low reaction, red = high reaction. To put this is context, someone with a severe peanut allergy on an IgE level would hit a level six.
White vs. Gray: The white bars represent IgA (which are mucus membranes antibodies) and the gray bars represent my IgG (which are long term antibodies).
As you can see, my IgA (white) levels for dairy are almost all hitting the high reactivity level, in addition to sugar, yeast, eggs, oats, corn, sesame seed, mushroom, wheat and rice.
Putting the lower/orange level reactivity foods aside, these red zoned foods are things I had been eating EVERY SINGLE DAY. Oatmeal or eggs for breakfast, sugar in my coffee (and in everything else I ate during the day), sesame seed in my hummus and soy sauce, wheat toast in the morning or for lunch on my sandwiches, wheat and sugar in the cereal I had for midnight snacks, and rice in my sushi. Are you kidding me? I was SHOCKED by these results. I never once thought I had a dairy allergy. I could proudly eat a whole pint of Ben & Jerry's, or an entire medium Domino's Hawaiian pizza, and my stomach would take it like a champ... #college. But all the while, my lungs and sinuses were screaming bloody murder with inflammation.
We are so narrow minded: thinking that food can only affect our stomachs. If food is what keeps us alive and well, allowing every organ to function the way its supposed to, does it not make sense that food affects our entire bodies?
So what am I saying? I'm saying that the things I had been eating every single day were causing an influx of inflammation in my body because of my compromised immune system, on top of the inflammation the yeast overgrowth was already causing. Siiiiiiick. Love that.
In preventative measures and because my body was so hyper inflamed, I was told to cut out every single food that caused even the slightest reaction until I was healed, which meant every food that touched the 2nd class reactivity level on my report. That meant absolutely no: dairy, eggs, chocolate, coffee, sugar cane, yeast, blueberry, lemon, orange, peach, plum, strawberry, shrimp, almond, amaranth, barley, kidney bean, pinto bean, string bean, corn, oats, rice, spelt, sesame seed, wheat, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, lettuce, mushroom, onion, pumpkin, or tomato.
But that's just the blood test! Don't forget, with a strict no sugar diet because of the yeast overgrowth, basically everything sugar was cut out from the picture. So even though I didn't react to honey or a lot of the fruits on the chart, the only "sugar" I could have was stevia, and the only fruit I could have were raspberries and avocado (simply because I didn't react to either and they're two of the lowest sugar fruits out there).
For six months.
With no kitchen because I was living in my sorority house.
I know you might be thinking, "Well what the hell did you eat for six months?" and that's a good question, but that's for another time.
To be honest, the four months were brutal. And I mean, brutal. I lost 10 lbs. in six weeks because I had no idea what to eat and I admit, I did not have this weight to lose. I developed a poor relationship with food and my body. I struggled with anger and discouragement constantly because up until month 4, nothing was changing. I kept blowing my nose, coughing through the night and getting sick every 5-6 weeks. To be even more candid, moving forward, I would not recommend doing this type of diet for anyone. Choose your big hitters, the biggest reactions, and focus on those. Not every single one... It's just all to unhealthy to go in completely black and white and unbalanced.
But my friends, the point is: it freaking worked.
Until all the sudden, one day, around the middle of the fourth month - I only blew my nose six or seven times.
And then the next week, a day came when I only blew my nose four times.
And then the next week, a day came when I only blew my nose once.
And then it stopped. I stopped blowing my nose every hour for a week straight. And then two weeks straight. And then I got sick, but I got better in a week rather than 2.5 weeks. And then my nose dried up again. It was incredible. Four months into the diet and herb treatment, and I was freed. My nose was dry, my coughing lightened up. I felt stronger, more confident in my body's abilities, and more able. I was one step closer to a normal college student again. And I couldn't believe my eyes; the food I was eating was causing unnecessary inflammation.
For your journey...
What does this mean for you?
1) Don't be me.
It took me two years of suffering, sifting through Western doctors and procedures to finally wake up and realize I needed to find holistic answers to chronic illness. I was looking for answers in all the wrong places: my nose, my lungs, my throat, when the entire problem was in my stomach and in the food I was eating. Look. I'm not saying illness can't be healed through Western medicine; after all, the antibiotics those doctors prescribed to me DID heal my pneumonia and strep throat. Without them, I could have died. But the point is: they were looking at the problem with narrowed vision. Have you been on a health journey for too long, unable to find answers? Could it be that you, like I was, are looking at your symptoms with narrowed vision?
2) I've said it before and will say this again - avoid antibiotics.
Of course, if you have a serious bacterial infection, PLEASE TAKE THEM. But if its something small or simply a "preventative measure" to fight against a common cold you've got going on, I urge you to think twice. For me, it was literally Western medicine's over prescription of antibiotics that got me so sick in the first place, ruining my immune system and causing this yeast overgrowth. Antibiotics paved a smooth path for me straight to chronic inflammation. There are all natural anti-bacteria herbs that will kill the bad bacteria in the gut without damaging the good bacteria in the same ways that antibiotics do. Talk to a homeopathic doctor about which herbs you could take and other holistic remedies that will help clear up your infection, or prevent a cold turning into an infection.
3) The most important... If you are struggling with chronic illness of the sinuses, lungs or digestive track, chances are you have some IgA level allergens and inflammation going on. I urge you to get a food allergy blood panel done, testing for IgA and IgG antibodies. You may be SHOCKED by the results, especially if you're like me and never had food allergies before. You may have never been forced to look at the ingredients label before! But I urge you - try the diet out for a month, two months or even three, and see how you feel. Or if you think you could have IBS, try the FODMAPS diet. Even if this step is not the answer, that's okay too! I'm a firm believer that changing the diet is a good for the body and a good exercise of self control for your mind. Plus, it's fun to find new foods and important open your eyes to ingredients lists and take a conscious note of what you're really eating. I know it's scary... I was so scared. I was scared to try something and it not work again. Scared because I didn't want to give up the foods I loved. Scared because I didn't know what to eat. Scared because I felt like I would be a burden to others, saying "I can't eat this" or "I'm allergic to that." I was mostly scared because I felt so alone.
-If you are scared to try something new in fear of a dead end, you will never know unless you try.
-If you are scared because you don't want to give up foods you love, is constant suffering really a better option? For me, there was no question: it absolutely was not.
-If you are scared because you don't know what you'll eat, there are so many fun, interesting and exciting options. And you're going to get SO good at figuring out new things to eat. Believe it or not, other people are going through this too. Look out for an article on what to eat during medical diets for more ideas.
-If you are scared to be a burden, get new friends. Lol, that's harsh, but I'm sorry. If anyone really doubts your suffering or doesn't support this extreme and promising measure you're taking as a step towards healing, I don't know what else to say. Waiters will be mean about it and people won't fully understand, but your friends and family, if they know your story in full, should embrace and support this decision. If they don't, I do. :)
-If you are scared because you feel alone, message me. You are not. (Obviously, you've been reading this far!) But seriously, there is such a community of people who are healing through food and they are the most loving people I have ever met. I'm telling you, there is something about suffering that can bring people together, and I know for a fact, anyone who has walked this path before you (including myself) could: 1) share with you all of their recipes, tips and advice, 2) tell you that it's all worth it and 3) tell you that you're not alone.
The Christian perspective...
Okay - how cool is it that God gave us the tools we need to heal ourselves? He literally created the earth: its plants, herbs, fruits, vegetables, grains... God is the Creator of everything; science & medicine are just more parts of His being! He is the ultimate healer. Why would we ever think that He would not supply us with the tools we need to survive and avoid suffering? On top of that, He created our bodies all so unique! It's so interesting to me to think that my reaction to gluten is zero, but to sugar is SO high, whereas a friend of mine would be sick on the couch for days if she ate gluten, but she can withstand sugar no problem. Our bodies are so different and I truly believe that's something to celebrate. He knows every fiber of our being, and He created us each different for a unique purpose.
While I personally believe our purpose is not always just one thing, I believe part of my purpose right now is encouraging and informing those who may be going through trying health journeys. Do you feel you have found God's purpose for you during this specific period of life? Do you trust that God has given us the tools to heal and avoid suffering? I encourage you to pray about it.
“What Is an Immunoglobulin Test?” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/immunoglobulin-test#1.