Before I get into the topic of the day – I have realized that I didn’t post a big THANK YOU yet to the Quinte Naturopathic Centre and Dr. Michelle Durkin for hosting me at her clinic (big thanks to Stephanie as well who worked hard to coordinate the day). On May 5th, I had the pleasure of presenting two back-to-back sessions on Gluten-Free Living…Made Easy! What wonderful groups, too, that joined me that afternoon – thank you everyone for your energy and participation and tough questions.
There’s always one thing that stands out at every one of my workshops. I think this time around, it was how both discussions unexpectedly digressed to yeast/candida. This, of course, came up when I started talking about the perils of refined sugar and what natural sweeteners are safe for those on candida cleanses (i.e. stevia, xylitol, agave).
I really enjoyed Stephanie’s anology for yeast and the sugar cravings and feelings of “withdrawal” that accompany candida cleanses – so I’ll do my best to recreate her “Story Of Yeast” here, along with a few tidbids from me.
Think of the harmless form of single-cell yeast as a bunch of neighbours getting along with eachother. They co-exist in harmony and in balance with our other intestinal flora and everyone gets along.
But, overfeed the yeast with sugary, fermented and/or refined foods, and some of them grow into rowdy annoying neighbours as they transform into their fungal form. These rowdy kids get nice and comfy in your gut (and might even dig their long tap-roots through your intestinal wall)… and they PARTY! When they’re hungry, they pick up the phoneline to your brain and put in an order for delivery… “more sugar NOW!” So you crave it, and eat it to fulfil that order. As more and more yeast-friendly food comes in, the bigger the party gets, and the bigger the fungus party gets, the louder those orders come in, and the more you crave the foods that are causing the problem.
As yeast overgrows in your body, you may start to feel anything from itchiness to fatigue, to bloating, to increased food sensitivities and more. As their roots grow, fungal form yeast may even puncture your intestinal wall, thereby creating the perfect opportunity for leaky gut syndrome, where food particles escape your digestive system and enter your bloodstream where your immune system then has to march in to fight.
So now what? Well, for starters, if your Naturopathic Doctor determines that yeast is indeed a problem for your, he/she will recommend you go on a candida cleanse. That means no simple sugars (white sugar, maple syrup, honey, fruit juices, even high glycemic index foods like mangos, bananas or carrots), and you must stay away from all fermented foods (soya sauce, alcohols, vinegars) and high mould content foods (nuts, dates, dried fruits). Your ND may also recommend different supplements (herbs, enzymes, probiotics) to help support your cleanse. And most importantly, you must consume an adequate amount of fibre and water to support regular bowel movements – because you don’t want dead yeast hanging around either.
During your yeast cleanse, you will likely feel intense cravings for sweets. This can almost be unbearable – and I speak from experience. My advice – always have a healthy alternative easily and readily available. Pre-slice some apples and put them in a container in your fridge, or pack it in your lunch bag for work. Eat plenty of leafy greens that will meet your body’s need for nutrients, and reduce associated cravings. Drink lots of water. And, tell your family and friends what you’re doing – you’re much less likely to cheat when you know others are watching out for you.
Candida cleanses are very challenging – so the best thing to do is to try to avoid needing one in the first place. Unfortunately, most prepared gluten-free foods have lots of sugar, so bake for yourself with candida-safe natural sweeteners like xylitol, stevia or agave syrup; or with moderate amounts of honey or maple syrup.
Check out Where Do I Start? Your Essential Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Sugar-Free Food Allergy Cookbook for tips on how to make successful sugar substitutions to your recipes, and handy buying tips for stevia (that’s right – it’s not always bitter!). The book is available for sale online, at select stores, clinics and libraries.