Fire Cider: Food as Medicine for Candida Overgrowth

Candida Overgrowth is something that you may have been hearing more about lately, or maybe you’re like me, and have had a personal experience with too much Candida. Candida Albicans is a naturally occurring type of beneficial yeast found in every body’s mucus membranes. Under certain conditions the Candida mutates into a fungal form. This fungal Candida grows roots and can penetrate the walls of your intestines or other areas of the body causing all kinds of symptoms. Unfortunately, the conditions that can cause Candida to multiply in it’s damaging fungal form are all part of a typical American lifestyle: use of synthetic hormone based birth control, antibiotic consumption/use, too much stress, not enough movement and deep breathing, a diet high in processed sugars, alcohol and/or carbohydrates and the consumption of processed foods and body products loaded with chemicals, hormone disruptors and antibiotics.

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The symptoms of Candida Overgrowth are many but here are the highlights: sugar cravings, bloated abdomen, gas and digestive pain, especially after consuming carbohydrates or sugary foods, IBS, weight gain, joint pain, feeling sluggish or tired, brain fog, itchy skin, chronic vaginal yeast infections, bladder infections, jock itch and/or thrush which usually means a white or yellowish coating on the tongue. Not everyone has all the symptoms and Candida Overgrowth can overlap with other imbalances. It’s best to get tested and properly diagnosed before treating yourself for any health issue. The test for Candida Overgrowth should include an in depth medical history and a lab test on saliva, blood and stool samples.

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The good news is that the way to get Candida back into balance is all about using the food you eat everyday as medicine, no drugs or prescriptions necessary! My blog, The Candida Diaries, is dedicated to sharing delicious recipes and remedies so that you can eat your way back to health. The Candida diet is actually pretty simple and similar to the Paleo or Atkins diets: no sugars, no carbohydrates, yes to lots of green veggies, fresh herbs, organic proteins and fats, nuts and seeds and naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut, crème fraiche and raw apple cider vinegar. These fermented foods help to repopulate your digestive system with beneficial organisms that help support a healthy internal balance.

When I was first diagnosed, I worked with my doctor to come up with a list of supplements, herbs and medicinal foods to help me recover. I started by complimenting a no sugar, no carbohydrate diet with a lot of immune support. I took high does of Vitamin C with Quercetin as well as Osha, Ecchinacea and started eating more fresh green herbs, bone broth, raw sauerkraut and aloe vera juice. After I was on the diet for a few weeks, eating well and supporting my immune system, I added in antifungal foods and supplements: raw garlic, oil of oregano, pau d’acro tea or tincture, chaparral tincture, digestive enzymes and caprylic acid aka coconut oil. There are many anti fungal, anti viral and anti bacterial plants out there so you can easily rotate your foods and herbs for maximum effect and support.

Me with Unsweetened Fire Cider in front of a wall of food starch packing peanuts (yes, they are biodegradable!)

Me with Unsweetened Fire Cider in front of a wall of food starch packing peanuts (yes, they are biodegradable!)

 

In 2009 my husband Dana introduced me to a vinegar and honey based health tonic that he had been making for his seasonal bouts of allergies and bronchitis for the past 10 years. Without adding the honey in at the end, this tonic is a mix of a lot of the foods I had been eating for their anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and immune boosting properties: organic, raw apple cider vinegar, citrus, onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, horseradish and habanero peppers. I used Dana’s tonic, now known as Shire City Herbals Fire Cider® and also called master tonic, plague tonic, etc, as a digestive aid after meals to reduce excess Candida, gas and bloating. It also helped me to avoid getting sick all the time during the winter.  Unsweeteend Fire Cider was a life changing experience and I have been using it daily ever since to keep my Candida in balance and my immune system supported. In 2011 my husband, brother and I decided to start Shire City Herbals so we could make Fire Cider on a large scale and share this traditional remedy with as many people as possible.

I have also found a lot of non food things to support my health, like loving what I do for a living! A regular yoga practice, deep breathing, getting exercise outside, these activities keep me grounded and help me manage stress. Keeping a food journal and working with a naturopath have been tremendously helpful. A holistic approach to health and wellness is one that recognizes that everything is connected, you food, your environment, your relationships, your job, everything! Using your food as medicine is a great way to start reconnecting with your healthiest self.

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What’s Wrong With The Kids?

As some of you know I spent almost 7 years, from 2002 to 2009, working as a full-time nanny in New York City.  What started as a way to afford to live in the city while completing my bachelor’s degree turned into an invaluable education itself.  A few recent articles in the NY Times have got me thinking about the lessons I learned from the children and families I cared for not too long ago.  The first article was “Ritilan Gone Wrong” which addressed the concern that ADD drugs don’t work long term in children.  Another article in last week’s Sunday Times Magazine was about puberty starting in girls as young as first grade.  The latter article seems to completely skip over what seems to me to be one of the most obvious causes (and solutions!) to both issues raised in these two essays: food.  The quality and quantity of the food we feed our children has, gasp, a profound effect on their health.

Here’s an example from my last nanny job, we’ll call him Tom.  Tom is 13 and finishing up 8th grade.  He has trouble sleeping; sometimes he is up half the night and has dark circles under his eyes.  He has trouble focusing and staying alert in school.  He sees a psychiatrist, the only mental health professional allowed to prescribe psychiatric medication, for anger and emotional issues.  Tom’s diet goes something like this: he refuses to eat any and all vegetables except potatoes and occasionally frozen corn.  This has been going on for some time and mom and dad are not interested in challenging this.  He sticks mostly with pasta, bread and any and all kinds of candy.  He eats conventional cheese, eggs and meat.   Very rarely will he eat fruit. His diet is mostly nutritionally deficient, refined white foods, much to my dismay.  Tom is very mal-nourished and is also concerned with staying thin.  He likes to skip meals and refuses anything with real nutrition.  As a result of what he eats and the low quality of his food, Tom is on a constant sugar high/sugar crash cycle that makes getting good sleep nearly impossible, no wonder he’s moody and can’t concentrate in school!

Mom and Dad decide at the suggestion of the therapist to put Tom on a Ritalin type drug to address his lack of function in school.  The drug helps him focus and also decreases his appetite to the point where he is only eating one or two meals a day which he is happy about.  I had to quit this job shortly after the parents started using a controlled substance to control their child while completely ignoring his emotional and nutritional needs.  Child abuse by my standards but clearly my standards are different from some of the millionaires on 5th Avenue.

My prescription for Tom would have gone something like this: First Tom needs to get out of the addictive sugar cycle by eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats like olive and coconut oils and organic proteins.  Changing his diet will allow his body to rest at night instead of using energy to process all those empty sugar calories.  Wheat is also a big red flag, many behavioral and developmental problems are being traced to wheat in the diet.  With any kind of illness I suggest looking to the diet first: it’s the easiest to change as it does not require health care professionals or prescriptions.  Try eliminating the major allergens like wheat, dairy, nuts and soy and then begin to add in large quantities of green veggies, whole, non-wheat grains like quinoa and brown rice as well as beans and high quality, organic soy (if not allergic) and/or animal foods.  Remember the young ladies that are starting puberty at 8 and 10 years old?  Perhaps this has something to do with all the growth hormones and chemical herbicides and pesticides in the meat and dairy products sold at conventional grocery stores across our country?  I know several family members and friends that have successfully treated ADD and other behavioral and developmental disorders by simply changing the food they ate.  Food is your most powerful tool in transforming your health, use it!

Kids and adults alike will find that changing their diet to a clean, whole foods, plant-based diet will improve everything from mood to energy levels.  Clear thinking (and clear skin!) starts with clean food.  And for those of you that might want a little guidance in this area I will be starting a new class series this May called ‘Local Nutrition’.  This class series will teach you how to take advantage of all the amazing local, organic food available in our area while not breaking your budget.  And that’s just the beginning so stay tuned for more information!