I recently began what’s known as the Candida Diet. This journey began per the insight of my father-in-law, who is a chiropractor and very knowledgeable about nutrition and how the body works and processes different things. I’d shared with him over the months different symptoms, none of which seemed to really be going away, and it was at this recent visit with him that he finally said AHA, you must have an overgrowth of yeast, which is essentially what Candida is. Long story short, each one of us has yeast in our bodies, but it is our western diet filled with sugar, carbohydrates, and little veggies that can feed this yeast and cause an overgrowth of it. I’m not an expert on Candida, so if you’re interested in learning more, I encourage you to do some research on your own. It’s pretty fascinating stuff!
So many people can have far more severe symptoms than I was experiencing. All that really led us to believe I may have an overgrowth of yeast is the more recent influx of sugar in my diet (I’ve always had a major sweet tooth) coupled with a small toe fungus on my big toe and allergy-like symptoms. I still don’t know for sure if I definitely “have Candida,” but, I knew I could really use a change in my diet no matter what.
I jumped on this cold turkey bandwagon last Monday. I gave up coffee, alcohol, sugar in any form (including all fruits, honey, even starchy veggies like beets, potatoes, and carrots), beans, carbohydrates, gluten/wheat, and dairy. These are all things that contribute to yeast growth being that they are either sugars that directly feed yeast, or they can cause a spike in blood sugar which promotes growth. Intuitively, though, most of these foods are things I know I should limit/remove from my diet, especially sugar. I usually am very healthy and eat lots of whole foods made from scratch, but I knew I’d gone too far on the other end of the spectrum. What I ate instead was nutrient-rich foods that were not distracted by any of the unhealthy stuff, so they could truly shine in their full glory. Foods like spinach, celery, cucumbers, almonds, quinoa, dandelion greens, cabbage, broccoli, brown rice, and more. That list may not sound very appealing to you, but I could use pretty much all the herbs and spices I want, coconut milk and curry for example.
What I realized on about Day 4 of this fast (after the 3-day caffeine-withdrawal headache and Angry Rachel wore off) was that I began to feel very free. You see, I was raised Catholic and am still a spiritual person as you might pick up from my posts. In Catholicism, and pretty much every other religion for that matter, there is an emphasis on fasting as a mechanism for spiritual growth. I had never really done a fast before this one. And though what I did for the last week may not earn me very many credentials in the world of serious fasters (i.e., Jesus’ 40 days in the desert), it’s still provided me with fuel for emotional and spiritual growth. I came to realize that, as cliche as this sounds, by giving up much, I was gaining even more.
We are a nation that is heavily consumed by food. In fact, food consumes us even more than we consume it, as evidenced by our waistlines, diabetes, heart conditions, restaurants on every corner and in between. Even if we have not filled ourselves with so much nutrient-less food to make us ill, many of us are overwhelmed and overtaken by food to the point where it’s nearly all we think about. What am I eating for dinner? How much can I eat without getting fat? When should I go grocery shopping? How many calories does this have? I should really not eat this. It’s too hard/oppressive to eat healthy. I love food. How is she able to eat like that?
I don’t know about you, but aside from the many positive interactions I have with food, it can also begin to take over my life in a way that is negative and unnecessary.
But when I freed myself from having to worry about all the completely overwhelming options out there for what to eat, I found myself not only physically healthier, but emotionally and spiritually so as well. When I was simply living on the precedent that I could only eat things that nourished my body, my options were narrowed, and with that came clarity of choice and a sense of focus that did not previously exist in my diet and life. This simplifying of my physical life cleared up room in my emotional and spiritual life as well, so I was able to give more attention to this vastly important piece of my being.
I was anticipating the not-as-physical side effects of being irritable and down from not being able to eat all the things I was used to, but was not expecting the other emotional side effects that would be in the positive form of growth and insight.
I believe we are meant to know our food intimately, to have this deep relationship with it that comes from the acknowledgment that it is, quite literally, providing us with life. Yet, now I see this distinction between an intimate connection to our food and an obsession with food. One form is healthy, the other unhealthy. Sometimes it can seem a fine line, but as we go back to the simple, the natural way of eating, I do believe we enter into this healthy, deep relationship with that which provides us sustenance … one bite at a time.