This is the first week of many that I will be on a Candida cleanse. That means no sugar of any kind-no fruit, no raw honey, no maple syrup, no refined grains and no alcohol. Not a lot of fun, huh? I'm also ingesting a slew of supplements everyday, some of which are FAR from appetizing. As I gag through my morning and evening routine of gelatinous slime, I remind myself of why I am doing this to myself — because I have not been kind to the ecosystem in my gut. In fact, I think the vast majority of us haven't been. I like to think of the bacteria in my gut as an ecosystem. A complex, living system composed of individual inhabitants that are all inter-related. Much like a forest. A healthy forest has a range of species living in it that keep each other in check. If you've ever walked through an area where logging has happened and replanting has been done, you'll have noticed the unnatural lines of a limited variety of trees and the eerie silence. Without a range of habitats and homes for other plants and animals, there is less life. This monoculture style planting leaves the trees vulnerable to insect infestation and disease. Diversity is key to the health of the forest and this is true for our gut ecosystem as well.
To attain this diversity in our guts, we need to eat a diversity of friendly, or probiotic, bacteria. Foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, lacto-fermented vegetables, miso, tamari, tempeh, kombucha and water kefir, contain probiotics.
To keep our gut ecosystem in balance, we have to avoid feeding the bad bacteria, like Candida. Much like an insect that attacks the trees in the forest. If there are only a few, the overall health of the forest will not be affected, if there are too many, the forest will be devastated. Sugar feeds Candida. That includes the sugar in dairy and in alcohol.
If we imagine how a major disaster, like a severe drought or tornado, affects a forest, we can imagine how antibiotics affect our gut bacteria. The drugs may be necessary, but they will wipe out the good guys along with the bad, so it's important to take extra measures, like probiotic supplements during and after any antibiotic treatment. Other drugs harm the balance of our gut bacteria as well, such as birth control pills. Even stress has been shown to lead to imbalance.
My gut forest is not healthy. I didn't start learning about my gut ecosystem until my late twenties, so I have many years of imbalance behind me to make up for!
A Candida cleanse works by adding lots of good bacteria in, cutting off the food supply for the bad guys and by supporting the liver and bowels to remove the Candida out of the body.
Signs that a Candida cleanse may be beneficial for you include- seasonal allergies, fatigue, autoimmune conditions, fungal infections of the skin or nails, indigestion (bloating, gas, constipation), vaginal infections or itching, urinary tract infections, skin issues (eczema, psoriasis, rashes), mood swings and irritability.
If you are considering a cleanse, I'd highly recommend consulting your natural health care provider to guide you. They can assist you in choosing the right supplements and foods, as well as provide emotional support and encouragement.
Here's a sugar-free dessert recipe for Candida cleanses or otherwise!
Coconut Almond Energy Balls
1/2 cup almond flour or 1/4 cup almond flour and 1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut and extra for rolling
4 Tbsp full fat coconut milk
4 Tbsp coconut oil or butter
1 cup almond butter (or hazelnut or a combo of the two)
In blender or food processor, grind the sunflower seeds until ground. Add remaining ingredients and process until combined. Roll into balls (if it is too dry, add another tablespoon of coconut milk). Roll balls in shredded coconut to coat and then store in fridge. Makes a nutritious, energy-giving snack!