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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Candida (or yeast overgrowth)

The condition known as Candida is something that those in alternative medicine circles are very familiar with.  ‘Candida’ refers to an overgrowth of yeast in the body (Candida albicans is the name of the species of yeast), which causes some very unpleasant symptoms.

Everyone has some yeasts in their digestive systems, but when you don’t have enough good bacteria to keep the growth of the yeast under control, it can grow to levels which start to cause symptoms.  One of the most common symptoms is bloating; yeasts have the ability to ferment sugars, a reaction which produces gas, and consequently bloating and flatulence.  Other symptoms of yeast overgrowth are thrush, athlete’s foot, rashes, foggy headedness, depression, lack of energy, diarrhoea, constipation, the list goes on.  These are symptoms alternative medical practitioners see regularly in their clinics (myself included). 

Candida is often linked to antibiotic use because antibiotics can reduce the levels of beneficial bacteria in your digestive system, which then leaves the door open for yeasts to multiply. 

The usual treatment for candida involves an impossibly strict dietary regime, coupled with nutritional supplements to help bring the body back to health.  The main feature of the ‘impossibly strict diet’ is the complete avoidance of sugar in all forms. 

My colleagues and I are all taught the anti-Candida diet during training, and I have used it in the past and when it works, it works really well.  But throughout my years in practice, I have met many people for who the diet does not work.  I have met several people who have been on the diet for a year or more, and are still not feeling better.  Now, my rule when it comes to food and diets is ‘only avoid certains foods if it makes you feel MUCH better’, otherwise it’s just not worth it.  What’s the point of following a diet that a) is stressful, and b) is not making you feel better?  And in fact, I have seen research that sugar in the diet doesn’t actually increase the population of candida anyway!

Over the years my approach has evolved to focus more clearly on supporting the body with real foods, rather than excluding them.  I also teach intuitive eating principles, which help my clients to break free from using rules to choose their foods, and to trust their instincts more.  I believe this is one of the best methods to nourish the body optimally.  Supporting the immune system is really important when faced with Candida symptoms; after all, the only reason that its there in the first place is because theres been a breakdown of the body’s own defences, so rebuliding them is key.  Probiotics (‘friendly bacteria’) are usually the mainstay of any nutritional treatment programme.

Kinesiology is useful to work alongside nutritional therapy; it works on the subtle energy system in the body and facilitates healing on a different level.

So if you, or someone you know, think they have Candida, please don’t go to the internet and put yourself on an extreme diet.  I think the body responds best to gentle support, rather than harsh deprivation.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

How do you choose what to eat?

I really like the Beyond Chocolate Principle ‘Eat Whatever you Want’ because it can be very liberating to choose whatever takes your fancy, and not be shackled to a particular eating plan or diet.  It allows us to be responsible for what we put into our bodies, rather than relying on what someone else tells us to eat.  But it can be quite terrifying for some people, who worry that if they only ate whatever they wanted, they’d live on a diet of chocolate, chips, crisps and cakes and balloon to the size of a house, with cholesterol levels going through the roof. 

In reality, this doesn’t really happen because you probably wouldn’t feel that great if you didn’t eat anything green or crunchy at all, and would be hankering for a salad or some steamed vegetables after a while.
But it can be difficult to decipher exactly what it is that your body wants to eat at any given time.  It can take practise to tune in to find out what would feel most nourishing, satisfying and tasty.

In a recent newsletter from Geneen Roth, she talks about how sometimes we can get confused about what we really want to eat, and describes food as falling into two classes; food can either be a ‘beckoner’ or a ‘hummer’.  Hummer foods are foods that hum to you as you are driving home from work, or as you are thinking about what to cook for dinner during the day.  They are foods that you might have been thinking about for a while, foods that you really fancy eating.  Foods that you plan to eat because that’s what you really want.

Beckoners, however, are foods that hadn’t even crossed your mind until you saw them.  They can pounce on you.  For example, the cakes that someone brings into the office that all of a sudden seem very attractive, even if you’ve just eaten lunch and hadn’t been thinking about cake at all.  Beckoners can strike at any time, and can be quite powerful.  And their influence can over-ride even a very powerful desire for a hummer food.

What’s the magic solution to stop succumbing to the lure of beckoners?  There’s never magic involved, and there’s rarely a quick fix.  The first thing to do, as with any aspect of your relationship with food, is to notice what’s happening.  Can you tell the difference between a beckoner and a hummer?  How often do the beckoners strike?  Does a beckoner food take the place of a hummer food that you’d been planning to eat?  How do you feel after you’ve eaten the beckoner food?

Once you start to explore your relationship with these foods, you will probably learn a lot more about what it is that your body really wants to eat, and how powerful outside influences can be in deciding what to eat.

Take it slowly, and listen to your body.

For more on this, you can read Geneen’s full article here.
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