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Friday, February 5, 2010

Candida and Me

Terry asked me what my candida symptoms were, and I started writing an email to her and realized it was probably more than she actually asked for. But once I had this written, I thought I might share it here in case anyone else wants to know.

Before I start, here is a list of the typical symptoms of candida:
Bloating, gas, cramps
Diarrhea (can alternate with constipation)
Food allergies
Abnormal fatigue
Anxiety, mood swings, depression
Insomnia and forgetfulness
Autism, hyperactivity, and learning problem with children
Diaper rash, thrush, and colic in babies
Hives and extreme itching
Rectal and vaginal itching
Recurrent yeast infection, urinary tract infections, jock itch, athlete’s foot, and nail fungus
Intense craving for sugary foods, chocolate, breads, pickles
Loss of interest in sex
Recurrent prostatis
Esophagitis (trouble swallowing, chest pain)
Joint pain

Note: Having one or even a few of these symptoms does not mean you have candida, as all of these have many causes. It is when you have all or most symptoms that you might consider that possibility. A simple home test for candida is one you do in the morning. Before putting anything in your mouth, get a clear glass of water, work up some saliva, and spit into the glass. Wait one to 30 minutes and check the glass through the side. If the saliva is still floating on top, you are fine. Yeast is heavier than water, so if there are strands coming off the saliva, if it sank to the bottom, or if it turned the water cloudy, you could have candida and should see a doctor. They can do a fecal test which is more accurate and there are also blood tests like the Candida Antibody test and the Antigen test.

My Candida Story

Looking back on my life, my first symptoms were joint pain in my knees and diarrhea. My mom took me to the doctor when I was ten because my knees hurt so much and he said it was just growing pains, but it never quit, and I just learned to live with it. I just figured it was normal and everyone in gym class was in pain when they did exercises with a lot of jumping and squatting. Also, I have been hypersensitive to sounds and smells as long as I can remember. Noise bothers me to the point that I don't go to movies and even a lot of church services bother me. I can hear someone's watch ticking from two feet away and hearing aids drive me nuts. Smells are almost as bad; I can identify the odors on most people the minute they walk into a room, whether it's their perfume, smoking, if they have been near fried foods, and even the brand deodorant they wear.

When I was young, doctors dispensed tetracycline like it was candy and there was always a bottle of it in our medicine cabinet. When anyone even coughed or had a fever, mom dished it out until we felt better. There was none of this ten-day-take-it-until-finished thing. There’s really no telling how much I had as a child.

Back in those days, people didn’t have a case of soda in the house; getting a coke at the store was a special treat, and so were candy bars. My mom didn’t bake a lot either. Her idea of dessert was ice cream, and I didn’t really care for ice cream because it hurt my teeth, even then. But when I was twenty-four, I went to work at the corporate office of a construction company and a stocked refrigerator was one of the perks. For the next several years, I probably consumed three or four cokes a day. I had had yeast infections since I was a teenager, but during that time of high soda consumption, they were a lot more frequent and eventually the prescriptions for it did little or no good.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I had dry, itchy skin and I spent time every day raking my fingernails up and down my skin to stop the itching. Lotions helped only a little. I remember my father scratching his legs all the time too. About five years ago I noticed that my shins were always red like his and they itched so bad at night that I found myself scratching all the time, especially at night. Two different dermatologists said it was just dry skin but lotions didn't help a bit. I just stopped wearing shorts because I was so embarrassed by them. When I finally kicked the sugar & other candida foods again this past year, the redness and itching finally started going away.

When our first daughter was born, she had colic and diaper rash for about six weeks, and I won’t say how crazy it made me, but I definitely understand some of the crazy things I hear about on tv. Once she got over that, she doesn’t seem to have any more problems connected to yeast. (Edited to add: Terry mentioned that bad breath is another symptom of candida and that is something my daughter has had since she was young, and I have noticed in me since I got the bad taste in my mouth.) When our daughter was about a year old, I was crawling around on the floor with her and I couldn't bend my wrists enough to crawl with the palms of my hands on the floor. A few years later my ankles got so stiff I couldn't run, and even walking hurt. Doctors diagnosed both as arthritis

My youngest was born when I was thirty-two and she had jaundice and thrush (candida) which took a long time to get rid of. She's twenty-two now and has the bouts of diarrhea I started with, but she won't listen to me. Yet.

But the biggie was when I was thirty-six and had my gall bladder removed. Before the surgery, my diarrhea had gotten a bit worse each year, but after the surgery it was constant and extreme. The surgeon said I was the only person he ever knew who actually needed a gall bladder. He prescribed a gritty powder to mix with water and drink but it didn't make much difference. That's when my life started revolving around my good days and bad days, and there were more bad days than good. I finally figured out that soda and sweets would trigger a really, really bad day, but being selfish (and stupid), I never gave them up completely. And that was my life for several years. There were times when we would all be in the car and I felt the first wave of pains that told me it was coming, and we all had to come home, or they had to bring me home before going on with their plans. There were times when I thought I couldn’t possibly live much longer like this, I mean it couldn’t be healthy in so many ways. I also spent a lot of time on my pity-pot (pun intended) wondering “why me?”

I also noticed that a headache came on the bad days with the diarrhea. Then, Hubby heard a nutritionist on the radio talking about candida and I made an appointment that day. He asked me questions like 'did you have antibiotics often as a child', 'have you ever been on antibiotics for a prolonged time', 'have you been on The Pill', 'do you drink a soda or have a sugary snack every day', 'do you crave sugar or chocolate', 'do you have yeast infections often', etc. I answered yes to every one of his questions, and when I thought about it, I had had a complication with the gall bladder surgery and had to go back to the hospital to clear up a secondary infection so I got a double dose of antibiotics then, which is probably what set off that constant diarrhea.

Anyway, he started me on the candida allergy shots and told me to cut all sugar, vinegar, and yeasts from my diet. He explained that while candida is present in our intestines, when it gets out of control it moves on to other soft tissue, like the joints. The shots helped, but I had to give them to myself and I'm not good with puncturing myself, so quit after a week or two. By then, I felt better and was on track with the diet. For six months I felt terrific, and then the holidays hit. I ate pie and all that stuff at Thanksgiving and it didn't bother me at all, so I pronounced myself cured and started eating anything I wanted. After Christmas I was not only having all the candida problems again, I was depressed and didn't want to help myself.

After six months on antidepressants I lifted out of the fog enough to get motivated to take care of the candida. By then, it was a lot worse and I was often housebound. I just wanted my life back. So I went to the library and checked out every book, okay, I checked out the one book they had on the subject, and went at it full tilt. That books was Candida Albicans, Could Yeast Be Your Problem by Leon Chaitow. It went into a lot more detail about what causes candida to get out of control, what foods to avoid (it was a lot more than just sugar, yeast, and vinegar), and anti-candida herbs and others to heal the intestine. The diet was really hard to follow while trying to cook normally for the rest of the family, but I followed it and felt better. I never could tell that all the herbal supplements made that much difference.

Then, just as before, I ate some things that I wasn’t supposed to eat, didn’t suffer any immediate ill-effects and gradually dropped back into my old eating habits. When the yeast infections or diarrhea got bad, I just stopped the bad foods temporarily until my symptoms were under control, and then went on again, or I ate the bad foods the day before I knew I had a free day to be sick. How twisted is that? I went back to the library to read the book again and get back on the diet, but the book had been stolen and the library didn't replace it, and at that time our book budget was the $15 I spent on the library membership. Then I discovered Imodium and my bad days were limited to just a few bad hours before I could continue a normal life. At first the Imodium worked really well, and as time went on, it took more and more of it to work. And again, I started wondering how long I could live taking such large amounts of it every day; I also felt guilty for being a burden on my husband and spoilsport for my girls.

In 2007, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis and decided to clean up my act, health-wise. I didn’t totally stop eating sugars and yeasts, but I ate in what I thought was moderation. The more I read about osteoporosis, the more I believe it was brought on, in part, by the constant diarrhea which kept my intestines from processing correctly and calcium was leached out of my bones to make up for it. Between a better eating pattern (notice I didn’t say good) and the Imodium, I actually functioned like a normal person most of the time.

In 2009, I quit taking Fosamax because of two side effects. One was a bad taste in my mouth, and I had heard that a metallic taste was quite common with the drug. I wouldn’t describe mine as a metallic taste, just not good. The other was that it felt like the pill was stuck in my throat long after I had taken it, and that feeling was lasting longer after each pill. I had called my doctor’s office about it and they said to call if it didn’t go away, and it always did go away so I continued taking it a few more times. The feeling in my throat did go away, but the bad taste never has.

Then I decided to take up tennis again after many years and immediately got a pain in my elbow. I went to a orthopedic doctor and got a cortisone shot, but the shot made my candida symptoms worse than they had ever been. It seems that cortisone triggers candida growth, and not only did I have all my regular symptoms, it triggered something like chronic fatigue syndrome. There were days it was all I could to drag myself out of bed, and after just one small activity (like eating breakfast) I would be so wiped out I had to go back to bed. It also made the pain in my elbow a lot worse. It took months before I felt like a real person again, and then I started the candida diet again. That was in September, just two short months before the sugary holidays. I also took one more Fosamax just to see if the feeling in my throat was caused by a build up. Sure enough, it happened again, but this time it didn't go away at all.

I started feeling better again but I wasn’t losing any weight, so decided to start the 7 Day Cure to the Middle Aged Middle diet. That’s when things started going downhill again, and I can’t figure out what was in that diet that caused me so many problems unless it was all the vitamins I took with the diet. Not only was the diarrhea really bad, but it made the feeling in my throat worse, the feeling like I had a pill stuck in my throat. I had been meaning to see a doctor about it anyway, but now that it was worse, I made an appointment with an Ear, Nose & Throat doctor who then sent me to a gastroenterologist. He wanted to scope my throat, and after I told him about the candida, he wanted to do a colonoscopy too. He doesn’t think candida causes problems and is convinced it is something else. He didn’t find anything except an inlet patch in my throat which most people don’t even notice having.

This doctor thought I had just a little reflux causing my throat problem and he prescribed Prilosec, and thought Bile Salt Diarrhea causing the intestinal problems and for that he prescribed Questran. After reading that article, I think that it has merit, but I also think I still have candida, mainly because my diarrhea can be controlled by a strict diet, and I don’t think the bile salt diarrhea can, at least not from the little I’ve read. The Prilosec is doing no good at all. I called and told the doctor’s assistant and she relayed to him and then back to me to double the dosage.

It is still not working and since seeing the doctor, the feeling in my throat is worse and has been joined by a pain in my upper stomach. It feels like someone is sitting on me with a knee in my stomach and hands wrapped around my throat and is worse around bedtime with pain radiating through my back like I’ve been sitting in an uncomfortable position too long (and most of the time I have been), but I can’t find a comfortable position sitting, standing, or lying down. There is no burning like I would imagine heartburn/reflux to be, just pressure. The weirdest thing is that moments after eating, there is a feeling of being so ravenously hungry that I’m on the verge of nausea. I googled that and found some websites about Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), so I mentioned that to the doctor, but he (as relayed by his assistant) doesn’t think it is. One day I was out of Prilosec and took Prevacid Complete (an H2 blocker used to treat infrequent heartburn) instead and felt better than I had in weeks, but the doctor doesn’t want me taking it, only the Prilosec (protein pump inhibitor used to prevent frequent heartburn). Some online sources say Prilosec works better in the morning and Prevacid in the evening. Neither should be used long term and both have been linked to hip fractures. In any case, I want to get to the cause, not just treat the symptoms.

Now, back to candida, in case you think I’ve gone off chasing rabbits. The symptoms of candida in the esophagus (esophagitis) are painful swallowing (✓), pain behind the breastbone (✓), sensation of food sticking in the chest (✓), and nausea (✓). The way to diagnose candida in the esophagus is by endoscopy, which I just had. However, my symptoms were fairly mild at the time and have gotten worse since then. I had no pain in my upper stomach area when I first went to the doctor and had a feeling of a pill stuck in my throat, which has progressed to a feeling of a thumb pressed against my throat and now feels like something tight wrapped around my throat. And this week I've added burping to the list - that's a new one for me. Since I know the rest of my digestive tract is swimming with overgrown candida, it does make sense that it would work its way up into my throat also.

Lately, I wake up every morning with a headache and the tennis elbow has also come back with a vengeance and nothing I do makes it any better. Now I wonder if it is truly tennis elbow or candida. The occupational therapist I went to this summer thought the pain wasn't in the usual tennis elbow place. I kept telling her it was deep in my joint and even the bone on my elbow hurt to touch and she said that wasn't normal.

Even though this probably sounds like I have had miserable, sickly health, it hasn't been all bad. There have been some really bad days, and stretches of bad days, but there have also been really good days and stretches of good days. Most of the time, the candida has not been debilitating and I have even had several jobs through all this. Those times when it was debilitating I was fortunate not to have been working.

So, what to do now? Hubby thinks I need to find a new doctor which is easier said than done when I’d rather not be on a medication for the rest of my life.

If anyone has stuck with me through this novelette and you have some advice, I’m all ears.

Until next time, may you have blessings and good health,

1 comment:

  1. I wish I had wonderful pearls of wisdom for you! I just pray that your symptoms will be manageable, and you can be comfortable.


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