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Managing Candida Flares During the Holiday

Preventing Candida flares can be challenging on a day-to-day basis, but especially so during the holiday season, as illustrated in this question from one of you…

Cynthia, How is it possible that when I cheat just once my Candida flares up and my symptoms are back to full force? Since it is the Christmas season, would you recommend that I try my best and begin in the New Year? Also, is hummus ok for a Candida diet? Thanks, Susan.

Well, Susan, it is my opinion that once severe systemic Candida overgrowth has a good stranglehold on someone achieving a complete “cure” is not possible. It can be significantly improved, reduced, managed and controlled by keeping the amount of sugar one puts in the body as low as possible, taking antifungals and probiotics and addressing all the other contributing factors to Candida like colon health, pH, toxins, nutritional deficiencies, immune system etc.

However, anytime someone gives into food that raises the sugar level or takes a course of antibiotics, endures a high stress situation, eats a poor diet, is exposed to high levels of environmental toxins etc., then the yeast beast usually flares its ugly head. It takes on going constant vigilance to keep Candida flares from occurring and symptoms at bay.

Your experience is very common. As a matter of fact it is the norm. I’m sorry to say that in the past 20 years that I have been working on the Candida issue I haven’t known anyone with severe systemic Candida overgrowth that has found a “complete cure.” People who claim cures didn’t have severe systemic overgrowth, they had mild localized yeast or their Candida was restricted to the gut and that clears up more easily. Perhaps some day we’ll find a “complete” cure and I continue to search for one, but as of this time I don’t believe there is one. By “cure” I am referring to removing Candida completely, it never returns, and a strict diet is not required to control it.

Also, keep in mind that many of the cure claims are motivated by monetary gain and may not actually be true stories even though they sound quite convincing. Additionally, if you ask someone who says they are completely cured if they have returned to their old diet, if they are completely honest with you, you will find that they too will have flares if they overindulge in sweets.

To manage Candida overgrowth, reduce symptoms and prevent flares, one has to think in terms of changing their lifestyle and diet permanently. There is not a miracle cure that is going to enable someone to go back to the diet they once enjoyed. Candida will probably be a life long issue to some degree or another. To reduce overgrowth, avoid flares and function as optimally as possible, a long-term commitment to permanent changes in diet and lifestyle are required.

The holiday season is often very difficult for those just beginning to address yeast overgrowth or for those who haven’t completely transitioned into a healthier diet, but it will get easier each year. Sometimes even those who are old pros at the Candida diet succumb to more sweets than they should and pay the price.

The key for preventing flares during the holiday season lies in making healthier choices and redefining your holiday.

Redefine Your Holiday

The true meaning of the holiday season and the joy one experiences is not found in the amount of sugar one consumes. It is found in our relationship with self and those we love, in being kind, loving and giving. We must break this conditioning that society has instilled in us about sugar and food. Sugar and overeating does not and really should not be part of your holiday tradition.

I’m not saying that you can’t indulge at all, but keep in mind that one does not need to eat sweets throughout the entire holiday season and one does not have to binge or gorge themselves. Allow yourself a couple healthier treats on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and be done with it. Don’t bake or buy in excess, that way all the goodies will be gone the next day.

Make Healthier Choices

Public enemy number one for anyone with a Candida issue is refined white sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, and organic sugar. Anything that ends with sugar will set off a severe Candida flare.

So when you do indulge, begin by choosing healthier alternatives by using sweeteners like agave, yacon syrup, stevia or fruit juice. These four sweeteners are the best choices because they are least offensive to not only Candida but hypoglycemia, diabetes and general overall health. Depending on how severe one’s overgrowth is or how much of the sweetener is eaten there may still be a flare, but it will be of much less severity than it is with sugar and the setback won’t be as extensive. Stevia is completely safe and will not cause a flare at all.

Maple syrup, rice syrup and barley malt are also better choices. Honey is a better and less offensive choice than sugar, but personally I find it to trigger pretty severe flares if very much is eaten, so I put it at the bottom of the alternatives list.

Here are two other posts you could read that give ideas for healthier holiday desserts:

Sugar Free Holiday Desserts

Healthy Holiday Fudge

This post is for a thanksgiving dinner, but can apply to any holiday menu

Healthy Holiday Dinner Menu

If possible, one should try to stick to whole food sweets rather than refined. There are many delicious holiday recipes one can create using nothing but whole fruits and nuts like dates, figs, raisins, almonds, macadamias, walnuts, bananas, cherries, pineapples, coconut etc. Since these are whole foods they are much more nutritious and fulfilling, so when they are eaten there is less chance of overeating because they make you feel satiated and they are the least offensive sweet there is for Candida. Some people can eat fruits without any flares while other’s can’t, but the flare will be of much less severity than it would be with sugar or any of the other sweeteners besides stevia.

In regard to hummus and the Candida diet, that depends on the person. Most people with yeast issues have problems with legumes, of which hummus is made, because they are very high in carbs and hard to digest. They cause flares for many people, because Candida feasts on them. It is my own personal opinion that legumes should not be part of our regular diet because our bodies are not genetically equipped to digest them properly.

Hummus is made from garbanzo beans and another issue with this particular legume is that it is high in phytoestrogens, which can be problematic for women who are estrogen dominant if eaten too frequently. Being estrogen dominant is very common in women with a Candida problem because Candida eats progesterone. I love hummus myself, but can only get away with eating it once in a blue moon. I encourage you to read this page that goes into more depth about the legume issue:
Candida Diet and Vegetarians

Making permanent diet and lifestyle changes is a process that usually takes time. Not many people can immediately change their diet completely and never fall backwards in any way. There is usually a few steps forward, one back, forward again etc. It may take several holiday seasons before you achieve success in making the healthiest food choices.

Sometimes even after one makes great progress there may be a season when they fall down a little. Stress, societal influences, a temporary rebellious streak, boredom with diet, a momentary lapse in judgement or reason etc., may trigger someone to give in to choices they normally don’t make. When this happens, the flare usually reminds you very quickly of why you follow a healthier diet and motivates you to get back on track right away.

One needs to be disciplined and determined, but also kind, patient and forgiving of their process. So yes, do your best, always strive to keep moving forward and make the best food choices possible, forgive yourself if you fall down, but also don’t give yourself permission to throw in the towel and be totally destructive.

Best Regards
Cynthia

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • John Palmer December 21, 2009, 3:08 am

    I enjoy eating sprouted brown lentils and they dont seem to have any reaction.
    Not very keen on sprouted Gabanzo beans but they dont affect me either.
    Maybe a form of raw hummus could be made with sprouted gabanzo beans.
    Interested in your experience with sprouted foods
    John

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins December 21, 2009, 3:05 pm

    Hi John,

    Sprouting of beans, grains etc. does not make them more tolerable for me. It actually compounds the problem because sprouting causes a lot of mold growth on top of the other problems that are inherent with beans and grains.
    Cynthia

  • susan cormier December 21, 2009, 7:45 pm

    Thank you so much Cynthia for responding to my e-mail. You have given me strength to carry on and new insight on my struggles. I now know what I am dealing with and the reality of it all.

    Susan

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins December 23, 2009, 8:57 pm

    You’re welcome Susan. I’m glad it was helpful.
    Cynthia

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