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Practice What You Preach – Elimination Diet and Candida Protocol

Beaverton Chiropractor

Beaverton Chiropractor

By: Max E. Muehleip, MS, DC

As a Chiropractor, one of my goals is to practice what I preach to my patients. How can I claim eating well and exercising will increase your health if I don’t have the first-hand experience for it? Well, at the end of 2018 I made up my mind to get my health back together. My son Magnus was born in January of 2018, and as my friend Jo Ellen once said:

            There’s no bigger change in life than going from no baby in the house to having a baby in the house…

Was she ever right about that! Being a father is far and away the hardest thing I’ve undertaken (and he’s only one year old, oh boy…), so last year my wife and I let our dietary and physical activities…slip a bit (to put it lightly). Fast forward to the end of 2018 and I’m the fattest I’ve ever been and out of shape. The classic ‘dad bod.’ Something needed to change. As a budding nutritionist, I had always wanted to have food sensitivity testing done. To that end, I made an appointment with my colleague and Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS), Karen Davis of Bon Vivant in Tigard, OR,

*shameless plug check it out: http://www.bonvivantwellness.com/about*

Based on my intake paperwork, Karen determined I likely had a dysbiosis – a dysfunctional microbiome in my gut. Since I was craving sweets all the time, she suspected the critters responsible were Candida albicans, a type of yeast normally found in humans that can overgrow and create intense cravings for simple carbs. I also experienced severe mood swings throughout the day, (another common sign of dysbiosis). After her clinic took some blood samples for my food sensitivity testing, she had me head home and perform a simple candida overgrowth test.

Upon waking in the morning, I was to immediately get up and spit into a cup of tepid water. After waiting three minutes, I was to look into the glass again and observe any stringy yeast colonies. Voila – candida ‘strings’ sat there on top of the water, clear as day. I had a whopping case of candida dysbiosis.

This was disappointing but not a shocker – I had been craving sweets a lot recently. When my food sensitivity testing results came back a couple of weeks later from KBMO Diagnostics, I knew I was in for a tough ride. The lab tested my blood against samples of 132 different foods and additives, evaluating how my immune system responded. It turns out my body was reacting to quite a few different foods!

Severe reaction:

Wheat, Gluten, Pecans

High reaction:

Cow’s milk, Hazelnut, Peanut

Moderate Reaction:

Casein (milk protein), Egg Yolk, Egg White, Rye, Squash

Mild Reaction:

Blueberry, Watermelon, Banana, Vanilla, Garlic, Almond, English Walnut

To address the candida, I was to go on a low-carb, low-sugar, Candida-starving dietary plan for 6 weeks while phasing between:

1) botanical supplements to kill off the candida, and

2) healthy probiotics to fill my now microbe-purged gut (all purchased through Biotics Research Corporation).

To address the food sensitivities, I was to eliminate all the reactive foodstuffs for at least 6 weeks. Then, I was to slowly phase them back in, one at a time, every 3-4 days to determine which foods my body was truly reactive to. The Candida dietary pattern can be pretty restrictive if you’re used to eating a standard American diet, and unfortunately for me, some of the candida-approved foods were on my food sensitivity list. I had to cross those foods out and eat an even more restricted list.

Luckily, my wife and I went through an elimination diet years before, so we had some useful reference books and recipe ideas. We went on a grocery run and loaded our pantry and fridge with foods I could eat. When you do any major dietary changes like this, it pays to plan ahead. My wife even reorganized our pantry by hiding most of the tempting foods I couldn’t eat (thanks, my love.)

I find the most stressful component of any elimination plan concerns cooking nearly everything yourself. There really are few short-cuts, and some days all you want is a ready-made snack. Even with the generous meal plans and recipes Karen gave me (thanks, Karen), sometimes you don’t want to cook. Thankfully, there are more options than ever before for elimination dieters. Some things I was very pleased to find include:

With my fridge full and a plan in motion, I was ready to start. The first two weeks were very challenging for me. I experienced a very common set of symptoms in those taking anti-candida supplements – massive candida die-off! My symptoms included:

  • extreme fatigue

  • irritability

  • mood swings

  • difficulty sleeping

I was depressed sometimes and angry at other times. To put it lightly, I was a bear. Thank you to my family, friends, and colleagues for tolerating my irritability during this period.  As with anything worth doing, it was a challenge. The entire 6 weeks were difficult, but the first 2 weeks were hard. I won’t sugar-coat it, because this stuff is challenging. You have to say ‘no,’ to every food and drink offering from friends, family members, and coworkers. You need to cook (almost), all your food yourself (often using unfamiliar ingredients). You must remember to take new supplements with all your meals. You need to have a large supply of ready-to-go snacks (nuts, raw carrots, protein shakes), for those sugar cravings. It’s a big transition, even for someone who’s done it before.

Then, almost without my notice at first, some dramatic changes took place. My weight began dropping without a decrease in calories. My face, typically pock-marked and featuring two dark raccoon rings under the eyes, cleared up. The white coat on my tongue dissipated. My energy level started stabilizing, and my mood swings decreased significantly. And without getting too personal, I became more regular (yay)! These are the fruits of sticking to a dietary pattern your body tolerates.

As the weeks progressed, other challenges reared their ugly heads. There was a sale on Bulletproof brand collagen protein bars at my local New Seasons health food store. Wow, protein bars I could actually eat? I snapped them up. And they were delicious… almost too delicious. Because you need to cook all your own food on a diet like this, it can be easy to over-indulge in approved processed snacks. I chowed down on those Bulletproof bars like a fiend and then spent three or four days with intense gas and intestinal discomfort. My poor wife had to deal with that. I don’t think the baby cared about the gas, though. Too much of a good thing.

After 4 weeks, I made the elimination pattern into a habit. It became much easier from that point on. The candida died off significantly, eliminating my sugar/carb cravings! It felt normal to say ‘no’ to food offerings, and I found some approved recipes I loved. The time I spent cooking and prepping meals was expected and built into my schedule. I continued to live the benefits of these lifestyle changes. This was the sweet spot. In other words, it was the yoga-instructor-running-on-the-beach-eating-a-green-apple motivational poster phase.

At the end of the 6 week elimination period, I had lost 15 pounds (back to a normal BMI). I fit into my old jeans again (awesome!) I performed the candida spit test again and the results were much improved. The next step was re-introduction – a challenge in a different way.

I was tempted to eat all my old ‘reactive’ foods right away. I had to stop right there! Now was the chance to find out which foods I was truly reactive to – testing one food every three to four days. I was to monitor my food reactions with a symptom tracker at night, giving myself a much more accurate sense of my food sensitivities than even blood testing could provide.

This is the stage I’m currently in as of writing. I plan on starting with foods my body had milder reactions to (garlic, vanilla, cinnamon, etc.), and working up towards the stronger reactions (eggs, nuts, dairy, gluten, pecans). I suspected a dairy and gluten sensitivity long before getting the blood tests, so I plan to keep dairy and gluten out of my diet for at least 6 months before testing. I need eggs and nuts back in my life though, so I plan on adding those back in soon.

Here lies another great opportunity afforded by an elimination diet:

The chance to determine what foods you really cannot live without.

Now I feel I have control of my diet, instead of my diet controlling me. I no longer have powerful sugar cravings, I can say ‘no’ to food, and I have a more workable food-prepping schedule. The chance to really evaluate my dietary choices in the long-term is here.

For me, my ‘can’t live without them,’ reactive foods are eggs and most nuts. I love eggs in all their forms – hard-boiled, fried, or deviled. I love snacking on nuts – in my granola, in my salads, as butters, and just by themselves. Even if my body has a mild reaction to eggs and most nuts (I can throw out pecans because that was such a strong reaction), I plan to eat them on the regular. Going forward, my wife plans to have her food sensitivities tested as well. That way the entire family can feel their best.

Throughout this experience, I found it very helpful to keep a little list of my reactive foods in my wallet. That way, when people offered me food I could pull that list out and say:

“Look, I can’t eat that right now because it’s on this paper.” Before I had food sensitivity testing done, I suspected dairy and gluten sensitivity but found it far too easy to ignore those suspicions and dig into a warm cheesy pizza or gooey cookie. I knew I needed my support network (family, co-workers, my nutritionist), to keep me motivated through this process. The results were really encouraging. I lost 2-3 pounds a week, had more energy, felt far fewer cravings, and my skin cleared up. I hope this story about my personal journey to greater health can inspire you to take your health into your own hands. If you have any questions feel free to reach out and contact me personally. Thanks for reading!

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