Ever since I was a baby, sugar was my pacifier. My parents would give me a bottle of sugary juice to placate me when I was crying. I eventually linked sugar with emotional comfort. If the juice in my bottle was diluted at all, I would throw the bottle down and start crying even more hysterically. Many juice bottles, bags of candy and cavities later, I became a young adult that needed my daily sugar fixes in order to feel awake, energized and happy. I had a full-blown sugar addiction. No one ever pointed it out because eating sugar is a huge part of American culture. We celebrate special occasions with cake. Dessert is a part of every meal. Sugar is in nearly every packaged food in the grocery store. Sugar addiction has become the norm here in America. Every product in the grocery store that is marketed towards children is filled with sugar.
Research has shown that sugar hijacks the brain the same way as highly addictive drugs like cocaine and nicotine do. The food industry has gotten the children of America hooked on sugar.
During my 20’s I started having random stomach pain episodes. I went to several doctors and stomach specialists who tested me for everything they could think of. They could find nothing wrong with me. One doctor suggested I take an antibiotic guessing that it was a stomach infection. Another suggested I drink soda to help with what they thought was indigestion.
I tried several diets, hoping that it would help. I stopped eating gluten, dairy and acidic foods. Still, I could find no significant link between my stomach pains and my diet. It became so bad that I’d be up all night writhing in pain. I even went to the emergency room one night thinking I might have a serious problem. That was the last straw. I had to get to the bottom of my mysterious stomach pains. I went the holistic route and tried acupuncture, tapping therapy, and Chinese herbal remedies. While all were helpful to my well-being, none cured my stomach problem.
It wasn’t until I went to an herbalist that I finally got the answers I had desperately been searching for over the last decade. I described my history and pains to him. He immediately identified them as fungal attacks from Candida. Candida is a fungal overgrowth of yeast in the digestive system. Anything that throws our internal microbial balance off like an over use of medication or a poor diet filled with processed and sugary foods can cause Candida. Candida is so widespread that the symptoms often go ignored. Bloating, fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, yeast infections, and acne, are a few of the common symptoms. My ailments were always misdiagnosed as acid reflux, gas and allergies. Untreated Candida can eventually lead to more severe immune disorders. Our internal microbial balance is key to good health. With modern medicine prescribing so many pills and antibiotics as a “cure,” Candida has become an epidemic.
My herbalist put me on a supplement regime and diet plan for an indefinite amount of time. Depending on how disciplined I was, it could take 6 months to cure or never. He made sure that I understood that diet alone wouldn’t cure my candida. The supplements were necessary in helping cleanse my system and replenish it with good bacteria.
Taking the supplements was easy, but the sticking to a sugar free diet was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life.
I learned that even natural sugars are processed in the body the same as refined or added sugars. I had to stay away from all fruits except for a small amount of green apple and blueberries. Those were the lowest on the glycemic index. Carrots, squash, potatoes, beets, and corn were out of the question. Forget about eating anything with gluten or high carbs. Carbohydrates also turn into sugar. No alcohol was allowed. Add on not eating meat and dairy to that diet and I was basically left with leafy green vegetables and water. Going out to eat and traveling was a nightmare. I was moody, hungry and frustrated with the die off symptoms I was having. Die off is a process in which the yeast cells are killed and the body reacts in unpleasant ways. You may experience the symptoms you had with Candida but even more intensely.
After months of going through what seemed like a detox hell, I noticed that I stopped having acid reflux. I was able to wake up earlier without feeling like a zombie. I also hadn’t had one episode of pain in my stomach. Eventually, I was able to start expanding my diet a bit. When I say expand, I mean a couple more fruits and vegetables and some gluten free oats. I felt so much better that I didn’t want to compromise my health ever again by going back to my old ways.
This wasn’t just a temporary cure for me. It was an entire lifestyle change.
A year later, I still have dreams of eating huge cakes and scoops of ice cream. The cravings are real, but nothing is worth the pain I used to be in. Working to cure my Candida and going sugar free changed my quality of life for the better. Not only am I physically well, I faced my addiction head on and have found healthier ways to cope with my emotions. Without alcohol as a social lubricant, mindless snacking to relieve boredom and ice cream to ease my mood swings, I am forced to be present in whatever state I’m in. It’s encouraged me to stay physically active, focus on my meditation practice and discover healthy recipes I can eat.
We have to be conscious of what we are putting into our bodies and how it affects our health physically and mentally. A sugar free diet changed my life. How much sugar are you consuming every day?
Also by Crystal: Why We All Need an Emotionally Cathartic Workout
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Photo: Ballet Zaida