**This post was written in 2017 (I used to write posts about my health protocols as I went through them, so those posts are more time-dependent), and since writing this, these health issues have been resolved. I am grateful for these experiences as they inspired me to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and health coach myself. Please remember that this post is not current – it was just a documentation of my experiences at the time.**
I used to think that I would have nothing to write about in my health protocol updates, but turns out there has actually been a lot to keep you updated on! That might seem like a bad thing, because it means complications are coming up. But it does make these posts a bit more exciting, so that’s the upside.
In my last health update, I explained that a lot of my old symptoms had returned, and we suspected hydrogen sulfide SIBO might be the cause. I decided to go on a low-sulfur diet for a week or so to give my body a reset, and in the meantime I was waiting on my stool test results to determine whether or not I could start adding foods back into my diet that I had previously tested intolerant to on my MRT.
A lot has happened since then.
Before my low-sulfur week, I loaded up on sulfur-rich foods. I went overboard. I flooded my body with cauliflower, brussels sprouts, eggs, broccoli, and so on. I truly never felt worse. I was bloated, sluggish, tired, couldn’t think straight, had major brain fog, and just felt… off. When I eliminated the sulfur-rich foods, I felt much better. Still, though, not as good as I would have liked. My digestion was still off, and my energy wasn’t completely back.
In the meantime, my stool test results came in. I was devastated to find out that I had picked up another strain of Candida overgrowth. In my gut (pun intended), I had a feeling that had happened. My strong negative reactions to starchy carbs and my intense sugar cravings at even the slightest bit of sugar tipped me off, as did the mucus in my eyes and mouth. Gross, I know – but our bodies tell us what’s going on.
The test results also showed that I have a high amount of inflammation in my small intestine, which could mean a number of things. Untreated SIBO could be the cause, but there are also a number of other possibilities. If I’m still eating foods that my body is reacting to (a.k.a. food intolerances), that could also drive up the inflammation.
It’s very frustrating to follow a Candida protocol so strictly and to somehow pick up another strain. It makes you wonder, HOW?! WHY?! If I’m not eating sugar, how did that happen?! There are a few possible reasons. There could be a larger infection going on, which is what I suspect is the issue. Until that larger issue is dealt with, my body will probably continue to pick up more bacterial overgrowths because my “defenses are weakened,” so to speak. As I mentioned before, having untreated hydrogen sulfide SIBO is often linked to repeatedly having bacterial overgrowths. I could also just have a systemic case of Candida overgrowth. Some strains are really hard to get rid of, and some people’s bodies take an extra-long time to get rid of the overgrowth. That could mean I just need a longer protocol, or a stronger antifungal.
I was devastated after I got my results back. The way it was supposed to go was this: my stool test comes back normal, I start adding MRT foods back into my diet one by one, I get off the Candida diet, and life goes on. Sadly, things did not turn out that way. Obviously, this means I will have to go on another Candida protocol, which means not being able to go off of the Candida diet.
Beyond that, though, technically my NTP didn’t want me adding MRT foods back into my diet unless my stool test showed up clear.
The problem was that I was at the end of my rope. My diet during my no-sulfur week was extremely limited, since I was also avoiding MRT foods and Candida-diet foods, and I was pretty much banking on the fact that I would be able to add in MRT foods to be able to get through it. I was basically down to zucchini, cucumber, eggplant, and peppers – a sad life for a foodie like me.
Even if I wasn’t on the low sulfur diet, though, I was over this whole protocol. I had gotten so sick of eating the same foods over and over again, and I mentally and physically needed more variety in my diet. It felt good to give my body a break from sulfur-rich foods, but I definitely wanted to add them back in, because my symptoms were still there. Plus, sulfur is really important in our diets because it plays an important role in a lot of biological processes, like our metabolism, and also functions as an antioxidant. Sulfur deficiencies can cause a lot of problems longterm. Anyways, I started to feel like I was reacting to everything I was eating, which was what I was afraid of.
My NTP understood that I really couldn’t go on much longer avoiding my MRT foods. They’ve been out of my diet for about 5 months, so there’s really no way I would still react to those foods at this point unless they were permanent intolerances. Food intolerances change a lot, and they can change relatively quickly when you have a leaky gut, so it really didn’t make any sense for me to keep avoiding them. The compromise we made was that I would go on another Candida protocol with stronger antifungals, and I would start adding MRT foods back into my diet systematically to see if I reacted to anything.
This was the plan. Every three days, I would pick one MRT food, sulfur-rich food, or supplement to add in. I would eat that food for a day, or take the supplement for the day, then avoid it for 3 days (without adding anything else new in), and see how my body responded. I was so excited to do this, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t react to anything.
I started with lettuce (I was desperate for a salad), and everything seemed fine. It’s laughable how incredibly delicious lettuce tastes to me now. Then I moved onto turkey, and everything was, again, fine. Was it? The truth was, I didn’t know. During these re-introductions, I didn’t feel any different, but I was still having symptoms on and off. Because that was the problem – I never stopped having symptoms. I never had a baseline to start off with, so I couldn’t tell if I was reacting to this new food or if I was just having a regular reaction to something I had been eating for the past five months. It was incredibly frustrating. If anything, I felt much better mentally because I was getting some more variety in my diet.
I felt like I was back at square one. How could I reintroduce things and be able to tell if I was reacting if I didn’t have a good baseline to compare it to? But I couldn’t go back to just avoiding the MRT foods until I had a good baseline. It had already been far too long since I had eaten those foods, and it seemed like I would never reach a baseline.
That’s the problem with elimination diets. It’s extremely important to reintroduce foods at the right time so that your body doesn’t become intolerant to what you are eating. You want to give your body a break from the foods it is reacting to, but not such a long break that those intolerances become more “permanent” and more are formed. This is why rotating your diet, in general, is incredibly important if you are prone to digestive issues.
I became frustrated and felt like I wasn’t on the same page as my practitioner anymore. From the beginning, I was wary about how long the protocol was going to last, but I wanted to just trust the process. Her new plan was to focus on addressing this new Candida strain to try to get me to a baseline, and if I was still having symptoms, then we would try to investigate the SIBO further.
I wanted to be more aggressive though, and I felt like I was back where I started. I felt like I really had become intolerant to the few foods I’ve been eating continuously the past few months, so now all of my intolerances had switched. I felt like I needed a whole round of testing, and that I want to look more into the SIBO issue sooner. I just felt like I needed to restart everything.
Because I felt like I was back at square one, and I have my own strong opinions on what I should do next, I decided to switch practitioners. I want to work with someone who is more on my page in terms of the approach we should take.
I’m bringing this up because this is is such an important part of being your own health advocate. It’s okay to switch or drop doctors or practitioners. I’ve learned this time and time again on my health journey. You are not obligated to continue to work with anyone, and just because someone has a title doesn’t mean they always know what is best for you. Sometimes, someone else is a better fit for you, and the best thing you can do for your health is to focus on who is truly the best fit. That doesn’t mean they are a bad practitioner (although sometimes they are…), it just means that they’re not giving you what you need. At the end of the day, you need to find someone who works for you.
After those test results, my continuing symptoms and discomfort, and my frustration over the whole situation, I was really devastated. But there’s nothing to do except come up with a new plan and trudge forward. I have made it this far, and I’m determined to try again until I get to the bottom of my health issues. I know what it’s like to not feel stomach pain or discomfort, and I’m determined to get back to that point. To get there, my new approach is to trust myself, my knowledge, and my body much more this time, and to let that guide the way.
So…new plan. New practitioner who I trust completely. She is a dear friend of mine, and I know she will help me through all of this. Having someone who you connect with emotionally is one of the most important things, in my opinion. I’m going to retake the MRT to see what my food sensitivities currently are, because my body is telling me that I’m reacting to things I’ve been eating a lot of. I’m also going to retake a SIBO test to see if the test results are the same. I’ll continue to follow the Candida protocol, but until my new test results come in, I’m going to eat anything that sounds good. MRT food, sulfur-rich food – just whatever I want. I’m not reintroducing things systematically, because there’s really no point. If I have a reaction, I can’t really tell what it’s from, anyways.
Since deciding to say F*CK IT, I’ve been much happier. I’ve added in turkey, lettuce, asparagus, beef, spinach, cabbage, and a few more things that I have missed for a long time. I can’t believe how delicious spinach is. I honestly forgot what a lot of these foods taste like! And now that I’m eating more “new” foods, I’m eating less of what I’ve eaten the past five months. Honestly, I never want to look at another nightshade again. I’m so sick of them, and I know they don’t make me feel good in such high quantities.
The other night, I went to Erewhon’s hot bar for the first time in a long time, and I was in heaven. Anyone who knows me knows Erewhon is my favorite place to eat. I went a little crazy and ate a lot of things I haven’t eaten in a long time – cauliflower, broccolini, chili pepper, jalapeño, onion, garlic, black pepper, cashews, nutritional yeast, and more. As delicious as it was, I had severe stomach pains almost immediately, and I had a big reaction that I haven’t had in a long time – I fainted. This used to happen to me often when I was incredibly carb intolerant, but it hasn’t happened in over a year.
The fainting tells me that I definitely was reacting to something, but because I ate so many new foods at once, I didn’t know exactly what it was. It might have been the overall cumulative load of the meal – a lot of “newness” at once for my body to handle. However, it could have also been something that I really am still intolerant to. I wanted to know what it was, if that was the case. My suspicion was garlic, because I have always reacted negatively to it throughout my life, or cashews, because those showed the highest sensitivity on my MRT. I decided that I want to test those out individually soon and see how I react. At night, though, when I’m not driving after. Just in case I faint! Ha!
I ended up trying garlic last night. It was absolutely delicious, but I immediately had a really strong reaction. I’m honestly still in shock. My heart started racing immediately, and I started to feel dizzy. My vision was blurry, I felt like I was slurring my words, and I just couldn’t think or see straight. I had a horrible migraine. I started to feel feverish, and I knew I was going to faint. My stomach felt a little weird, but nothing crazy. Shortly after, I passed out straight on my bed. The next morning, my head felt better, but I felt pretty nauseous and couldn’t stop burping up garlic! It’s been a few hours, and I’m starting to feel better as it wears off. I’m definitely going to give my body a break before I try cashews..
So that’s the update, and that’s the plan! I’m going to enjoy these next few weeks of being able to eat pretty much whatever I want until my new test results come in. I’m still on a Candida protocol, yes, but I generally eat in alignment with a Candida diet anyways, so no biggie. I’m starting from the beginning again. At first, it made me feel like the past 5 months were worth nothing. Now, though, I’m realizing how much I learned from this. I could write an entire post on what I learned, but the main thing is that I know this will only make me a better practitioner personally in the future. I’ll be able to use my experiences to make sure a client of mine will never have to do a protocol twice, and to me, that’s worth it.