OKAY, time for a confession. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a sugar fiend; chocolate chip cookies, pick-n-mix, chocolate bars, all have been foes I’ve battled daily.
Some days I win the battle, some days I lose - some days I lose big. But ultimately, and more significantly, I’m always losing the war.
Until recently I’d considered my love of all things sweet an unfortunate character trait. Considering I’ve been blessed with a super-fast metabolism I didn’t think this was too bad a cross to bear.
However as a Personal Trainer I was finding it increasingly hard to spend my days castigating people for the faults of their diet then come home and single-handedly bump up the share price of Haribo.
While my over-consumption of sugary snacks was omnipresent it has never been in the realms of what I would consider worrying. I would never sit down and demolish a whole tub of ice cream, or a multi-pack of Mars Bars. I would never force myself to throw up food or starve myself for days.
But I would eat a chocolate bar every night. Like most, I put this failing down to a combination of lack of willpower, habit and social conditioning – as children we were always allowed a chocolate bar at night if we’d behaved – and the desire for an immediate sensory reward after a long day.
Over the years I tried numerous tactics at curing this ailment. A month abstaining from sweet tasting diet drinks that possibly encouraged an ongoing love of sugar while hiding under the guise of delivering no calories themselves. A catch and release scheme whereby I would allow myself the satisfaction of buying chocolate but then throw it in the bin as soon as the moment past and before it returned.
Thinking my affliction was just for confectionary and not for all sugars I went month without chocolate, cookies or other sugary snacks instead feasting on the ‘far healthier’ bowel of fruit – high fructose (fruit sugar) containing pineapple, apples, grapefruit and grapes –and some Greek yoghurt.
None of these works and the bowel of fruit actually increased my desire for sugar. More worryingly I now found myself changing my route home from work so that I could buy some cookies on my way home.
For the first time in my life I felt addicted to something and it was a horrible feeling. I found myself devouring my snacks while being aware that I was no longer actually enjoying them.
It was a combination of this new feeling of addiction, the guilt of becoming a professional hypocrite and most importantly a Naturopathic Nutrition lecture on Candida that made me think that my desire for sugar could be something more than just a sweet tooth. That possibly my desire for chocolate could be the result of a biological urge that overrides both my thought processes and will power.
Candida Albicans is normally a harmless yeast present in our digestive tract. For the most part it acts as an aid in the digestive process helping to break down food and absorbing heavy metals. Its levels are kept in check by the good bacteria in your system.
Candidiasis is when there is an overgrowth of Candida. The more severe symptoms of this include leaky gut syndrome, prostrate problems.
Annoyingly a lot of the alleged commonly symptoms of a Candida overgrowth are horribly vague and pretty much apply to everyone living in the 21st Century.
· Feeling tired and worn down – who isn’t these days?
· Suffering from bloating, constipation or diarrhea – who hasn’t at some point.
· Difficulty concentrating, poor memory, lack of focus – just about everyone I know.
· Irritability, mood swings, anxiety or depression – not really narrowing down the numbers here.
A couple of late nights or a few drinks too many and I’m sure the above can describe you.
But there were two other symptoms that resonated with me.
· Skin and nail fungal infections such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus
· Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings.
While my sugar cravings have now been well documented and could be explained by other theories - a friend suggested I desired sugar at night because after a long tiring day my body needed immediate energy and sugar is the fastest - I had suffered from toenail fungal infection for a number of years despite my GP's prescription of liberally applying anti-fungal cream for six months (who says sharing is caring).
The potential causes of these increased Candida levels are just as broad with a prolonged exposure to antibiotics the most frequently proffered, the theory being the antibiotics killing off the good bacteria which in turn keep the Candida levels in check. Living a stressful life and drinking too much alcohol are other suggested causes.
The cause that caught my eye was having a diet that was high in refined carbohydrates and sugars. So by eating too many sugars you then have an overgrowth that leads to an increased demand for too many sugars? Sounds like a perfect vicious circle.
Interestingly it is also believed that the presence of amalgam fillings can lead to Candida as the mercury in the fillings leaks into the body and the body uses the Candida bacteria to absorb the mercury. For years I had a mouth filled with amalgam fillings until I recently had them replaced.
So I decided to give the detox a go. The idea behind the detox is to starve the Candida by not eating any sugars thus killing the Candida and ending your - i.e my - cravings for sugary snacks.
One could argue that this is a fantastic argument to absolve oneself of blame for one’s actions, ‘It wasn’t me your honour, it was the nasty little yeast in my gut that made me do it.’
And perhaps it is. But perhaps being able to blame something else gives you a focus to aim your efforts against and the belief that you can be different and don’t have to be hostage to your biology.
Which leads me to where I am today; suffering as I enter my 64th hour of a Candida detox.
Candida detox is a pretty full-on affair; no caffeine, no sugar, no carbohydrates (as they are ultimately broken down into simple sugars) no fruit (as they too possess sugar in the form of fructose) no dairy, no wheat, no vinegar, no soy or other fermented products – this includes soy sauce, oyster sauce, teriyaki sauce peanuts and cashew nuts as they have mould in them, no mustard, no horseradish.
It’s actually easier to list the things you can have. Meats and vegetables – but not starchy ones like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots or parsnips. For beverages you can have water and herbal teas – but not Green Tea as it contains caffeine.
There are no cheat days, no half-measures.
In addition there are certain herbal supplements I'm taking to help remove the Candida such as freeze dried garlic, artemisa and clove, olive leaf extract as well as probiotics - Saccharomyces Boullardii - to help repopulate the intestines with good bacteria to keep future Candida levels in check.
I’m attempting to do a month on the diet. Supposedly you need to stay on the diet a month for every year you feel you’ve been suffering from the overgrowth. In my case I’d argue at least six years, but there’s no way I’d last six months.
Let’s see if I can last 4 weeks.