The Emotional Journey of Candida Recovery
By Tarilee Cornish, CNP
Many so-called physical illnesses are caused by and/or affect our mental and emotional health and a whole approach to healing is required if we are to restore our health completely.
As awful as illness always is in the midst of it, some people are surprised to find themselves expressing gratitude for the experience, for what they have learned and how it has changed their lives for the better. If you in the midst of an initial struggle from health, I assure you that this is not as perverse as it may sound to you right now. If it does feel this way to you, the timing may not be right for reflection right now. If this is so, I encourage you to simply make the effort to replace anxiety and frustration, with curiosity. It is in this state we are most likely to see any gifts our experience may have for us.
Candida Related Complex (CRC) can involve such intense emotional upheaval, alienation, depression, fear, and forced change. Recovery for some, will require a letting go. This can trigger an increased consciousness and sometimes with it, insights, self-awareness, and a newfound courage to accept.
Perhaps through feeling the extremes of vulnerability that can accompany CRC, you will discover your true strength for the first time. Or maybe through following your path in the presence of criticism from those around you, you will learn confidence and self-reliance. Or maybe you'll discover the power of acceptance without shame during a period of weakness in which you need to ask for help.
If we can open up to the experience, even seemingly hopeless circumstances can bear fruit. We learn to integrate essential self-care into our daily lives. We learn about our body and how it works and what it needs to be well. We learn to recognize the impact that emotional stress has on our health. We clear our bodies and minds of the negative impacts of past trauma, turning those experiences into wellsprings of wisdom. We learn new skills in communicating our needs to others as we practice asking for help. For some of us, these are all brand new skills that not only help us to survive, but also enrich our lives forever.
IS THERE A LESSON FOR YOU IN YOUR CRC?
Is CRC present in your life to teach you to honor your own needs and learn to accept your limitations? Remember also that the extreme sensitivity your body and mind are experiencing right now demand that you tune into subtler and subtler aspects of your own needs. Learning to listen to your body is great practice for learning to listen to your intuition, and sometimes, learning to listen to others.
When we make a commitment to accept that our challenges offer us gifts even when we can't see what those gifts are, we can flow through our trials with less resistance. We begin to discover within ourselves an openness to seeing something new that is bound to bring new insight and growth. Resisting, fighting, or denying the experience slows this learning and our recovery.
THE DIET AS A TEACHER
When you are struggling hard with the diet, it is possible you are struggling with something in your heart as well. Remember that with every fall, you are just preparing yourself to succeed. Each time you "fall off the wagon" and hit the ground hard, is an opportunity to more strongly commit to your own self-care. For people in the sensitive state of candida overload, the consequences of eating off the wagon can trigger strong reminders that we have just chosen a self-destructive impulse over a self-loving one.
EMOTIONS AND CRC
When you have higher immune sensitivities as well as the food and inhalant allergies that often accompany CRC, you learn that foods and chemicals can disrupt your emotional balance. This understanding quickly drives home a lesson about the mind-body connection.
Emotional stress has a "cause and effect" relationship with CRC. Stress reduces your immune power and produces stress hormones, including cortisone; a compound that, when produced by the body in excess, interferes with normal tissue healing and repair processes. Being stressed will thus leave you more susceptible to the destructive power of Candida yeast. At the same time, Candida-related toxicity creates biochemical stress for its host.
Candida yeast actually releases toxins that affect your mental and emotional states and and can have a destabilizing effect on blood sugar, which further affects the whole nervous system and more. Ethanol and acetaldehyde are two of the main byproducts of Candida albicans metabolism; both are neurotoxins. These can actually cause depression, brain fog, and anxiety. Knowing this will help you to maintain a strong offense against the yeast while helping you rationalize the temporary emotional upheavals. It will help to remind yourself that as your body becomes stronger, so will your emotional balance. In the meantime, perhaps there are insights to be found in the darkness.
Theodore Roethke described his belief in the power of the darkness to enlighten us and inspire change when he wrote: "In a dark time, the eye begins to see. I see my shadow in the deepening shade."
CLEANSING THE LIVER TO LIGHTEN THE EMOTIONS
Liver congestion is also directly linked to heavy emotions such as sadness and anger. Candida illness and Candida detoxification can place great demands on the liver and this workhorse organ will sometimes need support as a result (i.e. cleansing). I recommend a little book by Benjamin Hobbs called "Natural Liver Therapy". It lists a variety of herbs and food substances that support liver function. The old expression "liverish" actually referred to a state of feeling irritable and dark. Also, supporting the liver with some liver purging herbs can lighten the mood and increase energy.
Hepafem or Heptato can be very helpful to lighten the liver load.
BALANCING BLOOD SUGAR
When you have CRC, you become much more sensitive to blood sugar imbalances. This means that low or quickly changing blood sugar levels can leave you feeling shaky, weak, panicky, irritable, short of breath, and anxious. Try to eat small, frequent meals and choose carbohydrates that are low on the glycemic index scale. Avoid caffeine, dairy products, and foods you don't tolerate, as all can produce blood sugar swings. In the case of severe blood sugar imbalances you may want to talk to your naturopathic physician about the use of chromium or Gymnema sylvestre - natural remedies to help balance the blood sugar. Eating high fiber and moderate protein meals will keep you steady as well by reducing the speed at which sugars enter your bloodstream.
Food allergens, airborne chemicals or molds can all produce dramatic mood-altering effects, which people with candida are more sensitive to. For example, in CRC sufferers, wheat can cause fatigue, confusion, brain fog, anxiety, and depression. Mold can cause heart palpitations, dizziness, irritability, panic, and confusion. Chemical exposure or electro-pollution can cause confusion, anxiety, panic, depression, dizziness and many other symptoms as well. Be aware of your emotional shifts when tracking reactions in your health diary. A detailed food and mood diary can offer you retrospective insights about less obvious accumulative or delayed reactions to food.
DON'T FIGHT YOURSELF
You have a struggle going on in your body. It's your immune system and your anti-fungal strategies working against the yeast. If you have lost a battle with a sugar craving for example, it's easy to get angry at yourself for not being stronger. In order to maintain objectivity, it helps to think in language that reminds us of who our opponent in this struggle really is. You need to remember to blame the Candida, not yourself. An alternative is not to blame anyone at all but to look upon your program as revitalizing and as nourishing the beneficial microbes that make up healthy human ecology (Our bodies are made up mostly of non human cells.)
DON'T INTERNALIZE the ILLNESS
We've all heard it, people calling themselves an "asthmatic" or a "diabetic" as if these terms somehow define who they are. You've also heard people "own" their illness in possessive language as if the disease has convinced them that it belongs. They say things like "my cancer", "my atherosclerosis", "my Candida." Don't buy into this.
Your choice of language (both internal and external) can have a powerful impact on how you view your situation. If you get too comfortable with a definition of yourself as someone with this illness then it's almost as if you are giving the illness permission to make itself comfortable too. If you keep the boundaries between you and your illness in place through care in the use of language, you maintain a self-definition that embraces wellness. Referring to "the CRC" is much more empowering than saying "my CRC".
RELATIONSHIPS AND CRC
It can be overwhelming to try to heal from a lonely place, but some of you will be forced to rely, at least initially, on your own strength to overcome both CRC as well as the criticism and lack of awareness of those around you. Sometimes those closest to you will end up hurting you deeply just by not understanding your illness.
The alienating effect of experiencing life and food in a way that is so different from those around us can create distance between us and those we love. It is up to you to stop this from happening. You will need to choose your times carefully and share with your loved ones what you understand to be going on with your health. Be specific and inform them but do not impose complaints on them regularly. Try speaking in matter of fact language. Dont' buy into shame. Speak from strength about what is best for you, not about what you can't do, can't eat etc.
ASK YOUR LOVED ONES TO PARTNER IN YOUR HEALING
The volatile emotions and brain fog of candida can make it hard to maintain a logical, well-organized approach to deciphering symptoms, food reactions, diet strategies and treatment approaches.
Do you have a friend or partner who can help without getting bogged down? Not everyone does. But if you do have someone longing to help, for whom a support role suits them, there may be a way they can help. Would they be willing to help you make decisions by offering a clear mind, unaffected by the subjectivity of your daily inner struggle: Loving understanding and logical support can speed your healing.
One of WholeApproach's forum members, "Happy Dways" has shared his supportive observations of his wife's challenge with CRC:
- "She fights things in a deeper way than I could ever be aware of. And it often touches her own value as a person, feeling helpless and a burden, depression, fatigue, having to run uphill the deluge of temptations to give up and feed what's destroying the body, damaged self-worth, guilt regarding the money issue because she has to buy fresh food and often to keep it fresh and it costs more money, lack of energy for stuff catering to the diet."
- "Our partners [with CRC] need us. We have to build them up as they are forced to make changes in their diet and lifestyles. That's what love is about. That's what life is about: becoming better people. Trials do that to people; they break you and call for reconstruction. Many things in life force us on the path to change. This is one of them."
If you are having a relationship challenge and would like to share more of Happy's understanding insight with your partner, please search out his post on our forum page called "To all husbands" and share it with your beloved.
Many people who have successfully recovered from CRC or who are on the road to recovery have found the following books to be very helpful guides for initiating the emotional, mental, and spiritual growth that CRC recovery so often demands.
Dealing with Depression Naturally, by Sid Baumel (also deals with anxiety issues)
Heart Math Solution-Quick, easy, clinically proven stress-buster methods.
Homeopathy for Emotional Health, by Rima Handley
Tarilee Cornish is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner with a special interest in immune and digestive recovery including general detoxification and recovery from food allergies and candida overgrowth. She is especially passionate about pure healing food choices that have a democratic, ecological and compassionate production and distribution chain. Tarilee is a moderator on the WholeApproach Support Forum.
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