A few months ago I was talking to a woman who had been diagnosed with Candida. She was experiencing significant symptoms that included severe headaches, fatigue, stomach cramps, constipation and diarrhea, and multiple food intolerances. She often had to take time off work and looked pale and tired. I asked her what diet she was following, and it basically materialised that she had made very few adjustments to her quite typical western diet post-diagnosis. She admitted that she avoided the foods that caused immediate reactions, but had not made the effort to cut out the biggest offenders when it comes to dysbiosis.
‘Baby steps’, I told her, ‘one food at a time’. For some people the biggest hurdle is mentally preparing and motivating themselves to make changes to their diet and lifestyle in order to treat their condition. Giving up foods that are easy, comforting or cheap is a hard thing to do. When I started using diet to treat my illnesses, I’d often have to give myself pep talks and constantly ask myself things like, ‘do you want that piece of toast, or do you want to be in pain and ill forever more?’ I was pretty hard on myself, but that’s what motivation and dedication entails. And we live in a world where quick-fix pills and crash diets promise speedy solutions, but nature doesn’t work like that. The body needs care and time to heal from disease and disorder. Denial is our worst enemy.
So, I tried to help my fellow Candida sufferer and typed up a booklet of easy recipes to help her wean off some of the foods that were really harming her health. ‘One food at a time’, I told her. Gradually the good foods can replace the bad ones and become part of a new routine.
Need a few baby steps yourself to spruce up your diet? Check out a few suggestions below:
Pasta and noodles: If you can not give up pasta or noodles immediately, switch to brown rice flour spaghetti or pasta, buckwheat (soba) noodles, or brown rice
Potatoes: Cut out chips, crisps and white potatoes and replace with vegetable crisps, sweet potato or squash chips
Cakes: There are hundreds of low/ no sugar cake recipes available online, as well as carb free bakes too. Fruit, yogurt and homemade granola may fill a gap for some with a sweet tooth, and my buckwheat pancakes with fruit and nuts are a great breakfast or pud any time.
Fats: Fat is the body’s preferred energy source in a lot of instances, so good clean fats to burn are really important. Some forms of fat are very inflammatory, like sunflower oil. The best healthy oils are rapeseed, olive, coconut, hemp, flax and avocado. Only buy cold-pressed and preferably organic (commercially produced oils are usually heated during processing, which destroys their nutritional benefits.)
Margarine: Many nutritionists will tell you how bad margarine is for you. Animal fat is much better for you if you eat it, so switch from marg to butter, coconut oil or olive oil on your toast and in baking
Sugar: It really is the white devil. Try to reduce refined sugar intake as much as possible, including the sugar added into pre-prepared food. Use raw, local honey (for multiple health benefits), or stevia as a sweetener. Fruit, fruit juice and pureed fruit can also be used to sweeten baking or meals.
Alcohol: Ideally, if you are suffering any stomach problems, alcohol should be out completely. However, if you insist on a tipple here and there, organic dry white and red wine, as well as gin, vodka, scotch, pastis or ouzo are permissible – they represent the lowest sugar alcohols. Beer is bad. I never thought I’d ever say that, but it is full of sugar and yeast. Beware of mixers – they are all full of sugar and artificial sweetener. There is a great company called Fever Tree that do refined sugar-free mixers (get in Sainsburys).
Easy? Well, it’s not rocket science anyway. There are so many quick substitutes that can really change up a diet, to move away from the refined grain and sugar heavy diets that people keep telling me they are finding it hard to move away from. Hope this helps some – more to come in future posts!