My early 20’s were characterized by a few things: opera, boys, NYC, and digestive issues. Though the origins of my digestive disorder were a medical mystery at the time, in retrospect, I can pretty confidently point the finger at the overuse of antibiotics (due to recurrent UTI’s thanks to.. boys) that completely wiped out my intestinal flora. My symptoms ranged from stomach aches, sudden extreme weight gain, and food cravings to depressed mood, fatigue, and headaches. I was miserable, and my doctor’s could do nothing to help me.
DID YOU KNOW?
Candida overgrowth can cause so much bodily and mental drama, including:
- gas, bloating and distention
- food sensitivities
- sugar and carb cravings
- alcohol cravings
- diarrhea and/or constipation
- brain fog
- chronic fatigue
- anxiety and panic attacks
- migraines or headaches
- impaired focus and concentration
- attention deficit and/or hyperactivity
- mood swings
- oral thrush
- bad breath
- recurrent UTI’s
- persistent cough
- frequent ear infections
- recurring sinusitis
- frequent colds
- sore throat
- chronic pain
- joint pain
- muscle weakness
- anal itching
- low libido
- skin rashes
- toe or fingernail fungus
- hypersensitivity to fragrances and/or other chemicals
After finally self-diagnosing with a systemic candida overgrowth (which just wasn’t as well known 10-15 years ago), I completely overhauled my diet and lifestyle, leading to the creation of this here little blog forever ago and finally healing my gut. Throughout the process, I became wary of Western Medicine (which had never thought twice about putting me on antibiotics 6 times a year and just couldn’t seem to figure out why I was so sick) and embraced the power of holistic healing and plant medicine. I eventually went to nutrition school and changed careers to spread the wisdom I had benefitted from myself, and my life was forever altered.
In addition to the myriad of dietary, lifestyle, and herbal practices I employ to keep my body in balance and keep my gut happy, I now avoid taking antibiotics at (almost) all costs. Yes, sometimes we really need them, but on the whole, antibiotics are drastically overprescribed in this country, which, among other things, has led to our national epidemic of imbalanced gut flora. Our gut micro biomes in this country are substantially less diverse than cultures in other parts of the world, and our rates of digestive disorders, anxiety/depression, and autoimmune disorders are much higher. Yes, our terrible national diet (ie: too much processed food and sugar, too much meat, not enough veggies and fermented foods) plays a huge role, but overuse of antibiotics surely takes much of the blame as well.
So you can imagine my frustration when I had a horrible eye infection last month, one that I threw everything in my herbal arsenal at with only moderate results, and had to succumb to a 5 day course of antibiotics. I diligently upped my probiotic foods during the course and did all I could to keep my system in balance, but like clockwork, a few days after finishing the pills, my stomach started acting up. My mood was all over the place (though some of that may be mercury in retrograde and all the other astrological insanity going on). My energy levels were sapped. I was having deja vu to my 20’s!
I knew I needed to do a bit extra to support my system in restoring gut flora and undoing the damage done to my gut.
To restore the gut (and by extension, the entire system), here’s the protocol I follow:
1. High dose probiotics 2x/day + probiotic foods with every meal
For intensive use, I always recommend a probiotic with at least 50 billion IU, like Renew Life Ultimate Flora. As far as probiotic foods are concerned, I make sure to include some with every meal. That may be a forkful of lacto-fermented veggies (like sauerkraut or kimchi), sipping on some kombucha or coconut kefir (just 2-3 oz. a day), and adding goat’s milk kefir to my morning smoothies.
2. Increase prebiotic and fiber-rich foods
Prebiotics are the fuel for probiotics, that help them establish and thrive in the gut. Just taking probiotics without sufficient prebiotics won’t do much good, so it’s just as important to bump these up, especially when working on restoring gut flora. Great sources of probiotics are greens (especially dandelion greens), garlic, onion, oats, lentils, psyllium husk, and apples (especially stewed). I had a tall glass of water with psyllium husk every morning, and made sure to include at least one of these other prebiotic foods at every meal. Friendly gut flora also feed on undigestible fiber like beans, veggies, nuts, and whole grains (GF), so it’s important to increase these as well!
3. Eliminate sugar, dairy, and gluten
Sugar feeds yeast in the gut, which is the number one way to get yourself into a toxic systemic candida situation, especially after the beneficial bacteria that keeps yeast in check has been wiped out by antibiotics. Getting off sugar for at least a week (or possibly much longer, depending on the severity of the candida already present) is crucial for restoring gut health. Dairy and gluten are tough on the digestive tract and end up feeding yeast and unfriendly gut bacteria, proliferating the systemic conditions. Plus they’re generally inflammatory and are usually a safe bet for elimination whenever any gut symptoms crop up.
4. Increase natural anti-fungals
Herbal medicine does a fantastic job at killing off yeast, unfriendly bacteria, and fungi, and because they are gentle on the gut, you don’t have to worry about them killing off the good guys along with the bad (as antibiotics do). My favorites are garlic, pau d’arco (I use it in tea form), oregano oil, fennel seed, and turmeric. These, alongside dietary changes, can fend off systemic yeast, boost immunity, and help to restore healthy intestinal flora better than any prescription.
5. Be patient with my body and give it lots of extra love
Fighting off systemic yeast and other after effects of antibiotic use can take time, depending on the severity of the imbalance. So it’s important to keep stress to a minimum (as it messes with the gut flora almost as much), and do lots of self-care. Yoga, meditation, massages, and saunas are all extremely beneficial from a holistic standpoint, and do a lot to help restore balance in the body (and the mind!).