In a nutshell, I was stupid. I just assumed that I was a healthy person because I never really ate a lot of junk food and white sugar. I just assumed that after taking antibiotics to cure an infection that could have killed me (and nearly did), that eating a decent amount of yogurt would replenish my intestinal flora and I would be hunky dory. At one point I noticed that I had been taking birth control pills for nearly 7 years and that sometimes it seemed like my level of hormones was really wacky, so I quit taking birth control pills and my body seemed to go back to normal.
I did start wondering what the hell was going on when I had so much back pain and inflammation that it felt like I was carrying around a painful baseball under my left scapula. So I started going to the chiropractor as regularly as possible, and things improved somewhat. The baseball of pain shrank to a small lump of pain that came and went, and the chiropractor explained to me that because bodies get out of whack slowly they take time to heal and changing habits of movement is difficult and time-consuming, so it didn’t occur to me to wonder why, at the age of thirty, I had a baseball of painful fluid under my scapula in the first place. I now believe that the level of inflammation I was experiencing (and have continued to experience off and on) was an indication of a great imbalance in my body. But that did not occur to me at that time.
Big weirdness began after I got pregnant and gave birth to my daughter. First of all, being pregnant felt a lot like being on hallucinogenic drugs. I suspect that this is normal, but no one talks about it like that. I also lost a lot of weight. I was probably 170 lbs before I got pregnant, which did feel overweight to me. I felt like I could stand to lose a few pounds but I also ate well and was reasonably healthy and I had just turned 30, so I figured that maybe a few extra pounds just happen to come with being a decade older than before. But when I got pregnant I actually got skinny first before gaining weight as the small human grew inside me. I didn’t tell most people that I was pregnant until I was more than 6 months along because most people didn’t notice until then! I remember weighing myself two days after I gave birth and I weighed 165lbs. I then continued to drop pounds for months, all the while eating like a horse, but that’s likely because I was breastfeeding a ravenous beast. However, by the time the ravenous beast was three years old (and I was no longer breastfeeding), I was back up to 170 lbs.
I’ve heard that it is considered normal to lose weight in early pregnancy, and certainly while breastfeeding. The part I am more concerned with was how overweight I actually was to begin with, and then how dramatically that reversed, reversed again, reversed again, and then also reversed again. Pregnancy is a dramatic thing no matter how you look at it, but that all felt pretty crazy to me. I think I’m within the range of normal, but that’s only comforting until you remember that many “normal” people are pretty darn unhealthy. I think I had medium candidiasis before I got pregnant, my pregnant body went into hyperdrive and kicked a lot of it, and then it came back with a vengeance when I quit breastfeeding.
Another fun thing that began happening while I was breastfeeding my child (besides 2 years of insomnia and major depression) was that I would occasionally have strange bouts of kidney or liver or gallbladder pain (I really don’t know – some organ in my torso hurt. Bad.). I associate these with not drinking enough water, because if it started happening and I drank enough water early in the episode, I could stop it. That didn’t always work, because as a new mom you literally don’t always have time to do things like drink water. And you certainly don’t have time to wonder, “What is happening to me and why?” And when your partner is working and you are by yourself with a tiny baby, it is exhausting even to think of packing yourself up and driving 60 miles to the nearest hospital. The pain has to be really really bad, and when it’s that bad you are in no shape to drive anyway. So you just drink a bunch of water, go to bed and hope it gets better.
This sounds kind of dumb now, after the fact, but honestly, I was on autopilot for a lot of this time period. And I was alone with the baby a lot. I didn’t remember to even tell my partner about these episodes most of the time. I didn’t realize how bad it was until a friend stopped over one evening. It was starting to happen and I was doubled over in pain, and I knew that I was seriously out of commission for the next hour or so, so I asked him if he wouldn’t mind watching the baby for awhile while I took a nap. He said sure. I stumbled off to bed after drinking a gallon of water or so. I slept for a little while, maybe 45 minutes, and then my friend brought my daughter in to see me because she was hungry, so I groggily rolled over to nurse her. It was starting to get better, but I was still gasping with pain. My friend (who was absurdly respectful about all of this) asked if I wanted him to drive me to the hospital. I said no. It was getting better. He said, yeah, ok, but this is bad. If it keeps happening, you need to go to the doctor. I agreed but explained my trepidation with dealing with that alone with a baby. He said, ok, fine, but really, if it happens again, I will drive you. After that, I always made sure to drink enough water. I still don’t know what organ was trying to kill me and why.
Are you getting the idea? I was kind of an idiot when it came to awareness of my health. I don’t like doctors much, and I don’t have a lot of access to them. I have some major imbalances in my body that I failed to notice until they were punching me in the kidneys. And even then, I adapted and moved on. Until something new was punching me in the kidneys.
Ok, let’s talk about antibiotics. I have been prescribed antibiotics at least 7 times in my life. There are possibly more times that I have forgotten about. NOT ONCE has a doctor prescribed antibiotics for me and also recommended probiotics or even yogurt in order to properly recover. NOT ONCE. NOT ONCE has a doctor wanting to prescribe me antibiotics looked at my medical records, or asked me, to determine how many times I have been previously prescribed antibiotics. I was well into my 20s before I actually began to think about the implications of multiple doses of antibiotics on my intestinal health. I had no idea what those implications might be, but I began to have an awareness that it might be bad. I suspect that it was already too late by then, and that I had already seriously disrupted my intestinal health and immunity.
It’s a long story why, but I had to have antibiotics after I gave birth to my daughter. I also was given antibiotics again two weeks later when I came down with a serious breast infection. I now believe that the breast infection was caused by candida that got out of control after the antibiotics from the birth. The infection went away, but I continued to battle depression, insomnia, anxiety and lack of energy. Yup, all of that goes with the territory for new moms. But for me, looking back and realizing that Candida albicans was pumping toxins into my system every single day explains a lot. It’s really weird to look back at an era of your own life and realize how miserable you were. Especially when that same era is also punctuated by such cool things as your baby smiling at you for the first time. My kid is amazing and I’m thrilled to know her and I can recall many tiny delightful moments of beauty and pure joy from her first 3 years of life, but I was fucking miserable for a lot of it. I was barely dragging along.
Then I began to itch. Or rather…I began to notice how much I itched. I itched all over. I itched inside my ears. Really bad. I kind of had an itchy crotch. My scalp itched something terrible. My legs itched. My anus itched. A lot. I read this thing once about anal itching that basically said that if you had anal itching you needed to stop drinking coffee. I never really drank coffee. I drank a lot of caffeinated tea. I considered quitting, but I was probably as addicted to tea as some people are to coffee. But my butt still itched and it was really uncomfortable. I started to wonder in a fairly paranoid way whether I had pinworms. And the itchiness of the rest of my body made me wonder if I had scabies, or lice, or something. When I started to have tingling and crawling sensations in my legs and feet, I really thought I was losing it. Not only that, but I was losing it. I was anxious, paranoid, jumpy, irrational, and emotional. I had anxiety about having anxiety.
It actually took a close friend going to the doctor and being diagnosed with Candidiasis to make me start to catch on. She began describing her symptoms and every single thing she described was something I had experienced also. I began to tell her about the itching, and she nodded a lot. Everything was similar.
“It’s sugar,” she explained.
“But I don’t really eat sugar.” I protested.
“You put honey in your tea, don’t you? That’s not as bad as white sugar, but it’s still sugar.”
Finally she told me what she was taking on the recommendation of her naturopath. She was taking a product called Candaclear 4. I got some. I took it. Within a day, I began pooping crazy yellow poop. I also felt like crap, and my rash got worse. Because when you start to kill it, candida gets nasty. It gets long and skinny and burrows into your tissues to hide rather than just hanging out in your guts as a one celled organism. And then when it dies, it releases toxins that your body has to get rid of, and if it’s close to the surface of your skin, a rash is the easiest way to get it all out of there.
I remember walking across my yard after taking a dose of the Candaclear 4 and feeling like I was slogging through mud because it felt so hard to move. I felt so tired. It was 10 o’clock in the morning. There was no reason for me to feel so tired. No reason other than the fact that I was having a die-off reaction as the candida was being killed, and that my body was really struggling to process all of those toxins.
It took nearly two months for the rashes and itching to subside to a more reasonable level. My path toward healing has been a lot longer than that, but I will talk more about that in future posts.