Anti-Candida Update: Recalling My First Detox Diet–and Why I’m Ready for Another

Some Personal Sharing: My Detox Experience on the ACD

Recently, a few readers have asked me to detail a bit more about my own experience on the ACD.  While I’ve written quite extensively about the diet itself, how difficult it was to follow in the beginning, and where to find information, I haven’t written very much about my own physical symptoms, reactions to the diet, or treatments. Partly, it’s because I can’t imagine that anyone would be interested.  Partly, it’s because I am actually a fairly private person, and I wasn’t all that comfortable sharing (I know, you’re thinking, But you tell us all about your arguments  discussions with the HH! And you tell us about how you and your pal Sterlin were total nerds in high school! And you tell us about your resentment of Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants)–what do you MEAN, you’re a “fairly private person”–ha, ha, don’t make me laugh!).

No, I haven’t forgotten the definition of “private”; it’s just that those events are all in the past, so I don’t feel particular bashfulness or emotional protectiveness of them any more.  The ACD, on the other hand, is very much with me in the present, and that feels a little. . . revealing.

When I thought about it for half a minute, I realized that, back at the beginning of the process, I would have been elated to find a post about someone else’s experience, just so I’d know I wasn’t alone (and that you can come out of it, intact, at the other end). And what if someone out there is going through the same thing? So, if this post can help even a single person, I’ll feel it was worth revealing (and let’s face it, it’s not as if I’m entering a wet T shirt contest or anything here).  ;)

SONY DSC

[A good choice for detoxing]

Part I: How to Detox–The Wrong Way

A while back on the Candida FAQ page, Megyn asked: “And are you taking any supplements? I was put on undecenoic acid. The first few days were okay, but then my intestines starting really hurting as well as some other “symptoms of die off”. . . . Is there a place where I can read more about your experiences with this?”

When I was first diagnosed and put on the diet (back in January, 1999), there were at least 20 years (okay, more like 30) of the worst possible eating habits behind me.  Mine wasn’t simply a case of following the SAD (Standard American Diet), oh no; more like the S-SAD (Sub-Standard American Diet).  Case in point: throughout my undergraduate years living in residence, my weekend menu alternated between birthday cake (which my roomie and I bought from the local supermarket each Friday and would eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner) and raw chocolate chip cookie dough mix (which we ate the rest of the time). I kid you not.

[At my all-time heaviest weight, Summer 2008. No wonder I'm not really smiling.]

I had decided to go to the Naturopathic College’s clinic to see an Intern there (since her fee was much lower than that of a practising naturopath). In retrospect, I realize that was probably the worst possible way to approach a detox for the first time.  The overzealous, neophyte ND prescribed the strictest of diets along with the most potent herbal decoctions available, simultaneously neglecting to prepare me by either easing into dietary changes first or warning me in any way about ”die-off,” or a “detox reaction.”

I started detox on a Monday in February.  The following evening I had dinner plans with a good friend. “No problem,” he said, when I suggested we eat at the only vegan restaurant I knew at the time, where I could order plain brown rice with steamed veggies.  About halfway through the meal, I began to feel a bit queasy.  “Hmm. . . probably not the veggies,” I mused.  “I must be coming down with the flu.”  Within 15 minutes, I was shaking, sweating, feeling downright dizzy and just about ready to vomit. “Um, I think I need to get home,” I apologized, and my friend ushered me to my car.

I’m still not sure how I drove home that evening, concentrating with all my might on the lines on the road,barely visible between the curtain of snow that had begun to fall. I was determined to just make it home without swerving into the shoulder. My head began to pound, I began to see flashing lights (and not from the oncoming cars) and my body trembled from my shoulders down to my fingertips (which were gripping so tightly to the steering wheel that it took a moment to unfurl them at home).  Outside, the snow floated down in silent accumulation, and I was petrified I’d have an accident.

When I finally did get home, I so weak that the HH had to help me up the stairs; I have a vague recollection of him pulling off my boots and tucking me into bed, still fully clothed.  The next thing I remember, it was morning.  The HH brought me a glass of water and was reluctant to leave for work. By the time he returned, I was feeling better; the room had stopped spinning and the nausea was leaving.

Was it a strange, 48-hour flu?  No. Was it something I ate? In a way, yes: I had experienced a severe–and unusual–detox reaction, also known as a healing crisis, also known as “die-off.”  Because of the sudden, harsh change in my diet combined with powerful herbal remedies, I had begun to detox too quickly; with all the accumulated toxins in my body suddenly ducking for cover and high-tailing it out of there, my system wasn’t able to cope–and I felt sick.  Really sick.

[What a difference 18 months makes: at my lowest post-ACD weight, February 2010--so much healthier!]

Part II: How to Detox–The Right Way

For most people, detox isn’t that dramatic.  They may feel slightly under the weather, or experience flu-like muscle weakness for a day or two; then it passes, and they feel incredible for the rest of the detox. In my case, because I had not been correctly prepared for the change in diet and the additional supplements, and because my body had built up so many awful toxins over so many years, it became a worst case scenario. That’s not how you want to do it.

In fact, when I returned to the ACD again in 2009, my detox reaction was so minimal that I don’t even remember it today.  Of course, there had been much less time for toxins to build up (I’d been eating a whole foods, healthy, sugar-free and vegan diet for over 10 years by then, minus the four months I fell off the wagon).  And, more importantly, I eased myself into it properly, taking a week or two before I switched to the stricter ACD itself.

Part III: I’m About to Do it All Again!

Even though I haven’t veered from the ACD since I started it, I’ve been feeling recently that it’s time to go through another detox.

A while back, I wrote about the weight beginning to creep up once more.  And in recent months since my Dad’s heart attack, I’ve been experiencing a whole host of stressors that have triggered my sugar cravings.  Now, don’t worry–as I said, I haven’t actually eaten the Dreaded White Crystals Of Death, but I sure do crave sweets.  And it’s possible to overdo it, even if your cake, cookies, or chocolate are sweetened with coconut sugar, yacon, agave or stevia (trust me on this one).

[September, 2010, after 1-1/2 years on the ACD).]

So when Nutritionist and Holistic Health Counselor Andrea Nakayama asked if I’d like to work with her to create a sugar detox program, I jumped at the chance. As it turned out, Andrea and I had an instant rapport from that first telephone conversation and immediately decided to work together. Not only do I think Andrea is an amazing nutritionist–I mean, this woman really, really knows her stuff–she also exhibits the kind of personal empathy and professional integrity that I admire and to which I aspire.  And, she’s loads of fun, to boot!  Immediately, I had a selfish thought: “hey, I can work through the program myself while it’s being offered!”  And that, dear readeres, is exactly what I’m going to do.

I’m truly thrilled to be part of Sweet Victory, a  two-week homestudy detox program. The course kicks off with a live teleseminar (also available as an audio file you can listen to at any time) and includes an array of course materials, recipes and–my favorite part–two weeks of online support from both of us, via message board! Andrea and I will both be available throughout the entire course to respond to your queries and comments, share experiences and offer feedback. And since I’ll be detoxing, too, I’ll be right there along with all of you!

To read more about the course and what’s involved, check the Sweet Victory page

I should note that Sweet Victory is not strictly an anti-candida detox; it’s actually for anyone looking to conquer sugar cravings and permanently change their relationship with sugar. I wish I had found something like this before I allowed my sugar addiction to become as bad as it did in 2008–ultimately, leading to my more serious problems with candida. Now that the candida is in check, it’s time to tackle those pesky cravings! :)

[Last month at my dad's 90th birthday party--time for a little refresher to clear out the cravings once more!]

In the next ACD update, I’ll talk about my candida symptoms and where things stand with them today.  

Have you ever undergone a detox? How long was it? What was the experience like for you?   

Last Year at this Time: Grilled Vegetable Salad with Fresh Tarragon Dressing (ACD all stages)

Two Years Ago: Fresh and Spicy Cilantro Sauce (ACD all stages)

Three Years Ago: Zucchini and Pineapple Mini Loaves (not GF; ACD maintenance only)

© Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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Comments

  1. never done a detox, but your experience doesn’t sound really make me want to :) i’m interested to hear how you’re at with candida symptoms, as they’re probably distinct from the sugar cravings!

    • Shannon, I did it all wrong the first time. . . I had NO negative effects this most recent time (in 2009). The information I was given at the time was entirely mis-directed, sadly. I know that the intern did go on to be a fine naturopath, though. . . but she was still learning with me! ;)

  2. Thanks for sharing so freely, Ricki.

  3. Ricki, as a fellow ACD-er, I applaud your effort & congratulate you on the milestones you’ve achieved on this journey. For me, your site was one of the first that I came across when I embarked on the ACD, & has been the only one that’s stayed with me through my entire experience of Candida.

    My friends are always amazed at how I eat, telling me that they ‘feel sorry for me’ or ‘can’t imagine eating like that’. I tell them the truth: at first it was hard. But now it’s easier. They say the first 3 days of giving anything up are the hardest. I recall when I first started this diet, I threw out everything sugar or sugar related. I would scour the cupboards when the sugar cravings hit, just to give up & wander back to my bedroom to lie in self-pitying defeat. But it *did* get easier. It was a step-by-step process.

    My first step in detox was cutting out refined sugar. I was eating a very unhealthy diet: powered soup, gummi lollies & chocolate. That was basically it. I couldn’t handle ‘heavy foods’, which equated to regular foods (veges, meat, carbs). This mind pattern lead to bouts of bulimia whenever I ate ‘too much’. In my head, anything heavy meant something bad. Before this, I was eating a vegetarian diet that was too reliant on pasta, rice & bread. My system was overloaded with years of sugar feeding & nutritional negligence.

    About a month in, I cut out starches, flours, legumes, & anything that was carbohydrate-dense. I was still in gastro-intestinal distress after certain foods, & I was tired of being in pain. *Sick* of it. I knew a change had to be made, & I was going to make it. So I cut them out; nothing was worth that amount of pain.

    Besides the cravings, I had headaches & was grumpy; my muscles ached & I felt like I couldn’t do anything. I felt very weak, & I was unfocused. Moods continued to swing, but the longer I went without sugar & carbs, the more stable they became. I wasn’t very good with keeping up my protein at first, so I was always tired & sore. I would carry vegetables with me everywhere because I always felt hungry.

    But that slowly changed, when I started to introduce more protein into my diet. My hunger stabilized. I’ve only introduced very few things back into my diet, as I’m very hesitant to go back to how sick I was before. I would rather not eat that stuff again than be that sick. My diet is the cleanest it’s ever been, & I only feel like I’m doing the right thing for myself.

    For anyone else out there embarking on this, remember: it may not be the easiest route, but the things that are the most rewarding are the most demanding. Good luck!

    • Natalie, wow. Thank you so much. :D
      Your experience sounds like it’s been filled with challenges, and ones you’ve handled admirably. I can relate to so much of what you write here. I’ve often gone “grain free” for a few days or a week at a time when I feel the cravings creeping back up (hence my decisions to do this two-week detox coming up). And I totally agree, I’d rather not eat certain things than ever feel that way again. I love your parting thought–it’s so true, the things that challenge us and call upon our previously unknown resources are the things we find most rewarding down the road. Kudos to you!

  4. I haven’t done an “official” detox before, but your experiences throughout yours sound amazing! so glad you’ve found a “happy place” in the world of food!! congrats :)

  5. Ricki, it takes a lot of courage to share your present-day story and I think it is great. Oftentimes, things can seem so rosy, but really it can be a struggle, with ups and downs along the way, as you figure things out, as life changes, etc. It sounds like you’ve finally found something that works for you, which is great. :)

    • Thanks, Janet. I’d say I’m at the “90%-that-works” stage. I do still struggle with sweets cravings and weight that goes up and down, and I’d surely like to feel as if I’ve conquered that aspect of it. Overall, though, I am incredibly happy with the kind of diet I follow day to day, and I feel 95% better than when I started this whole new journey back in 2009. :)

  6. Such a great honest post Ricki! As you know I detox every now and then as needed. Sometimes it’s easy, other times, if it’s following as especially off the rail period of time, I get very weak and nauseous feeling. I’m currently trying to find a middle ground where I’m neither detoxing nor being a sugar addict. I would love to take this sugar detox! I won’t be able to do this first one but I hope you’ll do something again like this in the future!

    • Thanks, Gillian. I agree–one’s reaction depends so much on what you’ve been eating and how you’ve been living before the detox. I know that all of Andrea’s previous courses are available for homestudy on her site, and I’ll see if this one can be available here, too. :)

  7. Cristina says:

    I’ve been vegetarian for over 10 years and don’t really crave sweets because they make me feel horrible after. I have to have a full meal to dilute the sugar rush so that doesn’t help for calories sake. i recently tried going vegan again and wanted to have some extra goodies for the other family members so they wouldnt feel deprived of cheese and I made some sugary desserts. I have a cold now (it was that chocolate peanut butter pie in “The Kind Diet”…i hardly ever eat stuff like that!)..sugar definitely weakens the immune system.

    • Thanks, Cristina. :) It’s amazing how quickly the results of sugar can hit you after you haven’t had it in a while! Even I find something similar if I eat too many refined carbs in a day (say if I have a baked good–even though it’s one of my own–two days in a row, or if I eat more than one in a day). I suppose it’s a good thing that my body is being so vocal about what it does and doesn’t like. . . wish it had done so years ago, though!

  8. Oh Ricki thank you so much for sharing your experiences! And your past present and future with us. I know how hard it can be to share personal things. But it typically does help people and usually the ones who it helps are often too shy to write and say so, but maybe one will for you.

    I started the raw diet is a detox and it is my go-to detox when I feel kinda icky. I am sort of mid detox myself for a few days because I don’t do well on too many grains and they were starting to make me be really grouchy!!! I have had some dreaded white crystals here and there too which never feel good to me. Even though I can’t do any formal plan right now I am here with you in spirit.

    • Thanks so much, Bitt! I know that you’ve also dealt with various health issues and a detox never hurts, right? ;) I also usually turn to raw when I’m feeling that the carbs are starting to take over–it is such a cleansing diet and so satisfying, I find, when I take the time to make tasty things rather than just grab an apple or a hunk of lettuce! I appreciate the feedback and the support–glad to know we are in this together. :)

  9. It sounds scary the way it hit you the first time around. It is amazing the effect food can have on our bodies.

    • You mena, amazing the effect BAD food can have on our bodies! I am just one of those “lucky” individuals for whom tthings like junk food, pollution, etc. really create a lasting impact. One of my sisters continues to eat that way to this very day with NO discernible health issues. Everyone is different. . . someone else who ate my diet might never have succumbed to candida. But yes, I did it entirely wrong the first time round, and I feel like a veteran as I go into this next one! ;)

  10. Ricki,

    Wow, you are my hero! Like you I am a fairly private person, which most people find surprising, so this post is extremely impressive to me. Good for you putting yourself out there! You may have inspired me to do something like this…if I am brave enough that is. :-)

    I have fasted and unintentionally detoxed in the past by eliminating caffeine, sugar, and anything remotely processed. However I haven’t tried the herbs that assist in “detox”. Eliminating caffeine was very difficult and resulted in some monster headaches and GI issues. The mood swings were also unexpected and scary. You are right that things can be much worse before they get better when you are make serious dietary changes. On the bright side I feel tremendously good now that the “junk” is out of my diet.

    Good luck with your upcoming program. I hope you have an easy detox this time. BTW, I am still giggling about your wet T-shirt contest comment. LOL :-)

    • Thanks so much, Alicia! I agree that for lots of folks, a simple dietary change (cutting out caffeine, for instance) creates an unintentional detox, and then–bang!–they don’t know what hit them. But inevitably, as you say, the outcome is SO MUCH BETTER than it was before! You are my healthy-eating hero! And glad you liked the wet T-shirt comment (they are far too revealing for me!) ;)

  11. Thank you for sharing your story Ricki. There ARE people who will be both comforted and inspired by your story, leading them to make personal changes for the betterment of their health.

    I have completed a couple of 2wk detoxes and a 26day detox on the CLEAN program by Dr. Alejandro Junger. That first big detox radically changed my life. Since then, I’ve been on the RAW, vegan, organic, refined sugar free food train…well, most of the time anyway :) In fact, when I have sugar now, I can see how it greatly contributes to my depression.

    Lately, my body has been hinting that it’s time for a good 2wk RAW, vegan, no sweetener detox. You’ve inspired me!

    • Jaky, thanks so much! I’m not familiar with the CLEAN program–am going to look it up. And so happy to hear that this has inspired you. It sounds like we’ll be following a very similar plan (though I do intend to eat a few cooked foods). :) Good luck with yours!

  12. Ricki, your entire story sounds *exactly* like mine in every way possible. My first candida detox diet consisted of only brown rice and baby salad greens for an entire month. Was that ever hellish.

    And, my eating habits were pretty much the same as yours – many times my diet has consisted of sugar at every meal, tons of caffienated drinks, and anything carb-loaded or that came out of a box. As time went on, the physical exhaustion I experienced from eating so badly only led me to eat even more poorly because I had no energy to cook meals at the end of the day.

    This time around, the ACD is so much easier, and I’ve been surprised at the lack of die-off symptoms (aside from the daily sugar dragon rearing its head). Interestingly, I too just discovered that yes, it is entirely possible to overdo it with stevia and vegetable glycerine. Bleh!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences – it’s comforting to know that you, and others who read your blog, have had the same experience as me and that I’m on the right track.

    • Nicole, first, let me say Yay! and Wa-hooo! that you are finding it easier this time round! Ironically, acording to my holistic doc, people who’ve had candida once are more likely to get it again. . . and again. At the same time, it becomes easier each time to follow the diet. Thank goodness for those small mercies! I love the term “sugar dragon”–it really does seem to spout fire to get you moving (though toward it, not away). ;) Glad to know that the sharing is useful on some level, and best of luck keeping on track! I’ll be chronicling my experience staring in NINE DAYS (yikes) when I begin the detox portion all over again. . . stomping out that darned dragon!! ;)

  13. Hi Ricki,
    i have been following the ACD diet for 9 months now. Even though I am not eating any refined sugars, having flours (I eat grain free), etc… I still crave sugar/chocolate. I noticed that I have the cravings when I am stressed. All I can say is Thank God for this receipe:
    http://allergyfreeandglutenfree.blogspot.com/2011/07/granola-carob-homemade-candy.html

    I do still react to too much agave nectar. When I do react, I just keep pushing on. It may need to be a life long process, but I know I feel better.
    Congrats on your new adventure with Andrea.

    • Thanks, Jeanie. I think it’s so important to know our own triggers. Of course sweet things are mine, but combine them with flour products and we have a lethal combination! ;) I was without cravings for quite some time after I had been on the diet for a while. . . it’s only recent months that they seem to have returned. I’m really looking forward to the adventure you mention–hoping it will clear things out once again! It really is a lifelong process. :)

  14. A fantastic post – the way you describe your first reaction to the detox is so vivid. I think that sharing such information is brave but also is great for those who are experiencing it and for those like me who aren’t, it gives great insight and empathy into others diets. I have recommended this blog to quite a few people because I find the recipes so inspiring in showing that you can still eat interesting food when on a restricted diet.

    As for you comments on sugar, my neighbour recently told me she was off sugar because it is too addictive – I have been aware of how I crave some sweet foods more than others lately. It has been an real gift to be able to follow some of your ACD experiences and so great to see how you have changed your life for the better through your diet.

    • Thanks so much, Johanna–much appreciated. :) And I always wonder about how someone who’d not going through this experience reacts to such information–very glad to know it’s informative, at the least, and that the recipes can still be useful to people not on the diet. I do think I’ve changed my life for the better and am, in a (very) weird way, thankful for the candida for inspiring that. I still have a long way to go, as I realized when I decided to embark on this latest detox–it’s just too easy to slip back into old (bad) habits.

  15. Thanks for such an interesting post. I have a massive sweet tooth and I’ve drastically reduced my sugar intake over the years but I’m always looking for things to keep me on track because when I allow myself a little sugar, a little turns into a LOT!
    I’m curious as to how you feel about stevia and other “natural” sweeteners?

    I am definitely checking out the sweet victory page.

  16. Megyn Blanchard says:

    Ricki I Lu-huv this post! I am sure hundreds of people will benefit from this now and into the future! The key is ‘easing’ into this change!

    I learned my lesson the hard way and was over zealous in the beginning stages of the Anti Candida diet as well. But I partially blame the holistic practitioner who did NOT PREPARE ME AT ALL for what could happen to my body! Instead reading other web sites and blogs, I jumped in full force and as a result lost a month of my life to absolute MISERY!

    Your website is now a complete Anti candida resource! All of your musings, and recipes are a tremendous help! And now people have the complete picture! I hope your readers see this post first and take it to heart! I wasn’t living an extremely unhealthy life style as I was already dairy and gluten free and an amateur bodybuilder. But the occasional glass of red wine and the sugar free substitutes (lots of chewing gum) were enough to really cause a toxin overload, and a violent die off when I combined the ACD with anti fungal supplements. Now I am treating myself in a much more INTUITIVE way and feel tons better!

    Thank you! And when I finish my Registered Dietician degree your site will be the one I refer clients to!

    • Megyn, thank you so much! I’m sorry to hear about all the misery you went through–I really do think it’s not necessary. Most people will get better on an anti-candida diet in time, and easing into it might take you one week longer in the end, but boy, what a difference it will make! Congrats on studying to be an RD, too! My year at nutrition school was probably one of the best I’ve had so far. Thanks so much! :D

  17. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. When I went on the ACD, I became very fatigued, terrible headaches, depression. I felt really awful. My vision became blurry and my eyes were draining. I have since gone off the diet but have been cutting out gluten, refined sugars, most fruits, etc., and feel much better. Before, I was doing only protein (poultry and fish) and veggies and nuts/seeds. I am also severely hypothyroid. My doctor said I probably need some carbs for energy, as I was completely depleted. For now, I am adding grains such as quinoa and legumes such as edammame.

    • Thanks for your comment, Deanna. I actually think most people have some grains, even at the beginning (I did). But the more you cut out, the faster the candida will die off. . . it’s really a fine balance that has to be achieved by each person individually. Good luck with it, and hang in there!

  18. I’m behind on reading about this detox, but I saw you were posting on FB about it. Thanks so much for sharing all of this information. I too tend to be private when talking about stuff like this (especially if I go into digestive “issues” talk…) but I SO appreciate reading about it, so I get where you come from on this. I have flirted with the idea of the ACD or something like it, but I guess I needed a doctor to officially tell me that candida was causing my issues. Well, that’s happened – I was told last week I had candida overgrowth and leaky gut. So in spite of me being in the middle of writing a (non-ACD-friendly) cookbook, it’s time for me to kick yeast to the curb! So I might be behind, but I’ll be following right along with your detox as I figure out my own!

    • Oh, Alta, I’m so sorry to hear about the diagnosis–but glad that you know what is going on and now have a path to take to fix it! And congrats on the cookbook–I knew you were working on it, but didn’t realize it was official! Yay! It was when I wrote Sweet Freedom that I probably taste-tested a bit too enthusiastically and re-introduced my own candida problem. Best to get it treated right away so that you don’t have to go through what I did!

  19. I’m so glad I just read this. I’ve been doing a lot of research about candida detoxing but rather than self-guided treatment based on my research I was considering seeing a naturopath. Being between jobs, I was mostly considering booking an appointment at the College. Now I won’t.

    Also, I appreciate reading your experience with die-off.

    Do you know of any naturopaths in Toronto who work on a sliding fee scale? Easy to access by public transit required, mid-to-downtown preferred. It’s also possible that my experience at the College would be opposite of yours but I don’t know if I want to take that chance.

    • Andrea, thanks so much. Glad the post was useful. Having said that, I would never recommend doing a candida diet/detox on your own without first having some kind of clear diagnosis or direction from either a naturopath or holistic nutritionist. And let me be clear: it wasn’t the treatment at the college that was bad; it was the fact that the resident didn’t warn me of the die-off. Her treatments were terrific, and helped a lot. I’ve since had lots of good experiences there.

      I don’t know about sliding scale, but if you’re interested, I’d be happy to share the name of my current ND, whom I started seeing this past summer. She is very approachable and knowledgeable. Just email me at dietdessertdogsATgmailDOTcom for more info. :)

  20. Thanks for the response. I have had a couple of diagnoses but I’ve ignored them because I the symptoms didn’t feel bad enough for me to want to make the sacrifice. Now I figure that I may as well see how much better I can feel with it treated.

    I’ll be in touch.

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