In part one of this candida rash story, I shared my surprising journey from the prideful fallacy of extraordinary health to a scaly, itchy rash that spread from the back of my neck, around the front, inflamed my neck and chest, then traveled down my arms. An M.D. and a naturopath had very different strategies for battling it, and I chose to treat the rash as a symptom of candida infection.
Did I forget to say that it itched? Oh, goodness, my friends – it itched with such intensity that it was a darn good thing it happened right after the discipline and self-control development of Lent! In fact, that timing may play into our story here…
It was interesting that this rash amped up so terribly right after Lent, even though the itchiness on the spot on the back of my neck had been a mild annoyance for about two years. During Lent, I give up all white sugar and corn sugar, and we were grain-free for the first half and remaining gluten-free, whole grains only, for the second half.
Lent is about 6 weeks long, which means that any candida I had in my body before that may have been in a “hunger” mode because I wasn’t feeding it as much of its favorite foods. (Not that I’m a huge junk food eater, but I do like sweets and indulge in the candy that enters our house without my permission, dark chocolate that I invite in, and ice cream. 99% of the grains I eat are whole, and we’re a low-gluten household all the time anyway. Nonetheless, Lent is a more radical time.)
I find myself wondering if the rash was a sort of “die-off” symptom, meaning that my body was fighting the candida overgrowth better than usual during Lent, and then the dead yeast and toxins had nowhere to go but out – in the form of inflammation and histamine response in my skin. When I started feeding the little buggers some sugar again, all heck broke loose.
By the time it was embarrassing to wear sleeveless shirts and scoop necks – and this was in May/June of last year – I knew it was high time to declare war on the candida.
This post is part of a Natural Health Month series here at KS.
Fighting a candida rash naturally entails both internal and external battles. One must:
- Starve the yeast by depriving it of its favorite foods.
- Kill the yeast overgrowth with anti-fungals.
- Rebuild the flora with strong probiotics.
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First Step: Cut off the Food Supply
Candida is really quite linked to sugar intake, which is why I titled yesterday’s post with the rather forward message: “If You’ve Ever Eaten Sugar, You Probably Have Candida Symptoms.” I don’t really like intense claims like that, to be honest, but I did really want to catch people’s eyes before they have to go through something like this to get their attention:
When I saw a naturopath locally, she recommended cutting table sugar for sure and reducing sweeteners as much as possible, but also nixing not only refined grains, but all flours for a while. In other words, I could have oatmeal or brown rice, but not something made of brown rice flour or whole wheat bread. She didn’t think omitting fruit was all that important, so I didn’t worry about it.
This step was the lowest priority, for whatever reason, for me. That doesn’t mean it should be that way for others, or even that I made the best choice.
Step Two: Kill Shots
Along with keeping the yeast organisms in a hungry, weakened state, you need to throw some grenades and gunfire at them as well, in the form of anti-fungals. I had been treating the nastiness on the back of my neck for some weeks with lavender and tea tree essential oils in a base of coconut oil , and I was disappointed that it wasn’t seeming to work.
Dr. Kathryn explained one of the more fascinating facts I learned that day (my paraphrase, since I lost all my notes somehow, arg):
The candida is always changing as it reproduces, and it quite quickly becomes resistant to whatever you’re using to kill it. So if you already eat a lot of garlic, garlic might not be an effective defense for you. After 7-10 days of using a certain essential oil, you need to switch to another one or some herbal remedy in order to keep one step ahead of the candida yeast.
To get the upper hand in this battle, I used the following externally to fight candida on the skin:
- lavender and tea tree essential oils
- coconut oil
- fresh garlic in EVOO
- oil of oregano (oregano essential oil, in case that’s confusing to you like it was to me) in a carrier oil – it would really burn without that!
- propolis, undiluted
Do you know how to properly dilute essential oils?
Katie here, popping in to tell you how important it is to be sure you’re diluting those essential oils properly.
Sure, you know not to use EOs straight (neat). But do you know the 1-2-3 math so it’s not too strong or weak?
Print this chart to keep with your oils so you never have to do math in the middle of the night when your LO is congested:
And the following internally:
- plenty of garlic, raw whenever possible (I’d serve soup over a crushed clove of garlic in my own bowl)
- olive leaf extract capsules
- Pau d’Arco capsules
- Pau d’Arco tea with green stevia powder
- propolis – about 7-8 drops at a time
A bonus of a naturopathic appointment? I could get everything I needed to take care of my problem either in her shop or in my own kitchen. No extra trip to the pharmacy and back to pick up a prescription. Cool.
Last But Not Least: Rebuild and Repopulate the Soldiers
Probiotics – “good bacteria” – are your body’s defense against both bad bacteria and yeast colonies. You need to give your system a chance to not only have enough soldiers to “win the war” while you’re fighting off candida, but also replenish the stores after the “kill shots” are finished to make sure you’re not leaving space open for more “bad guys” to take up residence.
Fermented foods are a great way to achieve this, as are probiotic supplements. Dr. Kathryn and I had a great talk about probiotic supplements and the soil-based organisms we were taking at the time, which resulted in this popular post: Are Your Supplements Turning into Deadly Pathogens in the Gut? and this follow-up on antibiotics: What’s the Antidote After Swallowing a Hand Grenade?
For this war on candida, I nourished my “soldiers” with the following external applications:
And made sure I was getting probiotics internally as well:
- fermented foods: water kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, homemade kimchi
- probiotics capsules
- and then later, when I finally kicked it, stronger probiotics in liquid or powder form – totally whole foods, and still what our whole family takes today
Some Quality Probiotics
Some of these I’ve used, some I’m planning to use, and some have been recommended by friends and professionals alike. It’s good to remember a few things about probiotics: 1. People should get different colonies of probiotics, so switching brands/strains every so often (6 weeks?) is good practice. 2. What works great for one person’s needs doesn’t always work for another. These can be very different! A one-day trial to Probiotic Advisor might help you get up on current research quickly if you’re really digging in; otherwise, here are some to narrow down the thousands of brands out there.
I’ve personally tried:
- Just Thrive Probiotics – this one can be taken during antibiotics and not be rendered ineffective, which almost all other probiotics are! It’s the top recommended probiotic overall by Paleo Mom Sarah Ballantyne. 😮
- RightBioticsRX – the top recommended probiotic of all soil-based options by an expert I’ve been working with. Read more here. Use Subscribe and Save to save more!
- Note: If you’re struggling with digestion, especially constipation, or you feel like you really need to populate your gut with healthy probiotics, I would recommend Saccharomyces Boulardii in addition to any other you choose (except the 2 above which include this strain). Saccharomyces Boulardii is research-proven to get through the digestive tract without being killed, which is rare.
- Seed Daily Synbiotic – the new player in the field but recommended by superstars like Chris Kresser for its unique probiotic/prebiotic synergy. Here’s my full review including a number of surprises for my thinking and a 15% off code!
- Balance One probiotics with a unique time-release formula (use the code KITCHENS15 at either Balance One’s site or even Amazon to save 15% either place! Wow! Use the code at checkout on Amazon btw.)
For Little Ones (we use all of these):
- Mary Ruth’s liquid probiotic is a soil-based, liquid probiotic that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and tastes like…nothing! It’s my new favorite for administering to kids!
- WellBelly by WellFuture (9 strains of probiotics in apple and banana carrier – it’s a powder)
- Buddies in my Belly probiotic powder (2 strains of probiotics + potato starch carrier and prebiotics) or chewable tablets
Recommended by experts I trust:
- Biokult – highly recommended by many, including the GAPS diet
- Klaire Labs Pro-biotic complex V-caps or Ther-Biotic Complete (25 billion CFU)
- Probiophage DF (7 dairy-free strains)
- Transformation Enzymes (5 billion CFUs that may get through digestive tract…)
- Primal Blueprint (6 strains, 10 billion CFUs)
- Pharmax high potency (4 strains + FOS) or long-term HLC maintenance (2 strains)
- Pro-Bio from Enzymedica (8 strains)
- Syntol from Arthur Andrew Medical (13.6 billion CFUs with prebiotic, spore germinating blend, yeast cleanse)
- Dr. Mercola’s probiotics
I used to think that if your probiotic was not refrigerated it was no good. This isn’t true!! Read more in question 5 of this interview. Consider switching up the active cultures (not just the brand, since many can use the same handful of live bacteria) from time to time just as you switch up the “killing” mechanisms, although not quite as often.
Note on Killing and Building
Unlike the octogenarians you might know who take all their pills before breakfast with their handy dandy weekday pill containers to keep them organized, you don’t want to take probiotics at the same time as the anti-fungals (or any anti-bacterial or anti-viral treatments you might be taking to kill an infection naturally).
They could honestly simply do battle against each other and cancel one another out before they help you any, so I always took care to have at least a meal or 2 hours in between the killers and the builders, both for internal and external applications. Yes, it was a lot of work!
Other Skin Maintenance
Since I had such a severe rash, I also took some steps to quite simply ease the itch and fix my skin, by detoxing, being gentle to the skin itself, and attempting to reset the pH of the skin.
Bentonite Clay for Detox, etc.
A few time, I applied hydrated Redmond Clay like a facial mask but all over the rash, allowed it to dry about 30 minutes, then washed off. Holy COW did that itch!!!
The naturopath explained a little about the healing process and the role of histamines, so I knew itching was actually a positive sign (and tried not to scratch):
Pain and inflammation are part of the healing process just as much as if you had cut your finger. White blood cells, T-cells, antibodies, etc. are actively working. Histamine is produced by certain white blood cells to help remove the pathogen using physiological responses such as sneezing, watering of the eyes, scratching, coughing,etc.
So the clay increased the histamine response, which in turn would stimulate my own immune system response even more (hopefully speeding up the healing). Bentonite clay also helps to detox and decrease redness, so it was a triple threat helper for my situation.
Modern medicine, by the way, treats an itch with anti-histamines and/or anti-inflammatories, which help the person feel more comfortable, but ultimately cripple one’s own immune system and probably slows down healing in some cases. Embrace the itch! (But don’t scratch; broken skin could cause a secondary infection.)
Apple Cider Vinegar Bath
After I visited the naturopath, the rash kept spreading, down my chest and arms. Gah. I won’t say I didn’t freak out just a little, but I remained determined to avoid steroid creams.
The recommendation was to take a lukewarm bath, every couple days or daily if possible (that wasn’t) with 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar in it, then apply a thin layer of water-thinned-yogurt or kefir over my entire body, like a body armor, to protect against external invaders, just as the internal probiotic was protecting against internal bad guys.
Sometimes I would also include a palmful of the Redmond Clay for detoxing while in the bath, although instructions for that include very hot water. Eh. It was also relaxing to sit in the tub with a magazine – honestly, when’s the last time you had time for something like that if you have young children? The fact that it was “doctor’s orders” didn’t hurt my feelings in the least, and reducing my stress was another weapon against the yeast overgrowth.
Gentle Treatment of Skin
I didn’t use soap on my face or the rash area and did my best to let my skin breathe and get a dose of sunlight whenever I could. I really didn’t wear turtlenecks often at all but just subscribed to the “grin and bear it” philosophy – literally. Any moisturizing was done strictly with coconut oil. The advice from the naturopath was (with my comment in italics):
If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth… don’t put it on your skin. Excessively dry skin can have coconut or olive oil. Irritated areas should only receive the probiotic wash (the yogurt, kefir, or sauerkraut juice – and yes, my husband thought I was nuts with all this food on my skin!). Keep it dry and expose it to the sun for short periods of time.
As I watched the rash continue to spread, I was disheartened at first with the natural treatments. We’re programmed in our culture to expect immediate and logical results, as in: Take medicine, get better, symptoms go away.
In the world of natural health, it’s true there are a good many counter-intuitive events, like “die-off” that makes you feel sicker but means you’re getting better. In response to my concern, I received this from Dr. Kathryn:
The extent of internal pathogens is greater than we thought. Be encouraged that your body is taking action to destroy these pathogens. Eat as light and healthy as possible, rest when possible, drink plenty of fluids and let your body work.
And this later:
If the rash is moving and changing in severity then the body is actively working on it. The detox smell is a good sign that the body is eliminating waste material from the blood and lymph.
I had noticed that my armpits had a distinct “detox smell” which I recognized from a test I did with a detox deodorant. If you’re wondering what that smells like, it’s just really bad B.O. that you’ll recognize as different than your “average” sweat stench after working out, for example. That’s another counter-intuitive “good sign.” (More on detoxing via the armpits.)
Self-healing was a very difficult task for me, frustrating at times, feeling hopeless on one turn and empowered with the next, but although I hated it, I persevered. I changed up the battle plans and tools from time to time, continued to eat well and try not to freak out, and eventually, the rash started receding, in reverse order from the way it spread. It left my belly first, then my arms, then my chest and neck. The last holdout was the back of my neck, which thankfully was easier to cover up.
It was still evident in some form back there throughout the summer, and eventually I stopped fighting it hard. I just continued taking capsules of olive leaf and Pau d’Arco when I remembered and kept up faithfully with a probiotic every day.
The Final Kill Shot
It wasn’t until the fall that I truly felt like I had won the war (or at least been completely victorious in a battle).
You all know by now that I learn a lot more in the comments section of some posts than I teach in the body of the article. When I was questioning publicly about probiotics last summer, Lacey of KV Organics, a longtime reader, chimed in with her experience of overcoming a recurring yeast infection with a certain brand of probiotics. We chatted via email and then eventually by phone, and she shared her journey to natural health with me. She even let me listen in on a call in August with the man who formulated the probiotics, and I was amazed at how much I learned.
At Lacey’s recommendation, I finally tried Miessence probiotics, and it didn’t take long for the rash to disappear completely, even better than it had been in two full years.
I didn’t make any other dietary changes that I can think of, although the weather did of course change from summer to winter (I believe it was October when we got the new probiotics).
I had decided to finally take the plunge (they’re expensive) because my husband’s Crohn’s Disease seemed to be flaring up again with diarrhea. We were skeptical but impressed when within 2-3 days, his symptoms also disappeared.
Learning to Take a Powder Probiotic
The Miessence basic probiotic is called InLiven, and it’s a green powder because it’s made of food. You take about a teaspoon a day, and there was a definite learning curve, since it’s not exactly tasteless.
I started by trying it in yogurt:
The powder does hide great in smoothies, but we don’t make one every day, and it was harder to regulate how much each member of the family was getting.
Eventually, I learned that for me, the most palatable way to take it is to mix it thoroughly with a glass of iced water kefir, preferably lemon flavored, but cherry or pomegranate is okay too. Here’s more on how to take (hide) a powdered probiotic.
Miessence sells a gluten-free version of the same probiotic which is a liquid, and on our second round, we ordered a bottle of that – it’s much quicker to take, since I don’t have to mix it with anything, and my kids actually like it (they think it tastes like pop!).
No fairy tale ending here, sorry about that.
A few years ago, when I was getting a bit stressed out working on releasing Better Than a Box (and we had just come through the ill-fated “holiday season” full of treats and temptations), I started to notice a little bit of itching on the back of my neck. It was an ominous feeling.
I was just glad Lent was coming, and I knew I would be cutting some exacerbating foods at that time. During Lent I did see a little histamine response (meaning it’s getting itchier), but no spreading (phew!). I’m hoped it was a sign of a healing response and not a problem…
I did try a parasite cleanse, sort of, and I posed some questions about whether parasites are related to candida or not and wondered about whether everyone has parasites or if that idea is overblown.
An Anti-Candida Diet
I have no trouble going grain-free completely, now that our family has worked through that challenge a number of times, although, as with any elimination diet, it wasn’t easy at first. (Don’t let anyone tell you it will be.)
What is interesting to me is that on the candida diet, I could actually have grains, as long as they’re whole grains. It’s the fruit, dried fruit, and cheese that I’d miss. And honestly, the fact that the anti-candida diet says not to have any leftovers older than 3 days and only 6 eggs a week means that I’d have to change my meal planning significantly, and it would be one more hurdle.
It’s not that I couldn’t do it…it’s just that the rest of my family’s needs have been surpassing mine most of the time.
So I guess we’re still technically in the middle of the story. Here’s part 3.
Also, the rash did not come back (phew!). Every so often – and I haven’t written things down, but I do think it’s more likely after a compromise weekend or party – the back of my neck starts to feel ominous. It’s like my litmus test or signal that I’ve cheated too much. But thankfully, it’s never gotten worse than that. I have continued to take Miessence probiotics regularly and share them with friends who run into digestive issues, too.
I’m still not positive how I feel about the naturopathic doctor thing, and I haven’t had any reason to go back, so I haven’t. I do get frustrated any time I talk to a medical doctor (hello visits and well checkups since this posting), and I’m considering trying an holistic chiropractor sometime soon.
I just found my long-lost notes from the experience (in a folder marked “to do” that I forgot I created in one of my organizing blasts, sigh). My husband’s assessment of the naturopath was, “I was hoping she would be a little more mainstream/normal, but still in this realm of holistic health. Not reading your fortune in your palm!” He wasn’t indignant, just in simple disbelief.
“She didn’t read my palm; she read my fingernails,” I shot back with a grin and a cackle that didn’t help one bit. 😉
My own honest reaction, at least while I was sitting in the office, neck burning, tingling, begging me to scratch it vehemently while we talked about histamine responses, was: “This is exactly where I need to be.” And that’s really all anyone can ask.
Some Purchasing Resources
- Coconut oil from Tropical Traditions
- Lavender essential oil from Plant Therapy
- Oregano essential oil from Planty Therapy
- Tea tree oil from Plant Therapy
- Redmond’s Bentonite clay from Amazon
- Water kefir grains at Wise Choice Market from Amazon
Other resources I bookmarked:
Lots of Ideas and Advice from readers on Facebook:
- Morinda Supreme internally and super strength oregano oil
- Try calendula salve for topical symptoms
- Gentian violet Update: reader in the comments mentions this is made from petroleum, not so natural…
- Bee’s anti candida diet
- Oil of Oregano, Olive Leaf Oil, and Coconut Oil are excellent anti-fungals and will help eliminate candida
- Yeast thrives on sugar and carbs and those should be eliminated until you have it under control. ThreeLac is a very good natural product to eliminate it also. I bought mine off of Michael Winicki’s website and he has the best info regarding candida on the web.
- Grapefruit seed extract (taken internally)
- Drop sugar and simple grains from your diet
- Probiotics! Especially after a round of antibiotics, but all the time is good too
- Nystatin powder is helpful (topically and internally) and safe, with less side effects than Diflucan
- Coconut oil is great, both topically and internally. It works slower than the Rx meds, but that helps prevent the die-off reaction (makes you feel like you have the flu – no fun!)
- Myrrh oil
- Diflucan (this is a prescription, but at least it’s safe for nursing moms)
- Did you try lavender oil? Sources: 1 and 2
- “The Body Ecology Diet” book that diet helps get rid of Candida
- All the information about candida is on this site: www.healingnaturallybybee.com
- I’ve heard that H2o2 therapy works wonders for this!!!!