I always thought I was in excellent health.
I am not overweight. My cholesterol numbers make doctors weep with joy.
I made it through a year of student teaching without taking a sick day, and everyone knows schools are dens of supergerms.
I had three healthy, fairly easy pregnancies with quick weight loss and recovery afterward.
My genes are strong as all get out, as evidenced by an aunt who downhill skis in her 70s, another (older) aunt who is on her feet all day in retail, and the fact that the only regular prescription my dad had by the time he turned 70 was for reading glasses.
And I certainly didn’t have any food sensitivities or weak stomach issues.
I got a little big-headed about it, I imagine, thinking I was akin to Superwoman in the physical health category.
I suffered with a bit of the “I’m invincible” fallacy that adolescents often struggle with when they get their driver’s licenses.
Until I got into all this natural health stuff, I didn’t realize that the fact that I usually evacuated my bowels once a day meant that I was constipated my whole life.
Stinky feet? Just wore shoes that didn’t breathe.
A bit addicted to sweets, especially chocolate? Not a problem – isn’t everyone?
I never would have read anything about candida from the first person perspective, wondering if I had it.
Until this happened:
What started two years prior as an annoying itchy spot at the base of my hairline on the back of my neck, correlating roughly to when I started using the “no shampoo” method of washing my hair, suddenly started to get more intense, more itchy, more scaly, and much, much bigger last spring:
I don’t have a photo of it when it was small, the way it probably was for two years. I never saw it. I never had anyone take a look at it to see if it looked odd. I just tolerated it and didn’t take the time to consider it.
When I could feel it being scaly however, I started asking people: “What does this look like to you?”
Most of them were pretty frightened.
When I realized one day that it had traveled around the sides of my neck, and even to the front, following the path of the chain on my necklace that I wore constantly, I started to get a little freaked out.
I was a nursing mom; I couldn’t have some contagious fungus or other sort of unknown evil rash that I could pass to my baby!
At some point I called to make an appointment with a dermatologist I had seen before, when I didn’t yet know how to cure warts naturally, and they could fit me in in a few short months.
Apparently there are plenty of people with skin issues.
Unfortunately for me, the fact that the rash had now covered my neck and upper chest (top photo) and was going down my arms made me think I didn’t really have two months to sit around and wonder, “What the heck IS this?”
I had to find someone who would see me immediately, and since I hadn’t found a new doctor when we moved a few months earlier, it was the perfect time.
I had recently written a post on how to find a naturally minded doctor, so I had some phone numbers at my disposal. The naturopath I chose to call, Dr. Kathryn Doran-Fisher at Elder & Sage, was available for an appointment that very day, and I was off to the races.
I also made an appointment with a regular MD locally, just to have something to compare to. Both docs had something to say about my rash within seconds of meeting me, but their thoughts on it couldn’t have been more different.
My First Naturopath Appointment
It was one of the most fascinating experiences of my life.
I came home and hugged my husband, looked deep into his blue eyes as he looked questioningly back into my hazel ones, and I announced: “Honey, you married a blue-eyed girl!”
His reaction, also within seconds, was:
“She’s a quack!”
He’s really a very kind and gentle person, but he doesn’t put a lot of stock into natural health stuff until he sees the proof in the pudding.
I held off on calling the Secretary of State to change my driver’s license. 😉
At the appointment, after I learned that I am, in fact, NOT the only person in the family with brown eyes, I sat there listening with what had to have been the goofiest look on my face – a mixture of fascination and trepidation, tinged with joy. And bewilderment.
I even apologized at one point for the wide eyes and creeping grin, saying, “I’m sorry, I’m just so fascinated, but I wish we were talking about someone else!”
Here are some things that are different about a naturopathic appointment vs. a doctor’s appointment:
- I’m a client, not a patient.
- I get a suggestion and advice, not a diagnosis and prescription.
- Dr. Kathryn looked at the striations on my eyes to learn about my health, which is when she told me that genetically, I have blue eyes. The rim around my iris is most certainly navy blue, surprise, surprise! The “hazel” is just other variations covering the blue. That means we have 100% chance of having a blue-eyed child if God has a fourth in mind for us!
- She looked at my fingernails. Bet no one other than your beautician has done that before! My pointer finger has always had some sort of curve to it, which seemed significant to her.
- Somehow she determined that I didn’t have enough hydrochloric acid. I can’t remember how, but I wrote it down…that may have something to do with the fact that beets turn my urine pink (did you know that’s not normal?) and impacts digestion.
- There was no blood pressure taking or weighing, but there was a kind of spooky “compass electron” machine (or something like that) that read…something in my body…honestly, my notes on paper have been lost, my notes in the computer are missing, and most of the photos I took of the rash as it changed are also AWOL, so the details will be a little sketchier than I’d planned. Still trying to figure out God’s plan for all those misplaced resources…
- Dr. Kathryn DID look into my mouth, but she wasn’t looking at my tonsils or my throat – she wanted to see my tongue. She saw some streaks, maybe (my memory is being challenged tonight) and said that they were a sign that the same thing was present all down my esophagus and through the digestive system, demonstrating a candida overgrowth (& that my digestive system was damaged because of it) —
Which is what she said practically before even bothering to take a look at the rash when I first sat down and explained it to her.
Sound like voodoo? It felt like it, just a little. But no more than a blood test seems ethereal and unknown to someone who is not trained in medicine.
Why wouldn’t the body, made by an omniscient, omnipotent God, have ways of telling us what’s wrong with it? I liken this experience to how Natural Family Planning helps me to read my own fertility – it’s our bodies’ clues to what’s going on inside.
And my body’s verdict? Blue eyes, candida.
What the M.D. Said
Oh yeah, my face broke out, too. Super fun.
The MD, an elderly gentleman who looked about ready to retire (and did within months, I understand), whizzed in, listened half-heartedly for a minute while I explained things, made some disturbing “wow” and “erm” sort of noises as he looked at it, asked in a shocked tone, “Does that hurt?” and quickly began writing a prescription for a steroid cream.
Y’all saw that coming, right?
He did ask all sorts of questions about whether I had tried a new laundry detergent or come into contact with any chemicals lately (again, tried to explain our chemical-free household, don’t think he quite got the gist). He told me I had a probable allergy to something and that the scaly area on the back of my neck looked like psoriasis.
He recommended that I see a dermatologist and said that when I did, they’d start with a steroid cream, so I could tell them that I had already tried that. (Is there an element of defeatism there, as if he thought what he was giving me wouldn’t work anyway?) I tried to explain that I probably wouldn’t fill the prescription, but we really weren’t communicating all that well, and I left wondering why I had bothered going in in the first place.
Diagnosis? Probable allergy to unknown substance, psoriasis.
How the two things could possibly be unrelated, I’ll never know. In my mind, one clearly stemmed from the other. I felt much more at peace with the naturopath’s explanation, and the fact that she had many ideas about how to tackle the problem, rather than one catch-all that would have been prescribed for any skin issue.
What is Candida Anyway? What are the Symptoms?
Candida is a yeast that is part of our natural flora, which means it’s present in our bodies naturally. In this case, both externally and internally.
The problem that is happening when people say, “I have candida,” is really an overgrowth of yeast, which causes an imbalance and begins a domino effect of other problems. It’s called “candidiasis” or a candida yeast infection.
Symptoms of candida include:
- brain fog
- athlete’s foot
- cradle cap
- diaper rash
- fungal nail infections
- joint pain
- respiratory problems
- sinus congestion
- and more… source and here
Some say candida overgrowth and especially all these symptoms are literally a hoax, a relationship that doesn’t even exist that natural health practitioners use to describe any skin ailment whatsoever. There is little clinical evidence that an anti-candida diet, for example, does any good with a candida yeast infection, or that these infections can cause symptoms beyond the visible, physical symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection or thrush in the mouth.
However – perhaps that’s because there is little funding for clinical trials that don’t involve buying a product or pharmaceutical to cure a disease.
I know or have heard of too many people who have mitigated or cured their candida symptoms with an anti-candida diet to believe that it’s a non-existent problem.
Candida yeast feeds on sugar, which is a primary culprit as far as causes of overgrowth, along with antibiotics, birth control, steroids, and pregnancy.
And that brings me back to the title of the post – I am getting a sneaking suspicion that our general gut balance as a nation is probably declining as the generations pass and our diets get worse.
It is likely that if I have a yeast imbalance of some sort, that I passed that on to my children, even though we are all now eating fairly well. Since I never fully addressed/eradicated my candida overgrowth, I have children with eczema, cradle cap, etc.
I was formula-fed (mom tried, but it wasn’t meant to be, and that’s okay) and ate white sugar all my life, and if my kids, who were fully breastfed and ate very little white sugar (if any, depending on the kid) before their first birthday, have issues with gut imbalance, what of the children of my generation who are sucking down sugary drinks and white flour munchies all day long from toddlerdom on? Then they’ll pass their messed-up flora on to their own kids, who will feed that yeast overgrowth with more sugar, and won’t it just keep getting worse? (Pregnancy can be one of the causal factors of candida, too, by the way.)
I’m hoping to break the cycle in my own family, but not everyone has the knowledge or dedication to do so. (I’m still not quite sure if I do, as a matter of fact…)
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I Don’t Want to Heal Myself!
…because natural health can be tricky.
When I was working on fighting my candida (don’t worry, I will tell you how I did it eventually. I don’t look like a shiny red alligator anymore.), I felt a little “in over my head” and emailed Dr. Kathryn with some questions. She was very kind and thorough, and at the end of her email, she wrote: “I hope that I can continue to help you navigate how best to heal yourself.”
It just about put me over the edge.
I know she meant it as a nice gesture, but at that point, I was so overwhelmed by the simple fact that when treating yourself, you have to figure out what’s working, what isn’t, what do try next…keeping my brain so engaged was exhausting! I get it – why people just want a prescription and rules to follow from their docs. The responsibility of home doctoring is heavy on my shoulders and taxing on my brain.
My reaction to the email (in my head) was, “I don’t want to figure out how to heal myself! I just want to get better!”
Now that I’m on the other end, I’m glad I did it, but I still didn’t like it. In case that makes anyone out there feel better about their natural health attitude.
‘Cause mine stinks.
Like my feet used to.
Natural Remedies to Fight a Candida Rash
Remember that my awful rash was simply one sign that I was fighting candida internally, so just treating the rash would have been masking the symptom, but not addressing the root. Ironically, a naturopath would be similar to an MD in that they do look at most skin problems as a “one size fits all” issue – “the skin is trying to eliminate something from inside the body. What it is trying to eliminate and how it eliminates it are what determine how the skin appears.”
I asked Dr. Kathryn via email about her thoughts on psoriasis, because I was surprised to hear that diagnosis from the MD. She replied with the above quote plus:
In Psoriasis, the toxins in the bloodstream attach to cell receptor sites making the cells appear foreign to the immune system so it targets them for destruction at the same time triggering other hormones to increase skin cell growth. Thus you get the scales along with the redness and inflammation. Eczema and other dermatitis issues are more of the direct attempt at removal of toxins and pathogens. So you can see that in natural health we are going to address the toxins, acids, and pathogens in the bloodstream to improve the health of the skin. So it doesn’t really matter what “name” it is given. The cause is still much the same.
Therefore, to fight the candida rash, we needed to address the internal issues. Anytime you want to kick candida out of one’s system, you need a three-pronged approach against those toxins and pathogens:
It’s a bit less war-like than it sounds, but almost as fun as “you sank my Battleship!”
HERE is the post on how I battled candida both internally and externally, plus reader recommendations and resources. It will answer all your questions…or at least the ones I experienced and have half a clue about! 😉
UPDATE: A few years later, the rash came back:
Here are some further tips to fight candida and yeast (an ongoing process for me right now).