I Quit Sugar And It Changed My Life
How A Candida Detox Helped Me Become Happier and Healthier
In May 2016, I was fed up.
Life wasn’t awful, but it could have been a whole lot better. I’d had chronic allergic rhinitis for years and no sense of smell. My hormones were also a nightmare.
I also didn’t know I was depressed. But the fact I spent 3 weeks of every month having mood swings and feeling low should’ve been a clue.
Not having a sense of smell in itself me miserable. It affected my taste and made life feel 2D. Aside from allergies, there was no apparent reason for my anosmia.
On my last trip to the doctors, I’d received the all-clear on an MRI head scan. As I explained how I was struggling, he suggested anti-depressants. It was the first time I’d been offered them.
But the stubborn part of me said no. I thought there must be something else I could try. I’d seen a Nutritionalist a few months before and had a follow-up a few weeks later.
So I left without a prescription.
I’d been to see a Nutritionalist following the encouragement of a friend.
At my first appointment, I brought my food diary and explained my symptoms. We talked through my medical history and I brought up my teenage problem of thrush.
She scribbled down Candida.
I was definitely no stranger to Candida. I’d suffered with thrush so badly in my teens, growing resistant over time to all the prescriptions. In the end my Mum had taken me to see a kinesiologist.
At the time I was 14 and was advised to cut down sugar. But whilst I don’t particularly recall changing my diet, over the following years it had mostly receded.
Whilst the Nutritionalist didn’t dwell too much on on Candida, my food diary — she noted — was seriously lacking in green veg and I was eating a fair amount of processed food.
She suggested I incorporate more plants into my diet, recommended supplements for my hormones, and that was that.
She’d see me again in 6 months.
The Nutritionalist follow up appointment drew near.
Whilst I’d made little effort on upgrading my diet, I was looking forward to at least getting her opinion on my mental health.
The conversation with the doctor was playing on my mind — was I really so bad I needed anti-depressants?
I was at work when I got an email cancelling my follow-up appointment with the Nutritionalist.
This had been my last shred of hope, and now it was gone.
But as I mentioned, I’m stubborn. And I’m also great at giving myself a talking to when needed. It occurred to me.
Here I was expecting strangers to take responsibility for fixing me, when perhaps I should be tackling the problems myself?
I’d been so half hearted with the diet. I was sceptical that food could influence mood and my senses.
Perhaps this was an opportunity to get my own shit together.
I spent the weekend googling Candida, and was shocked by what I read.
Candida Overgrowth was a thing and whilst not medically recognised, I had many of the symptoms it listed.
The solution was also simple. It wouldn't require any prescriptions — all I had to do was cut sugar and yeast from my diet for several weeks. This would kill off the fungus.
I decided to begin the detox on Monday.
I always thought I ate a fairly healthy diet.
It wasn’t until I started analysing everything that was to pass between my lips, however, that I realised my mistake.
As a busy working woman, I’d often opt for a shove-in-the-oven after a long day. I chose Tesco Finest ready meals and Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference, assuming these ‘top of the range’ ready-meals were healthy.
But it wasn’t until I started looking at labels that I realised I was wrong. Processed food — and most surprisingly, savoury food — had added sugar. And often a lot.
On top of the weekly Haribo and Galaxy family bags, when I added up my previous ‘healthy’ diet, I saw I was eating far more sugar than I anticipated. Glasses of orange juice, fruit, baguettes from Pret A Manger — sugar was everywhere.
I was easily racking up 18+ teaspoons a day when the recommended amount — published by the World Health Organisation — was 6.
The detox was horrific.
My new diet consisted of steamed chicken and green vegetables, everyday for a month. To avoid added sugar, I discovered I had to cook everything from scratch. Alcohol was also banned.
As I did more reading, I slowly educated myself on the different types of sugar — discovering that even dried fruit should be avoided in quantity. It was a minefield.
I couldn’t believe that as a relatively well-educated woman, here I was discovering just how prevalent sugar had become in the typical diet. And I was shocked as I discovered the health implications weren’t just limited to Candida.
Whilst it was obvious that over-consumption of sugar could lead to diabetes, obesity and tooth decay, I was surprised to learn it was linked to cancer, heart disease, depression, ageing and acne.
The more I read, the more I got angry.
The first week of the detox nearly killed me.
I’d read about Candida die-off when I’d done my research, but wasn’t prepared for how awful it would be.
As the fungi are starved of nutrients (i.e. sugar and yeast) they release toxins as they perish. Initially all your symptoms flare up and appear to get worse.
One particular night during that first week, I actually thought I was going to die.
I lay awake all night. I could hear blood rushing round my body and every cell inside me hurt. My nose streamed a clear fluid constantly and I felt like I was burning from the inside out.
When the sun came up in the morning, I wanted to physically hurt myself. I cried hysterically, wanting to smash my nose into my face.
It was the lowest moment.
That day I managed to limp through work. I kept my head down and wondered what the hell I was doing and why I was attempting this on my own.
A few weeks in, my cold-turkey-like state started to pass.
Every night I slept a little better and I knew there was finally a glimmer of light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
So I carried on.
I remember the three-week mark.
I had been sugar, yeast and alcohol free for 21 days. It was Saturday morning and I woke-up early to find myself feeling utterly different.
It was like waking up from years of hibernation or emerging from a chrysalis.
I looked in the mirror and knew that instant life was going to be different. Better. I had goosebumps.
I felt motivated, fresh, unstoppable.
I also looked a hell of a lot better.
In three short weeks I’d lost weight and my skin was the clearest I’d ever seen it. I knew I was onto something.
And by the end of the first month, I felt like I’d discovered the elixir of life.
By now, my productivity and focus at work was off the chart. When I’d read about Candida before the detox, one symptom — brain fog — came up. Whilst I’d heard of it, I had no idea that I was suffering.
But now I realised that I had been completely fogged. Whereas previously I needed 10 cups of tea and plenty of procrastination before I completed a task, I now found I sat and focussed immediately.
Presentations that used to take me a day, I could now complete in hours.
I had more energy than I knew what to do with.
I channeled this into raising awareness about the effects of sugar and set about on a mobile app to change the world.
As the months progressed, I noticed myself changing even further.
I actively sought out healthy food. I had seemingly rewired my taste buds. No longer was I craving sweets like I used to — instead I found myself fantasising about avocados.
I was still cooking everything from scratch, I’d developed a whole new range of low-sugar meals, I was mostly off the booze and threw myself into my app project.
The more I read about sugar, the more infuriated I became about processed food. Whilst many consumers were chasing low-fat, manufacturers were adding sugar to keep food tasty.
I was alarmed to read that sugar was proven to be more addictive than cocaine. We were unknowingly becoming a nation of sugar addicts.
I was one of them.
3 months in and my hormones were unrecognisable.
I’d gone from extreme PMT to barely noticing mood swings. On top of this, as my diet became more naturally wholesome, I immediately recognised when certain foods or drinks aggravated me.
Over time, I learned I was sensitive to dairy and could only tolerate small amounts of animal protein.
But most incredibly, my sense of smell was back.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was there.
I’d wake up in the morning and be able to smell the world around me. I realised how much I’d been missing — food tasted like something else, the smell of flowers in bloom, the smell of aftershave on my partner.
The world was once again in 3D.
My allergies had pretty much disappeared. That following summer was the first year I didn’t take antihistamines for hay fever which had plagued me my whole life.
3 years on and it’s no surprise that I’m still living a low-sugar lifestyle.
What I learned about processed food and the effects of too much sugar taught me the importance of being conscious about everything that goes into my body.
I’m no way as strict as I was back in the beginning. I eat a bit of fruit, drink alcohol occasionally and have sweet treats on gym days.
But I know I need to watch what I eat and drink — it would be easy for Candida to go wild again if I went back to old ways.
But given the changes in my life, I’m just not interested in going back. I know that caring about what I put into my body makes all the difference to my health and wellbeing.
Of course, I still have the odd grey day — but nothing that a bit of exercise and a hug can’t cure.
I’m so relieved I never took up the doctors offer of anti-depressants.
It’s my opinion based on experience that healing the body can be possible through conscious eating.