March 16, 2009
[It was great to read so many positive messages from all you okra fans in response to my last post. Who knew there were so many okra supporters out there? Here’s to a new image for our pal okra! To the dawning of the age of okra–a new era is born, and it’s brimming with green pods and seeds! Okra is cool! Okra is au courant! Okra rules! O-Kra! O-Kra! O-Kra! Whoo!]
Now that I’ve completed my first week of strict adherence to the Anti-Candida Diet (ACD), I thought I’d put down some thoughts and reactions for those of you who are contemplating embarking on it, or for those who are simply curious. (If you’re here seeking a new recipe, please come back tomorrow–we’ll have cookies!)
First, I am thrilled to say I have not veered even one iota from the procrustean parameters of the diet. Having said that, I’m also amazed at how difficult I am finding it this time round.
Maybe I’d just forgotten how painful the process was last time, nine years ago, but I don’t recall struggling with it this much back then. Somehow, a decade made all the difference! True, I am also nine years older, and nine years closer to the dreaded “M” stage of life. ** Or maybe those little candida critters have been pumping iron in the interim and are now more resilient than ever.
[You are allowed burgers (sans bread)–but who would want one? Image courtesy of Beltway Confidential.]
As I mentioned in my previous post, this diet requires elimination of any food that could feed yeast or help yeast to grow (ie, allergens, toxins, etc.), leaving precious little to eat. For omnivores, the bulk of the diet would become meat, chicken, fish, eggs. But if you don’t eat those foods, not much else remains once you cut out all grains and fruits, plus some veggies (okay, not all grains; I’m allowed 1/4 cup of one gluten-free grain per day)–not to mention sauces, condiments, alcohol, fermented foods, and so on.
Here’s what you should know if you’re curious about trying the ACD.
Because I’d done this before, I was already aware of a few of these challenges, which made it a bit easier to follow the diet. Still, it can be very difficult to stick with it unless you’re prepared for some of the following.
- No Dessert for You. Since most people on this diet are addicted to sweets, cutting out the usual baked goods, puddings, candies, cakes, pies, etc. is really tough. Initially, my body went carb-crazy and I had to eat something every two hours or so to keep my blood sugar levels steady. This passed by day three (thankfully–it can really mess up your schedule!). I’ve also managed to create a few ACD-friendly “desserts”–which I’ll post anon.
[Here’s your dessert on the ACD. Image courtesy of Innocent Creativity blog.]
- Precious Few Grains. The first phase of the diet eliminates most carbs, and allows very few of the “acceptable” ones. To my mind, it seems very similar to a low-carb or low-GI diet. Which would make sense, I suppose, since its purpose is to starve off candida albicans–an organism that feeds on sugar (including blood sugar).
- Hunger. Perhaps I should more accurately designate the feeling as “unresolved cravings.” I mean, I can count on one hand the times I’ve experienced true hunger. On this topic, I think Mark Bittman has something useful to say. A couple of weeks ago, I heard an interview with the man, discussing his newest tome, Food Matters. Among other things, Bittman mentioned how his “vegan until six” diet plan helped him lose 35 pounds and regain his health.
In the radio interview, he was asked how he managed to alter his diet so radically and still stick with the plan. His response was enlightening (and I paraphrase liberally here): “Well, consider the three major needs in our lives, for food, sleep, and sex. We all learn to control our sexual urges fairly early on; and certainly most of us in the working world regularly ignore our need for sleep. Yet we never, ever, in our society, are willing to allow ourselves to feel hungry. Like needs for sex and sleep, why can’t we just ignore it when we feel hungry sometimes?”
For me, Bittman’s comment was a little epiphany. Clearly, my appetite is telling me to eat when I don’t actually require more food; the ACD supplies all the nutritional requirements necessary. What I’m fighting is the desire for those last six Hershey kisses just because they’re left at the bottom of the bag (and really, why would you leave six little kisses sitting there?) or the mindless crunching on handfuls of Red Hot Blues because I just got home from work and dinner won’t be ready for a couple of hours and what else am I going to do while I peek intermittently at Oprah?–well, you get the idea. Remembering Bittman’s advice this past week allowed me to overcome those cravings, at least most of the time.
- Die-Off Reaction. As the yeasty beasties die off, they release toxins into the system that must then be filtered and cleared out by your own detoxification systems of liver and kidneys. This can be tough on your body. The second day of the diet, I was convinced I was coming down with a flu: my forehead pulsated, my muscles felt weak, all I wanted to do was sleep. By day three, it had disappeared. Even though you may feel worse initially, it’s important to push through.
It’s been a mere seven days, but already I can recognzie a few of the benefits of this cleanse:
- Symptoms abate. Almost immediately, I noticed that my chronically blocked sinuses began to clear. I had a strange sensation of, “hey! What’s all that air in my nose?” before I realized, “oh, THIS is what it feels like to breathe out of both nostrils.” Similarly, the muscle weakness disappeared, some tummy grumblings cleared significantly, eyes were less swollen in the AM, and so on.
- Clarity of Thought. One of the oft-mentioned symptoms of candida overload is fuzzy thinking or inability to concentrate. This will begin to clear once the yeast begin to die off, after about 3 days or so.
- Energy. Yeast and other toxins sap your energy. Once they begin to take a hike, your energy returns–and you’re suddenly intensely grateful for the extra hours you have during each day to blog, read, meditate, spend time with loved ones, or do anything else you please.
[I concur, Mum–it’s great to have boundless energy! You should try rolling on the grass some time!]
I won’t be chronicling the events of every week in this much detail, but will likely mention the more significant milestonres every now and again as I move through the process over the next five weeks. If anyone has any specific questions about the diet or the experience, please let me know and I’d be happy to address them in an upcoming post as well.
“Um, Mum, you know that no one could be more serious about food and eating than we are. . . but really, I think you need to take a chill pill on this one. Because this post is really a downer.”
I don’t mean this post as a downer. The ACD will tax your willpower and force you to confront your worst eating habits. . . but that can be a really good thing. For me, it’s a necessity. Well, every nine years or so, anyway.
** no, not “Marriage,” though that might throw me just as much. I meant “Menopause.”
© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs
March 8, 2009
As always, thanks for reading. I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!
“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]
These days, I try to be a little nutty every day.
Of course I don’t mean “nutty” as in “I missed my plane so I’m going to become a minor celebrity on YouTube” nutty. Or “I think I’ll switch careers at the pinnacle of my success and adopt the mien of a skid row bum from another planet” type of nutty. And certainly not “just drop me in the middle of the Sahara without any food, water or shelter, and see how I hold up for a week” sort of nutty. While it may be true I do, on occasion, exhibit behavior one might characterize as “nutty” (at least that’s what the HH keeps telling me), I was referring to the toothsome, bite-sized, healthy-fat-and-protein-rich kind of nutty. An “Uncle S.” kind of nutty.
You see, I’ve had a fairly rocky history with nuts–and I blame it all on my Uncle S.
One of my favorite relatives, Uncle S (along with Aunty M) lived upstairs in our family’s duplex during my childhood. We kids would scoot out the door, up the stairs and into their home without a thought or an invitation, assuming it was simply the top floor of our own place. Aunty M would greet us, hand over some homemade cookies, and then we’d go seek out our uncle.
I have to admit, I didn’t fully appreciate Uncle S’s unique charms until I was an adult. An unrivalled prankster, Uncle S was a puckish, Punk’d prototype whose myriad tricks were relentless. Case in point: every Sunday, our family would pile into Uncle S’s taxi (this was before my dad acquired a car) for an outing in the countryside. We’d drive for a while, after which, like clockwork, Uncle S would begin to hem and haw: “Gee, I don’t remember passing that tree over there. Maybe I took a wrong turn. You know, I’m not exactly sure where we are–maybe we’re lost. Ricki, which way should I go?” Given that I was only four or five at the time, I had no idea; but, also like clockwork, Uncle S’s musings sent me into paroxysms of anxiety, certain I’d be wandering forever in the woods, never to see my own home, bed or Barbie dolls again.
Once I grew older, I could appreciate Uncle S’s humor, his always jovial and somewhat michievious expression, reminiscent of the Pillsbury Dough Boy (although not in any way chubby). In fact, I’d say Uncle S resembled a cartoon character more than anything else: having lost his hair as a young man, his shiny dome was encircled with a fluffy white fringe that snaked round the back of his neck and behind his ears. His nose, slightly bulbous at the tip, was, like his cheeks, often flushed pink, and he wore a perpetual half-smile on his face.
Uncle S had a favorite expression, “No Fun!” which he used the way one would utter, “No Way!” or “You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me!”. The CFO and I found this endlessly amusing. To wit:
Ricki: Uncle S, my goldfish had babies and now we have four fishies.
Uncle S: No Fun!
[Ricki and The CFO erupt in peals of uncontrollable giggles, hands clamped over their mouths].
The summer my mother died, it seemed only Uncle S could lighten the moribund shroud of silence in the hospital waiting room where our family sat in stunned silence. Uncle S would ramble on, his words always infused with optimism and hope. One evening, as we all sat lost in resigned torpor, Uncle S was positioned across from me and the CFO, an absent, bemused expression on his face. The CFO leaned over to me and whispered, “Hey, doesn’t Uncle S sort of look like Bozo the Clown?” That smile! That fringe! That nose! Why yes, yes he did–and with that, Uncle S unwittingly bestowed on us a truly priceless gift: the only moment of unrestrained hilarity in an otherwise unbearable summer.
Ah, yes, you’re wondering about the nuts.
Uncle S loved to eat nuts. In particular, he was never without his glass jar of Planter’s Dry Roasted peanuts, which he carried with him wherever he went. Another open jar was stationed on a TV tray beside his armchair so he could munch as he enjoyed the Ed Sullivan Show. He’d pour a small mound into his open palm, then tip it into his mouth with a quick flick of the wrist as if tossing a ball for a prize at the midway. Then he’d plow ahead with whatever it was he’d been saying, mouth open and chewing, oblivious as the ground up bits of nut began to escape his mouth in little bursts of beige spray as he spoke. (In fact, those Planter’s nuts and an opened can of peas and carrots–spooned straight from the can, cold–are pretty much all I ever remember him eating).
For some inexplicable reason, I decided nuts were not my thing back then.
I’m happy to report that my nut aversion was finally overcome when I came across Elaine Gottschall’s Specific Carbohydrate Diet (geared toward people with Crohn’s, Colitis, or other bowel diseases) while studying nutrition. Her recipes employ nut flours (basically just ground nuts), and I began to experiment with them back then. Almonds tend to be the most versatile (and mildest in flavor), but almost any nut will do–pop it in a food processor and blend to a mealy consistency.
To some extent, I’m following the ACD for the next month or so to heal my gut and encourage a little digestive rejuvenation. This means eating less gluten, fewer grains, and more fruits, vegetables, and legumes. These pancakes were an auspicious first attempt.
Made mostly with almond meal and a smidge of chickpea (besan) flour, they nevertheless retain a light, airy texture and a refreshing lemon tang. Neither the almond nor the chickpea asserts itself too prominently, so the flavor remains mild. I served these last week (before eschewing all sweeteners) with a splash of organic maple syrup from Coombs Family Farms that I received as sample (more on that in an upcoming post) and they were, quite simply, delicious.
I may not be nutty enough to consume a jar of Planter’s peanuts just yet. Still, these little treats are a healthy step in the right direction.
Grain-Free Lemony Almond Pancakes (and ACD variation)
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Last Year at this Time: Week at Warp Speed and Easy Dinner
© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs