A few days ago I posted the intimate details of my digestive journey thus far (there probably should have been a TMI alert or two in there somewhere. Oh well). If you recall, I mentioned that my naturopath was sending me for candida and parasite screening.
Well, the scan has been completed and my report card has been written.
Last week, I headed into the referred clinic to complete an Electrodermal Screening. Basically, this is a non-invasive screening done through stimulating an acupuncture point on the skin using pressure and medal rods. It’s a little difficult to explain if you’ve never experienced it, and it might sound kind of hocus pocus, but I have to say—I’m a believer. There are many people (even those in my own life) who choose skepticism when it comes to this kind of testing. And that’s fine too. But when you experience chronic digestive problems, I think you eventually arrive at a place where you’re ready to explore any plausible explanation—particularly when the dots begin to connect. The testing device used is licensed by Health Canada which I feel, in and of itself, offers a certain level of credibility. That being said, if you are unsure of this testing method, a blood test is always the way to go. So I recommend that route if you want a second opinion on your scan results, or if you know you will never truly be able to trust in the screening process. While searching up various reviews on the web, I came across a quote offered by a medical practitioner in reference to electrodermal screening. She said, "If you look online for references to electrodermal screening you'll find all kinds of naysayers, good and bad. But I think the utility of any test, the reliability of it, depends on how it's used and how the results are interpreted.” Touché, doc. So with that, pick your side, and let’s move on.
The doctor completing my screen was a 65-year-old Australian man named William. Let’s call him Dr. Will, because I think that’s classier. This guy really took his job seriously. Throughout the entire process, I felt that he was deeply invested in understanding my gut health, which I appreciated. His clinic itself left a little to be desired. He was in desperate need of an office manager, as there were piles of folders and paper in every corner. He also seemed to have an odd obsession with cat figurines. I could tell he wasn’t interested in putting on a show for anyone. Dr. Will was all about the results. I actually had to hold back fits of laughter on several occasions throughout the appointment. Not because he was funny in a “ha ha” kind of way, but because the excitement he exuded for his practice came through at every point during my screening. I found it comical that my digestive problems could elicit so much enthusiasm from a complete stranger. More on Dr. Will later.
Before I get to the results, I should outline why I was here in the first place: the candida screen was due to a round of aggressive antibiotics I took in 2013, and the parasite screen was in response to a stomach virus I contracted on a trip to Mexico around the same time.
I would now like to reference a direct quote from my original post (yes, I’m quoting myself): “Keeping my fingers crossed that I dodge the candida bullet,” …
Well, it might be karma, but you will probably not be surprised to hear that I did not dodge the candida bullet. In fact, when my numbers came through, I turned to Dr. Will and said, “Ya, but that’s not too bad, right? Like, it could be a lot higher?” His response was, “No. That is in the high range, I’m afraid.” Sure enough, he even proved it to me with a very legit chart. It was laminated and everything. It’s difficult to dispute laminated literature, in my opinion.
Ok, fine. Candida. I can deal with that. I am a firm believer that knowledge is power. But before we get into treatment options, maybe I should explain what candida is to those not currently in the know.
It isn’t really accurate to say, “I have candida,” because, actually, everyone does. Candida is yeast that lives in the gut. We have a certain amount of good bacteria, bad bacteria, and candida. The problems arise when your gut creates an environment that candida can thrive in. At that point, you develop too much yeast (that’s what’s going on over on my end). So, how does this yeast overgrowth take place? Well, there are a number of factors that can influence it. Generally speaking, too much candida is a result of an imbalance in your gut flora. When this imbalance takes place, the colonies of candida expand. Antibiotics, in some cases (including my own), kill bad bacteria but also kill off the good bacteria in the gut. This creates a breeding ground for yeast. In fact, a quick look at thecandidadiet.com suggests that antibiotic use is the most common cause of candida overgrowth. It’s as though the candida feels like its annoying roommates have finally moved out and starts to take over the joint. However, this isn’t the only way to develop a candida problem. Yeast feeds on sugar, so those who eat a diet high in sugar are at risk of developing a candida overgrowth. Stress can also cause yeast to spread (which could explain why many of my digestive issues are worse during the work week).
Now, I would just like to point out that my particular scan tested for 35 different strands of candida (the other 34 that I passed are mostly related to skin health). So I’m taking that as a win. Just sayin’.
Here’s the good news: candida can absolutely be controlled. Identifying it as the problem is the first step to success. Number one on the treatment plan will always be to adopt a low-sugar diet. This is sad, I know, but does make sense. Take away an organism’s food source and it cannot survive in its environment. Now, this doesn’t just mean cut out the candy and chocolate bars—things that aren’t in my diet on the regular. This also includes most grains, dairy, fruits, starches, and even a handful of vegetables. However, once the yeast is under control, you can loosen the reigns a bit on those restrictions. Many doctors will also prescribe a probiotic, as well as an anti-fungal supplement (my screening was able to detect which of these supplements my body would respond best to. Very cool).
Ok, the second screening: parasites. There is good news and bad news. The good news? I am parasite free! The bad news? I have three different kinds of angry Mexican bacteria living in my gut. However, these results mean that there are no worms living inside of me (the definition of a parasite), so I think we’ve found the silver lining here.
Dr. Will confirmed the presence of three bacteria strands that should not, by any means, be taking up residence in my gut. I’m about to hit you with some scientific names to keep things fancy: campylobacter jejuni (a.k.a. animal feces. No, for real—animal poop. Super), dientamoeba, and dentamoeba fragilia. Now, when I Googled those last two (because you know that’s the first thing I did when I got home), the definition that turned up did refer to them as parasites. But Dr. Will assured me that they are microscopic bacteria. So let’s go with that.
As disgusting as these sound, again, they are very treatable. When I return to my naturopath this week, she will designate my treatment plan to get these bad boys under control. It’s all about identifying the source of the problem so that it can be treated accordingly. With something as complex as digestive health, it’s difficult to treat something that you do not know is present. Unfortunately, screening also confidently confirmed my gluten intolerance, so I will continue to snack on rice cakes until further notice.
One final story to leave you with. Being the inquisitive (nosey) person that I am, I asked Dr. Will many questions about the electrodermal technology. I also inquired about his past experiences and history of the practice. He told me a story about a family friend. This friend is a holistic doctor. The doctor’s wife had been experiencing severe digestive problems for 16 years. He had tried everything he knew possible, but her illness persisted. Eventually, knowing about electrodermal screening and the services Dr. Will provided, he sent his wife to the clinic. Dr. Will tested for every bacteria strand and parasite available through his technology, which included many not found in North America. Finally, with a touch of the rod to her hand, the bar on the computer screen shot sky-high into the red zone, indicating the presence of foreign bacteria. Recognizing the name and origin of said bacteria, Dr. Will proceeded to ask the woman when she had last travelled to Egypt. She turned to look at her husband, whose jaw dropped. Her response was, “On our honeymoon, 16 years ago.” Eleven months later, after adopting a fairly simple treatment plan specifically designed to combat the bacteria specified, the patient’s chronic digestive issues were non-existent.
My point is this: there is a time and place for medical and natural intervention. I truly believe it’s important to incorporate both into your personal healthcare plan so that you can benefit from the various lines of practice. Don’t limit yourself to one treatment plan and be open to new wellness experiences. There are too many talented and knowledgeable professionals in the world of health to pick just one.