January 22, 2015
(+++) BEATING THE LATEST FOOD WORRY
Living Candida-Free: 100 Recipes and a 3-Stage Program to Restore Your Health and Vitality—Conquer the Hidden Epidemic That’s Making You Sick. By Ricki Heller, PhD, RHN, with Andrea Nakayama, CNC, CNE. Da Capo. $18.99.
Nowadays diet is the source of all evil and, at the same time, the source of all that is good – provided you obey rules, restrictions and approaches set down by whatever dietary leader and set of instructions you choose to follow. The fact that this makes food consumption seem a lot like religion is no accident: in both fields, people with certain beliefs are convinced that they have the only correct solution to all the ills of humanity and that if only everyone would do what they do, everyone would be better for it.
Thankfully, dietary conflicts have not risen to the level of religious ones, but there is certainly plenty of angst and anger to be had in groups that include individuals who are omnivores, others who are vegans, others following the Mediterranean or paleo prescription, others eating gluten-free – you get the idea. In so fractured a field, it is no surprise that various people professing (or demonstrating) various degrees of expertise cannot wait to showcase their knowledge and recommendations to the like-minded – which does not mean that anyone who is not a member of that particular congregation will be converted by any of these all-knowing tomes.
And so we have Ricki Heller’s Living Candida-Free, which seeks to solve a problem that most people who chug along treating food as fuel probably never knew existed. This is the proliferation of candida yeast, a normal part of the digestive tract that can sometimes grow out of control and be responsible, Heller argues, for everything from digestive dysfunction to chronic fatigue. The science here is murky, to say the least, but people who have been told to watch out for candida, or those who have had candida infections (which are nothing to sneer at: candida is the world’s most-common cause of fungal infections), will surely want to give this book at least a once-over. Heller, an associate editor of Simply Gluten-Free magazine (assisted in this book by nutritionist Andrea Nakayama), follows a familiar dietary-advice arc: explain the problem (“Candida-Related Complex”); offer an upbeat solution to it (“Rebalancing Your Body Through Food and Lifestyle”); include easy-to-understand acronyms (“ACD” for “anti-candida diet”); show how to set up your food-preparation area to take advantage of the recommendations being presented (“Your ACD Pantry and Ingredient Substitutions”); and provide a variety of recipes that those committed to your particular dietary approach can follow.
Living Candida-Free does all of the above, and also offers 16 pages of color photos showing just how appetizing the foods in the book can be. This is a somewhat mixed blessing, though, since the “Perfect Golden Gravy” on one page looks much like plastic, while there is a strong appearance contrast between the “Mojito Smoothie” (looks good) and “Smooth Operator Smoothie” (unappealing) shown in the same photo. Still, Heller deserves credit for not only providing recipes but also showing readers how they ought to look when followed. Readers who find the entire color-photo section delicious-looking will actually be prime candidates for buying the book and following its instructions.
As for the recipes themselves, they range from the typical staples of non-traditional food preparation (“Basic Chia Pudding,” “Meaty Crumbles,” “Homemade Ketchup”) to soups, snacks, sides, sandwiches, spreads, salads, sweets, sauces and even some categories that do not begin with the letter “s,” such as breakfast foods and main courses. Heller does not pretend that switching to candida-suppressing food consumption is quick: the first of her three dietary stages lasts two to three months, and the third is targeted for one year and beyond – after which there is “long-term maintenance.” She also includes “foods you should really avoid for the rest of your life,” a list featuring the usual suspects: white sugar, cane sugar, anything made with refined flour, hydrogenated oils, and – perhaps a bit surprisingly – “mushrooms, except the occasional medicinal mushrooms (reishi, chaga, etc.).” Whether anyone actually needs to go on a lifetime anti-candida diet is another matter: the debunking of various dietary fads does not undermine the belief in them by people seeking their personal solutions to whatever problems they think particular foods or food groups can cause or solve. In this way as in others, dietary preferences take on some elements of religions: you believe what you believe, and no unbeliever (least of all one of a scientific or otherwise insufficiently faith-oriented bent) is going to convince you otherwise.
Surely there are some people for whom candida proliferation really is a significant health issue. Surely there are others whose symptoms approximate those that Heller here attributes to too much candida: the symptoms are common to many forms of bodily malaise. So some people looking for a non-medical answer to their physical condition will likely accept Heller’s assertions about candida and how to reduce it, and thus will find this an important book. And given the realities of the placebo effect (the condition of about 30% of people improves even when they are given nonfunctional treatments), it is certain that some people will benefit from Living Candida-Free. Whether many people should stay up at night worrying about ways in which their lives would be turned around if only their bodies contained less candida is another matter altogether – specifically, a matter of faith, or the lack thereof.