A species of yeast known as candida albican is responsible for an infective condition called Candidiasis. Candida albican is actually a natural inhabitant of the large intestine but is safely limited by the other flora in the intestines. However, sometimes, this balance can be disrupted and an overgrowth of yeast can develop that indirectly or directly results in the development of a number of symptoms.
Candida overgrowth can lead to an itchy anus, flatulence, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. This overgrowth can also damage the linings of the intestines causing the toxins to seep into the bloodstream. This is a problem known as “leaky gut syndrome” and leads to symptoms such as depression, migraines, foggy brain and food allergies. Candidiasis can also wreak havoc on the endocrine system causing problems such as chronic tiredness, fatigue, muscle spasms, hay fever, asthma, joint pain, menstrual irregularities, PMS, and weight loss or weight gain. Candida can reside in the mucous membranes of any part of the body especially the sinuses, lungs, and the vagina once it travels to the rest of the body.
Vaginal candidiasis sufferers can manifest symptoms such as a discharge that looks like cottage cheese that has a bread like or sweet smell and extreme itching in the vagina. Discomfort, swelling and redness can manifest in the vagina and vulva and this makes sexual intercourse quite painful for the woman. Symptoms of oral candidiasis include whitish spots that appear in the oral cavity like the inside of the palate or cheeks or on the tongue. People with a dysfunctional immune system such as HIV infection, people taking immunosupressive medicines to protect transplanted organs and people with cancer being “treated” with chemotherapy are at high risk to acquire this condition. Patients with deficiency of the white blood cells (granulocytopenia) and those fitted with catheters, nasogastric tubes, or people with burns or had stomach surgery are quite susceptible to deep organ candidiasis.
Based on traditional Chinese medicine theory, candida albicans can be considered as a species of chong (parasite). This parasite thrives in damp heat environment just like a typical fungus. Candida albicans is basically due to damage to the abdomen or spleen. When the change of Qi related with the spleen is weakened by fatigue, overwork, stress or poor diet, it is unable to properly segregate turbid Qi from clear Qi. This causes dampness to accumulate in the body. Due to its heavy attribute, dampness tends to go down to the lower body. Moreover, emotional stress burdens the liver, causing blood stasis and Qi stagnation in the organ system. This can lead to more serious problems like cancer, endometriosis, fibroids, or arthritis. Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture combined with a proper diet help positively modify the internal body helping bring back homeostasis to the entire body. Treatment is focused on the decrease of the overgrowth of yeast by the utilization of herbs to remove damp heat, regulate the flow of Qi and tonify the spleen.
A correct diet is the primary line of defense in combating candida. What needs to be removed from your diet should be vinegar, honey, cakes, cookies, sugar, alcohol, all kinds of cheeses, dairy products, rye breads and wheat. Raw and cold foods produce internal dampness and should be avoided. Instead of refrigerating lefotvers, freeze them instead since molds can develop overnight.
Dr. Jack Handlin is an experienced acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist and oriental reproductive medicine specialist at Tree of Life Acupuncture & Chinese Herbal Medicine in Bellevue, WA.