Q: I was diagnosed as having intestinal Candida. I
have been suffering from allergies, specifically chest pain, shortness of
breath, tiredness, muscle aches to name but a few. Everything I've read
about Candida says it can't be cured without a strict sugar free diet and
anti fungal drugs. Can acupuncture help me?
Yup. In fact, what you've described is practically a textbook case.
Firstly, there's a problem with the diagnosis of Candida. This diagnosis
doesn't actually exist in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). What we
usually treat in the case of Candida infection is what we call "dampness".
All of the symptoms are the same, but we treat it as a problem that comes
from a deficiency of the digestive system.
In the same way that a car's engine spews out a bunch of
smoke when it is not tuned-up, the digestive system in our bodies produce a
pathological substance called "dampness" when it isn't working very
Dampness can be seen in many of the usual symptoms of what
many call "Candida." Candida is a popular diagnosis in the holistic health
community and that is kind of dangerous in my opinion. I've seen patients
who are taking all kinds of really intense herbs and/or therapies to treat
this problem, even though I see absolutely no evidence of it in either their
signs as interpreted by TCM or even their symptoms as reported by the
That aside, let's look at your symptoms, remember that in
Chinese medicine, we treat what we see, not the diagnosis that the patient
Chest pain, shortness of breath, tiredness and muscle
aches sound like a Qi deficiency of the Spleen and Lungs. The Spleen and
Lungs are the two organs that contribute the most to the amount of Qi or
energy in our bodies. What would likely be the first course of treatment in
your case would be to simply strengthen your Spleen (digestion) and Lungs to
increase your energy. Once that happens, the production of dampness in your
system will automatically dry up. I haven't heard any specific symptoms of
dampness in your brief list of symptoms, so for now, I'll assume that the
dampness isn't too prevalent in your system.
Symptoms of Spleen Qi deficiency include bloating, gas,
loose stools, fatigue, muscle aches. If this is giving rise to dampness in
your body, the list of symptoms rises dramatically. If the dampness
congeals, we might see clear liquids coming out of the body. This can be
anything from a chronic runny nose, to unusual amounts of vaginal discharge.
Other symptoms of dampness could be less visual, for instance, foggy
thinking, or the inability to concentrate, nausea, sores that weep (like
pimples, but not with pus inside, rather they'd just have some clear liquid
Symptoms of Lung Qi deficiency include the shortness of breath that you
mentioned, fatigue, possible chest pain (That's a bit of a wild card in your
case. That could be a few different things.), frequent colds and flues,
sweating for no reason, etc.
Treatment for you would be a rather simple point
prescription to strengthen the so-called "tai yin" channels in your body.
These two acupuncture meridians share a certain kind of energy that responds
well together. Spleen and Lung are kind of like brothers in the similarities
of the kind of Qi that flows through their meridians.
Herbal supplements would also be helpful, though I'd want
to know what else you're already taking. I don't like to add herbs to the
mix until you're focused on one direction for treatment. I don't like to get
in the way of other practitioners' dietary therapies, or visa-versa. If
perchance your other therapies seem consistent with my goals to strengthen
your Spleen and Lungs, then I'd jump in with the herbs to assist the
treatment of your other therapies.
When push comes to shove, we're really only concerned with
your response to the Candida, not its existence in your body. That may sound
kind of superficial, but its not. Consider how many people are walking
around with the Epstein-Barr virus in their blood streams, but with no
symptoms of chronic fatigue or mono or anything. We all have immune systems
that are designed to prevent any of these pathogens from becoming a health
issue. When we strengthen the digestion or whatever else may be weakened,
the body's natural defenses against these problems step up to the plate to
handle the issue and we can get on with our lives pain free.
Conventional wisdom does suggest all kinds of dietary
advice in regards to Candida. In the case of severe dampness in the body,
dietary therapy is definitely part of the big picture, but only in an effort
to allow the digestive system to get back on its feet so it can work to
begin to dry up that internal dampness.
If your acupuncturist is treating Candida as Candida
rather than "dampness" then he/she is straddling paradigms. Many of us do
this to make it easier for the patient to understand what we're doing.
Sometimes I don't call a problem such as yours "Candida", sometimes I do.
That doesn't change how I treat it as I mentioned prior in regards to
The other possibility is that your practitioner is
treating you with acupuncture from within a more Western paradigm attempting
to treat the Candida as an internal fungus. I don't do that, but the bottom
line is your response to your therapy. That's all that matters, really. It
doesn't matter what we call the problem, only that it goes away.
Just remember that if you live free of symptoms, but there
is always evidence of the Candida in your body, then who cares? It reminds
me of the HIV patients who show no symptoms of their viral infections. They
defy the odds, and yet they are HIV positive according to their blood tests.
Except for the obvious life-style precautions that they must make in regards
to their sexuality, there's nothing to worry but the constant nagging of our
society's fear of this virus.
We all have numerous pathogens floating around in our
bodies. Let's treat our bodies' ability to combat these issues and we're in
a much better position to enjoy our lives regardless of what blood tests
About our Doctors
This month's Ask the
Doctor question was answered by:
Beyond Well Being
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicines
Santa Monica, CA.