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Treatment of Candidiasis by TCM

By Xiaomei Cai

Candidiasis is an infection caused by a species of yeast, usually recognized as candida albican. Candida albican is a natural resident of the large intestine, held in check by the intestinal flora. However, the balance can be disturbed, leading to yeast overgrowth. This, in turn, can directly or indirectly cause the development of a variety of symptoms.

Symptoms of candida overgrowth in the intestine include diarrhea, constipation, bloating, flatulence, and itchy anus. Damage to the intestinal wall allow toxins to enter the bloodstream. This condition is called "leaky gut syndrome" and often leads to food allergies, foggy brain, migraines and depression. Candidiasis has the ability to disrupt the endocrine system causing symptoms such as weight gain or weight loss, PMS, menstrual irregularities, joint pain, asthma, hay fever, muscle spasms, fatigue, and chronic tiredness. Once it travels to the rest of the body, the candida can live in any of the mucous membranes, particularly the vagina, lungs, and the sinuses.

Most women with vaginal candidiasis experience symptoms such as severe vaginal itching and/or a cottage cheese like discharge which has a sweet or bread like odor. Redness, swelling and discomfort can appear in the vulva and vagina, making sexual intercourse extremely painful. Another form of candida is oral candidiasis. Oral candidiasis symptoms include whitish patches that appear in the oral cavity such as on the tongue, inside the cheeks or on the palate. It typically occurs in people with abnormal immune systems, such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, people taking immunosupressive drugs to protect transplanted organs, and people with HIV infection. People who have had stomach surgery, burns, nasogastric tubes and catheters, or patients with granulocytopenia (deficiency of the white blood cells) are particularly at risk for deep organ candidiasis.

According to TCM, candida albicans can be classified as a species of chong or parasite. As a fungal infection, it flourishes in a stagnant environment permeated by damp heat. This condition is primarily a result of damage to the spleen or stomach. When the Qi transformation associated with the spleen is weakened by poor diet, stress, or taxation fatigue, it can no longer correctly separate clear Qi from turbid Qi. This leads to an internal accumulation of dampness. This dampness, heavy in nature, sinks to the lower body. In addition, emotional stress overloads the liver, causing liver Qi stagnation and blood stasis. As a result, this can aggravate or contribute to arthritis, fibroids, endometriosis, or cancer. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, along with a proper diet, works systematically by modifying the internal environment and restoring homeostasis. Treatment is designed to reduce the yeast over growth by combining herbs to strengthen the spleen, regulate Qi flow, and eliminate damp heat.

The most important line of defense against candida is a proper diet. The diet should be low in carbohydrates and high in protein; all breads including wheat and rye breads, dairy products, cheeses of all kinds, cottage cheese, alcohol, sugar, cookies, cakes, honey, and vinegar should be eliminated. Cold and raw foods cause interior dampness and therefore should be avoided. Leftovers should be frozen, not refrigerated, since molds have a great opportunity to grow overnight. Foods should also be rotated considering the easiest way to acquire food allergies is by consuming the same foods repeatedly.

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