What is Candidiasis?
Candidiasis is a condition that results from the overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans. Candida cells are part of the normal flora of our bodies found in our mouth, vagina, intestines, and other organs. When they grow unchecked, they can cause a number of health problems, including digestive disorders, fatigue, thrush, and vaginal yeast infections.
What Causes Candidiasis?
Candida infections can occur when your immune system is weakened by diseases such as HIV/Aids, cancer, and diabetes mellitus; or medications such as antibiotics, chemotherapy, hormone replacement, corticosteroids, and oral contraceptives. Improper diet, such as over-consumption of yeast products, sugar, or alcohol, also can promote yeast growth. In traditional Chinese medicine, these foods disturb the balance of the Spleen, produce phlegm, and create the perfect environment for yeast overgrowth.
The Spleen in Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Spleen is responsible for taking the food and fluids that we ingest and processing them into the qi and blood that are the true "fuel" of our bodies. When the Spleen is functioning well, qi and blood are in balance, intestinal flora are in balance, there is no excess fluid or phlegm in our system, food is properly digested and distributed, and the immune system is being nourished by qi and blood. In most cases of candidiasis, the problem starts with a Spleen imbalance, which may then progress to digestive disorders, irregular bowel movements, diarrhea, constipation, and/or fatigue. In the absence of treatment, or with improper treatment, the disorder will then spread to other organ systems in the body. At this stage, the condition will be diagnosed as a systemic yeast infection.
Two-Step Treatment Plan with Chinese Medicine
Step 1: Cleansing
In Chinese medicine, a thorough cleansing is the first step in dealing with candidiasis. When our systems are full of the waste, phlegm and toxins which contribute to yeast overgrowth, clearing them out of the system is necessary. Many people try to clear out their yeast overgrowth with diet cleansing methods. For candidiasis, diet management alone is not strong enough to clear the system, or it can take a very long time.
Combining proper diet with Chinese herbs and acupuncture can achieve this goal much faster.
With herbal cleansing therapy, the goal is to clear the system of dampness, phlegm, and heat. These are seen as the causative factors of candidiasis. The herbs are not intended to mechanically clear out the large intestine; rather, they promote the clearing-out of the pathological factors of phlegm and heat toxins.
Some of the common formulas used in Chinese medicine are Long Dan Xie Gan Wan (Damp Heat Clearing Formula) and Huang Lian Shang Qing Wan (Coptis Formula). Formulas can vary from person to person depending on how the candidiasis manifests into the body.
Step 2: Tonifying
After the waste, toxins, and phlegm have been cleared out of our systems, we then have to tonify our bodies, repair the damage and restore the balance, or the pathological factor(s) will return. This is also a very important step to prevent recurrence of yeast infections.
A common formula used to tonify the qi and blood in the body is Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang (GI Strengthening Formula).
People who are familiar with a yeast-free diet stay away from bread, cheese, mushrooms, vinegar, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, black fungus, and white fungus. But there are other yeast-based foods such as crackers, pretzels, dry cereal, miso, tempeh, canned vegetables, pickled vegetables, beer, root beer and other fermented beverages which are often overlooked by those with yeast infections. Grains, noodles, non-yeast bread and white rice are recommended. They are easy to digest. Brown rice and wild rice have more nutrients than white rice, but they take more energy to digest, and it is better for Spleen Chi Deficient people not to eat them often. Certain vegetables are extremely therapeutic for those with yeast infections, such as Daikon radish, which can help cleanse your system and is known as a "phlegm cleanser".
The family of yellow-colored foods such as yam, winter squash, and pumpkins are strongly recommended from the viewpoint of traditional Chinese medicine, as they tonify and strengthen the Spleen and Spleen meridian.