Candidiasis, Candidly Speaking

It is commonly thought among holistic healthcare professions that Candida yeast infections can cause, or can contribute to, all digestives symptoms and can induce a plethora of other unwanted symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, joint and muscle aches and some menstrual irregularities.  This idea is not held by many Western doctors who often have the opinion that candidiasis is only a problem with vaginal yeast infection, thrush and Candida esophagitis.

Candida is a resident member of our intestinal tract, which is normally kept from getting out of control by healthy intestinal bacteria, the right acid/alkaline balance and a properly working immune system.  Immune suppressive drugs such as antibiotics, hormones (including birth control pills), steroids, and chemotherapy can result in yeast overgrowth.

I have found through my own experience that dietary supplements, herbs and an anti-yeast diet can go a long way in treating digestive disorders.  This holds particularly true among patients who have a past history of using the drugs mentioned above–especially antibiotics–and if there are accompanying signs such as a history of vaginal yeast infections, athlete’s foot, jock itch, or fungal infections of the nails or skin.  Symptoms that worsen in damp weather or in moldy buildings, and cravings for sweets and yeast-containing foods (beer, wine, bread and cheese, for example) are among other indicative symptoms.  Physicians can administer tests that can detect excess levels of Candida, but they are expensive.  It’s also important to consider that a patient can have a sensitivity to normal levels of yeast.

Self Help

  • Pau D’arco tea (6 cups daily) has anti-Candida properties and is an excellent beverage for those undergoing anti-Candida therapy
  • Garlic has antifungal properties, but should not be used by persons with hot constitutions or with a sensitivity to garlic (dosage is 1 or 2 cloves a day)
  • Yeast Guard is a homeopathic suppository that can be used
  • Citrus seed extract (use as directed) can be considered

Western Treatment

Western medicine commonly treats Candidiasis with antifungal medications also known as antimycotics.  Some of the most common are found below:

  • Nystatin is an antifungal medication with over forty years on the market.  It comes in cream, ointment, suppository, tablet, and powder forms.  The powder has several advantages as it can be used in a gargle, douche or enema for rapid effect.  Nystatin is safe for long-term usage, but physician’s dosage recommendations should be followed closely.  When starting antifungal medication, symptoms may worsen, this is known as a die-off reaction.  Rebound reactions, in which the yeast infection recurs with severe intensity when a drug is discontinued also occur.
  • Nizoral (ketoconazole) is a broad-spectrum antifungal drug.  Some patients tolerate Nizoral better than Nystatin, however, a small percentage experience liver problems from the use of this drug.  Any patient with a history of liver issues or who intends on taking the drug for more than three months should have their liver function monitored.
  • Diflucan (fluconazole) is more effective than NIzoral at combating yeast infections.  It works faster and is not harmful to the liver.  However, it can cost 5 to 10 times more than Nizoral.
  • Sporanox (itraconazole) appears to be more effective than Nizoral.  Some patients may be intolerant of Diflucan, but better able to tolerate Sporanox and vice versa.

A Case Study in TCM Treatment

A 45-year-old man, a cook by profession, presented with numerous health complaints including sinusitis, frequent ear infections, chronic sore throat, frequent and burning urination, fatigue, low back pain, poor sleep, joint pain, tinnitus, hypertension, poor digestion, constipation and chronic cold hands and feet.  After being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome by a medical doctor, he was placed on antifungal drugs including Nystatin and Diflucan.  He was also prescribed acupuncture, vitamins and homeopathics.  These remedies helped, but the patient reported being so tired, he could “barely make it through the day.”  Despite some improvements, he still had many of the same complaints.

Traditional Chinese diagnosis found his pulse to be racing and his tongue purplish with a thick coating on the sides.  He had heat signs in the Upper Burner and kidney yang deficiency.  The treatment principle was to tonify the yang and remove pathogenic heat and dampness.   He was recommended that he abstain from alcohol, reduce his intake of sugar (including fruit sugar) and increase his protein intake.  As the patient was ejaculating several times a day, he was urged to limit this since ejaculation is said to deplete the kidney Essence, causing fatigue, low back pain, weakness and frequent urination.

He was prescribed two herbal formulas.   The first contained coptis rhizome, lophatherum herb, bupleurum root, raw rehmannia root, tang kuei root, White Peony root, and several other complementary herbs.  The second contained isatis leaf extract leaf and root, astragalus root, bupleurum root, laminaria leaf, codonopsis root and more.  Two weeks later, he reported slightly more energy and less burning with urination.  His pulse was not as excessive and his face less red.  His daily dose of the first formula was reduced by one third daily and a third mixture containing ginseng root, poria sclerotium, White Atractylodes rhizome, zizyphus seed, salvia root, and amber resin among others was added.

After one month on the second protocol, the patient reported more energy, and no longer had burning with his urination.  His pulse was hollow and slightly irregular, but his tongue was normal.  At this point, the first mixture was discontinued but because his fatigue was still a problem, he was recommended another mixture containing  Red Ganoderma fruiting body, tremella fruiting body, poria sclerotium and polyporus sclerotium, which caused some digestive discomfort.  Despite this, because he indicated he experienced an increase in energy, he opted to remain on the original dosage rather than lower it, or stop it completely.  Although his treatment protocol varied over the next nine months, most of the patient’s symptoms disappeared completely through herbal therapy.

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