Candida overgrowth affects up to 90 percent of the population. It often occurs due to increased stress levels and/or a compromised immune system.
Candida is a type of fungus that naturally occurs on and in your body. In small amounts, it helps with digestion and nutrient absorption. However, a candida overgrowth can cause a wide range of symptoms.
Our guts contain a larger amount of candida. However, when an overgrowth of this yeast occurs, it's usually because the digestive system is imbalanced. The overgrowth also attacks the walls of the intestines, causing increased gut permeability or “leaky gut". This indigestion often triggers unnecessary immune responses. Eventually the yeast gets into the bloodstream, releasing toxic byproducts that contribute to negative symptomatology.
Your doctor may test your blood, urine, and stool samples to test for a candida overgrowth. However, these tests are often unreliable and show false negatives. In TCM, we look at the symptoms, as well as your overall sense of well-being, to diagnose a candida overgrowth.
Under ideal circumstances, the "good" bacteria in your gut keeps candida in check. However, numerous factors can contribute to an overgrowth:
- Delayed gut motility
- Depleted immune system
- Eating processed and/or packaged foods that are high in refined carbohydrates and sugars
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- High amounts of stress
- Underlying conditions that allow yeast to flourish, such as heavy metal toxicity, parasites, mold, or bacterial overgrowth
- Allergies or food intolerances/chemical sensitivities/low immune function
- Bladder infections
- Bloating/gas/intestinal cramping
- Decreased libido
- Diarrhea and/or constipation
- Difficulty concentrating; brain fog
- Menstrual irregularities
- Mood disorders: Depression, anxiety, panic attacks
- Rectal itching/altered bowel function
- Reoccurring yeast infections
- Strong cravings for sugar and carbohydrates
- Thrush; puffy or thick coating on tongue
- Unexplained fatigue and feelings of “heaviness”
While Western medicine typically uses antifungal medications such as Diflucan or Nystatin, these are only temporary fixes. In fact, these drugs may cause other side effects or help develop drug-resistant strains of yeast. Chinese herbs and acupuncture can effectively target candidiasis without the side effects associated with pharmaceutical drugs. Acupuncture enhances the immune system, which is a critical part of successfully targeting candida and helping prevent the recurrence of an overgrowth. In addition, acupuncture can enhance gut motility, which decreases the likelihood of food fermenting in the gut and feeding the yeast.
In conjunction with herbs and acupuncture, successfully lowering the candida load often requires a change in diet. Eliminating sugar and refined carbohydrates literally starves the yeast, allowing your body to restore balance. In addition, restoring healthy gut bacteria to keep the yeast in check and healing the gut lining to prevent the candida from traveling through the bloodstream helps the body to heal itself.
The combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutritional and probiotic supplements can help to successfully eradicate the candidiasis and alleviate your symptoms. Your treatment plan will be individualized to meet your needs and current lifestyle.