To Candida or not to Candida?
that is the question. Funny story (possibly a little bit judgy 🤫)...while on my Zoom Plum Village Buddhist retreat Welcoming Ceremony (more about that later), you would never believe the name of the lovely lady 'sitting' beside me...you guessed it Candida! Maybe it was lost in translation, not sure which country she hailed from, but I can't imagine what it would be like to be named after a yeast infection? In Buddhist theory, maybe she was named to increase her strength and resilience? You would need both of these strengths to hold such a handle, I would imagine!
So, it got me to thinking about Candida, as it would, what is it and what can we do to avoid it?
Candidiasis is a common 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, penis, intestines, and other organs. When they grow unchecked, they can cause a number of health problems, including digestive disorders, fatigue, and vaginal/penile yeast infections.
There are a number of medications that promote the overgrowth of yeast cells, either because they kill beneficial bacteria, or because they interfere with normal hormone functions. These medications include: 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 (dampness), and create the perfect environment for yeast overgrowth.
Those people with immune system or endocrine gland disorders are more prone to candidiasis, such as patients with PCOS, AIDs, cancer, or diabetes.
In Chinese medicine, balance is the most important concept in maintaining health. Yin and Yang, the eternal opposites of the universe, also form the basic substance of our bodies. They must be in balance for us to be in good health. It is the same for the yeast cells and bacteria in our bodies: too many yeast cells, and a condition of candiadiasis results; too many bacteria, and infection can be present; yet when there is balance, we are in good health.
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. "The constitutional energy is endangered when an internalised evil is there," says the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine.
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.
After the waste, toxins, and phlegm have been cleared out of our systems, we then have to tonify our bodies, repairing the damage and restoring the balance, or the pathological factor(s) will return. "If sufficient vital energy exists, a pathological factor cannot attack us" (Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine). This is also a very important step to prevent recurrence of yeast infections.
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 Qi 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.
Yeast-based medications such as penicillin, mycin, chloromycetin, and tetracyclines should be avoided, as well as yeast-based Vitamin B supplements.
For individualised treatment plans it is best to see your TCM practitioner and we can help you 'not to Candida'...see what I did there?? 😆