Candida - Causes & Food Therapy in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Chinese Medicine & the Immune System

Chinese medicine's view of the immune system is based on Qi. In Chinese medicine there are many types of Qi, and the body is protected by a specific type of Qi, called Wei Qi or protective Qi. This Qi circulates on the exterior of the body, protecting it from external pathogens - one of the causes of disease. When Wei Qi is strong, viruses and climatic factors like cold and wind attempting to enter the body and fought off easily. If our Wei Qi is weakened, then we will be susceptible to colds, flus and respiratory infections which are considered exterior diseases. If Wei Qi is very deficient, then the disease will penetrate into the interior levels of the body, where it is able to affect the internal organs, and is more serious. In the last 50 years, allergies, degenerative diseases and other signs of poor immunity have reached epidemic proportions. On the list of illnesses that are caused by a taxed immune system are candida infections. Wei Qi & the immune system Candidiasis is the overgrowth of a yeast like fungi in the body and illustrates the concept of dampness in Chinese medicine. Symptoms of dampness are heaviness, sluggishness, mental dullness and edema. Excess candida often exists in high levels in people with a weakened immune systems. Everyone has candida in their bodies, it only becomes pathological when it is present in excess. Candida exists in the digestive system where its function is to help create balance in the gut, but when out of balance it inhibits proper assimilation of nutrients and essential amino acids. A healthy body also has plenty of lactobacillus acidophilus - a healthy bacteria which is important in digestion, and has the opposite effect of candida in the digestive system. When candida is in excess it weakens the immune system and consequently, the entire body.

Although candida exists in the digestive tract of healthy individuals, it can get into other parts of the body where if untreated, it can cause systemic candida infections. Candida slips through weakened areas of the gut lining, or can be spread from the anus to the sexual organs - especially in women causing yeast infections. A systemic candidiasis infection can be life threatening if left untreated, and some believe is the precursor to many major diseases. An extremely weakened immune system makes the body more susceptible to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus. Candida in excess levels also produces deadly toxins in the body which cause allergic reactions from everything from food allergies to environmental factors. If the infection progresses, systemic poisoning will result and the person will experience allergic reactions to almost everything. symptoms of candida in Chinese medicine   Below are some common symptoms that you may have excess candida in your system.

Candida Symptoms

  • Chronic Tiredness
  • Mental Sluggishness
  • Difficulty Organizing / Cleaning
  • Digestive Problems
  • Mucous in the Stools
  • Catching Frequent Colds
  • Cravings for Sweets, Breads, Chocolate
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Itchy Anus
  • Chronic Yeast Infections
  • Recurring Fungal Infections - athlete's foot, aginal yeast infections, fungal toenails, ringworm, jock itch, tinea
  • Itchy Eyelids
  • Bad Breath

Those suffering from a systemic candidiasis infection may suffer from the above symptoms accompanied by symptoms like a scattered and unfocussed mind, depression, memory loss and and in severe cases delusions.

Candida in Chinese medicine

Candida Causes

One of the biggest contributors to candida infections is repeated use of broad spectrum antibiotics. Antibiotics kill both the good and bad bacteria in our bodies, destroying the balance, making us more susceptible to overgrowth of candida. It is always a good idea if you have to take antibiotics, to supplement with acidophilus afterwards to boost the good bacteria in your digestive system and avoid overgrowth of candida. It is also important to consider that if you are eating a diet that consists of commercial meat, dairy, poultry and eggs that you are ingesting antibiotics that these animals are receiving daily in their feed. There are foods which also contribute to an overgrowth of candida, and in Chinese medicine they are foods that cause dampness. These include foods that are cold in temperature, those that produce mucus and foods that have gone stale or become rancid. Many raw foods as well contribute as they are considered very cold and it takes the digestion a lot of extra energy to break them down - accompanying symptoms of diarrhea with watery stools are a clue that too many cold foods may be hampering your digestion. Other foods that produce yeast are alcohol, many fermented foods, yeasty breads and most intoxicants, especially alcohol. Eating complicated meals with too many ingredients can promote pathogenic fermentation in the gut, and yeasts thrive in this environment so simple food combining will help support your digestion if you are having problems with excess yeast.

Candida and the Diet

Carbohydrates should be used in moderation as they can be both acid and mucus forming, conditions ripe for yeast overgrowth. If you must eat carbohydrates, then whole grains and other unrefined complex carbohydrates that are chewed very thoroughly become more alkaline and produce less mucus. Aduki and mung beans are particularly beneficial for yeast conditions, even more so if sprouted first as it makes them easier to digest. Soy bean sprouts are also recommended and are some of the best foods for limiting candida growth. To establish the beneficial acidophilus culture in our digestive systems, cabbage, garlic, green plants, kelp and other seaweeds and raw sauerkraut should be aded to the diet. Garlic has the added medicinal properties of being anti-viral, anti-fungal and does not damage the beneficial bacteria in our digestive systems. Garlic can also be used to treat vaginal yeast infections. A clove of garlic can be threaded through with a cotton pull string and inserted vaginally for a few nights a week for a month. If there is a burning sensation and the garlic feels too hot, leave on a few layers of the garlic's outer peel for extra insulation. Douching with garlic teas during the day are also helpful. Candida infections are extremely common and often don't get treated right away because many people find them difficult to talk about and don't get treatment when they first notice symptoms. The good news is, that there are many simple things you can do like removing some foods from your diet and including others that can help restore the balance of candida in the body. With our busy lifestyles, balance is what we want, but often is not so easy to achieve. The key is to listen to your body and help it to rebalance before the imbalance becomes severe. Letting our bodies know we are listening and doing things to support them go a long way in keeping us happy and healthy. Candida in Chinese medicine