Candida infection is understood differently in natural medicine and western medicine. Candida albicans is a yeast that normally lives in the digestive tract and vagina. It is when the yeast overgrows that a person experiences symptoms. Overgrowths of yeast can cause skin problems named after the area that is affected. Commonly infected areas include hair follicles (folliculitis), fingernails (paronychia), diaper rash in children and infections of genitals in both males and females (balanitis and perianal candidiasis). Candida can also affect the mucous membranes in the mouth (thrush) and vagina (vaginitis). Western medicine views systemic yeast overgrowth as a result of antibiotic use, prior hemodialysis, surgery or indwelling intravascular access where yeast is acquired from the places in the body that it naturally grows. Natural medicine views yeast overgrowth as caused by altered bowel flora, decreased stomach acid or digestive enzymes, antibiotic use, impaired immunity, impaired liver function, nutrient deficiency as well as underlying disease states.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of chronic candidiasis are quite extensive from the point of view of natural medicine. Diagnosis is made from a complete medical history, patient questionnaire along with some laboratory tests looking for yeast in stool cultures or yeast proteins or antibodies in the blood. Typical symptoms include chronic fatigue, abdominal bloating, gas, cramps, rectal itching, vaginal yeast infection, frequent bladder infections, menstrual complaints, depression, irritability, inability to concentrate, allergies, chemical sensitivities and cravings for foods rich in carbohydrates.
Using skin scrapings, biopsy of usually sterile organs, makes western medicine diagnosis of yeast overgrowth. Candida overgrowth on the skin usually presents as a red, very itchy rash. Sometimes a thick white discharge will be seen.
Treatments for Candida
For people with signs and symptoms of chronic candidiasis, natural medicine adapts a comprehensive approach to finding the cause of yeast overgrowth rather than simply trying to kill the yeast with antifungal agents. The basic approach is to modify the diet, increase stomach acid (if deficient), increase digestive enzymes, enhance the immune system and detoxify the body. The basic dietary approach is described in prevention and self-care. Stomach acid is important for killing yeast eaten with foods and decreasing the chance of yeast overgrowth in the stomach. Digestive enzymes provide proteases, which keep the small intestine, clear of parasites including yeast. Some causes of a depressed immune system include chronic or frequent antibiotic use, birth control pills and other immune suppressive therapies or diseases. Ensuring adequate nutrients such as carotenes, vitamin C, Vitamin E, zinc and selenium supports the immune system.
Liver support is helpful for detoxification. Using probiotics such as Lactovacillus acidophilus and Bactobacillus bifidum helps to promote a healthy intestinal environment. Some natural compounds used to eliminate yeast from the body include Caprylic acid, Berberine-containing plants, garlic and enteric-coated volatile oil preparations.
Prevention and Self-care
Looking at and changing one’s diet is one of the best ways to prevent and treat candidiasis. The overgrowth of yeast is promoted by high intake of sugar, milk or dairy products, foods with a high content of yeast or mold and individual food allergens. The chief nutrient for yeast is sugar. The restriction of refined sugar and large amounts of honey, maple syrup and fruit juice is absolutely necessary while treating candidiasis. Milk and diary products are avoided because lactose is a simple sugar, dairy is a common food allergen and diary often contains trace amounts of antibiotics, which contribute to, altered intestinal flora. Eating a diet high in nutrients with an emphasis on vegetables is recommended for people struggling with yeast overgrowth.
Consulting a healthcare professional who is knowledgeable about yeast related illnesses is the best method for diagnosing chronic candidiasis. A physician will use a clinical evaluation based on medical history and a patient questionnaire as well as lab tests to confirm the diagnosis and prescribe an individualized treatment plan.
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