Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yeast Infections, Antibiotics and Chinese Medicine

By Eric Aufdencamp, D.O.M., L.Ac.

Chinese medicine is very successful at treating yeast infections. The most effective way to treat yeast infections is to create an environment in which the yeast cannot reproduce. An overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus, called candida albicans, can result in conditions such as vaginal yeast infections, fatigue and digestive disorders.

Candida are naturally occurring cells found on the skin and on the mucous membranes. They only cause infections when they multiply due to the absence of beneficial bacteria. When found in the mouth, usually in infants, it is called thrush. It can occur on the skin in infants as "diaper rash" or in the vagina as vaginal yeast infections.

A primary cause is the use of antibiotics, which are used to kill harmful bacteria, but also end up eradicating beneficial bacteria. Other medications that contribute to yeast overgrowth include: hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives, chemotherapy, and cortico-steroids.

Anti-fungal medication is usually prescribed, and the use of antibiotics, as well as any medications that contribute to this condition, are discontinued during this time, if at all possible. Often, once anti-fungals are discontinued, the symptoms will recur. This illustrates the necessity to approach not just the symptom of the yeast, but also the underlying cause.

Chinese medicine always aims at treating the source of disease. Any overgrowth of heavy, thick fluids is "phlegm" or "dampness." When it combines with "heat," it is called "damp-heat" or "phlegm-heat." Dampness or phlegm is always considered a symptom, and the root cause of the dampness needs to be addressed for effective treatment.

In Chinese medicine, the Spleen transforms and transports the foods and fluids we eat. When it is weak, the normal fluids of the body become pathological, creating dampness or phlegm. If the discharge is thick and white, with little smell, then it has not yet combined with heat. If it is strong-smelling, yellowish and burning, then it has become "hot."

Acupuncture, herbs and dietary therapy all work toward strengthening the body so that heat is cleared, dampness is eliminated, and the food and fluids are transformed.

Dietary Therapy

Foods that contribute to dampness include:
alcohol, greasy and fried foods, sugar, juices, fruits (especially tropical), peanuts, dairy products, fermented foods, and wheat-based products such as pasta and breads.

Foods that help eliminate dampness include: vegetables, especially dark, leafy greens; beans like mung beans, adzuki, and lentils; grains, including millet, basmati or jasmine rice, and barley.

Herbal Therapy

Once a diagnosis is made, a formula can be prescribed to address the specific cause of your condition. Additionally, a vaginal herbal douche can be made and applied at home for more immediate relief. Yin Care wash, a pre-made herbal solution, can also be used as a vaginal douche at home.

Stress, whether chronic or acute, weakens the immune system, disrupting the natural balance of the body. This may be a contributing factor for recurrent yeast infections. Relaxation techniques and slowing down are important for strengthening the immune system.

Acupuncture, herbal medicine and dietary therapy are all important components for effectively treating and preventing yeast infections.