Successful treatment of candidiasis first requires the reduction of factors which predispose a patient to candida overgrowth. Secondly, the patient's immune function must be strengthened. Diet, nutritional supplements, herbal medicine, ayurvedic medicine and acupuncture are some of the choices alternative physicians use to accomplish these ends.
In order to overcome candidiasis, sugar must be avoided in all it's various forms. These include : sucrose, dextrose, fructose, fruit juices, honey, maple syrup, molasses, milk products (which contains lactose), most fruit (except berries), and potatoes (whose starch converts into sugar). Dr Black says, " In treating candida, my basic dietary taboos are sweets, alcohol, and refined carbo-hydrates." Many candidiasis sufferers also have allergies and sensitivity to various foods. Although candida albicans yeast is not synonymous to yeast in foods, such as bread, a cross-reaction between the food yeast and candida frequently occurs. As a result, foods containing or promoting yeast, such as baked goods, alcohol, and vinegar, should be avoided until possible sensivities are clearly diagnosed.
Dr Black states that some of her patients are very sensitive to yeast and do better staying away from yeast containing foods. To test for such sensitivity, she takes patients off all yeast containing foods for a week. Then she adds such foods back in the diet, one at a time. If the symptoms reappear, then clearly yeast containing foods should be avoided. Similarly, Dr Braly employs a rotation diet when he suspects food allergies. On this regiment, patients avoid certain suspected allergic foods and rotate non allergic food every four or more days. They are then later reintroduced to the suspected foods after three to six months to see if symptoms are provoked. Molds are another aspect of candida sensitivity. These include food molds found in cheeses, grapes, mushrooms, and fermented foods, and also environmental molds found in wet climates, in damp basements, in plants and outdoors. Molds and yeast can also exchange forms. Therefore, the ingestable molds of cheeses and fermented foods should be avoided. Avoiding food yeast and molds does not attack the candida yeast itself, but is an attempt to ease stress on the immune system caused by substances that can trigger allergies.
Dr Susser also advises patients to avoid yogurt because of it's high sugar content, despite it's high concentration of lacto-bacilli, which suppresses "bad" bacteria and keeps other organisms under control. He finds that freeze-dried acidophilus supplements in capsule form are more effective in combating bacteria than even unsweetened raw yogurt. Candida growth can also be fostered in the diet through consumption of meat, dairy, and poultry products due to the heavy use of antibiotics. Traces of antibiotics given to dairy cows can later show up in milk. Meat eaters should make sure that meat is free of antibiotic contamination. Organic (hormone and antibiotic free) meat and poultry should be consumed whenever possible. For candidiasis patients, sea food (free of mercury toxins) and vegatable protein are preferable since they are not only antibiotic free, but lower in fat. According to Dr Chaitow, both bifido-bacteria and acidophilus should be supplemented during candidiasis treatment to help repopulate the bowel, and for antifungal activity. This "good" bacteria supplementation is called "Pro-biotics". Dr Chaitow also recommends that other pro-biotic products such as lactobacillus vulgaricus, be used to assist the colonizing activities of bifido-bacteria and acidophilus.
According to Dr Chaitow, a general nutritional support program is frequently needed to help build up immune function and digestive efficiency, which may have become severely depleted or compromised after months or years of chronic candidiasis. Specific nutritional supplementation can be helpful in rebuilding weakened immune function. Recommended supplements include individual B Vitamins which increase antibody response and are used in nearly every body activity, Vitamin C which stimulates adrenaline and is essential to immune processes, Vitamin E the lack of which depresses immune response, Vitamin A which builds resistance to infection and increases immune response, and beta-carotene a Vitamin A precursor which increases T-cells.
Antioxidant immune boosters, such as selenium, calcium, and zinc, are also very useful in combating candidiasis. Other adrenal stimulants are chromium, magnesium, and glandular adrenal (an extract). Essential fatty acids such as evening primrose oil may be considered as well. As routine supplementation, Dr Braly offers the following regiment : Vitamin C - 8-10 grams daily, Vitamin E - one 400 IU daily, Evening Primrose oil - 6-8 capsules daily, Max EPA - 6 capsules daily, Pantothenic Acid - 250 mg daily, Taurine - 500-1000 mg daily, Zinc Shelate - 25-50 mg daily, Goldenseal Root extract with no less than 5% hydrastine - 250 mg twice daily, lacto-bacillus acidophilus - 1 dried teaspoon three times daily, if allergic to milk use non-lactose acidophilus. Dr Braly also recommends supplementation of hydrochloric acid "HCI". He notes that aging, alcohol abuse, food allergies, and nutrient deficiencies create a lack of HCI in the stomach which prevents food from digesting and permits candida overgrowth. Such supplementation, he says, helps restore the proper balance of intestinal flora. Dr Braly recommends one capsule of HCI and pepsin at the start of meals, increasing cautiously to 2 to 4 capsules with each meal if needed.
Herbs are often used to kill harmful yeasts and shore up immune function. They are used in teas, dried in capsules or tablets, or taken in suppository form. Herbs which contain berberine (an alkaloid found in the berbercia family) have proven particularly useful anticandida agents. These include Goldenseal, Oregon Grape, and Barberry.
Berberine fights candida overgrowth, normalizes intestinal flora, helps digestive problems, has antidiarrheal properties, and stimulates the immune system by increasing blood supply to the spleen. Soothing to inflamed mucous membranes, it can be taken as a tea, or in other fluid and dry forms. Other antifungal and antibacterial herbs include German Chamomile, Aloe Vera, Ginger, Cinnamon, Rosemary, Licorice, and Tea Tree Oil. Fennel, Anise, Ginseng, Alfalfa and Red Clover are also effective.
Dr Braly's first line of attack on candidiasis is caprylic acid, only after which, if there is no improvement, will he use drugs. Since caprylic acid is readily absorbed into the system, it should be taken in enteric or sustained release forms. Dr Braly also likes Goldenseal Root extract, standardized to 5% or more of it's active ingredient, hydrastine, 250 mg twice daily. In a recent study Goldenseal seemed to work better in killing off candida than other common anticandida therapies, adds Dr Braly. Other fatty acids derived from olives (oleic acid) and castor beans have also been found to be useful.
Dr Susser point out however, that caprylic acid is far from a panacea. " It's most useful," Dr Susser says, " when you combine it with a good diet, allergy care, the right nutrients, acidophilus, and other treatments."
Garlic, a well-known folk remedy, is a particularly effective antifungal agent. It has been shown to be effective against some antibiotic resistant organisms and can be taken in capsule and deodorized form. In cases of vaginal candidiasis, it can be used as a suppository or douche.
Pau d'Arco Bark, obtained from a tropical tree native to Brazil, has long been used to treat infections, intestinal complaints, and genital ailments (cystitis, prostatitis). It is reported to be an analgesic, an antiviral, a diuretic, and a fungicide. However, many products claiming to contain Pau d'Arco have only trace amounts, or even none of the herb. These products also may use a part of the tree other than the bark, or may have been damaged in production and shipping. When purchasing products with Pau d'Arco, be sure that they contain lapachol, an organic compound known for it's antibiotic action.
According to Virender Sodhi, MD (Ayurveda), ND, Director of the American School of Ayurvedic Sciences, in Bellevue Washington, Ayurvedic medicine considers candidiasis to be a condition caused by ama, the improper digestion of foods. Dr Sodhi attributes candidiasis to the widespread use of antibiotics, birth control pills, hormones, and to environmental stresses, as well as to society's addiction to sugar in the diet.
" Ayurvedic medicine believes that these stresses on the system cause carbohydrates to be digested improperly," he says. " Furthermore, the immune system in the gut becomes worn down." From an Ayurvedic perspective, Dr Sodhi believes that successful treatment of candidiasis depends on strengthening the immune system and improving digestion through stimulation of the secretory IgA. This can be accomplished through a combination of treatments. Grapefruit Seed Oil and Tannic Acid are useful in treating candida overgrowth, since, according to Dr Sodhi, they act as antifungals and antibiotics. He uses, additionally, long pepper, trikatu, ginger, cayenne, and neem before meals to increase immunoglobulin and digestive functions. " These herbs increase the mucous by stimulation of the globular cells in the stomach," Dr Sodhi says.
Dr Sodhi begins dosage with a quarter teaspoon of herbs, about thirty minutes before each meal, with dosage increasing gradually to 8 to 10 teaspoons of herbs a day. He also uses acidophilus, and recommends that his patients cleanse toxins from their systems using the pancha karma program, which involves dietary modification and the use of herbs. Results from Dr Sodhi's approach usually occur within 4 to 6 months.
William Michael Cargile, BS,DC, FIACA, Chaiman of Research for The American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, has successfully used acupuncture on patients with candidiasis. He advises, " I would start by using meridians which influence genital function, spleen, and stomach. These are yin meridians and they correspond to areas of immune system enhancement. You want to normalize the metabolism of the cells in that part of the body." But Dr Cargile adds that treatment is "a waste of time" if the patient doesn't also pay attention to nutrition, which he calls " a significant solution ".
Dr Cargile cites a 41 year old female patient who suffered from severe candidiasis. She was a single mother of three children, who had chronic low-grade sore throats and was taking five antibiotic prescriptions. " This had been going on at least three years," Dr Cargile says. " She was constantly bloated, had colonic distension, and had oral thrush so bad it looked like cotton sticking down her throat. She had clearly destroyed the balance of her intestinal flora."
Dr Cargile gave her a gargle solution of Tea Tree Oil which reduced the pathogens. He had her change her diet and douche with liquid acidophilus, and gave her acupuncture treatments through meridians which reached the larynx and throat. " After three treatments over a period of three weeks, she was 90% better," he states. " She had no oral candida like before, and was well on the road to recovery.
Although self-help is therapeudic for candidiasis, a health regimen should be undertaken with the guidance of a practitioner who understands the condition and is willing to try a variety of treatment options. Recovery from chronic candidiasis seldom takes less than three months and is usually well advanced by six months, but it can take longer to recover completely. Medical studies show that until bowel candida is under control, local manifestations will continue to appear (such as vaginal thrush). Local treatment alone (for thrush, or other symptoms ) is not enough.