For many years I suffered from severe bloating after meals, and the problem continued even when I stopped eating wheat, and later, dairy products. I finally acknowledged that I had a problem with yeast overgrowth and embarked on a full, restrictive anti-Candida diet, complete with numerous supplements. Although I generally felt well when following the diet, as soon as I began eating ‘normally’ again, the Candida symptoms returned.
My experience prompted me to write my college project on the subject of Candida, and its homeopathic and naturopathic treatment. In the six years since completing the project I have treated a large number of people exhibiting the symptoms of Candida, and I have seen some common themes emerging. Consequently there are certain homeopathic remedies which I find myself using time and again with which I have obtained some good results. More recently I have introduced some new methods of supporting those suffering from Candida overgrowth with homeopathic remedies.
Symptoms of Candida overgrowth
Candida is the popular term used for an overgrowth of the yeast, Candida albicans.
This yeast is normally present in a healthy person in small amounts and, if kept in balance, it doesn’t cause a problem. Numerous factors can upset this balance (see below). When the balance is altered, Candida overgrowth may result which can cause symptoms of disease. Candida prefers the warm moist conditions found in the intestines and mucous membranes of the body, and is most common in the ascending colon, mouth, oesophagus and vaginal tract.
There is no accurate data on the number of Candida sufferers – many individuals may not realise their symptoms are a consequence of Candida. Women are thought to suffer more commonly than men, although I haven’t found this to be the case in practice.
The term Candida is often used inter-changeably with thrush, indicating an oral or genital fungal infection, often with soreness, itching and/or discharge. There can be Candida overgrowth but no evidence of thrush, but other symptoms will be evident. I would consider thrush to be just one symptom of Candida overgrowth.
The most common indications of the presence of Candida are:
- Fungal infections – thrush, athlete’s foot, or fungal problems of the skin or nails
- Digestive problems – lethargy and bloating after eating; excessive wind; food cravings, particularly sugar, carbohydrates, yeasty food and alcohol; a worsening of symptoms after eating yeasty or sugary foods
- Environmental sensitivity – food allergies and intolerances; hay-fever and increased sensitivity to smells and chemicals
- Mental symptoms – foggy brain, depression, lethargy, fatigue and mood-swings
- Menstrual problems –irregular menstrual cycle; bleeding or excessive discharge between periods and pre-menstrual tension
- Joint pain and arthritis – swollen, painful joints; muscle aching, tingling, numbness or burning
- Ear, nose and throat symptoms – sinusitis, post-nasal drip, itching in nose or ears
- Aggravation from damp weather, sugar, bread, drinking alcohol, exposure to chemicals, petrol fumes, perfume.
Assessing the presence of Candida
As homeopaths we treat the totality of symptoms and not the disease; so whether the symptoms are a result of an under-active thyroid or Candida, the most appropriate remedy will be prescribed for the individual. However, an awareness of the symptoms that indicate Candida can be useful when considering nutritional advice or organ support remedies. It is also common for patients to believe that their symptoms are caused by Candida overgrowth as, although GPs are often dismissive of it, there is frequent mention of it in the media and a wealth of information on the internet, resulting in self-diagnosis in many cases. My understanding is that, in the UK, Candida overgrowth is not a recognised illness by the medical profession and therefore cannot be offered as a diagnosis.
Numerous tests are available to test for Candida, but as it is naturally occurring, they are not always accurate. A clinical questionnaire is considered to be one of the best methods of establishing the presence of Candida. It can also be beneficial to refer a patient for allergy testing to ascertain if there is a maintaining cause such as toxicity or a deficiency of a particular vitamin or mineral.
Particular areas to cover if there is a suspicion of Candida:
- Medication – history of using antibiotics, steroids, HRT, contraceptive pill, Mirena coil
- Endocrine imbalance – history of pregnancy, menstrual problems, including bleeding between periods, PMT, hypothyroid symptoms, blood sugar imbalance (weakness, emptiness, dizziness, sweating or nausea alleviated by eating)
- Digestive complaints – lethargy or bloating after eating, excessive wind and flatulence, food cravings, (particularly sugar, carbohydrates, alcohol), diarrhoea or constipation, worsening of symptoms after eating yeasty or sugary foods
- Fungal infections – history of athlete’s foot, fungal infection of the nails or skin (a yellowing of the nail bed or surrounding skin); oral or genital thrush; vaginal discharge or irritation; rectal itching
- Mental symptoms – mental symptoms of Candida should not be used as the sole guiding factor; however, they commonly include depression; poor coordination and balance; forgetfulness; fatigue and lethargy; mood swings (particularly PMT); diminished libido; sleepiness in the morning
- Musculo-skeletal symptoms – include unexplained joint pain or swelling of joint and muscle aches, tingling, numbness or burning
- Ear, nose and throat symptoms – may include post-nasal drip or persistent itching in nose or ears
- Environmental sensitivity – may include allergies or intolerances to a number of foods; hayfever and other allergies (especially if they appeared in adulthood); sensitivity to perfume, chemicals, petrol fumes, tobacco smoke
- Aggravation in damp weather
- Aggravation from eating sugar, bread and other yeasty food
- Aggravation from drinking alcohol
- Aggravation from exposure to chemicals.
What causes Candida?