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?
There is unlikely to be any single cause of Candida, however the most common ones (or a combination of them) are:
- repeated prescriptions of antibiotics
- exposure to chemicals and toxic metals
- use of hormone-mimicking drugs and creams including the oral contraceptive pill, HRT and progesterone creams
- the presence of parasites in the gut
- excessive stress
- excess sugar consumption
- severe emotional trauma or separation from a parent
It is common for sufferers of chronic conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes and Hypothyroid to have clear symptoms indicating Candida overgrowth. What is less clear is whether the Candida overgrowth contributed to their condition. Case-taking often reveals that the symptoms of Candida were present before the symptoms of the chronic disease, so it is possible that in some cases, chronic disease is the next stage of systemic Candida.
NOTE: The symptoms of Candida can look very much like those of parasites, with bloating and itching around the anus and genital area. If in any doubt it may be beneficial to encourage patients to take a course of herbal anti-parasitics.
Sugar addiction can certainly be a maintaining cause in cases of Candida. It is worth noting that those who claim not to have a ‘sweet tooth’ may get their sugar from alcohol (see Case 1). This is often the case with men, who may eat little sugar but crave alcohol.
After finishing college I began treating a number of people presenting with clear evidence of Candida overgrowth and some themes seemed to emerge. In a short space of time I saw four new female patients, all of whom were seeking treatment for Candida. Two had been adopted in the first year of their life, one had been abandoned by her mother when she was four and the other had been in and out of care for her first few years. I started getting good results from remedies which helped patients to deal with the issues around separation, such as Nat Mur, Carcinosin, Lac humanum and Lac caninum. This prompted me to review all my Candida cases at the time, and of 28 patients there were 17 (60%) who had either suffered the death of a family-member at a young age, were adopted or abandoned or are now estranged from one or both parents after a poor relationship with them in childhood. How significant this is as a cause of Candida is impossible to say, but those patients who are no longer showing symptoms of Candida report that they have come to terms with issues from their childhood.
Originally I drew up a treatment plan which included following an anti-Candida diet and using a wide range of supplements. However, I now find many of the supplements unnecessary. I often give a digestive support alongside the remedy best indicated for the presenting complaint.
Many naturopathic texts on Candida overgrowth refer to ‘die off’. This occurs when a rigorous diet and supplementation programme is followed; the excess Candida dies and then has to be excreted from the body. Commonly this results in a worsening of symptoms as the body is unable to excrete the dead yeast sufficiently quickly.
Many patients suffering from severe Candida are in a state of low vitality both physically and emotionally and in my view expecting them to suffer a worsening of symptoms is not reasonable. For this reason, at the first appointment, I ensure that the bowels are working effectively so that any die off can be efficiently removed, but I do not impose a rigorous diet.
In cases of deep-seated Candida, it is common for vaginal discharge to increase as the condition is treated, although if things are going well, this won’t be sore, itchy or uncomfortable. It is important to explain to the patient that this is the body’s way of getting rid of the Candida overgrowth and should be seen as a positive sign.
Alkalising the body
One thing I do encourage patients to do is increase the alkalinity of their body, which makes for a much less agreeable environment for the Candida to live in. I have become a big fan of homemade smoothies and in the year since I started making one every day my own health has improved considerably. Here is a recipe sheet which I hand out regularly:
Making a green smoothie every day provides the body with micro nutrients, which are building blocks for every cell. It also helps to shift the PH balance towards a more alkaline state, in which it is more difficult for yeast overgrowth and infection to thrive. After 2 weeks you will notice the difference. Into a blender put:
250ml of filtered water
Juice of half a lemon or lime
3 inches of chopped cucumber
A stick of celery
Quarter of avocado
Sprig of parsley
6 – 8 basil leaves
Rock salt and black pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients together and drink half first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything else. Have the rest at lunchtime.
You can add other green ingredients as you wish, plus garlic, turmeric and ginger which are useful immune boosters.
Other veggies you might want to add include courgettes, spinach leaves, rocket, watercress or kale.
For a change, try adding some berries and a bit less green veg.
At the first appointment I will usually prescribe as follows:
- a remedy based on the presenting symptoms (thrush is often the main complaint)
- a digestive support
- if the patient is constipated or stools are inadequate, a remedy specifically to improve bowel action (it may be the same remedy required for the treatment of thrush)
- advice to take a good quality probiotic
- advice to eat regular meals 3 to 5 times daily with a high protein content, which will help to stabilise blood sugar levels and reduce cravings
- nutritionally if there is one food that appears to be aggravating the symptoms I recommend that they remove it from their diet (try asking what food they couldn’t live without – this is often the one that aggravates the most). Patients often expect to be given a stringent diet to follow, however if their energy is low it can be difficult to make significant nutritional changes. Removing one aggravating food can result in a significant improvement in symptoms
I have found that giving a deep emotional remedy early in the case can cause aggravations. For example if a patient who was adopted presented with severe thrush symptoms, Lac Humanum may aggravate if given before the thrush has subsided.
The following remedies have proved useful in treating patients with thrush:
Remedies for thrush
|Arsenicum album||Acrid, thick yellow leukorrhoea. Restlessness. Thirsty||<standing; after midnight|
|Borax||Oral thrush. Ulcers. Dry, cracked tongue with a bitter taste.Craves sour food||< fruit, tobacco|
|Caladium||Most commonly used to help smokers to give up, this remedy also has the symptom of itching of vulva and vagina with burning||> masturbation, rubbing the affected area|
|China officinalis||When Candida symptoms have been present since food poisoning or after a severe bout of diarrhoea, even if this occurred months or years ago. Recommend 6c daily for 2 to 4 weeks||< diarrhoea|
|Morgan gaertner||The bowel nosodes are all useful but Morgan gaertner in particular is excellent for treating symptoms of Candida which appeared since antibiotics.It is similar to Lycopodium but seems to have a deeper action on the digestive tract. Recommend 30c daily for 5 days||> passing wind; hot food|
|Helonias||Foul, curdled, lumpy leukorrhoea. Vaginitis with backache and consciousness of womb. Urinations with burning and frequent desire||< pregnancy; pressure of clothes> keeping busy; holding abdomen|
|Kreosotum||Foul, acrid leukorrhoea which stains. Craves smoked food. Pressure in region of spleen||< cold; rest; menses; 6pm to 6am|
> warmth; hot food
|Lac caninum||Feels dirty, self-loathing. Useful for cleansing toxicity, particularly of pesticides. Vulva is sore and itchy with dischargeTender breasts, particular before mensesLacks confidence and may be confused with Lycopodium||< night, cold air|
|Medorrhinum||Thin discharge with fish-brine smell. Itchy vagina. ThirstyCraves sweets and orangesParticularly useful for cases of thrush after a new sexual partner or after multiple partners||Itching > rubbing and bathing|
< Damp conditions; daytime
|Nitricum acidum||Acrid, offensive discharges and redness. Splinter-like pains. Itching, burning foreskinVaginal itching after sexOffensive smell of urine||< milk|
|Platina||Painfully sensitive genitals, which cannot bear touch. The avoidance of sex is likely to be a big issue for the patient suiting this remedy – they will tell you about it!||< touch; sex|
|Pulsatilla||Thick, bland or yellowish-green discharge. Thirstless||< rich foods|
> fresh air; company
|Sepia||Leukorrhoea with large lumps. Bearing down feeling in abdomen+ vinegar, sweetsOften useful for women who feel irritated by their husband and/or children.||< before menses, sex, touch|
> crossing legs; vigorous exercise
|Staphisagria||Thrush after sex, particularly if relationship is problematic, or after emotional upset or indignation||< grief, anger, indignation; after sex|
|Thuja||Profuse, thick, green discharge. Very sensitive vagina. Male: sweetish smell of genitals, and offensive smell of semen||< cold; damp heat; sweets|
Frequency and potency depend on the severity of symptoms, but I usually start with 6c or 30c and may increase the potency weekly.
In cases of chronic Candida, the liver and digestive tract is unlikely to be working to its optimum level. My favoured organ supports are:
|Organ support remedies||Action|
|A combination of:|
Berberis vulgaris + Ceanothus + Chelidonium 3x
|This has a beneficial action on kidneys, spleen and liver|
|Carduus marianus 6x||Particularly effective if the patient is a regular or heavy consumer of alcohol or has a history of liver disease such as jaundice or hepatitis|
|Hydrastis 6x||If there has been a history of severe diarrhoea or food poisoning (also China, see above)|
Dosage is usually twice daily of any of the above, and Candida Albicans 6c can be combined with any of the others
I prefer to use a bottle of tablets rather than herbal tinctures, finding it easier and more portable. The efficacy of the remedies seems to be unaffected.
It is vital that the bowels are working effectively. For constipation or insufficient bowel movements, try one of the following:
- A dessertspoon of linseeds soaked in water for 2 hours and drunk before bed
- Nux vomica 6c daily for unproductive straining until symptoms improve
- Poly bowel nosode 30c daily until symptoms improve (this is a combination of all the bowel nosodes)
- For inadequate stools, psyllium husks twice daily (plus at least 3 litres of water a day)
- Other homeopathic remedies such as Opium, Lycopodium, or Calcarea carbonica may be indicated in cases of chronic constipation.
I usually see people at two or three week intervals for the first few appointments, until a clear improvement is evident.
As treatment progresses
- Continue use of organ support
- Continue use of probiotics
- Treatment of sugar addiction, if this is a problem (I have not seen a case of Candida yet where the patient did not crave sugar either now or in the past).
The following remedies may be beneficial for sugar addiction. In addition, a supplement of Chromium 200 mcgs daily will stabilise blood sugar.
|Remedy for sugar addiction||Keynotes||Modalities|
|Saccharum officinale||Secretive addiction. Suppressed anger. Ailments from grief/disappointment. Insatiable appetite (especially sweets). Indigestion and hard, swollen abdomen.Can be taken every time a craving becomes over-whelming||< morning, warm weather, eating sugar/chocolate> evening, eating, after breakfast|
|Antimonium crudum||Huge appetite, with over-consumption of food. Thickly coated white tongue. Bloated after eating with frequent belching. Diarrhoea alternating with constipation||< heat & cold bathing|
|Lycopodium||Craves sweets. Chilly. Bloated, distended abdomen. Appetite increases/reduces while eating. Eats quickly||< 4 – 8 pm; missing a meal; eating; re-heated foods; cold food and drinks> rubbing abdomen; hot food and drinks|
|Syphilinum||History of addiction to sugar and other stimulants. Sabotages own efforts to eat healthily||< night, damp> daytime|
|Nux vomica||Reliance on stimulants. Sugar is obtained primarily from alcohol. Over-indulgence in rich food. Food has significant impact on mood (although the patient my not acknowledge this)||< coffee, alcohol, stimulants> sleep, rest, loose clothing|
|Winchelsea sea salt||Similar to Natrum muriaticum but with a cleansing and detoxifying action. Patients may experience skin eruptions, mouth ulcers or loose bowels after taking this remedy.|
|Lac humanum||Separation from mother at an early age (either permanent or temporary). Patients who were not breast-fed. The remedy can bring up emotional memories. Food/alcohol addiction and issues around food such as history of anorexia or bulimia. If an early separation was experienced, keep appointments frequent to sustain a link with the patient||< alcohol, before menses, eating> from sex, eating|
As mentioned previously, remedies such as Carcinosin and Nat mur can be useful in cases of chronic Candida where there is a history of grief over separation.