Candida is a normal, friendly simple yeast and, in and of itself, it is a good thing. It is one of the many organisms that make up the flora of a healthy intestinal tract. The proliferation of Candida to the point of overabundance makes it a problem. While western mainstream and naturopathic medicine tend to point to the yeast itself as the cause of the presenting symptoms, Oriental medicine looks more functionally for the answer. After all, many eat the same yeast producing foods with no harmful symptoms or negative effects. There must be a functional imbalance involved in this disease process.
The following discussion uses several terms that are English renderings of Oriental medical expressions. For example, Spleen and Liver are used. They are meant to represent Oriental medical concepts as opposed to the perspective of Western medical anatomy and physiology. To differentiate them from their Western medical counterparts they will be capitalized throughout this article.
This being said, in Oriental medicine, the Spleen has several traditional tasks. One of them is to govern transportation and transformation. If the Spleen function is empty, hollow, or vacuous then it does not supply enough organic activity or force to move and transform the normal fluids. As a result, these fluids pool and even congeal. It is in this pooled dampness that Candida grows and proliferates. It is this Spleen vacuity, usually in relation to other medical factors that lie at the root of a Candida problem. Yeast is then only the by-product that is measured by western and naturopathic testing. This provides a signpost or branch indication of the illness. The actual problem resides in the basic root emptiness or hollowness which gives rise to this problematic damp moist climate.
From an Oriental medical perspective, there are many different potential reasons why this vacuous condition may come about. Very often it involves an unclear relationship between the Liver and the Spleen/Stomach. The Liver functioning is involved with, among other things, the harmonious and unobstructed free flow of chi. This has ramifications on emotional as well as physical well being. Either the Liver may invade the Spleen in various ways as a result of a deterioration of the Liver’s function of regulating the chi or the vacuity of the Spleen may damage the Liver’s regulatory functioning. It is also common that the Liver may be depressed due to a hollowness of the xuè (Blood).
There are many ways in which this pooling dampness may become an issue. It may pool in the Middle Burner or digestive burning space and as result digestion will be sluggish and problematic. It may drip to the Lower Burner causing vaginal yeast infections or even affect menstruation and menopause. It may pool and congeal as phlegm producing cysts and masses or more serious mental and physical disorders. It may stir the ming-men (life’s gate fire) in the Kidney causing the dampness to upsurge and affect the Lungs and Heart in the upper regions of the body potentially causing chronic respiratory symptoms or psychological depression.
As complicated as these various etiologies may seem, a vacuity of the Spleen is involved with all of these manifestations. Most Candida-based illnesses that are rooted in a vacuity (emptiness) of the body/mind's ability to take in and assimilate nourishment. This is either the relative cause of the problem or a major player in its progression. In the Oriental sense, this is clearly more than a focus on physical foods. It is more than avoiding the so-called yeast producing foods. We are not talking about avoidance, but rather the allowing of all levels of nourishment — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It is a figurative and literal opening to allow the in-flow of nourishment to fill the emptiness that exists in our Middle. If the nourishment process were healthy, there would be sufficient yang chi (functional activity) to keep this dampness from becoming a problem.
As with many confusing diseases, it is important to avoid chasing branch symptoms without addressing the functional root. That strategy can cause a long, frustrating ride. Increased awareness of our need for nourishment can be quite helpful in dealing with what is commonly blamed on Candida. If these functions are normalized, Candida can become your friend again.