The Family Medical Herbalist - Candidiasis
The Family Medical Herbalist - Holistic medical herbalism, mycotherapy and immunonutrition

Mycotherapy: Fungi and Candidiasis

What are fungi?

fungi, candida, albicans, species, immunity
There are about 100.000 different kinds of fungi, which can be subdivided into two categories: the first are macro-fungi, which are dietary mushrooms and the second are micro-fungi, which are the yeasts and moulds. Funghi are microbial beings, which possess a form of prmordial intelligence, which according to some biologists separates them from the vegetable kingdom and adds them to the animal kingdom.

Fungi don’t have any chlorophyll because they cannot perform photosynthesi. Instead of light, mushrooms utilise radiation for growth; they feed on organisms which are very rich in carbohydrates, a few minerals, vitamins and proteins and effectively chelate heavy metals and other inorganic compounds.

Microbial fungi also exist in our intestinal bacterial flora as commensals, which use our own nutrients for their survival.

Why are fungi important to maintain intestinal microbial balance?

In the average healthy person, the human intestinal microflora hosts up to 400 microbial organisms, of which up to 85% commensals and 15% constitute of harmful microbes. Amongst the commensals, which are useful in moderation, there are the yeasts of Candida species:  C.albicans, C.tropicalis, C.glabrata,C.krusei, C.guillermondi, C.dubliniensis e C.zeylanoides and bacteria such as, for example, the Lactobacillii: L.fermentum e L.acidophilus, which neutralize yeasts and candidiasis in particular.

Pasteur stated: “we drink 90% of our illnesses”, meaning that microbes tend to enter the body via the mouth, while eating and breathing. Candida together with the remaining healthty intestinal microbes, when they are present in moderation, alleviate inflammatory processes during infection. Candida and gastrointestinal mucous are signs of active inflammation of the mucous membranes and of body tissues. During inflammation, white blood cells adhere to the mucosa in the attempt to neutralise toxins and free radicals.

beta-glucan immunityHow do medicinal mushroom help control candidiasis?

In order to detoxify the body and reduce inflammation, the body requires larger quantities of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes than normal.  The trace elements and raw carbohydrates found within healthy, organically grown mushrooms, which are diversified types of polysaccharides: β-glucans, α-glucans, glicoproteins e triterpenes,  function like biological Response Modifiers (BRM) and enjoy a prominent place in the modern and traditional medical practice of China, Japan and Tibet. 


Recently, the USA and Europe have begun using concentrated extractions of medicinal mushrooms that are standardised in β-glucans, in order to treat immunodepression and chronic candidiasis. β-glucans stimulate immunity and bind to receptors on the surface of granulocytes, monocytes and macrophages, dendritic cells, in order to activate the innate aspecific immune response and subsequently also the specific immune response. By activating the innate immune response, in order to manage mycosis, candidiasis and other infections, β-glucans restore hyperactive cytokines Th2 to the polarized state in relation to the colony of Th1 cytokines, thus reducing inflammation and neutralizing free radicals. 

Mushrooms which are especially suitable to restore immune balance and manage infections are Agaricus Blazei Murrill, Reishi and Coriolus, even though all medicinal mushrooms contain β-glucans and work on the immune system with special affinity for specific physiological systems. This characteristic of mushrooms is defined by traditional Chinese medicine (MTC) as described “organo-tropism”.

What are the signs and symptoms of candidiasis?

Inside the body, excessive Candida without external signs on the skin, ought to be differentiated from rarer cases of fungal meningitis or  infections caused by aflatoxins that are found in foodstuffs or inhaled as environmental moulds, even though fungal infection may well coexist.

Even before manifesting as thrush, candidiasis becomes gradually chronic, due to nutritional depletion, including of many endogenous antioxidants, for example, glutathione, a powerful antioxidant essential to activate or make other nutritional substances more bioavailable, i.e. iron and vitamins C and E. Mycoses which are visbile in the mouth, scalp, skin or inguinal areas have already become chronic.

Chronic candidiasis at the advanced stages manifests as thrush, which is already mould, is readily visible on the mucous membranes in the mouth, on the scalp, under the armpits, under the breast and in the inguinal folds, which may be confused for other common mycoses: Pityriasis versicolor, Tinea corporis, Tinea cruris e Tinea pedis. 

Chronic candidiasis is sign of energetic depletion and the slowing-down of metabolism, which might cause or be the result of psycho-physical exhaustion taxing the immune system. Symptoms of candidiasis become tangible on the most vulnerable places of an individual’s constitution. 

Candidiasis and chronic stress affect epithelial tissues of the scalp, skin and nails together with all epithelial tissues protecting gastrointestinal and nervous membranes because nervous and tegumentary tissues are formed from the same embryonic ectoderm during pregnancy.

Which medicinal mushroom are the most effective in candidiasis?

The mushrooms Reishi and Hericium work on epithelial tissues of all mucous and neuronal membranes at the same time. Reishi contains adenosine, a spasmolytic substance, which is important for the whole digestive system and for nervous relaxation. The polysaccharides in Reishi spare cortisol, which increases resistance to physiological stress and regulates secretions in the sebaceous glands. The mushroom Hericium, which is rich in ericenones, works by regenerating myelin sheaths of neuron membranes, starting from the area of the brain, to the spinal cord and numerous branches of nervous plexuses reaching the gut and the skin. 

What lifestyle factors cause  candidiasis?

The variety of clinical presentations of candidiasis cannot always be immediately attributed to a specific area of constitutional deficiency or a single cause to be treated.In order to heal, it is necessary to take into consideration changing dietary habits, improving one's lifestyle and environment. A Herbalist may use detailed analytical questionnaires and confirmation tests to establish individual treatment priorities.

The role of dietary habits and malnutrition in candidiasis

Modern refined diets are loaded with refined sugars and carbohydrates, alcoholic drinks and industrial yeasts giving “empty calories”, substances devoid of nutritional value and “acidifying” toxins, which produce free radicals in amounts that cannot be easily eliminated by the body. Sustained acidosis and oxidation let pseudo-hyphae and pseudo-mycelia of Candida spread, which feeds on inflammatory metabolites, contributing to stimulating the secretion of mucous on the walls of gastrointestinal and neuronal membranes and producing eighty mycotoxins, amongst which acetaldehyde, the same toxin produced by alcohol. 

The complications of chronic candidiasis

The lymphatic systems of the entire intestinal wall is covered with Peyer’s Patches, which are furnished with receptors and contribute to neutralizing digestive toxins and free radicals. Malnutrition, alcohol consumption, antibiotics, corticosteroids and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the contraceptive pill, exposure to chemical substances and heavy metals such as aluminium, arsenic, mercury and lead found in pesticides, in dental amalgama and routines vaccinations (inoculation of attenuated virus strains), all can damage the intestine and alter physiological pH. This triggers chronic inflammation and increases permeability of the gastrointestinal mucosa, thus paving the way for the establishment of the “Leaky Gut Syndrome”, whereby toxins that cannot be filtered are reabsorbed into the bloodstream. This often results in autoimmune reactions and speed up the proliferation of Candida mycelia all over the body.

The  dietary and lifestyle strategies to heal from candidiasis

Adequate nutrition might restore health of gastrointestinal membranes from mouth to rectum, if the intake of quality vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids and carbohydrate in the modern diet were adequate and if frequent use of antibiotics does not exhaust the few vital nutritional resources commonly available in the modern diet. 

Necessary measures to reduce toxicity and alterantion of systemic pH include regular exercise, in order to increase oxygen supply to muscles, improve the quality of sleep and rest. Besides, it is necessary to cut down on meat, caffeine and nicotine, whilst, at the same time, eating abudant daily portions of vegetables and fruit (the latter to be eaten away from any other food). Whether foods are alkaline, neutral or acid is helpful only in patients suffering from gastrooesophageal reflux or gastritis. Reduction of acidity in the stomach would otherwise hamper digestion, which increases systemic acidosis.

Aspects of food bioavailability and metabolism need be taken into account and dietary plans need to be established for each individual patient. General dietary advice for candidiasis includes eating Organic wholegrains and raw foods of high nutritional density. While reducing refined carbohydrates, matured cheese, moulds, yeasts and alcoholic beverages, which feed candidiasis is essential, a good therapeutic dietary plan should include a varied, balanced and pleasant diet, which should be acceptable to the patient's taste and culture and include sufficient amounts of nutrients and supplements to correct the state of malnutrition.

Initial detoxification strategies in candidiasis

Effective mycotherapy should initially consider cleansing the liver, bile ducts, urinary and lymphatic systems with strategies to neutralise inflammation and reduce free radical damage produced by mycotoxins and acidosis. In every case, detoxification strategies should be gradual, patient and deep and follow individual physiological rhythms, thus minimizing healing crises, which can be provoked by mycotoxin removal. 

The extracts of Milk Thistle, standardised in silymarin and Turmeric standardised in curcuminoids increase endogenous synthesis of glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD), which lowers NK-FB-induced inflammation, which has been linked to cellular regeneration and repair in tissues damaged by acetaldehyde, the main mycotoxin in Candida.  The main thing is to choose herbal preparations which increase bile secretion from the liver and bile flow from the gallbladder, in order to eliminate excess cholesterol and fatty acids, which also transport mycotoxins and improve bowel peristalsis, besides herbal preparations that increase diuresis and resolve recurrent cystitis, not uncommon in candidiasis. 

Preparations of herbal medicines, for example, Artichoke leaves and Dandelion root and leaves, enable elimination of lipid-soluble mycotoxins, which are carried in bile, and of water-soluble residues in urine. Turmeric is also useful to cleanse the lymphatic system, which transports microbial residues away from both blood vessels and the skin via an intricate network of lymph nodes.

In-depth detoxification and healing of candidiasis.

Gradual cleansing of all physiological detoxification pathways should occur at a later stage and be sustained by integration of the bacterial microflora with probiotics and suitable medicinal mushrooms. The average bowel microflora weighs 5kg and produces vitamins B, besides increasing the bioavailability of calcium, magnesium and iron. Improvement of leaky Gut Syndrome, intestinal bowel disease and dysbiosis usually requires probiotics only after a course of antibiotics. In every other case prebiotics are effective. 

Together with Lactobacillii , the fructo-oligo-saccharides (FOS) may be prescribed, which can also be found in fibres within fruit and vegetables. These prebiotic fibres are undigested by the human body but are needed by the bacterial microflora. Other dietary FOS are inulin in bilberries, root vegetables, chicory, onions, garlic and artichokes. 

Unparalleled prebiotics are contained in the active digestive enzymes of medicinal mushrooms in toto, mainly the laccases in the species of Hericium, Reishi, Pleurotus and Shiitake. These healthy mushrooms should be grown organically to yield any benefit, in order to offer a wide range of polysaccharides, active and differentiated enzymes, which are commonly absent in the average diet. Mycotherapy can offer prebiotic integration, as medicinal mushrooms are strongly antioxidant and contain antimicrobial enzymes that can  regulate antigen production and manage, therefore, the complications of candidiasis, autoimmune disease and chronic degenerative disease. Lymphatic detoxification may also be addressed by the medicinal mushroom Polyporus, which is preferable to Turmeric in cases of obstruction of the bile ducts

The Family Medical Herbalist clinics are located in the London areas of Greenford, Ealing (close to Greenford tube on the Central Line) and in Central London in the Borough of Southwark (close to London Bridge station on the Jubilee Line)
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