An interesting question came in this week: 

“I‘ve been working with a client who for years has had a stubborn vaginal yeast infection. Her legs always feel icy cold to her, but not to the touch, and they’re so cold that while driving she has to pull over to nap. Her tongue is red all over and her pulse is slightly rapid. Her right kidney pulse is tight. She has hemorrhoids and urgent bowels. She was on a candida diet, but it didn’t do anything. I have been working with her spleen channel and sometimes the belt channel for a few months but not much is changing. What am I missing?”

This type of question is asked so often that it deserves a general discussion. The practitioner can make an accurate diagnosis and can have excellent intention and then self blame when there’s little change. In cases such as this one, where cold is clearly the feature, nearly always the patient is ingesting cold. It amazes me that people do not believe that eating cold things and drinking cold drinks can cool down the digestive tract as though the body will maintain its temperature no matter what you do to it. And yet, the same patient will agree that eating hot soup on a cold day will warm up the body quickly.

So much of what we do to help is usurped by the way the patient eats, and this case above is a classic example. The patient regularly ate cold and raw food, cold water, things directly from the refrigerator, or worse, something from the freezer like ice and ice cream.

Cold food cools down the digestive tract. Even after just one instance of consuming cold food the digestive tract might be short of adequate warmth to “cook” or to break down food. Bits of undigested food make it through to the intestines where naturally occurring vital bacteria feast on it. The resulting inflammation, which shows in a red tongue, and the dampness that responds to it combine to create yeast infections which the body dutifully sends to the lower body for elimination. If the patient ingests cold over a long period the digestive tract is seriously weakened, especially in the spleen. It is the spleen energetic that upholds the flesh and distributes warmth to the five limbs, which includes the head for concentration. Severe weakness of the spleen leads to a variety of signs including actual coldness of the limbs, and hemorrhoids. If a person must pull over while driving in order to nap, then the distribution of qi to the limbs and head is inadequate.

Eliminating sugar in cases of yeast infection is one obvious recommendation, but eliminating cold from the diet and eating only cooked food served either warm or hot reverses damp conditions remarkably quickly. So, if your diagnosis seems solid yet not much is happening, examine the patient’s daily diet, even by reviewing a food diary together.  What’s missing could be right under your nose!

Ann Cecil-Sterman

Flatiron, Manhattan, 

May 5, 2023. 

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