How Herbs Help to Heal a Stubborn C. Diff Infection

For people with chronic bowel problems
By Greg Lee

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Over dinner, a highly respected Lyme literate physician looked at me across the table and asked me, “Do you know what the biggest concern in my practice is?” I had no idea what his biggest concern was. I racked my brain for the right answer and I said, “Patients with multiple co-infections?” He said, “No, C. Diff.”

Unfortunately, people with C. Diff are also racking their brain for a right answer
C. Diff stands for “Clostridium difficile” which is a bacterium that infects the colon and can create symptoms of diarrhea, cramping, and inflammation. In extreme cases, it can be life threatening. Unfortunately, people who are on antibiotics are susceptible to getting this infection.

How antibiotics make you more vulnerable to getting C. Diff
People who are on antibiotics can have their healthy gut bacteria wiped out by their medications. This enables C. Diff bacteria to grow in the places where your healthy gut bacteria used to be. C. Diff is able to grow because it can resist many different kinds of antibiotics.

Why don’t antibiotics kill C. Diff also?
There are drug resistant strains of C. Diff which can thrive while you are on antibiotics. Most people get a C. Diff infection while they are on or just after finishing a round of antibiotics. Here are the signs and symptoms of a C. Diff infection.

Signs and symptoms of C. Diff
If you are on or have just finished taking antibiotics, the signs of C. Diff are: watery stools for two or more days and mild cramping and/or bloating. Signs of a severe infection are watery stools more than 10 times a day, blood or pus in the stool, severe abdominal cramping and pain, fever, nausea, dehydration, loss of appetite, and weight loss1. How can you know the difference between diarrhea and a C. Diff infection?

 

How to find out if you have C. Diff
Your doctor can test a sample of your stool for the bacteria. Other tests can look at the lining of your colon with a small camera to check for inflammation or damage from C. Diff toxins. CT (Computerized Tomography) scans determine if there is a thickening of the colon which can indicate an infection.

If you have C. Diff, you often get prescribed more powerful antibiotics and probiotics. However, many people with this infection get recurring bouts because they never cleared their original infection. Or they get infected with a new strain. Unfortunately, a new strain of C. Diff can wreak havoc in your colon.

A new strain of C. Diff produces highly damaging toxins
This new strain produces two kinds of toxins: an enterotoxin (toxin A) and a cytotoxin (toxin B)2. These toxins attack and destroy the lining of your colon. This can lead to bleeding and inflammation of the colon which leads to blood or pus in the stool. This new strain has also infected healthy people who have not been on antibiotics. What else beside drugs can help you heal from a C. Diff infection?

Chinese herbs give you an alternative way to recover from C. Diff
Here is an ancient formula of Chinese herbs that can help you to recover from a C. Diff infection. This herbal formula helps you to stop diarrhea, replenish fluids, alleviate cramping and pain, neutralize toxins, and stop bleeding in the colon.

C. Diff Herb formula: True Man’s Decoction to Nourish the Organs, Chinese name: zhen ren yang zang tang3
Written around 990 A.D., this formula was used to treat chronic diarrhea, dysentery, and a prolapsed rectum. It was also used to treat diarrhea that contained pus and blood. Other symptoms may include pain that responds favorably to local pressure or warmth, cramping, lethargy, a wan complexion, reduced appetite, soreness of the low back, weak legs, and not feeling fully evacuated. What is in this herb formula?

Ten herbs work together to heal your intestines
This formula was originally used to stop diarrhea in dying patients probably due to cholera and other digestive illnesses. It contains ten herbs with many different properties. These herbs are ginseng, atractylodes, cinnamon bark, nutmeg, terminalia chebula, poppy husks, white peony, angelica, aucklandia, and honey fried licorice. Ginseng is replaced in this formula with acanthopanax root especially for people with Lyme disease. Each herb has a different function.

Several herbs bind up the stool and stop diarrhea. There are also herbs that relieve pain and cramping. Other herbs replenish fluids that are lost through chronic diarrhea. Some herbs help to aid in digestion. Others reduce inflammation and swelling. Some of the herbs in the True Man’s formula have cautions around medications.

Herbs in this formula are to be used with caution around some medications
One of the herbs in this formula, acanthopanax root:

  • led to an elevated serum digoxin level in one patient
  • increases the effect of hexobarbital, inhibiting its metabolic breakdown
  • increases the efficacy of antibiotics, possibly increasing t-lymphocyte activity
  • stimulates the production of adrenaline4

White peony reduces blood glucose and its use is cautioned with antidiabetic medications. White peony also has sedative and analgesic effects on the central nervous system. It prolongs the sleeping time induced by barbiturates and has a protective effect against seizures induced by cardiazol5. Three herbs in this formula: white peony5, atractylodes6, and angelica7 are to be used with caution with anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs.

Atractylodes also has diuretic effects and may lead to increased elimination of water and electrolytes even though there are no reported cases of drug interaction6. Licorice may alter the effects of systemic corticosteroids and is to be used with caution with cardiac glycosides8. Always consult with a trained herbalist because they will know about alternative herbs that can be used as safe substitutions should you be taking any of the medications listed above. In addition to possible drug interactions, there are other herbs that can be added to neutralize enterotoxins.

Additional herbs help to neutralize enterotoxins which cause diarrhea
Extracts of the herb andrographis has been useful in stopping diarrhea caused by E. Coli enterotoxins9. Phellodendron and coptidis contain significant amounts of berberine10. Berberine stops diarrhea caused by cholera11. This compound also prevented intestinal damage from E. coli enterotoxins in a study on rabbits11. The right combination of herbs helps your intestines to recover from C. Diff.

A thousand year old combination of herbs can help to relieve the concerns of today’s physicians
A thousand year old herbal recipe can help your intestines to heal the damage done by C. Diff. Always consult with a trained herbalist when dealing with C. Diff, medications, and herbal medicine. The right combination of herbs can stop the chronic symptoms, neutralize damaging toxins, and help your intestines to heal. This helps your doctor to reduce their worries about your health.

  1. Mayo Clinic Website: C. Difficile http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/c-difficile/ds00736
  2. D. Voth and J. Ballard, Clostridium difficile Toxins: Mechanism of Action and Role in Disease. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, April 2005, p. 247-263, Vol. 18, No. 2
  3. D. Bensky and R. Barolet, Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas & Strategies, Eastland Press, Seattle (1990), p. 357 – 358.
  4. Chen, John K., and Tina T. Chen. 2004. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry CA: Art of Medicine Press, Inc., p. 839
  5. Chen, John K., and Tina T. Chen. 2004. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry CA: Art of Medicine Press, Inc., p. 934
  6. Chen, John K., and Tina T. Chen. 2004. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry CA: Art of Medicine Press, Inc., p. 858
  7. Chen, John K., and Tina T. Chen. 2004. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry CA: Art of Medicine Press, Inc., p. 923
  8. Chen, John K., and Tina T. Chen. 2004. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry CA: Art of Medicine Press, Inc., p. 871
  9. S. Meenatchisundaram, G. Parameswari, T. Subbraj, T. Suganya and A. Michael, Medicinal and Pharmacological Activities of Andrographis paniculata – Review, Ethnobotanical Leaflets, January 2009, p. 55-58, Vol. 13
  10. Subhuti Dharmananda, New Uses of Berberine -A Valuable Alkaloid from Herbs for “Damp-Heat” Syndromes, http://www.itmonline.org/arts/berberine.htm
  11. EM Williamson, Major Herbs of Ayurveda, The Dabur Research Foundation & Dabur Ayurvet Limited, India (2002) p. 71.

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Greg Lee is a licensed acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, and Master Sufi Healer in      Frederick, Maryland. He is co-founder of the Two Frogs Healing Center in Frederick,  Maryland. He has helped clients to heal Lyme disease chronic pain, fatigue, and mental  fogginess. Click here to learn more about our evening lectures on Getting Rid of Lyme  Disease at http://www.GoodbyeLyme.com/lyme_talk.html.

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