What You Should Know About Candida

The common thread in many complaints

What You Should Know About Candida

Candida albicans is a common fungi responsible for many common ailments—including the dreaded yeast infection. These simple steps help prevent your body's natural supply of candida taking over and causing infection.

Oral thrush. Diaper rash. Yeast infection.

These are common conditions that also share a common thread. As we know, the body is host to a variety of bacteria and fungi—some useful, some harmful. One of these common fungi—Candida albicans—is the common denominator in these, and other, fungal infections.

What is candida?

Candida (Candida albicans) is a fungus that is naturally present on the skin, hair, and nails, as well as in the mucous membranes lining the oral cavity and gastrointestinal tract of healthy people. Under certain conditions, candida can multiply and overpower system defences, causing infection.

Thrush

Oral candidiasis, or thrush, is an infection in the throat or mouth. Uncommon in most healthy adults, thrush can affect babies less than one month old, the elderly, or people with weakened immune systems.

Because certain proteins in saliva have antimicrobial properties, impaired salivary gland function can lead the way to oral candidiasis. Inhaled steroid medications, poor oral hygiene, and use of dentures are also linked with candida. Be sure to see your health care practitioner if you suspect thrush. Left untreated, it may pass into the bloodstream, which can be very dangerous.

Symptoms

  • white spots inside the mouth and on the tongue
  • redness or discomfort in the mouth
  • sore throat and difficulty swallowing
  • cracking at corners of the mouth

Prevention

  • floss daily and brush teeth at least twice daily
  • clean toothbrush frequently and avoid overusing mouthwashes
  • limit refined carbohydrates, such as sugar and white flour
  • avoid yeast-containing foods, such as bread, beer, and wine
  • quit smoking
  • add probiotics to your diet

Diaper rash

Parents are familiar with one of the most common forms of candida infection: many diaper rashes involve the candida fungus. Candidiasis often occurs in moist areas of the skin, so the soft skin of a baby’s bottom that is perpetually covered in diapers is fertile ground.

Diaper rash, and candidiasis of other areas of the skin in adults, can happen during hot, humid weather; if baby’s diaper is changed infrequently; when we wear tight, synthetic underwear; if we routinely wear rubber gloves; or if we haven’t followed good hygiene practices. Always consult your health care practitioner if you suspect candidiasis.

Symptoms

  • redness, weepy skin in skin creases
  • small red spots
  • itching or burning

Prevention

  • keep skin clean and dry
  • use super-absorbent diapers for baby
  • wear loose cotton underwear
  • add probiotics to your diet

Yeast infection

Vaginal yeast infections, called vulvovaginal candidiasis, are also very common, and may become recurrent. It important to get treated: in some cases, candida may be passed through sexual contact. Men can get yeast infections as well, though this is less common.

A number of possible causes may be at play, including poor diet (including high sugar intake); stress; lack of sleep; some types of medications (birth control pills, antibiotics, steroids); diabetes; and HIV/AIDS.

Symptoms

  • extreme itching and burning in the vaginal area
  • soreness and redness in the vaginal area
  • white, clumpy vaginal discharge
  • pain during urination
  • painful intercourse

Prevention

  • wear loose cotton underwear
  • avoid clothing made from synthetic fibres, pantyhose, and tight pants
  • steer clear of fragranced personal products, such as bubble bath, sprays, pads, and tampons
  • avoid hot tubs and very hot baths
  • take off wet clothing (bathing suits and exercise gear) as soon as possible
  • add probiotics to your diet

Other candida connections

Research also connects candida colonization in the gastrointestinal tract with inflammatory bowel diseases including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, as well as a higher incidence of candidemia (a hospital-acquired bloodstream infection) in diabetic patients.

Dysbiosis

While it may seem logical that gut bacteria gone amok could lead to digestive tract problems, microbiologists are now studying the impact of bacteria on the health of the entire body, particularly in terms of dysbiosis.

Dysbiosis refers to imbalances in the composition of microbiota or gut bacteria. This imbalance is triggered by a variety of factors:

  • genetics
  • lifestyle
  • various medical procedures
  • psychological and physical stresses
  • a diet high in protein, sugar, salt, saturated fat, sulphates, and artificial sweeteners
  • a diet low in nondigestible carbohydrates that feed beneficial bacteria; sources include artichoke, asparagus, banana, chicory, garlic, and onions
  • loss of beneficial bacteria through antibiotic use

Diet and lifestyle choices can help

Although it was proposed in the 1990s that candida bacteria, or perhaps a hypersensitivity reaction to the pathogen, might be a factor in vague symptoms beyond the digestive tract and oral cavity, research into this question has found insufficient evidence to support the concept of “candida syndrome.”

Despite the lack of a direct connection of vague symptoms with candida in experiments thus far, candida overgrowth is definitely a factor in dysbiosis and therefore should be addressed through diet and lifestyle choices.

To help support healthy microbial balance in your body, follow these simple tips.

  • Focus your diet on plant foods, lean protein, and adequate intake of anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fats from deepwater fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna.
  • Avoid or limit refined carbohydrates, which are linked to candidiasis.
  • Consider daily supplemental probiotics, which can help restore and maintain microbial balance in the digestive tract.
  • Supplement with garlic extract, which may help to inhibit both mucosal and invasive candida infections.

News from the research lab

  • Saponins in clover alter the cell membranes of Candida albicans, leading to cell death. Clover may be useful as a topical antiseptic.
  • A study showed rosemary essential oil inhibits candida formation on dentures.
  • Lab research showed that Artemisia abrotanum (wormwood) essential oil inhibits candida formation as effectively as the drug Nystatin.
  • Oils from sage, myrtle, and laurel also show anti-candida activity.

Lisa Petty is a nutritionist, healthy aging advisor, and educator who currently is trying to maintain her own personal balance while pursuing a master’s degree.