Yeast Infections / Candida

What is candidiasis?

Candidiasis is a common yeast infection. It primarily occurs in the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts, vagina, and the mouth. Candidiasis is caused by overgrowth of Candida, a common fungus. There are more than 20 species of Candida, of which Candida albicans is the most common.

Candia fungi thrive in the human body under certain conditions leading to infections. Moist and warm areas of the body are most prone to the growth. Skin and diaper rashes, thrush, vaginal infections, and nail-bed infections are some instances of the Candida yeast infection.

Candida is beneficial when present in optimal quantities. It occurs naturally to help the body absorb the B vitamins.

Causes of Candidiasis

Candidiasis can occur in both men and women. Hormonal changes, diet factors, and certain medications can all contribute to this infection. In women, hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, presence of sperm, birth control pills, and diabetes may also contribute to an outbreak.

Other factors that can lead to a Candida infection include a weakened immune system caused by intake of non-steroidal medication, chemotherapy, broad spectrum antibiotics, poor diet with excessive sugar intake, alcohol consumption, hypothyroidism, and emotional and environmental stress.

Symptoms

Symptoms of candidiasis vary with the location of the infection. In case of a vaginal infection, a thick white discharge may occur. The patient may experience constant irritation and itching in the vagina and in the surrounding outer tissue. Urination may be accompanied by a burning sensation, and the patient may occasionally experience pain during sexual intercourse.

Candidiasis may also occur in adult males and children. Oral candidiasis, which is commonly known as thrush, may show symptoms such as thick, lacy patches on the palate, tongue, or elsewhere in the mouth. The underlying tissue may start bleeding in case the thrush is cleaned up. The patient may experience difficulty in eating due to the existence of thrush. Pain in the internal organs or dysfunction of an organ may occur in case the infection affects a person with a weakened immune system.

Tests

Blood, urine, and stool cultures can reveal the presence of a Candida infection. Additional information on recent use of antibiotics, diet, stress factors, and health history is also used to diagnose a Candida infection.

Treatment

The treatment for a Candida infection involves four steps. The first is to use antifungal drugs such as Nizoral, Diflucan, or Sporonox. These need to be administered under medical supervision to monitor for side effects. Additional medication may also be prescribed to protect the liver. Patients need to be monitored for toxicity levels as the Candida release toxins as it's killed.

The second step in the treatment program is to reduce nutrient availability to the yeast. The patient needs to change the diet to eliminate direct sugars and complex carbohydrates.

In the third step, normal, beneficial bacteria are reintroduced to the gut.

The final step is to strengthen the immune system by following a proper diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables.