Candidiasis is a general term for yeast and fungal infections, most commonly caused by several species of Candida, the most predominant being Candida albicans. We commonly call genital/vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) as “thrush” or “yeast infection” and it is a common infection that occurs when there is an overgrowth of the yeast, Candida. It is important to remember that Candida is always present in and on the body in small amounts and does not cause symptoms. It is when an imbalance occurs in the body that allows Candida to multiply that symptoms of candidiasis may appear.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of thrush in women include:
● vaginal itch, discomfort or irritation
● vaginal discharge
● redness and/or swelling of the vagina or vulva
● stinging or burning when passing urine
Other conditions such as genital herpes or urinary tract infection may have similar symptoms so it is important to have the diagnosis confirmed.
General risk factors
Candidiasis is a common infection where nearly 75% of all adult women have had at least one “yeast infection” in their lifetime. It occurs more frequently and more severely in people with weakened immune systems but other conditions such as pregnancy, obesity, diabetes, long-term use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, use of corticosteroid medications and chemotherapy can increase risk of candidiasis.
A diet high in sugar, simple carbohydrates and refined foods will increase risk as does lifestyle factors including alcohol and smoking.
A Naturopathic Approach to treating Yeast and Fungal Infections
The main aim in treating thrush is to reduce yeast overgrowth by moderating the gut microbiome and managing the growth of the Candida. The gut microbiome is a collection of microorganisms or bacteria (known as microbiota) that reside within the gastrointestinal tract. Gut dysbiosis or the overgrowth of unwanted bacteria and pathogens is influenced by what we eat, our lifestyle, how well we are detoxifying and even the levels of stress we are exposed to.
1. Manage the symptoms
Probiotics influence the composition of our whole microbiome. They positively alter the microbiome environment and encourage the proliferation of microbiota of the good bacteria. We know that Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Boulardii), a specific yeast strain, has been shown to protect the gut from bacterial pathogens and candida albicans, and combined with Bifidobacterium lactis it is used to treat and prevent candidiasis especially during antibiotic treatment.
When candidiasis presents with acute pain and swelling, an acute dosage regime of anti-inflammatory herbs such as a bioactive Turmeric, Boswellia, Ginger and Quercetin are used to rapidly reduce acute inflammation.
2.Reduce the microbial load with Antimicrobial herbs
Antimicrobial herbs are used for the management of dysbiosis thus maintain a healthy intestinal microbial balance through antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic activity. These herbs include garlic, oil of Oregano, oil of Thyme, Pau d’arco, Phellodendron and Wormwood.
For recurrent or chronic infections it is fundamental to support the immune system. Nutrients such as Vitamin C and Zinc powder are paramount as are immune tonic herbs such as Reishi and Astragalus.
4.Regulate immunity and Restore microbial balance
Supplementing with a high strength probiotic allows the restoration of microbial balance which reduces the likelihood of candida overgrowing. Studies also show that there is a link between our gut microbiome and our immune response. So ensuring the probiotic contains the strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus is a core treatment for regulating immunity. Ensuring enough Vitamin D3 is also paramount to optimum immunity.
5.Detox and alkalise
If candidiasis is hard to resolve or keeps reoccurring, it may pay to conduct a 4-week detoxification program (Vitality Challenge). Detoxification covers all of the major processes for a healthy modification of the gut microbiome and this program effectively reduces the microbial load, restore digestive tract flora and gut lining, and supports the release of toxins that contribute to a compromised immune system.
6.Diet & Lifestyle
Your diet should be based on fresh, whole foods which contain essential nutrients for good immune functions. Sugar, sweets, soft drinks, fruit juices and alcohol should be avoided as sugar feeds the candida. Other highly processed and refined carbohydrates such as flours, breads and pastas should be consumed sparingly or avoided initially. Some people with yeast infections develop an intolerance to yeasts so avoid yeast breads, vegemite pickles, vinegar, processed meats, cheese, mushrooms and peanuts. Natural and unsweetened yoghurt with live lactobacillus is likely to be helpful.
Try and ensure enough rest to support immune function as well as minimise stress as much as possible. And if taking antibiotics, supplement with a probiotic. Avoid synthetic clothing and underwear as this may increase symptoms developing. Wear cotton or silk underwear and avoid douches (unless medically indicated) vaginal deodorants and bubble baths
Topical treatments include tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) or Lavender essential oil (Lavendula species) 2-3 times daily. Apply full strength for skin infections, dilute for vaginal application and do not take internally. Discontinue if skin irritation develops.
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