Candidiasis is any infection with the yeast candida (usually candida albicans).
Areas of the body most commonly affected are the vagina, mouth, intestine, skin folds and the napkin area in babies. Also known as thrush or monilia, candida is a normal inhabitant in our bodies.
The yeast Candida albicans can change its form from a simple non-invasive cell to an invasive mycelial form with tendrils (tentacles). These tendrils grow like roots and can penetrate the wall of the bowel, and act like a leaking pipe through which waste products and toxins can enter into the bloodstream, bypassing the liver.
The liver is unable to get to these toxins which can then cause symptoms such as fatigue, allergies and mysterious ill health.
What causes it?
Generally, the friendly bacteria of our genital and gastrointestinal tracts keep the candida under control. However, in situations where the friendly bacteria have been disturbed or killed off, such as secondary to antibiotics, the contraceptive pill and even stress, candida makes the most of the opportunity to take over.
It is with this overgrowth that the problems start. The yeast loves warm, moist places, and this is why regions like the vagina, mouth and sweaty skin folds are so commonly affected.
What are the symptoms?
Vaginal thrush or candida is characterised by itch, irritation and a white cheesy discharge. Many women are plagued by recurrent thrush infections in the vagina. This can indicate that you are carrying a reservoir of candida in the intestine or occasionally that your partner may have an unrecognized low-grade infection and is re-infecting you.
Candida can also be a possible cause of recurrent cystitis, when urine tests are negative for bacteria.
Thrush in the mouth presents as a sore white coated tongue or throat.
When the skin is affected, a red itchy rash appears.
In the intestine, candida can cause bloating, crampy pains, excessive flatulence or burning in the stomach. There may be itching around the anal area.
If candida proliferates in the intestine, it can change its form from yeast buds to an elongated fungal form with root-like projections that attach to the intestine wall. This may open channels directly into the blood stream, and may result in the absorption into the blood of partially digested food particles.
Subsequently, allergic reactions may be triggered with varied symptoms such as headaches, eczema, fatigue and lethargy, dizziness, depression, irritability, arthritis and so on.
The term ‘systemic candidiasis’ may be used to describe this wide variety of symptoms. This is not to be confused with a ‘systemic candida infection’ in which the yeast invades and totally overruns the bloodstream causing a severe life-threatening illness.
This latter condition is rare and seen in those who are already very ill with a poorly functioning immune system.
How can it be prevented?
There are a number of factors which put you at risk of developing problems with candidiasis. These include long term antibiotics (frequently prescribed for acne), the oral contraceptive pill, cortisone anti-inflammatory drugs, high levels of sugar in the blood (such as in diabetics, obese people or those addicted to chocolates and sweets), chronic viral infections such as glandular fever, cancer and chemotherapy drugs, nutritional imbalances which weaken the immune system, and excess intake of alcohol.
Localised infections, such as a skin fold rash, oral thrush or a single episode of vaginal thrush, can usually be treated by a simple application of tea tree oil, an anti-fungal cream or oral anti-fungal drops or lozenges.
There is a range of tea tree oil products available which are specifically designed for the vagina and include a cream, pessaries and a douche solution.
Some women find that douching with a natural acidophilus yoghurt is helpful, as this replaces the friendly lactobacilli bacteria.
For those with recurrent infections or systemic candidiasis, a much more holistic approach is required.
Firstly, you should avoid the risk factors where possible.
Secondly, candida should be destroyed using safe, antifungal drugs. The safest is nystatin, best taken in powder form dissolved in water, in a dosage of half a teaspoon four times daily for eight weeks. It is best taken between meals on an empty stomach. Nystatin powder will eradicate the fungus from the intestines and is usually free of side effects as it is not absorbed into the bloodstream.
An alternative is the more potent antifungal, ketoconazole, which is very effective but has the potential to be toxic to the liver. It is taken as a tablet once daily with food for ten days. With this short course liver problems are unlikely. These antifungals are available on prescription from your doctor.
While using these treatments, tackle any oral or vaginal infections by gargling with tea tree oil (1 in 10 dilution) every night, and/or using vaginal (“Vaginol”) antifungal pessaries, douche or creams nightly for four to eight weeks.
It is not necessary to avoid sexual activity completely, although it is best to do so while symptoms are acute. Treat your partner also if they have any symptoms such as a red itchy rash in the genital area.
After you have made the effort to eradicate the candida, it is important to stop it coming back through attention to your diet and adding specific nutritional supplements. The anti-candida diet can be started immediately.
Begin a regular course of nutritional supplements after the antifungal drug course is finished.
Candida is outlined in The Healthy Liver and Bowel Book. It is recommended that you follow the basic principles for a healthy liver outlined on pages 20-27 of this book as a way of life.
Basically, the most important features of an anti-candida diet are as follows :-
Include often – fresh leafy vegetables; sprouts; legumes (beans, lentils, split peas, chickpeas); wholegrains like brown rice; fish; poultry; lean meat; seeds and nuts (except peanuts); garlic, ginger, cinnamon, thyme and rosemary; natural unsweetened yoghurt.
Avoid – all sugars and sweets including honey, jam, cakes, chocolates, biscuits, and soft drinks; alcohol; yeasted or fermented foods like bread, soy sauce, cheeses, dried fruits, old or mouldy foods, vitamin B supplements containing yeast, mushrooms, vinegar, pickles, mustard, mayonnaise; white flour products and ‘white’ pastas; all processed, preserved and refined foods. Preferably also avoid fruit juices and dried fruits, as they contain high levels of natural sugars.
For the first four to eight weeks it is best to also avoid white potato, sweet corn and all fruit. Thereafter, reintroduce these foods gradually. Try to limit your fruit intake to two to three servings per day. Avoid fruit with mould on it. The safest fruits are apples and pears.
To substitute for ordinary breads and pasta, use yeast-free bread, which can be obtained from the health food store, and wholemeal pastas.
Foods that have natural antibiotic properties will fight candida very effectively if they are eaten regularly. The best ones are raw garlic (finely chopped, minced, grated or juiced), onions, leeks, and radishes, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage), fresh ginger (finely chopped or grated) and raw cabbage juice.
Raw fresh vegetable juices are vitally important. See the A-Z medical guide to juicing in the Raw Juices Can Save Your Life book. The recommended juicing recipe to assist with Candida is “Candida Juice” found on page 63.
Can’t Lose Weight? You Could have Syndrome X This Syndrome X book includes a low carbohydrate diet and recipes that avoid the foods that exacerbate Candida.
The Dr Sandra Cabot Recipe Collection Eat yourself a rainbow everyday You will find low carbohydrate and liver cleansing recipes tested and tasted by Audrey Tea
Liver tonic powder or capsules
Take 1 teaspoon twice daily in fresh raw vegetable juices with celery, carrot, beetroot, horseradish, garlic and ginger. Alternatively take 2 capsules twice daily.
Olive leaf with Thyme capsules
Take 1 capsule with every meal – Olive leaf is an excellent safe natural antibiotic to help fight infection and candida.Thyme is a natural anti-microbial.
MSM Plus Vitamin C powder
Take ½ teaspoon twice a day in water or vegetable juice – MSM is an organic sulphur which is active against many pathogens.
Take ½ teaspoon twice daily in juice or coconut milk. Higher doses may be required. Glutamine will support healthy liver and bowel function. Glutamine helps to repair a leaky gut, which is an underlying cause of allergies.
Other useful supplements
Include Lactobacillus Acidophilus powder, to re-colonise the intestine with the good bacteria, half a teaspoon (one gram) twice daily in a glass of warm water.
Orthodox Medical Treatment
Many doctors don’t believe that the problem of systemic candidiasis exists and therefore don’t treat the patient holistically.
However, doctors will regularly treat localised candida infections and are usually very familiar with the patient who has problems with continually recurring vaginal thrush.
Various anti-fungal medications are used including nystatin, clotrimazole, miconazole and econazole. These are available as creams, vaginal pessaries, tablets/capsules and drops.
For recurring infections your doctor may prescribe ketoconazole (as above) or fluconazole, which is taken as a single dose of one tablet.