Everyone has Candida in their body (particularly in such places as the gastrointestinal tract, mouth, vagina, etc.) but sometimes it can get out of control. Even when treated properly, yeast infections typically take around 5 months to completely go away and proper yeast balances to be restored.
Candida is an aggressive form of yeast and it can shoot threads through soft tissue within the body making it quite easy for it to get excessive. When the yeast levels go past a healthy level in the gastrointestinal tract it can cause what is called a leaky gut; meaning that the lining of the tissue is exposed to things such as harmful bacteria, chemicals, parasites and foods that can irritate the body.
Candida growth that has gone past healthy levels can produce toxins in the body; these toxins are acetaldehyde and gliotoxin. They can contribute to other health issues such as Alzheimers disease, autoimmune disease and alcohol related cancers. Most people will see Candida overgrowth through their skin, genitals, mouth and throat. In highly severe cases, systemic candidiasis can occur and can be life threatening. This is when Candida spreads throughout the body and can impact the heart, eyes, liver, kidneys, brain, joints and genital tract. This disseminated candidiasis typically occurs in people with low white blood cell counts (neutropenia) and is not a typical Candida infection for most people.
If you have persistent yeast infections (more than 3-4 within a year) you may have a Candida overgrowth issue or other health problem such as diabetes so it will be important for you to be tested. Symptoms of Candida overgrowth are many and you may be surprised at just how many symptoms it can produce.
Examples of Candida Overgrowth Symptoms:
Tests for Candida Overgrowth
There are three types of tests that can detect your Candida levels: blood, stool and urine tests. These tests check for IgG, IgA and IgM Candida antibodies. If you are tested, make sure that you ask for a comprehensive test as standard tests may not pick up on things like D-Arabinitol (a waste product of Candida yeast overgrowth).
Yeast infections that are focused in the vaginal area can be a part of Candida overgrowth or simply specific to the vagina and vulva. They are very common and over 75% of women have at least one during their lifetime. Symptoms of a yeast infection are typically itching, soreness, pain and even burning during urination or sexual activity. There is also white discharge that comes out that is typically thick and possibly clumpy. Women who get them often see these symptoms the week prior to their menstrual period starting. Diagnosis of a yeast infection is done through a basic vaginal exam.
Men can get yeast infections in the tip of their penis, which is called balanitis. Men are more prone to get yeast infections when they are uncircumcised or have diabetes. Symptoms of balanitis are itching or burning at the tip of the penis or around the foreskin and/or a rash. To prevent yeast infections of the penis, men are encouraged to clean under the foreskin and treatment typically involves antifungal cream or oil. Men who have chronic balanitis who are uncircumcised should look into treating themselves for Candida overgrowth and may wish to also consider circumcision.
Conventional Treatments for Yeast Infections
Treating a one time yeast infection versus treating Candida overgrowth takes on two different strategies. The best way to treat them is topically and through proper nutrition simultaneously. If it is just a one time issue then using traditional antifungal treatments is typically effective. Examples of these are-
Most doctors recommend that you take medications such as Diflucan for 6-12 weeks. This can contribute to an antifungal resistance later. Candidiasis that does not respond to treatment may be due to Candida overgrowth as well as antifungal resistance from the long-term use of antifungal drugs. New drugs are always being developed, however, for those who have Candida overgrowth using preventative measures through alternative treatments focusing on nutrition (shown below) may be desirable.
As an alternative there are also herbal remedies for candidia control which often contain garlic, pau d'arco, grapefruit seed extract, black walnut hull, oregano oil, biotin, aloe vera, anise seed, wormwood and caprylic acid.
Antifungal Drugs Not as Effective for Candida Overgrowth Issues
Conventional doctors will typically prescribe antifungal drugs in the form of creams and pills. However, if the issue is more wide spread and chronic, these may not address an underlying Candida overgrowth problem completely or at all.
Conventional medicine typically focuses on reducing symptoms rather than treating the disease of Candida overgrowth and that is why it is a good idea to explore nutritional support by changing your diet to help combat Candida long-term.
Below are examples of treatments that have been effective in working for them to address yeast infections. Be careful in using these as some rememdies can burn the skin-
Anyone who has had a rash caused by yeast overgrowth knows they itch and often very badly. This can cause scratching which can then make it worse and cause damage to the skin. To decrease the itching, many find that using topical analgesic creams or sprays that have pain killing properties in them helpful.
Many people also find that taking the over-the-counter allergy medicine and antihistamine Benedryl orally is helpful, especially when trying to sleep. This medication makes most people drowsy so make sure that if you choose to take it that you read the directions carefully and avoid driving or doing anything that would put you at risk when under the influence of it.
One of the biggest tips for beating candida skin rashes is to keep them dry. That can be very difficult considering that most are in the folds of skin. However, making sure to completely dry the skin after taking a shower or bath is important and one can do this by using a very dry towel and then using a fan or hair dryer to blow cool air on the skin surface to make sure it is very dry.
Afterward, some find it helpful to apply an anti-fungal powder such as Zeasorb antifungal treatment powder. Once you have the powder applied, putting a breathable fabric barrier against the skin is helpful. For example, in cases of having it under the breasts, you can put paper towels or a handkerchief underneath each of them to wick away sweat and keep the skin dry. If you have a large belly that hangs down, you can roll up cotton underwear or something like it and place it under the belly. Get creative, but keep the skin dry as it will help kill the fungus causing the rash as it can only thrive in a moist environment.
If the rash is the groin area, you may want to use absorbent sanitary napkins to keep the moisture away from your body. You can also sprinkle antifungal powder on them as well. You can use these in other areas of the body as well.
Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE / GFSE)
There is conflicting research that has shown that the seeds and pulp do not actually contain antimicrobial properties while others say that it does. Part of the reason for this conflict is because GSE is not actually just the seeds and pulp of grapefruit it is made through a process that converts it into a synthetic chemical. The way that it is made entails that the pulp and seed is dried into powder and then dissolved into purified water to remove pectin and fiber. Then it is filtered and the distilled slurry is dried at a low temperature to create a highly concentrated flavonoid powder. It is then dissolved into vegetable glycerine and heated. Later ascorbic acid and food grade ammonium chloride is added and it is heated again, this time under pressure. It then goes through a catalytic conversion using hydrochloric acid and natural enzymes until there is no more residue of the hydrochloric acid. Finally the slurry is filtered and treated with ultraviolet light once it is cool and now it does contain antimicrobial properties.
The biggest controversy regarding it though is about potential preservatives in the GSE. Preservatives such as benzethonium chloride, triclosan, and methylparaben as well as Methyl p-hydroxybenzoate, propyl p-hydroxybenzoate are considered to be toxic (particularly when consumed internally) and therefore may cause harm. There are claims that independent tests that were conducted in multiple labs over a 20 year period showed that all commercial GSEs had at least one or more these synthetic microbicides and disinfectants. However, considering that GSE is in and of itself a synthetic microbicide then that would explain why all of them had at least one. What we do know about GSE is that it is irritating to the skin and can increase inflammation in the body and while it is safer than many other chemical preservatives it is a synthetic chemical and is not natural.
Fermented Vegetables vs Pickled Vegetables
There are those that say fermented vegetables (a.k.a. cultured vegetables) can cause yeast infections and those that say they can effectively treat yeast infections. So which is true?
When people speak of fermented vegetables in negative terms they are often referring to things like canned or jarred pickles, sauerkraut, etc. which when bought in the store are not fermented in a healthy manner, they are pickled. Foods that are pickled are preserved in an acidic base like vinegar and while vinegar is a product of fermentation it does not offer the probiotic and enzymatic value of fermented vegetables. Pickled foods do contribute to yeast infections, while fermented foods do not.
When food is properly fermented it preserves it without heat or pressure (unlike the canned and jarred pickled foods in the supermarket). Proper fermentation allows all of the beneficial lactobacilli to thrive which creates lactic acid thus increasing the vitamin and enzyme content in the food as well as improving the digestibility and bio-availability within it.
In some grocery stores you can purchase properly fermented foods but only in the refrigerated section. If they are canned or in jars and not refrigerated they are pickled and not properly fermented. They too tend to be on the more expensive side and that is why most people choose to ferment vegetables themselves.
When it comes to vegetable fermentation, it is also important that they be fermented properly in order for them to provide the right health benefits. Vegetables that are fermented do not contribute to yeast infections rather they help to combat them. The type of fermented vegetables that are most effective in treating Candida overgrowth are those that are fermented in an anaerobic vessel or when the vegetables that are fermenting are submerged completely under brine. This process starves the vegetables of undesirable bacteria that thrives on oxygen. It better provides those vegetables with the healthiest forms of probiotic strains so that they combat the Candida rather than contribute to it. If you are using wild fermentation, Mason jar fermentation or open crock fermentation make sure that they are submerged under the brine or you may find that the fermented vegetables do not fight the Candida and may even contribute to it.
Candida Fighting Foods
Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs
There have been marked results using Chinese herbs and acupuncture to assist in treating Candida overgrowth and yeast infections. Herbal formulas should be prescribed by an acupuncturist after you have been seen so that they can recommend one that will be specific to your issues.
Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques
The NAET treatment was developed by Dr. Devi S. Nambudripad in 1983. The techniques of this treatment are a noninvasive, drug free and alleviate allergies of all types and intensities. The techniques use energy balancing from the following healing modalities: acupuncture, acupressure, allopathy, chiropractic, nutritional, and kinesiological. To learn more about it you can visit the website- NAET.com.
The Candida cleanse diets serve to starve the offending yeast population in order to help get it under control. Typically they last 3-4 weeks. Candida cleanses involve eliminating sugar, processed food, alcohol, nuts, cheese and caffeine. In addition, other foods such as bread, rice and some fruits should be avoided. Eating foods such as the ones listed above known for their antifungal properties are encouraged in addition to probiotic dietary supplements.
Personal Lubricants for Yeast Infections
There are only a select few personal lubricants that are good for vaginal health. Waterbased, paraben free lubricants are best and there are even brands that make lubricants that are designed to prevent yeast infections such as Intimate Organics Defense Lubricant. In addition, brands like Sliquid Swirl are flavored lubricants that are designed to prevent yeast and urinary tract infections without the ingredients of sugar which can contribute to yeast infections.
While coconut oil is great for treating yeast infections, it is not recommended as a personal lubricant for the following reasons-
You should consult your physician should you decide to try an alternative treatment for a yeast infection or Candida overgrowth as it may cause further health problems if you are taking it with another medication or have health condition that may become exacerbated by the alternative treatment. Also, take time to research alternative treatments to discern if they make sense for you.