Candida: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
What is Candida?
The yeast infection, also known as candidiasis, is a very common infection caused by a yeast-like fungus called candida. Small amounts of candida in the form of minute organisms are normally present in our bodies but we usually have the right balance of bacteria to prevent them from multiplying too much. Sometimes these yeast-like fungi do start to grow and this can cause an infection.
Both men and women can have a yeast infection in any part of the body such as the underarms, the nails, the mouth, the genitals and between the toes. These infections usually appear in the warm and moist parts of the body. The infection can have different names when it appears in different parts of the body – for example thrush when in the mouth or a woman’s vagina and balanitis when affecting a man’s penis.
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Causes of Candida
There are two main causes of candida and they are the overuse of antibiotics and poor choices in diet and nutrition which this article will cover in more detail further on.
In addition, there are many other drugs and triggers which can contribute to the occurrence of candida. These are:
- The use of cortisone, birth control pills and steroid drugs, immune suppressing drugs and medication to treat ulcers. Medications upset the balance of microorganisms in the mouth and may cause thrush.
- Synthetic estrogen.
- Insufficient levels of pancreatic enzymes and/or hydrochloric acid.
- Dental amalgams (metal fillings) and heavy metal poisoning.
- Toxins, poisons and chemicals in the environment.
- Constipation and other bowel movement problems.
- Chlorinated water.
- Acidic pH level in the body
Dry mouth and the hormonal changes that occur with pregnancy are other contributing factors. People who smoke or wear dentures that do not fit properly are also at an increased risk for thrush while babies can even pass the infection on to their mothers during breastfeeding. Individuals with diseases that weaken the immune system such as diabetes and HIV are also more vulnerable to candida yeast overgrowth.
A full course of antibiotics kills the harmful bacteria for which it is prescribed, but it also destroys beneficial and friendly bacteria that live in your gut, giving the fast-growing Candida yeast the opportunity to quickly dominate the small intestine and cause problems. In accelerated candida growth situations like this, a natural candida treatment should be used to push the candida back into balance.
Of course there are times when you do need antibiotics, but many doctors still prescribe it for many health issues unnecessarily, Many of us are exposed to antibiotics without being aware of this because farm animals are fed them in their food supply and injected with hormones and antibiotics. Buying organic food can help to reduce your exposure to antibiotics. An astounding 55% of the antibiotics used in the US are in the livestock industry. Herds of cattle are fed antibiotics to keep mortality rates low and profit margins high. You will then absorb these antibiotics when you eat dairy products, poultry, eggs and meat unless they are guaranteed organic. This means that when you are actually prescribed an antibiotic, you will frequently develop a yeast related infection such as a vaginal yeast infection in women, a penile yeast infection in men or oral thrush in small children.
After antibiotics, poor choices in diet and nutrition are the next major cause of candida. Candida just loves sugar and carbohydrates so if you follow a diet that is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, you are asking for problems with candida. If a diet is deficient in vitamins and minerals, it cannot provide the necessary nutrition to ensure a healthy body. It is not able to put up a fight when Candida starts to multiply and a candida overgrowth is the result. Unfortunately the kind of diet many Americans follow is high in sugar and carbohydrates and this is why candida overgrowth is so rampant along with obesity and diabetes. There is no nourishment in that diet. Small amounts of the candida fungus are present in the mouth, digestive tract and skin of most healthy people and are normally kept in check by other bacteria and microorganisms in the body. However, those causes listed above including certain illnesses, stress or medications can disturb the delicate balance, causing the fungus candida to grow out of control.
Causes & Symptoms of Candida in Women
Candida often starts to multiply due to the taking of antibiotics for other health conditions. This can cause a candida overgrowth and bacteria associated with it can get into the bloodstream resulting in sore joints, sinus problems etc.
Fifty to seventy five per cent of all women will have at least one vaginal yeast infection (candida or thrush) during their lifetime. This is the most common type of yeast infection and the medical term is vulvovagina candidiasis. In the vagina, the acidity level prevents yeast from growing. If the level of acidity in the vagina decreases due to any reason, then too much yeast growth causes the vaginal yeast infection. Some of the reasons for this decrease in the level of acidity could be due to diabetes, pregnancy, immune deficiency, poor nutrition or some medications such as antibiotics and birth control pills.
The signs and symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are itching and irritation in the vagina as well as swelling and redness of the vulva. The folds of skin outside the vagina are called the vulva. There may also be a thick, white discharge from the vagina and a burning sensation when urinating and/or intercourse as well as general discomfort in the area around the outside of the vagina. The discharge has been described as having a cottage-cheese, white appearance but it can vary from watery to thick. Sometimes, these symptoms can be quite mild and clear up on their own while other times they can be very bothersome and need treatment.
If you are at all concerned, it is important to seek medical advice in order to get a correct diagnosis because it is possible to confuse the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection with those of sexually transmitted diseases as well as other vaginal infections. A fever and an unpleasant odor from any discharge would be a cause for concern. Your doctor or clinic may take a small sample of the discharge with a swab if the cause is not clear and this is sent to the lab for confirmation. You can then commence treatment.
Many women know when they have thrush and treat it themselves as soon as possible. The yeast infection should be treated as soon as it is detected as it can enter the bloodstream leading to sore joints, chest pain and sinus problems.
Causes & Symptoms of Candida in Men
Balanitis affects males and is the inflammation of the end of the penis called the glans. Many germs live on the skin in small numbers and do not cause any harm. Sometimes they can multiply quickly and cause an infection such as candida (or the balanitis can also be caused by a bacterial infection).
In males, the skin of the glans is particularly sensitive and may become inflamed if it comes into contact with certain chemicals or other substances. Indeed, an infection is even more likely in males who are not circumcised and/or may have other medical problems. Symptoms include redness, irritation and soreness of the end of the penis (the glands).
Sometimes the foreskin can be inflamed at the same time. There can be a small patch of redness on part of the skin surface of the glans or the whole glans can become red, swollen and painful. There is sometimes a discharge from under the foreskin. This discharge has the appearance of thick clumps. There may also be some pain when urinating.
Some of the chemicals and other substances that may cause irritation are:
- Perfumed soaps and shower gels.
- Over-washing or scrubbing
- The chemicals found in some condoms, spermicides and lubricants.
- Chemicals which may spill on your hands and are then spread to the penis when going to the toilet
- The residue from some washing powders or fabric softeners used when washing underwear.
- In addition, bad hygiene can cause old skin, urine, sweat and other matter to collect under the foreskin of the penis. This in turn may irritate the glans and lead to inflammation.
Some of the other conditions (including medical conditions) that can cause an infection to develop are:
- Diabetes – if the diabetic male does not have his disease well controlled, glucose can pass out in the urine leaving drops on the foreskin.
- Phimosis – this is a condition in which the foreskin cannot be pulled back fully over the glans and therefore washing is more difficult – although rare in teenage boys and men, it is normal in young boys up to the age of around five.
- Sexual intercourse with a woman who has vaginal thrush.
- Taking a course of antibiotics for another medical condition.
If the balanitis is caused by a bacterial infection , then you may need a course of antibiotics. If the balanitis is caused by a candida infection, then it can be treated in the same way as any other yeast infection but remember that if your partner has vaginal thrush, then you both need treatment to avoid reinfecting each other. Refrain from having sex, or use a condom, while the infection is being treated. Most cases will clear up in just a few days.
Candida Treatment & Diet
When you treat the condition candida, you also need to pay attention to what you eat as a candida diet is all part of the treatment. First and foremost, you need to discontinue wheat, dairy and sugar for the duration of the treatment. Your daily 8 glasses of filtered water together with frequent helpings of natural or plain yoghurt also form part of recommended diets for candida.
Candida is the name given to the condition that results in the overproduction of a form of yeast normally found in your body but at low levels. The environment in which this candida thrives and even multiplies is when the body's pH balance is acidic. This acidity makes it difficult for your body to absorb vitamins and minerals as well as limiting enzyme production of digestive proteins, leading to indigestion symptoms such as wind or gas, a feeling of being bloated or swollen and then even higher levels of acidity.
There are many foods that actively encourage the growth of yeast and these are the ones that should be avoided when you start your candida diet and candida treatment. Here are the main ones:
Avoid all sugars and sweets including hidden sweeteners in processed foods as well as in dried fruits, baked goods, alcohol, soft drinks, ketchup and other sauces
Avoid all grains such as processed cereals and sprouted grain cereals
Avoid dairy products except natural yogurts.
Avoid meat and poultry products that have added antibiotics and hormones as well as processed meats.
Avoid some vegetables such as beetroot, canned tomatoes, carrots, and the skins of cucumbers and potatoes .
Avoid bread because of the sugar and glutens.
There are just as many foods that are acceptable when treating yeast infections and these include:
Organic or free range meat, poultry and eggs
Cold pressed oils
Natural sweeteners such as vegetable glycerine or stevia
Non-glutinous grains such as wild and brown rice, buckwheat, millet, amaranth and quinoa.
Legumes such as black-eyed peas, chickpeas, garbanzo beans, lentils, split peas
Nuts and seeds
A daily cup of diluted apple cider vinegar in lemon
When you are really not sure about whether a particular food is should be avoided or not, remember these three important rules for treating the causes of candida:
Prepare your food with substances or spices that kill yeasts such as ginger.
Ensure you don't eat any foods that are likely to cause constipation. You want to make sure that no food stays in the colon too long otherwise it will ferment and add to the yeast problem.
When preparing rice, cook it slowly so that it passes through your digestive system quickly.
In the early days of a candida yeast infection, you should be strict with your candida diet. Later when your health improves, you can start to slowly introduce some foods again such as fruits with a low sugar content. Such fruits are apples and berries.
If you have been diagnosed with candida or think that you might have this condition, you can have a test for candida, such as a Candida Antigen Blood Test, with the help of your doctor. This will give you an accurate result as to exactly how much candida is in your system. This blood test can be arranged again during your candida treatment and then at the end of your treatment to give you a good overview of your levels.
Additional candida tests are:
- The Indican test which will indicate a correct ratio of good and bad bacteria in the intestine or gut, and whether your gut is absorbing enough protein, carbohydrates and nutrients from your food.
- The Gut Fermentation Test which measures blood alcohol after a glucose load.
There are other candida tests too that you can do at home.
One is to check your diet carefully. How often do you eat or drink foods such as breads, rolls and doughnuts; dairy products; pizza, noodles and pasta; fast food and junk snacks; colas, juices and sodas; desserts, sugar, chocolate and candy; alcohol, coffee or tea; and fruit? These are the kinds of foods that, if eaten too often particularly if every day or worse several times per day, could be feeding a candida problem. A “sweet tooth” can indicate an underlying problem like Candida.
Then there is the Candida Saliva Test. The method is that when you wake up and before you have anything to eat or drink, fill a clear glass with water. Work up some saliva and drop on top of the water. It is important that nothing enters your mouth or touches your lips before you do this. No drinking water, brushing teeth or even kissing your partner. If after 10 to 15 minutes the spit is still sitting on top of the water, it is likely you do not have a candida problem but keep checking again every 10 to 15 minutes for about 3 times.
Healthy saliva will be clear and float on top of the water. It will then begin to slowly dissolve into the water without any cloudiness and without sinking. There would normally be some bubbles or foam present.
The test suggests any candida type of infection if some or all of the following symptoms appear:
- Strings travelling down to the bottom of the glass
- Cloudy saliva that sinks to the bottom of the glass
- Cloudy specks suspended in the water
Candida cleansing is one of the ways in which this balance is restored. A good candida cleanse is dependent on an overall approach including diets for a candida cleanse (that is not eating foods which feed the candida) plus using supplements that are anti-fungal to build up the body's digestive system while cleansing the bowel, the lymphatic system and toning the liver. There are products on the market that make use of fiber, oxygen or other natural methods to safely clean the toxins and excess waste from your body. Many cleansing programs consist of a cleanser, as well as probiotics to help boost your immune system. On top of this, you can also fast, or alter your diet to help starve the candida in your system.
- The simplest candida cleanse is to use antifungals for 2 weeks, switch to probiotics for 2 weeks and to keep up this method for a period of 3 months.
- At the same time, your digestion needs to be improved as candida yeast will feed on improperly digested food so that it multiplies. A course of full spectrum digestive enzymes taken with each meal, also for 3 months, is often recommended.
- Bowel cleansing is another aspect of candida cleansing. If you are not having two bowel movements per day and suffering from constipation, you should take a mild laxative to re-tone the bowel until found resolved. At the same time adding more fiber to your diet, drinking lots of water and taking regular exercise will also help with any constipation problem.
- Exercise is important in other ways to cleanse your body, helping you to work more efficiently, as well as assisting in the detoxification process. Taking a good walk, going for a jog, swimming or cycling can work wonders.
- Your liver is also a major organ involved in the detoxification process and needs to run smoothly and efficiently in order for your system to be in top gear. But it can become overwhelmed with toxins which will be reabsorbed into your system. Support your liver with supplements such as: dandelion root, milk thistle, burdock root and vitamin C.
- Try to alleviate stress as this causes your body to release sugars into your blood, feeding the overgrowth of candida yeast.
- Candida diets should be carefully followed in tandem with the candida cleansing program. Avoid all sugars and make sure you are not eating any hidden sugars as well as obvious ones in candy, beverages and of course alcohol. Avoid any foods with white flour. The good things to eat are unsweetened kefir, unsweetened yoghurt and sauerkraut while at the same time drinking apple cider vinegar diluted in water.
The goal of candida cleansing is to bring candida down to a normal manageable level. Although candida and yeast exist naturally in our body, problems arise when it spreads and multiplies. Two vitamins that are very helpful in supporting your body during a cleanse are Vitamin C and biotin.