Candida Albicans is a harmless yeast, a type of fungus, that lives naturally in the human body (called commensal organism): males, female and child alike. It is virtually present right from birth, in a symbiotically balanced environment in the gastro-intestinal system, mucous membranes and on skin.
Candida is an opportunistic pathogen, meaning when a person is weak and debilitated, Candida will take immediate advantage and over grow.
Candida overgrowth and its toxins produced, called mycotoxins, can attack any organ or system in your body. This attack is relentless and goes on, until treated. If this overgrowth is not arrested, the roots of this fungus can burrow in the intestine, causing pores in the wall of the gut (called Leaky Gut) which can then allow this fungus and its toxins to enter the bloodstream and cause a myriad of symptoms.
Who Gets Candidal Infection?
Candida, being an opportunistic pathogen, which multiplies causing an infection only when the immunity of a person is compromised. it otherwise lives in a symbiotic relationship with the person, neither benefiting nor harming the host.
The incidence of Candida is common among
- Elderly people
- People with a high carbohydrate diet including dairy products, desserts, flour etc.
- Women taking contraceptive pills or Hormone Replacement Therapy
- Pregnant Women
- Heavy metal poisoning eg. lead poisoning
- Hormonal changes eg. puberty, menopause etc.
- Alcohol Abuse
- Patients on chemotherapy or radiation therapy
Most of these infections are localized to a specific organ or region. However, many medical conditions can also increase the risk of candidiasis, in which this organism and its toxins can travel in the bloodstream and spread to other organ systems as well, due to the lowered immunity of a person.
Medical Conditions that can lead to a Candidal Infection are as follows:
– Diabetes mellitus: Recurring infections occur in spite of the proper treatment of diabetes. The high levels of glucose in the body lead to the spread of infection to other parts of the body through the blood stream.
– Obesity: The moisture which is present within the skin folds provides a suitable environment promoting the growth of this fungus.
– Intravenous Drug Abuse: Frequent and unhygienic insertions of drugs via I.V. route can introduce Candida in the blood stream. Moreover, IV lines that are kept for long periods of time can also lead to Candidal infections.
– Catheters: Long dwelling catheters in hospitalized patients.
– Use of Broad Spectrum Antibiotics – This kills the other organisms that compete with Candida for growth, allowing the overgrowth of this organism.
– Severe Burns patients: Severe burns remove normal layers of skin, leaving the body to added infections like Candidiasis
– Neonates (Infants less than 7 days old)
– AIDS: Since AIDS causes a drastic reduction in the immunity of a patient, it can lead to over-growth of Candida.
– Stress and poor nutrition: Both these cause the suppression of a persons immunity, making the body vulnerable to Candidal infections.
– Reduced Neutrophil Counts: A type of white blood cell, associated with immunity of the body)
– Cancer of blood cells eg. Lymphoma
– Patients on a prolonged steroid therapy (excess cortisol in the system increases sugar in the blood)
The symptoms of Candidiasis can be classified as Localized or Systemic:
- Oral Thrush: In the oral cavity, the candidal infection is called oral thrush. It is generally seen in case of AIDS patients, people using dentures- who maintain poor oral hygiene, and in infants who may experience pain, poor feeding, crankiness etc.
- Diaper Rash: In children and infants who wear diapers, the moisture retained between the skin folds promotes the growth of Candida.
- Balanitis: the penis and foreskin shows red, inflamed, painful sores with a white discharge from the penis.
- Vaginal Thrush: Vaginal burning, itching or vaginal discharge which is whitish-yellow and creamy in consistency.
- Itching burning and soreness on and around the nipples in breast feeding women
- Blurred vision and pain due to Endopthalmitis, which is a condition in which the inner eyeball is inflamed typically caused by Candidal infection.
- Mucus in Stool
- Rectal Itching
- Nasal congestion or post nasal drip
- Nasal itching
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Blisters or rashes in the mouth
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Ear pain or deafness
- Nails: Paronychia (painful inflammation of the skin around the nails) and Onchomycosis (poor nail growth which appears disfigured)
Generalized or Systemic Symptoms:
- Foot, hair or body odor not relieved even after washing.
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Fevers of unknown origin
- Cough or recurrent bronchitis
- Muscle aches
- Feeling of drowsiness or sleeplessness
- Bloating or intestinal gas
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Urinary incontinence
- Menstrual cramps and irregularities
- Poor memory, indecisiveness, confusion, anxiety
- Body pains and joint pains
- Loss of sexual desire or feeling
- Cold hands and/or feet
- Indigestion or severe heartburn
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
- Hair Loss ( total hair loss or partial hair loss)
- Dry and frizzy hair
Many food increase our vulnerability to Candidiasis. If you are infection free and prone to recurrent candidal infections, it is best to maintain a healthy diet and consume the following food items in moderation/ with caution:
– Foods high in sugar content: Yeast feeds primarily on sugar. Hence, it is best to avoid foods rich in refined sugar ad carbohydrates like cakes, chocolates, honey, soft-drinks, biscuits, syrups, molasses etc. Even artificial sweeteners must be avoided.
– Food items fermented with yeast must be avoided. For example, beer, cider, wine, pickles etc. Even alcohols eventually convert to sugars in the bloodstream and must be avoided to prevent the growth of Candida.
– Nuts: Nuts are moldy and must be avoided if you are suffering or prone to candidiasis
– Beverages like tea, coffee, or any malted drinks must be avoided
– Refined and processed foods like breads, white pasta, white rice, corn-flakes etc must be avoided
Instead of succumbing to foods with high sugar content, try having more products made with whole wheat, such as wheat bread, wheat pasta.
Increase uptake of probiotics such as yogurt which is rich in Lactobacilli content – a normally occurring bacteria in the digestive system which counters the growth of Candida.
Garlic is also known to have Anti-fungal properties.
A daily bowel movement is extremely essential. Regular uptake of food items rich in fibre like flaxseeds,is necessary to avoid constipation.
Also, keep your body hydrated by drinking 5-6 liters of water everyday. Regular consumption of green teas and fruits rich in antioxidants like berries is a must.
A sedentary lifestyle contributes to the development of fungal infections, particularly in women and chronically bed-ridden patients. Exercising regularly causes sweat which is an effective way of removing toxins from your body.
Also, performing breathing exercises will help your body get rid of toxins harmful to your body. Seventy-five percent of the toxins are released during respiration. Perform breathing exercises several times a day, concentrating primarily on your belly.
Maintaining Proper Sanitation
Personal hygiene must not be overlooked to prevent infections.
- Wear loose clothes
- Wear undergarments with a cotton-based crotch.
- After urination or passing stools, wipe from front to back- this prevents contamination of vagina with micro-organisms from the anus.
- Keep the vaginal areas always dry. Wash your private parts thoroughly, with mild soaps.
- Avoid douching at all costs
- Shower and change clothes immediately after swimming or working out
- Avoid using scented tampons or sanitary napkins
- Sanitary napkins and tampons must be changed every 6-8 hours
- Maintain proper oral hygiene- Brush twice daily, floss regularly and use mouthwashes.
- Avoid sharing face-towels, body-towels, razors, loofa, and other toiletries, make-up
- Maintain clean nails, keep them short and dry
- Wash your hands and feet regularly
Practice Safe Sex
Candidiasis is contagious and can be spread through infected sexual partners.
- It is imperative that both the partners should clean themselves before as well as after having sex.
- Use Condoms to avoid infections
- Use Water based lubricants only when the natural secretions are insufficient to stay lubricated.
- Avoid vaginal sex immediately after anal sex and that too, only after proper washing.
- Ease up on your medication:
Indiscriminate use of antibiotics leads to the development of bacterial resistance to those antibiotics, requiring a stronger dose to combat the infections. Frequent use of antibiotics kills organisms that compete with the growth of Candida, leading to its over-growth.
Avoid Over Use of Medications;
Avoid taking medication such as;
- Corticosteroids like Cortisol and Prednisone
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs like Aspirin and Ibuprofen
- Immunosuppressive drugs
- Stress Management
Stress can increases your chances of developing a yeast infection, so reduce your stress levels by getting enough sleep and indulge in activities like yoga, meditation and deep breathing.
Candida is a devastating illness which can be easily prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, eating right, maintaining proper sanitation and leading a stress- free life.
Hence, adjust your daily diet to control candida growth, supplement your meals with nourishing vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants and boost your immune system with regular exercise routines, to help resist candidiasis and many other infections.