In our modern, probiotic-friendly society, you’re probably well aware that not all bacteria is bad. Your body has a variety of different bacteria and other small organisms that help your body function well. This includes helpful bacteria in your gut, which probiotic-rich yogurt and kefir is supposed to support, but there are other areas your body is being helped, too. Of course, when those systems become unbalanced for whatever reason, they can also affect your body negatively.
One of these generally helpful organisms in your body is Candida, a genus of yeast that can be found in the mouth and intestines, as well as on the skin. Most of the time, if levels are within the ‘normal’ range, Candida is no big deal. You probably don’t even know it’s there. But, if Candida levels grow too much, it can become a fungal infection known as candidiasis.
The Basics of Candida
Candida is a fungus (of which yeast is a subcategory) that lives on and in the body. Yes, it sounds gross, but it’s typically a part of your body’s normal functions. It’s only when Candida levels get out of balance that you are likely to even know it’s there. Generally, the beneficial bacteria in your body help keep Candida levels to a minimum. However, there are some factors that can disrupt your immune system, inhibit that protective good bacteria, and give Candida the opportunity to grow.
Effects of Candida
When Candida grows to the point that it can overproduce, a few different things can happen. Most women will experience candidiasis at least once in their lives in the form of a vaginal yeast infection — but candidiasis can take other forms as well. Those include:
- Oral Thrush — This is what happens when Candida grows in the mouth or throat. Small, white bumps develop on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums, throat, and tonsils. They can bleed slightly when scraped, and otherwise cause soreness and difficulty swallowing.
- Genital Infections — As we mentioned above, this includes vaginal yeast infections. Symptoms include itching, swelling, redness, painful intercourse, and a thick, white vaginal discharge. Men are also susceptible to genital yeast infections, though it’s much less common.
- Urinary Tract Infections — This is, thankfully, less common than genital Candida infections. These occur primarily in the elderly and hospitalized, as well as those with compromised immune systems. A Candida-caused urinary tract infection can lead to burning sensations during urination, a frequent urge to urinate, pressure in the low abdomen, and dark or strange-smelling urine.
- Digestive Issues — If the good bacteria in your gut becomes unbalanced and Candida grows, it can cause a range of digestive issues. These include gas, cramps, constipation, nausea, and bloating. It may also play a role in ongoing gastrointestinal issues like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- Sinus Infections — That’s right, your runny nose and sinus woes may be because of Candida growth, not allergies. Short-term sinus infections are typically caused by bacteria; however, if your sinus infection has gone on longer than a month, or you experience chronic sinus infections, Candida may be the root cause.
- Skin and Nail Infections — You have bacteria on your skin that helps keep it balanced. When that balance is thrown off and Candida grows, this can lead to fungal infections on your skin and nails, including ringworm, athlete’s foot, and toenail fungus.
- Joint Pain — This effect of Candida growth is, thankfully, pretty rare. If Candida somehow enters the bloodstream (after surgery, mostly, or if Candida growth is left untreated), it can infect the joints and lead to arthritis pain. In the same way, it can also reach and infect bones.
In order to avoid the above issues, particularly if you are prone to a candidiasis infection of some kind, there are a few steps you can take. Some of the more prevalent causes of candidiasis revolve around the body’s balanced bacteria getting thrown out of whack somehow. Those with a weakened immune system or diabetes are more prone to candidiasis. In addition, those taking antibiotics or oral contraceptives see an increased risk. The other key cause of Candida growth is sugars. This includes those who ingest high quantities of sugar, especially refined carbs and sugars, as well as those with a high alcohol intake.
Fortunately, since Candida and candidiasis are naturally occurring, there are natural ways to combat the overgrowth of this fungus. First, as you may guess from the above list, is reducing your sugar intake. Specifically, reducing your intake of carbohydrates, refined sugars (like candy or baked goods), and alcohol intake can be beneficial. Second, certain foods and natural products also naturally inhibit the growth of Candida. Foods include garlic, coconut oil, turmeric, pomegranate, and kombucha. Aloe vera, xylitol, and probiotics can also help protect against infections caused by Candida growth.
Diet and other simple measures can often be enough to minimize the risk of candidiasis infections. However, it will depend on your body, any health issues you are experiencing, and so on. And, of course, everyone’s bodies are different. If the symptoms listed above sound familiar to you, a functional medicine practice may be able to help. Contact Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa in Peoria for Candida treatment, dietary suggestions and other holistic medicine treatments to help stop recurring infections, and more. Schedule your appointment today.