Our bodies constantly grow a variety of good bacteria as defenders against the incoming bad. Bacterial flora is an integral contributor to our immune system strength, but it can be killed and leave us open to invasion by bad bacteria. A variety of factors decrease our good bacteria levels; when this happens and the balance is swayed, the bad bacteria replicate more quickly and eventually take over. This is called Candida albicans…and it’s becoming a fairly common health concern.
Candida gains prevalence through a variety of systems, attacking mucous membranes or skin, so it can be present in the mouth, down through stomach and intestines, and also the vagina and anus. The vaginal presence of Candida can cause frequent yeast infections (more than once a year is considered chronic and is a cause for concern). White discharge from the vagina and external and internal itching are signs; difficult and painful periods can be a product of more extreme cases.
Candida of the mouth is known as thrush and takes the form of a white substance that can accumulate on the lips; it also causes a white tongue. If your tongue is white in the morning before you’ve consumed anything, odds are good that you have it. The symptoms through the stomach and intestines are a little more difficult to isolate since they can apply to a variety of other imbalances, but diarrhea, pain in the abdominal region or a distended or “puffy” look, and difficulty with digestion can all indicate candida overgrowth. Candida can also take the form of athlete’s foot, diaper rash, jock itch, or dry skin conditions such as dandruff or psoriasis.
One way to check for Candida is with a simple at-home saliva test. Upon waking (before consuming anything), spit into a glass of water. About twenty minutes later, examine the saliva: if it has long “legs” coming from it or it sank, you probably have Candida.
There are candida lab tests that can determine past and present candida infection. These candida tests are done through blood or stool analysis. Some can be collected at home and mailed to the lab.
Cause of Yeast Infections
Candida can be caused by a variety of things:
- antibiotics are designed to kill ALL bacteria and unfortunately, this includes the good variety. If your system is at an imbalance while the levels are depleted, it is easy for the bad bacteria to gain steam and prevent the good from replicating at necessary rates.
- Birth control and steroids can also cause Candida.
- Diet is a major cause: bad bacteria feed off sugar and yeast. Diets high in sugar, non wholegrains (which convert to sugar)-particularly white flour-soft cheeses high in mold, and yeast breads can all be victimizers. That doesn’t mean that they cannot be consumed in any amount, because a system in balance can destroy the bad bacteria when it flares, but once it’s begun the takeover process, this food feeds its progress.
Leaky Gut and Candida
Eventually, the imbalance can cause “leaky gut syndrome”, in which the pores of the intestine become enlarged and harmful particles can pass through the intestine into the bloodstream. This can increase allergic reactions, as allergens that had been trapped by the system and moved to the intestine to safely pass out of the system will “escape” and re-enter the system. As you encounter more allergens and your body cannot void them, they will accumulate in your bloodstream and cause you to have allergic reactions while you’re not even exposed to an allergen. It can also create new allergies.
Candida Treatment: Home Remedies For Yeast Infections
There are many ways to fight Candida. Start by treating the symptoms, which helps kill the bacteria. If you have thrush, brush your teeth and your tongue frequently. Change toothbrushes often and in the interim, boil them or soak them in mouthwash to kill lingering bacteria and yeast. There are specialty mouthwashes that contain enzymes which kill yeast and bacteria: these are very effective and you should notice a diminished presence of the white coloration within just a few days.
Athlete’s foot and dry skin outbreaks can be treated with tea tree oil, which is an antifungal. On feet, it can be applied at full strength but on more sensitive regions, dilute accordingly. (Do not use on very sensitive areas.) If you suffer from dry scalp, tea tree oil applied to the affected areas with a cotton swab followed later by a tea tree oil shampoo can provide relief for a few days. Tea tree oil shampoo is available at health food stores, or you can add a drop or two to a small handful of your usual brand.
For vaginal yeast infections, yogurt can bring relief. Be sure that the yogurt is plain, unsweetened, starch-free, and contains live cultures: without the live cultures, it will not kill bacteria and if it’s sweetened or contains starch, it will foster the growth of bad bacteria. Apply the yogurt internally just before retiring for the night. The yogurt can also be applied externally to kill bacteria and prevent the itch. As scratching can spread the bacteria and promote the problem, this can be an important step. If you wish to use the yogurt during the day, a panty liner can help prevent messiness.
Natural and Herbal Remedies
There are a variety of oral remedies that can be helpful:
- Echinacea (look for at least 500mg)
- garlic has antifungal properties. Use one clove per day.
- Pau D’arco bark tea, and propolis.
- Pomegranate gel can be used in treating oral thrush.
- Dead Candida can also be found as a beverage, which is thought to stimulate the body’s own defenses.
- Caprylic acid (coconut oil) taken with meals.
- Probiotics build up the body’s good bacteria.
Fight mildew, which is closely related to Candida. Launder what you can in very hot water and add Borax to all loads, clothes and linens; this will help kill unseen mildew. Wash linens and towels often. If athlete’s foot is a problem, take off your shoes and socks when you get home so that your feet stay dry. Change socks often and be sure they’re very dry after laundering.
Most importantly, take a good look at your diet. A cleanse can be helpful: it will help purge the accumulation of allergens and get your system running efficiently, which will strengthen your immune system and help you fight these invaders. Everything you do to kill this bacteria will be undone if you’re feeding it heavily with sugars and yeasts. Try to minimize your intake of fermented foods (like vinegar and soy sauce), fruits (which convert to sugar), alcohol (particularly beer because of the yeast), white flour, white rice, and all other non whole grains, products that contain yeast, and soft moldy cheeses. Focus on meats, soy, and vegetables with a minimum of additives and processing.
It will take some effort to restore balance to your system, but once you have, you’ll be surprised at how much better you’ll feel! The battle to maintain system balance is a constant vigil and the more effort you put into it, the more you’ll benefit from it with the extra energy and good attitude that are natural results of good health.