Understanding candida yeast (and 5 ways to help)

garlic1Yeast infections are usually caused by Candida albicans yeast, which are microscopic fungi that can grow on the skin, in or around the mouth, and in the gut. (1, 2)

While these organisms are harmless under normal circumstances, when the body’s immune system is weakened, yeast infections can occur.

Speaking with your doctor should be first on the list of action to take if you think you may have a yeast infection; there are also dietary choices that can make a difference in preventing or discouraging overgrowth of Candida yeast.

These five tips could help if you have problems with Candida yeast.

  1. Coconut Oil

Plants develop defenses against fungi and yeast to stay healthy, and the lauric acid found in coconut oil is a perfect example.

This saturated fatty acid has been the subject of extensive study because of its anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties.

At nearly 50% lauric acid, coconut oil is among the richest dietary sources of this substance, which rarely occurs in foods at such concentrated levels.

Lab studies indicate that lauric acid is very effective at killing Candida yeast, which means using coconut oil may have similar effects. (3, 4, 5)

When Candida yeast thrives in the mouth, it’s called thrush. One strategy to try for this problem is oil pulling with coconut oil; this involves drawing the oil back and forth between the teeth so gums and other tissues in the mouth are exposed to it.

  1. Probiotic Foods or Supplements

A weak immune system predisposes people to infections, including yeast infections; diabetics are also more likely to have problems with infections.

Strong doses of antibiotics used to treat infections often kill friendly bacteria in the gut, effectively wiping out the body’s first line of defense against Candida yeast.

A healthy balance of gut bacteria makes it more challenging for yeast like Candida albicans to grow and thrive, partly because the friendly strains use available nutrients and space, leaving little for opportunistic intruders. (6)

Probiotics can help restore this delicate balance and repopulate colonies of friendly bacteria after a course of antibiotic treatment. (7)

Yogurt containing live cultures may be the most commonly consumed probiotic food, and other fermented foods that deliver beneficial bacteria to the gut include sauerkraut, traditional buttermilk (not pasteurized) and Asian staples such as kimchi and natto.

Studies show that taking probiotic supplements can be helpful in preventing yeast infections as well as repopulating the gut with friendly bacteria; this can be utilized as a complementary treatment with medications for candida overgrowth in the body. (8)

When more than 200 elderly patients used lozenges containing two strains of lactobacillus reuteri over a 3-month period, the amount of Candida yeast present in their mouths dropped significantly. (9)

A smaller study with 65 patients suffering from yeast infections showed similar results. Conventional treatments were more effective for those test subjects who also included probiotics as a complementary strategy for reducing the amount of yeast in the mouth. (10)

Taking probiotics may also help cut back on Candida yeast population in the gut, and clinical trials indicate using capsules locally can be effective in fighting yeast infections that occur in the vagina. (11, 12)

  1. Eating a Diet Low in Sugar

Yeast thrive on sugar, and grow faster when this preferred food is available as a fuel. (13, 14)

High blood sugar levels are a known risk factor for frequent Candida yeast infections. (15, 16)

One lab study conducted with mice showed an increased level of Candida yeast in animals with weak immune systems, and a human study where participants rinsed their mouths with dissolved sugar solutions recorded more yeast infections and higher concentrations of oral yeast. (17)

However, a separate study indicated no changes in Candida yeast growth, in either the digestive system or the mouth, for test subjects who ate a diet high in sugar. (18)

More research on the subject may provide additional data, but removing added sugar from the diet can have a wide range of health benefits beyond the potential of limiting the growth of Candida yeast. (19)

  1. Garlic

This plant also exhibits strong anti-fungal properties, partly due to the allicin released when garlic is damaged, as in crushing or dicing for use in recipes. (20)

Researchers found that allicin given to mice in high dosages fought the growth of Candida yeast, but it performed slightly less effectively than the anti-fungal drug fluconazole. (21)

Lab experiments using test tubes indicate that garlic extract appears to inhibit yeast’s ability to attach to the tissues in the mouth; however, it’s important to remember than in comparison to garlic extract, garlic delivers only very small amounts of allicin. (22)

A 2-week study of women with yeast infections showed that taking an encapsulated garlic supplement made no discernible difference in their condition. (23)

Using garlic as a spice in foods could be useful as a preventive measure, and may be helpful when combined with conventional treatments for yeast infections, but raw garlic used topically can cause tissue burns in sensitive areas such as the mouth. (24)

  1. Curcumin

Among the main active components in the Indian spice turmeric, curcumin shows promise as a Candida yeast fighter. (25, 26)

One study showed curcumin decreased the incidence of attachment of Candida yeast to the mouths of HIV patients, outperforming the anti-fungal drug, fluconazole. (27)

Few studies have been done with this substance, and more research may give further information on whether or not curcumin can be helpful in preventing or decreasing the amount of Candida yeast in human systems.

Recap

Yeast infections come with a range of unpleasant symptoms and can be very uncomfortable. Itching, pain and burning are common, and yeast overgrowth in the gut can lead to weight gain, depression, brain fog and fatigue. (28)

If you have concerns about yeast infections, you should see a doctor.

Recurring yeast infections, especially when resistance to drugs used for treatment becomes an issue, can be problematic for some individuals.

Summary: Eating carefully and consuming probiotic foods or taking a supplement, along with incorporating other anti-fungal foods or spices in the diet, may help decrease the amount of Candida yeast in the system and act as a preventive measure.

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