Candidiasis is an infection by a yeast-like Candida fungus, known commonly as Candida albicans. Candida naturally resides in the human intestinal tract. Given a healthy immune system, a normal population of friendly intestinal bacteria and a normal gastrointestinal pH, Candida is essentially harmless. Unfortunately, this situation can easily be altered by prolonged treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics, steroid drugs that weaken the immune system, and nutrient poor, low fiber diets, which alter intestinal pH and can permit the sustained proliferation of Candida, leading to vaginal yeast infections, oral candidiasis (called thrush), and/or the more serious condition, polysystemic Candidiasis. Symptoms depend on the organs or tissues involved and vary from a redness of the skin to endocarditis, meningitis, or septicemia. The symptoms of polysystemic Candidiasis are diverse, including allergies, migraines, arthritis-like joint pain, depression, confusion, feeling out of touch with reality and loss of libido. Some researchers estimate that 30 percent of the U.S. population (predominately women) has the condition to some degree. Conventional medical treatments for Candidiasis include the antibiotics nystatin and amphotericin B.
DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: PRIMARY RECOMMENDATIONS
The term "Probiotic Complex" refers to a combination of friendly bacteria that naturally reside in our intestines, and help promote a healthy balance between certain microorganisms— including helping to keep pathogens such as Candida albicans in check. The most prevalent friendly bacteria, L. acidophilus, has been shown to adhere easily to vaginal cells, displacing other well-known vaginal pathogens, including but not limited to Candida.1 Other research with L. acidophilus and related probiotic bacteria has shown similar Candida-inhibiting results.2,3 In animal research, probiotic bacteria prolonged the survival of immunodeficient mice with systemic candidiasis.4 So how do probiotic bacteria affect Candida? Research has shown that L. acidophilus and various other probiotic bacteria produce hydrogen peroxide, which in turn inhibit Candida.5
Garlic has an extensive history of use against a variety of pathogens, and Candida albicans is no exception. Research has clearly shown that garlic has antiCandidal activity, inhibiting both the growth and function of Candida albicans.6,7 Garlic exerts its effect by compromising the structure and integrity of the outer surface of yeast cells, oxidizing certain essential proteins in the yeast, which causes inactivation of yeast enzymes and subsequent microbial growth inhibition.8
Biotin is found in many foods, but Candida sufferers are frequently found to have deficiencies in this important vitamin.9 This happens for two main reasons. Firstly, one of the body's major sources of Biotin is actually your intestinal flora. The friendly bacteria in your gut synthesize biotin and release it into your bloodstream. Secondly, deficiency in Biotin (can also be caused by a course of broad spectrum antibiotics, which is of course a common cause of Candida overgrowth too. Biotin deficiency can lead to skin rashes, hair loss, depression and lethargy, among other symptoms. It is particularly important for Candida sufferers because it prevents the Candida yeast cells from converting into its invasive mycelia form.10
Caprylic Acid is one of the three fatty acids (along with capric acid and lauric acid) that are found in coconut oil. It is a potent antifungal that kills Candida cells. Like other antifungals, caprylic acid works by interfering with the cell walls of the Candida yeast.11,12
DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: SECONDARY RECOMMENDATIONS
TEA TREE OIL
Alone or compared to other plant oil extracts, Tea Tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), has been shown to have significant activity against Candida albicans (as well as certain other pathogens). This product is for topical use only, and should not be used as a dietary supplement.13,14,15,16,17 It may be useful, for example, in the treatment of yeast and fungal mucosal and skin infections. For vaginal yeast infection, local applications of diluted Tea Tree oil, followed by L. acidophilus and vinegar diluted in water to re-establish normal vaginal micro-organisms. If any sensation of burning follows the use of diluted Tea Tree oil, it should be diluted further or discontinued.
The antimicrobial activity of plant oils and extracts has been recognized for many years. However, few investigations have compared large numbers of oils and extracts using methods that are directly comparable. In one study, however, 52 plant oils and extracts were investigated for activity against various pathogens, including Candida albicans. The results were that oregano oil inhibited all the organisms.18
Pau D'Arco is an herb, which has often been recommended for Candida infections. This South American herb's active constituents, lapachol and beta-lapachone (known collectively as naphthaquinones), both have antifungal properties as potent or more so than ketaconazole, a common antifungal drug.19 However, in the doses need to kill yeast, Pau D' Arco's anti-yeast constituents have the potential to be somewhat toxic. Some benefits, however, may be had at lower doses. Capsules or tablets providing 300 mg of powdered Pau D' Arco bark can be taken, usually three capsules three times daily.
Individuals with recurrent yeast infections would do well to take measures to support their immune system. The herb Echinacea can enhance immune function, and can be used by people who suffer from recurrent infections. In one study, women who took Echinacea experienced a 43 percent decline in the recurrence rate of yeast infections.20 This does not mean, however, that Echinacea is a substitute for anti-yeast medication.
Cinnamon oil contains various terpenoids including eugenol and cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamaldehyde and cinnamon oil vapors are extremely potent antifungal compounds.21 In a preliminary study in individuals with AIDS, topical application of cinnamon oil was effective against oral Candida infections (thrush).22 No more than a few drops of essential oil should be used, and only for a few days at a time.
DIET AND/OR OTHER CONSIDERATIONS Very strict elimination of all refined sugar, refined carbohydrate, fruit juices, and alcohol is always necessary with any type of yeast infection. All of these feeds and encourage the growth of Candida. Very strict elimination is usually necessary until the yeast is totally under control. Even then re-introduction of refined sugar and refined carbohydrate can promote regrowth of Candida, so it's best to be very careful if you've had much of a yeast problem.
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- Mock DM. Semin Dermatol. 1991 Dec;10(4):296–302.
- De Schepper L. Candida: The Symptoms the Causes the Cure Paperback. Luc De Schepper MD; 1986.
- Huang CB, et al. Arch Oral Biol. 2011 Jul;56(7):650–4.
- Omura Y, et al.. Acupunct Electrother Res. 2011;36(1-2):19–64.
- Hammer KA, Carson CF, Riley TV, J Appl Microbiol (1999) 86(3):446–52.
- Hammer KA, Carson CF, Riley TV, J Antimicrob Chemother (1998) 42(5):591–5.
- Concha JM, Moore LS, Holloway WJ, J Am Podiatr Med Assoc (1998) 88(10):489–92.
- Nenoff P, Haustein UF, Brandt W, Skin Pharmacol (1996) 9(6):388–94.
- Carson CF, Riley TV, J Appl Bacteriol (1995) 78(3):264–9.
- Hammer KA, Carson CF, Riley TV, J Appl Microbiol (1999) 86(6):985–90.
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Gene Bruno, MS, MHS
Gene Bruno is the Dean of Academics and Professor of Dietary Supplement Science for Huntington College of Health Sciences (a nationally accredited distance learning college offering diplomas and degrees in nutrition and other health science related subjects. Gene has two undergraduate Diplomas in Nutrition, a Bachelor’s in Nutrition, a Master’s in Nutrition, a Graduate Diploma in Herbal Medicine, and a Master’s in Herbal Medicine. As a 32 year veteran of the Dietary Supplement industry, Gene has educated and trained natural product retailers and health care professionals, has researched and formulated natural products for dozens of dietary supplement companies, and has written articles on nutrition, herbal medicine, nutraceuticals and integrative health issues for trade, consumer magazines, and peer-reviewed publications. Gene's latest book, A Guide to Complimentary Treatments for Diabetes, is available on Amazon.com, and other fine retailers.