Naturopath and nutritionist Jennifer Murrant explains the surprising causes for this unpleasant fungal infection. But good news! It can be treated. And naturally.
We live in a society where certain health conditions are somewhat ‘taboo’, meaning that many can suffer in silence. Amongst these conditions are fungal infections caused by an overgrowth of a yeast called Candida albicans.
Candida albicans are amongst many other candida species which ideally exist harmoniously as a commensal in the gut, skin, mouth, throat and vagina. However when the microbiome in any of these areas is out of balance this yeast transforms from a team player to an opportunistic pathogen, causing unpleasant symptoms. Yet, these symptoms are very common. It is estimated that vaginal thrush, for example, will be experienced by up to 75% of women in their lifetime.
Fungal infections can be notoriously stubborn, with symptoms often returning as soon as treatment is withdrawn. This is one of the reasons people frequently seek naturopathic treatment, and why it is so important to address the cause.
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Diet may seem unrelated to such a condition as thrush, however it is very important. To change the conditions in which Candida albicans thrive, primarily the microbiome, is an important part of the strategy.
So, what are the conditions that can disturb the microbiome and allow these bugs to thrive?
Disruption of microbiome due to antibiotic and corticosteroid use
Excess sugar /alcohol has long been associated with increased prevalence of candidiasis and as such, avoiding simple sugars and alcohol has traditionally been the cornerstone of a naturopathic approach. High blood sugar is an established factor in Candidiasis. Not surprisingly, excess sugar is also associated with dysbiosis (disrupted microbiome).
Avoiding excess sugar and alcohol can be particularly challenging at this time of year which means moderation may be more achievable, than complete abstinence.
A traditional anti-candida diet can be quite restrictive and the degree to which dietary modifications need to be made will vary depending on individual factors.
Stress is known to negatively impact the immune system and can therefore be viewed as a possible factor in recurrent yeast infections. Some studies have begun to explore the mechanisms for this. Stress is implicated in a myriad of health conditions.
Establishing good sleep hygiene practices, self care and stress reduction strategies can have a more profound impact than you may imagine.
Maintaining a healthy immune system is always a critical component of overall health. Whilst a healthy diet and healthy microbiome is key in this vital system, there are other contributing factors. Chlorine, for example.
Although chlorine is known to be potentially damaging to our health, it is ubiquitous. We ingest and absorb this substance daily as it is in our water supply to combat dangerous pathogens. For obvious reasons the dosage of chlorine in swimming pools and hot tubs is dramatically increased.
Chlorine can disrupt our gut flora and directly deplete our immune system, as evidenced by reduced immune markers as a result of swimming in a chlorinated pool. If you have noticed thrush like symptoms after extended periods in chlorinated pools, this may also be due to the direct contact of the chlorine with the nether regions altering the microbiome as well as the pH such that candida can proliferate. This is further exacerbated by remaining in wet swimmers, extending exposure and creating the moist environment that these bugs love.
We can’t avoid chlorine altogether, however we can reduce exposure by investing in a water filter for drinking water, a shower head filter and being mindful of how long we soak in heavily chlorinated water such as swimming pools and hot tubs. Having a change of dry swimmers is also a good idea.
More ways to help…
Increasing other microbe species via inclusion of probiotic and prebiotic foods like lactobacillus acidophilus.
In addition, one of the most valuable herbs in the reduction of candida is pseudowintera colorata (better known as horopito), attributed to its polygodial content. This herb has been used traditionally in the treatment of several skin conditions and has been more recently identified as having potent anti-candida properties, with some studies showing superior results to pharmaceutical anti-fungal treatments. This herb is found in some supplements and intimate washes.
Jennifer Murrant, naturopath and spokesperson for Kolorex® Advanced Candida Care. Jennifer, co-founder of Healthy Luxe, has worked as a naturopath and nutritionist for over twenty years.