The human body is filled with a variety of fungi, and candida is perhaps the most common. Candida is a type of yeast that lives in the human stomach, mouth, genitalia, and skin. Small amounts of candida are relatively harmless. However, depending on health status and environmental factors, candida yeasts may grow out of control, resulting in candidiasis.
The candida family features more than 20 different species that have the potential to cause problems in the human body. The most common of these yeasts is Candida albicans. An emerging species of candida called Candida auris has recently begun to pose a serious global health risk.
Learn more about candida issues and some natural remedies below.
Types of Candidiasis and Their Symptoms
Depending on the species of candida and the location of its overgrowth, candidiasis can present different symptoms. Let’s take a look at the most common forms of candidiasis.
Thrush, alternately known as oropharyngeal candidiasis, refers to candidiasis affecting the mouth and throat. Symptoms for thrush can vary, but you can generally expect:
- White patches on your tongue, cheeks, throat, and roof of the mouth
- Inability to taste
- Redness or soreness in and around the mouth
- A cottony, fuzzy feeling in the mouth
- Cracking at the corners of the mouth
- Pain when eating (and swallowing if the infection has spread to your throat)
Though it can affect just about anyone, thrush is generally uncommon in healthy adults. It most often affects children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems, like those with HIV/AIDS or certain forms of blood cancer.
Although men can also get genital candidiasis, it is more common in women. An estimated three out of four women will have at least one yeast infection in their lifetime, a result of yeast overgrowth in the vagina. This typically occurs due to chemical imbalances in the vagina, a result of pregnancy, diabetes, a compromised immune system, or certain medications and lubricants. The infection can potentially be passed from one person to another via sexual intercourse, but it is not exclusively a sexually transmitted disease.
Symptoms of vaginal candidiasis include:
- Itching and soreness around the vagina
- Burning, pain, or general discomfort while urinating
- A thick, white vaginal discharge
- Pain during sexual intercourse
A man with genital candidiasis will experience a rash on his penis, as well as general pain and discomfort when urinating.
Unlike thrush and genital candidiasis, invasive candidiasis can pose a serious, potentially life-threatening problem. With invasive candidiasis, the candida yeast enters the bloodstream and can travel to the eyes, bones, heart, and brain. Initial symptoms of invasive candidiasis include a fever and chills, but symptoms become more serious as the infection spreads to the heart, brain, and joints. Invasive candidiasis frequently occurs in patients who have recently spent time in a hospital or other health care facility.
Natural Remedies for Candida Infections
Most medical treatments for candidiasis involve oral antifungal medication and topical creams, which are generally effective but may not be the ideal mode of treatment, especially if one prefers a non-pharmacological approach. Natural remedies that may help to combat candidiasis, relieve symptoms, and speed up recovery are readily available.
1. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil comes from the flesh of coconuts and reportedly offers a wide range of health benefits, from maintaining hormonal balance to aiding digestive health. Several studies have also established that coconut oil possesses antifungal properties. Some studies even suggest that its antifungal activity is comparable to ketoconazole, a common antifungal medication used for a variety of fungal infections, including thrush.
A lab study from 2007 found that coconut oil could effectively kill several strains of candida, including C. albicans. The study also suggested that coconut oil was more effective than fluconazole, another common antifungal medication used for treating yeast infections.
In a canine study from 2014, a group of 20 dogs affected with a form of dermatitis caused by M. pachydermitis were treated with a mixture of several essential oils that included coconut oil, sweet almond oil, and citrus aurantium. The dogs received this mixture topically twice a day for one month. Ten of the animals were then treated with a conventional antifungal therapy comprising 10mg of ketoconazole per day and chlorhexidine 2% twice a week for a period of three weeks. Researchers found that both forms of therapy had comparable effects, significantly improving the dogs’ clinical status without any adverse effects.
Coconut oil is most effective against candida in its purest form. Some brands actually use blends that combine coconut oil with other oils and ingredients. Look for 100 percent coconut oil that is preferably organic.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar consists of apple cider that has been fermented using active yeasts, resulting in one of the most popular tonics in the natural health world, offering a variety of potential health benefits. A 2018 study found that apple cider vinegar could effectively inhibit the growth of Candida albicans, E. coli, and Staphylococcus aureus grown in petri dishes.
Apple cider can be taken a variety of ways. While it can be taken straight on its own, the strong taste can be hard to swallow. Instead, consider gargling it, adding it to tea or other beverages, mixing it with coconut oil, or adding it to a salad.
3. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil, an essential oil derived from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, offers a rich scent and a variety of health properties, including treatment for skin infections and wounds. A 2003 study found that tea tree oil effectively inhibited 101 isolates of C. albicans and 14 isolates of Cryptococcus neoformans. A follow-up trial on rats confirmed that tea tree oil could effectively neutralize drug-resistant yeast infections in rats after three weeks. Other research has offered mixed results, mainly suggesting that tea tree oil may only be effective on certain strains of candida, but results are overall promising.
Yogurt is essentially milk that has been heated then fermented using live and active bacterial cultures. Along with a smooth, creamy texture and characteristic tangy flavor, the bacteria can help to rebalance gut flora, acting as beneficial probiotics. Probiotics naturally exist in your digestive system, urinary tract, and vaginal canal. They help balance pH levels and may protect you from bacteria, as well as helping to curb candida overgrowth. The main probiotics in yogurt are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, though many manufacturers add other strains of bacteria, including Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidus. Probiotics are frequently taken to help relieve a variety of gastrointestinal issues, including:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Yogurt and other probiotic-rich foods may help to reduce symptoms of candidiasis. In one study, 129 participants with vulvovaginal candidiasis during pregnancy were given either traditional antifungal medication or a mixture of yogurt and honey. By the end of the study, the group that had taken the honey and yogurt mixture showed a significantly higher clinical cure rate than the control group and a reasonable mycological cure rate.
Another study from 2015 compared a mixture of honey and yogurt to clotrimazole in women infected with candida vulvovaginitis. Clotrimazole is an antifungal often used to treat yeast infections. The results showed that the yogurt and honey mixture showed comparable effects (in some cases, better effects) than the clotrimazole vaginal cream.
Bovine colostrum is the milk-like fluid produced by cows (and all other mammals, including humans) in the first few days after giving birth, prior to the appearance of true milk. Colostrum is rich in a variety of vitamins and nutrients and is packed with protein, fats, and carbohydrates – all necessary for an infant’s growth and development. It is particularly high in antibodies; antibody levels can be upwards of 100 times higher than those found in regular cow’s milk.
Colostrum offers a wealth of nutrients and bioactives that are purported to possess antifungal and antimicrobial properties and may be useful in treating candidiasis. Active substances in colostrum include:
- Cytokines – These proteins have anti-inflammatory properties and may help to modulate immune functions and cell communication.
- Immunoglobulins – Colostrum contains immunoglobulins A, D, E, G, and M. These proteins can help actively regulate bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins in lymph nodes and throughout the circulatory system.
- Interleukin – Interleukin is a type of glycoprotein created by leukocytes. It helps regulate immune responses.
- Lactoferrin – Lactoferrin helps regulate iron levels throughout the body. While iron is important to your blood, too much of it can feed the bad bacteria which may lead to an unhealthy overgrowth.
- Lysozyme – Lysozyme is a hydrolyzing agent with the ability to combat harmful microbes on contact and support the immune system’s function.
- Lactoperoxidase – Naturally present in raw milk, lactoperoxidase offers a significant antibacterial effect in the body. Lactoperoxidase is similar to hydrogen peroxide.
- Colostrum polypeptides – Sometimes referred to as proline-rich polypeptides or PRPs, these proteins help modulate immune responses and regulate thymus gland functions.
- Leukocytes – Leukocytes are a type of white blood cell that activates interferon production. Interferon is designed to inhibit viral reproduction.
Colostrum-LD is an easy-to-take supplemental version of bovine colostrum, and may be used to help keep candida in check. Daily supplementation, plus avoiding sugar (yeast’s food source) is key. Yeast overgrowth often accompanies an unhealthy, high-sugar, low fiber diet. Sugar cravings are the yeast colonies calling out “feed me.” Colostrum may be your ideal solution because it not only has the potential to manage yeast colonies, but it may also help curb food cravings (i.e., sugar) that can lead to overeating and weight gain.