Do you suffer from fatigue, digestive disturbances, sinusitis or even allergies? If yes, you might suffer from an overgrowth of candida, a yeast that normally lives in harmony with your body and probably needs to be controlled with “good” bacteria.
Candidiasis is an infection caused by an overgrowth of the Candida albicans organism – a tiny, common yeast-like fungus that lives in the mouth, throat, digestive tract, urinary and vaginal tract, as well as on the skin of healthy people.
Under normal conditions, candida lives in healthy balance with the other bacteria in the body. It is essentially harmless, and of no concern to us. Trouble begins, however, when the candida is allowed to rocket out of control. When candida albicans is out of control, it can result in general in weakening of the immune system. When the immune system is weakened, infections are more likely to occur.
Factors at play
But how does candida get out of control? The major cause is antibiotics. While effective in killing harmful bacteria, antibiotics destroy necessary friendly bacteria as well. Without friendly bacteria, your first line of defense against candida is eliminated, and these organisms are free to proliferate.
Diet, certain medications, hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle and pregnancy, diabetes and continuous infections which slow down immune system cells, making them less able to deal with candida overgrowth, are all contributing factors.
When a person's immune system is compromised by diseases such as cancer and Aids, they are particularly susceptible to fungal infections, like candida and it can cause more serious infections.
Because candidiasis can affect various parts of the body – the most common being the mouth, ears, nose, toenails, fingernails, gastro-intestinal tract and vagina – it can be characterised by a wide array of symptoms. These include:
Many of us relate to some of these symptoms, and the first line of defense might be to take friendly bacteria. In fact, one of the most important responsibilities of your essential friendly bacteria, also known as probiotics, is to keep Candida albicans under control.
Probiotics enhance immune function and increase resistance to infections. Since a compromised immune system is an underlying cause of candidiasis, probiotic supplementation may be a valuable intervention.
Probiotics more strain-specific
The actions and qualities of probiotics are becoming more and more strain-specific. Research has shown that Lactobacillus acidophilus, the most popular species of probiotic bacteria, produces substances that slow the growth of candida, or when taken continuously, prevent the overgrowth of the yeast.
Although there are no human trials, supplementation of acidophilus to immune-deficient mice infected with candida produced positive effects on immune function and reduced the number of candida colonies.
This has also been proven when specific strains of acidophilus are added to Petri dishes containing cultures of candida. These strains have demonstrated the ability to inhibit and stop the candida’s growth.
Research on one specific Lactobacillus strain, namely Lactobacillus acidophilus LAFTI L10 has been shown to enhance the immune system and also reduces the duration of a candida infection.
This means that selected strains of probiotics, like Lactobacillus acidophilus LAFTI L10 are of high value for protection against pathogenic yeast infections of the vagina, intestinal and oral cavity, and can be described as one of the body’s primary defense mechanisms against candida.
So, the first step in preventing or treating a candida infection would be to take your good bacteria. For best results, it is recommended that you take a high-potency, high-quality, strain-specific probiotic supplement.
Written by Martie de Wet, Registered Dietician
1. Chakir et al. 1994. Different pattern infections and immune response during experimental oral candidiasis in BALB/c and DBA/2 (H-2d) mice. Oral microbiology Immununol 9:88-94.
2. Lacasse M, et al. 1993. Acquired resistance and persistence of C.albicans in the mouse: a mouse model of the carrier state in humans. Oral microbial Immunol 8:3131-3118.
3. Lilic et al. 2003. Deregulated productions of protective cytokines in response to Candida albicans infection in patients with chronic muccocutaneous candidiasis. Infect Immun 71(10); 5690-5699.
4. Elahi S et al. (In press 2005). Enhanced clearance of Candida albicans from the oral cavities of mice following oral administration of Lactobacillus acidophilus. Clin Exp Immunol – Abstract.
- (Health24, updated April 2011)