If you’ve been told you have Candida, it could mean you have any one of a number of infections. That’s right – Candida comes in many different forms! While an overgrowth of Candida yeast often begins in the intestines, the way it manifests in your body can vary widely. From fungal foot conditions to intestinal infection, Candida albicans is a nasty beast that is often difficult to diagnose.
Fortunately, there are plenty of different methods for treating Candida’s many forms. This article will cover the different types of infections and your options for getting rid of it, whether by pharmaceutical drugs or naturally.
How Do Candida Infections Occur?
Although your body is usually able to ward off hostile bacteria and yeast, there are times when your immune system isn’t functioning as well as it should. In other cases, small cuts or breaks in the superficial layers of your skin may allow bacteria and yeasts to enter, causing infection. Certain environmental conditions can make it easier for Candida to thrive on the skin, particularly hot and humid weather, poor hygiene, or tight clothing.
Other risk factors for Candida infections relate to an individual’s age or health status. Those who are more prone to infection include babies and children, but also people who:
- Eat a diet high in sugar and processed foods
- Have diabetes
- Have repeatedly taken antibiotics
- Have inflammatory disorders
- With a weakened immune system
- Take medications such as PPIs or the contraceptive pill
- Are chronically stressed
Types of Candida Infections
The various types of Candida infections include the following. Just click on a link to jump down to the relevant section:
Each of these has different symptoms, and each will respond to different treatment options. Let’s take a closer look.
What is it?
Skin infections are a common symptom of Candida overgrowth, and can occur almost anywhere on the body. The areas that Candida yeast tend to favor are where skin is touching or rubbing together, such as in folds or creases. The armpits, groin, and between the fingers and toes are prime sites for fungus to thrive as these areas are often warm, moist and sweaty. (1)
Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a type of fungal skin infection that usually occurs in athletes or anything else who is regularly active. It’s usually caused by a strain of Candida fungi. If the right conditions are present, the yeast can multiply rapidly into athlete’s foot.
Although generally considered a mild sort of skin infection, it’s a good idea to treat athlete’s foot as soon as it appears as it can spread to other areas of the body, including the groin, face and scalp. Athlete’s foot appears as dry and brittle skin between the toes. The skin on your feet maybe flaky and prone to itching. Small, painful blisters may also appear, usually between your toes or on the sole of your foot. Skin discoloration is also likely.
How Do You Treat It?
A major contributor to the development of athlete’s foot is poor hygiene. Not washing your feet and footwear regularly will provide the perfect growing conditions for candida yeast to multiply on your skin. Your feet are usually a warm, sweaty environment with plenty of bacteria around, which is great for helping organisms to thrive.
Be sure to include plenty of antifungal and anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, such as onions, garlic and ginger. Reduce your intake of refined sugars and alcohol. There is evidence that a diet high in sugar can lead to fungal skin infections.
Natural antifungal treatments
Extra-virgin organic coconut oil harbors powerful antifungal and antibacterial properties. It’s great for applying directly to your feet to both treat athlete’s foot and also prevent it from developing. Coconut oil is also a great moisturizer!
Tea tree oil is another fantastic treatment for athlete’s foot. It’s recommended by the American Cancer Society as a topical antiseptic when used on the skin to kill germs – even those resistant to other antibiotics. Tea tree oil is also useful in treating various types of fungus. (2)
Antifungal creams or powders are often prescribed by doctors or can be purchased OTC. Steroid creams can also reduce inflammation but they should not be taken consistently over a long period of time. Antifungal medication, such as Itraconazole, is also an option, but can have some side-effects.
What is it?
Also known as oral candidiasis, oral thrush is a type of yeast infection that develops on the tongue and inside of the mouth. A small amount of Candida fungus can live in your mouth without causing harm. However, if the yeast begins to grow out of control, thrush can result.
Oral thrush is most common in babies and toddlers. It appears as white bumps on the inner cheeks and on the tongue. Fortunately, the infection is usually mild and doesn’t cause major health issues, but should be treated as soon as possible.
How Do You Treat It?
Use a natural mouthwash
Apple cider vinegar can kill the Candida yeast in adult cases of oral thrush. Gargle with a solution of water and ACV (1 cup water to half a cup of ACV) for three minutes a day.
Coconut oil is another good option with antifungal properties. Just take a teaspoon and swish it around your mouth for a few minutes each day.
Lastly, rinsing with a warm salt water solution can also help to reduce some of the yeast in the mouth. Avoid commercial mouthwash as this can aggravate the condition by disturbing your mouth flora even further.
Eating unsweetened acidophilus yogurt is a great way to introduce healthy bacteria to the mouth. The healthy strains of bacteria in the yogurt can help to reduce the growth and spread of harmful yeast. In the case of babies with oral thrush, it’s possible to apply oral swabs of acidophilus yogurt to the mouth or even to the mother’s nipples before breastfeeding. Acidophilus can also be added to breastmilk. (3)
Probiotic supplements can also be useful. When the intestinal microbiome is healthy, infections like oral thrush become less likely. If you stick to a low sugar diet and taken some good probiotics, you might find that your immune system deals with the oral thrush all by itself.
Coconut oil for children with oral thrush
As the active antifungal agent in coconut oil, caprylic acid may be the most gentle and effective treatment for infants and young children with oral thrush. Some health experts suggest that a mother can swab her nipples with coconut oil (which contains caprylic acid) before breastfeeding.
Your doctor may prescribe oral antifungal medications such as Fluconazole (Diflucan) or the antifungal lozenges Clotrimazole (Mycelex Troche). These can both be effective in treating oral thrush, although Diflucan does tend to some with some side effects.
What is it?
A vaginal or penile yeast infection is certainly one of the most unpleasant of Candida infections – but it’s also one of the most common. It’s thought that around 75% of women will suffer one of these infections at some stage during their life. Symptoms include itching, burning, smelly discharge and pain. The pain may be worse with intercourse.
Nearly all (at least 90%) of vaginal and penile yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans. Other forms of Candida are usually responsible for the remainder of yeast infections. (4)
How Do You Treat It?
One of the most effective treatments for yeast infection is unsweetened probiotic yogurt. Studies have shown that yogurt can be administered both orally and vaginally to reduce the yeast population and improve ‘friendly’ bacteria colonies. Be sure to choose only natural, unsweetened yogurt for both methods! (5)
Tea Tree oil bath
Adding a few drops of tea tree oil or oregano oil to a bath can be helpful in treating Candida yeast. Tea tree is an effective antifungal and antibacterial agent that has been found to be effective against all strains of Candida, even drug-resistant ones.
Oregano oil is a powerful antifungal treatment that has been shown to kill pathogenic yeast and bacteria, including Candida albicans.
Both oral and vaginal antifungal agents are available to treat yeast infection. Oral options include Fluconazole (Diflucan), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), while vaginal creams such as Butoconazole (Femstat) and clotrimazole (Mycelex, Gyne-Lotrimin, FemCare), miconazole (Monistat-7, Femizol-M) are also effective.
What is it?
Fungal nail infections arise when Candida yeast multiplies out of control. It can lead to painful infections under the nail that cause pain and swelling, and may make the nail separate from the finger or toe. The nails can become thickened and dull, which causes them to split and fall off.
Because the fungi that cause nail infections tend to be microscopic, diagnosis usually requires examination of the debris under the nail in a laboratory. This fungus can affect both fingernails and toenails, but most commonly occurs in toenails.
How Do You Treat It?
Unfortunately, treating nail fungus infections is a difficult and timely process. Numerous pharmaceutical medications and topical treatments are available, but many are not very effective.,
Oregano oil/tea tree oil
As mentioned above, oregano and tea tree are two powerful antifungal treatments that can help to control yeast infection. Oregano contains thymol, which has been shown to reduce fungal infestation, while tea tree contains a number of compounds, including terpinen-4-ol, that have been shown to kill certain bacteria, viruses and fungi. Oregano and tea tree oil can sometimes be combined, but this must be done carefully to avoid an allergic reaction or irritation. (6)
Snakeroot extract (Black cohosh)
A traditional Mexican medicine, snakeroot has long been used to treat nail infections caused by Candida. Also known as black cohosh, snakeroot is made from plants in the sunflower family. Research has shown that it may have a similar efficacy to clopirox and ketaconazole, which makes it a useful alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. (7)
Oral medications for nail infections include terbinafine (Lamisil), itraconazole (Sporanox), fluconazole (Diflucan). These usually have to be taken for around four months while the uninfected nail grows.
What is it?
Also known as tinea cruris, jock itch is a fungal infection that affects the skin of the genitals, inner thighs and buttocks. It is most common in active people who sweat a lot, such as athletes. It can also occur in people who are overweight and have a lot of skin folds.
The fungus that causes jock itch is usually Trichophyton rubrum,although Candida albicans is often also involved.
Jock itch presents as an itchy, red rash, usually ring-shaped. It can cause severe irritation and discomfort in the warm, moist parts of the body. It often begins as a reddened area of skin in the crease of the groin, appearing as a half-crescent that spreads onto the upper thigh.
There may also be a line of small blisters on the outside of the rash. Burning or constant itching is typical, and the skin may become scaly or flaky.
While it can be quite distressing, jock itch is generally quite easy to treat and will go away if the area is kept clean and dry.
How Do You Treat it?
Like athlete’s foot, the fungi that cause jock itch thrive in warm, moist conditions. Wearing clean, dry clothes and keeping the groin area as dry as possible will help to keep fungi at bay.
Apple cider vinegar
The antibacterial and antifungal agents in ACV have been shown to reduce Candida growth and development, so it can be a great natural option for treating jock itch. Try combining equal parts apple cider vinegar and water and using in a spray bottle. Apply to the affected area as needed. (8)
Over-the-counter antifungal ointments, lotion, powder or sprays are readily available and may be all you need to clear up the rash. It’s important to continue treating for at least 1-2 weeks.
Because the Candida fungi can also cause athlete’s foot, be sure to treat both at the same time. This will help to reduce the risk of recurrence. Severe jock itch that doesn’t respond to treatment may require prescription-strength topical cream or oral medication.
What is it?
Diaper rash occurs most often in babies aged between 4 and 15 months old, or any child wearing a diaper. It affects between 7-35 percent of infants at some point, and is more common when babies begin to eat solid foods.
Diaper rash develops as a result of an overgrowth of Candida. Because the diaper area is usually warm and moist, it provides the perfect conditions for Candida yeast to grow and spread.
Diaper rash is also more common in babies who are taking antibiotics or whose mothers are taking antibiotics while breastfeeding, or babies who have had a bout of diarrhea.
Most cases of diaper rash are only for a short period and can be easily resolved with home treatment.
How Do You Treat It?
Reducing the risk of diaper rash and preventing its recurrence begins with keeping the area clean and dry. The ‘ABCDE’ method for treating diaper rash is a helpful way of remembering all the steps:
A = air: let the infant go diaper-free to air out the skin
B = barrier; use an ointment to protect the skin
C = clean; keep the skin clean
D = disposable diapers; avoid cloth diapers for a time and try using disposable
E = educate; educate yourself about the causes of the rash and take steps to prevent it recurring (9)
A persistent yeast infection may result in a prescription for an antifungal treatment, either as a cream, ointment, or powder. These are usually applied a few times each day or used as a barrier skin ointment. In serious cases, steroid ointment may be prescribed. However, these should be a last resort as the ingredients can be irritating.
What is it?
This is one of the most serious forms of Candida overgrowth and can lead to multiple health issues. Although Candida albicans is naturally present in the gastrointestinal tract of both humans and animals, an imbalance of healthy bacteria and pathogenic yeast can result in elevated levels of Candida. This in turn has been linked to a number of chronic illnesses and symptoms.
Studies suggest that commensal organisms such as Candida residing in the GI tract can escape from this area and move into the bloodstream. Common symptoms of gastrointestinal candidiasis can include anal itching, belching, bloating, indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, gas, intestinal cramps, vomiting, and gastric ulcers.
Both inflammatory bowel disease and gastrointestinal Candidacolonization are associated with high levels of the pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body called cytokines. Intestinal Candida has been linked to many chronic bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis and gastric ulcers. (10)
How Do You Treat It?
The Candida diet
A low sugar, anti-inflammatory diet can help to reduce the spread of Candida albicans in the gut. To follow an anti-Candida diet, the most important steps are to eliminate processed foods and limit your intake of carbohydrates.
Adding antifungal foods such as coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and garlic can also help to halt the growth of yeast in the gastrointestinal tract. These healthy foods will also have the benefit of reducing the stress on your digestive system, and allowing your immune system to focus on fighting the yeast.
Reducing sugar intake is the most important aspect of the Candida diet, as sugar is known to ‘feed’ the Candida yeast. Refined sugars should be avoided as much as possible, but the natural sugars in fruit should also be kept to a minimum. It’s also a good idea to reduce the intake of glutenous foods, as these can exacerbate inflammation in the gut.
Probiotics are the ‘friendly’ bacteria that help to overcome or crowd out harmful yeasts and ‘bad’ bacteria. Taking a high quality probotic supplement that contains a variety of strains (mainly Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria) should be a priority, especially when taking pharmaceutical medication.
Probiotics will help to restore the natural balance of the digestive sytem and replenish healthy bacteria. Probiotic supplementation will also help to boost the immune system and support the body’s natural defenses in overcoming opportunitistic yeasts. Probiotic, fermented foods also have an important role to play. (11)
In newborns, probiotics have been found to be especially effective in preventing gastrointestinal colonization by Candida, helping to reduce the risk of Candida yeast expanding fungal colonies in the gastrointestinal tract.
Antifungals can come in several forms – prescription drugs, natural antifungal supplements, and antifungal foods. These can all be useful for a intestinal Candida overgrowth.
Prescription antifungals include Diflucan and Nystatin. These antifungal treatments have been used for decades and can be quite effective, but they do come with side effects. It is incredibly difficult to design a antifungal drug that will attack a fungus but that won’t attack human cells at the same time. That’s why these drugs are generally not very well-tolerated, and why many people choose to try natural antifungals instead.
Natural antifungals include caprylic acid, garlic extract, grapefruit seed extract, and undecylenic acid. These can be purchased from most health stores and generally have a much milder effect that prescription antifungals. However, they are also not generally as potent, so they need to be combined with other interventions, such as the diet and probiotics listed above.
Lastly, we have antifungal foods. Coconut oil, garlic, onions, cinnamon, cloves and number of other natural antifungals can be added to your normal diet as often as possible. A surprising number of foods have antifungal or fungistatic properties, and it’s generally very easy to include them in a healthy eating plan
Fighting Candida Infections Takes Time
Treating Candida infections is rarely simple, as fungi are more difficult to fight off than most bacteria. It’s also possible for many fungi and yeast to become resistant to pharmaceutical drugs, which can mean that long periods of taking antifungal medications is not only harmful to the body but ineffective to the yeast infection!
The most successful way to overcome any particular yeast infection is to use a variety of different methods. In many cases, this may mean a change in diet along with natural antifungals. Add plenty of antifungal nutrients to your diet, and cut back on sugar intake. If the infection is skin-related, be sure to keep the area as dry and clean as possible. Wash regularly and use powders (natural or pharmaceutical) to absorb moisture.
Last but not least, support your body’s natural defenses with probiotics. Most of your immune system is in the gut, so this is where ‘friendly’ bacteria is needed most. Probiotic supplements are the easiest and fastest way to boost the colonies of beneficial microflora in the gut.