Although several species of fungi are potentially pathogenic in humans, candida is the organism responsible for most fungal infections. Candida, which is normally present within the human body, is usually harmless. However, it can cause symptoms when a weakened immune system or other factors allow it to grow unabated.
Frequently Asked Questions
Fungal infections are estimated to occur in over a billion people each year, and recent evidence suggests the rate is increasing. Fungi can infect almost any part of the body including skin, nails, respiratory tract, urogenital tract, alimentary tract, or can be systemic. Anyone can acquire a fungal infection, however, when someone's immunity is decreased, they are more prone.
Although several species of fungi are potentially pathogenic in humans, candida (esp. Candida albicans) is the organism responsible for most fungal infections. Candida, which is normally present within the human body, is usually harmless. However, it can cause symptoms when a weakened immune system or other factors allow it to grow unabated.
Increased use of antibiotics and immunosuppressive drugs, such as corticosteroids, are major factors contributing to a higher frequency of fungal infections. Antibiotics and immunosuppressive drugs, by disrupting normal bacterial colonisation and suppressing the immune system, create an environment within the body in which fungi can thrive.
Fungal infections can range in severity from superficial to life-threatening. For example, fungal infections affecting only the top layers of the skin are readily treatable and have a relatively limited impact on quality of life. However, if a fungal infection enters systemic circulation, consequences can be deadly.
Many integrative medical practitioners believe that chronic, low-level candida infestation can cause a variety of non-specific symptoms that may resemble chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, anxiety, or fibromyalgia. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as “candida-related complex”. Conventional medical practitioners do not recognise candida-related complex as a disease. However, many innovative healthcare practitioners report improvements in patient quality of life upon treatment.
Upon reading this protocol, you will have a better understanding of the various ways that fungi can infect a human host, and how conventional medicine treats these infections. In addition, you will discover several natural compounds that have anti-fungal activity and may complement conventional treatments for fungal infections.
Candida albicans is the most common fungal microorganism in healthy individuals, as well as the most common fungal pathogen causing lethal infections (particularly in high-risk groups such as immunocompromised patients). It can be found in up to 70% of healthy individuals at any given time. Candida is considered an opportunistic pathogen because it can harmlessly colonise the human digestive tract, mouth, skin, and genitourinary tract. However, when the balance of normal bacteria is upset (e.g., after antibiotic treatment) or the immune system of the host is weakened (e.g. treatment with systemic corticosteroids), candida can proliferate.
Urogenital tract: Although candida is often found in the lower female urogenital tract in asymptomatic women, proliferation and subsequent infestation of this fungal species accounts for approximately one-third of all infections in the vulva and/or vagina (i.e., vaginitis). Also known as vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) or “yeast infection”, this fungal infection represents the second most common cause of vaginitis in the developed world. (after bacterial vaginosis), and is diagnosed in up to 40% of women who present to their primary care provider with vaginal complaints. Approximately 75% of women report having had at least one episode of VVC, and between 40%-45% will suffer from at least two or more episodes within their lifetime. These are very significant numbers.
The most common symptoms of VVC include unrelenting itch, painful intercourse, malodorous vaginal discharge, and painful urination. Although the vast majority (up to 92%) of VVC cases are caused by Candida albicans, other candida species can also be responsible. However, the various candida species tend to produce similar vulvovaginal symptoms and the less common organisms are becoming more prevalent. This trend may be attributed to selective pressure from the widespread use of over-the-counter and prescription antifungal drugs, especially since some nonalbicans species are less susceptible to many of these medications.
Some evidence suggests that hormones influence the infectious process of VVC. This conclusion is supported by data indicating that a majority of VVC cases occur during the reproductive years. For example, 75% of women of childbearing age are affected by VVC, while only sporadic episodes of VVC are reported among premenstrual girls and postmenopausal women. Further research reveals that fluctuating hormone levels resulting from menstruation and pregnancy, as well as the use of oral contraceptives and hormone replacement (i.e., oestrogen therapy), may predispose females to VVC.
Diabetes (with poor glycemic control)
- Exposure to antibiotics (both during and after therapy)
- High levels of estrogen (e.g., oral contraceptives or estrogen therapy)
- Weakened immune system from drugs (e.g., corticosteroids) or disease (e.g., HIV/AIDS)
- Contraceptive device utilization (e.g., vaginal sponges, diaphragms, and intrauterine devices)
Although less common, men can get genital fungal infections as well. Therefore, it is important that both members of a relationship receive treatment for fungal infections, even if symptoms are only evident in one person. If anti-fungal treatment is not initiated in both people in a relationship, the partners may continue to repeatedly infect one another.
Fungal infections of the skin (i.e., cutaneous fungal infections) are a common phenomenon, affecting millions of people worldwide.
While cutaneous fungal infection is not normally life threatening, it can be very uncomfortable and associated with a significant decrease in quality of life. Candida is just one of a variety of microorganisms commonly found on human skin. In healthy individuals, the overgrowth of candida is inhibited by resident skin microorganisms (normal bacterial skin flora).
However, when there is an imbalance of this normal skin flora, candida can begin to reproduce in sufficient amounts to cause infection (i.e., candidiasis). Due to an increase in the number of immunocompromised individuals, the rate of candidiasis of the skin (i.e., cutaneous candidiasis) is currently on the rise. Cutaneous candidiasis can affect virtually any part of the human body (e.g., fingernails, external ear, in between fingers and toes), it most often occurs in warm, moist, creased areas such as the armpit or groin. Major symptoms of cutaneous candidiasis include itch (unrelenting and often intense) and an enlarging skin rash.
Individuals whose hands and/or feet remain wet for prolonged periods of time may be prone to fungal infection around or under their finger and toe nails. In these cases, the nail area commonly becomes red and swollen. The nails themselves will become thick and brittle, ultimately becoming destroyed. Although anyone’s nails can become infected by fungus, these types of infections are more common among adults older than 60, and among individuals with diabetes or poor circulation.
Candida infections of the mouth (i.e., oral candidiasis) are widespread among humans. In addition to the general factors that predispose an individual to candida infection (e.g., immunosuppressive drugs and antibiotics), oral candidiasis may also be caused by chronic dry mouth and oral prosthesis (dentures). Although oral infection can be caused by a variety of candida species, Candida albicans is the most common causative agent.
Oral candidiasis (thrush) is characterised by whitish, velvety sores or patches appearing on the mucous membranes lining the inside of the mouth (e.g., the roof of the mouth and inside the lips and cheeks), as well as the throat and tongue. These whitish sores may slowly increase in size, quantity, and may bleed easily. Occasionally, oral candida infections can manifest as subjective feelings of pain or taste abnormalities.
Although candida species are normal residents of the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts of humans, they occasionally cause a deep-seated or systemic (disseminated) infection. These serious fungal infections usually indicate the host has a weakened immune system and can occur as a result of a superficial skin infection that invades deeper tissues, eventually reaching the blood stream (i.e., candidemia). Once the fungus is circulating throughout the body, it has the capacity to reach vital organs such as the brain, heart, and kidneys. While this form of candidiasis is rare, it is the most severe. These types of fungal infections can be fatal and require prompt diagnosis and aggressive treatment in order to achieve a favourable outcome.
Since the clinical symptoms of a systemic candida infection can vary and are often very similar to that of a bacterial infection, the gold standard for its proper diagnosis is a positive blood culture). Advancements in blood culturing technology now allow for the rapid identification of a variety of candida species in as little as 90 minutes. This reduction in laboratory turnaround time enables clinicians to optimise antifungal drug selection much faster, and ultimately improve care.
Candida organisms are a common part of the normal gastrointestinal flora and are present in the gut of approximately 70% of healthy adults. However, high levels of candida colonisation in the GI tract may be an urgent problem especially since it is associated with several gastrointestinal diseases (e.g., irritable bowel syndrome) and certain allergic reactions. Furthermore, candida colonisation in the gut can also promote inflammation, which in turn promotes further fungal colonisation in a vicious cycle.
While antimycotics (e.g., nystatin) are available for the treatment of intestinal candida overgrowth, probiotics (having demonstrated positive results in controlled clinical trials) may also be beneficial. Probiotics may exert this effect by rebalancing the normal flora of the gut, thereby suppressing local candida colonisation.
Some research questions the clinical significance of yeast infestation of the intestinal mucosa and suggests that clinical action may not always be necessary. In addition to these conventional treatment options, some experts believe fungal sinusitis may also respond to probiotics as well as an anti-fungal diet. An anti-fungal diet calls for avoidance of sugar and concentrated sweets, and consists primarily of protein and fresh vegetables, along with a small amount of fruit, complex carbohydrates, and fat-containing foods.
Conventional medical practitioners do not recognize candida-related complex as a disease. However, many innovative healthcare practitioners report improvements in patient quality of life upon treatment. While overt candida infection is a well-documented phenomenon, the idea that chronic low-grade candida infestation (primarily in the gut and urogenital tract) can cause various, seemingly unrelated symptoms is viewed with skepticism among conventional infectious disease experts. As a result, the conventional medical community is often at odds with some innovative healthcare practitioners as to the treatment strategy of candida infestation in chronic health conditions.
Although most cases of candida infection are treated with some type of antifungal agent, the formulation of the medication (e.g., pills, ointment, suppositories, or powder) will largely depend on the location and clinical presentation of the infection. Mild oral candidiasis can be treated with either clotrimazole lozenges or a nystatin swish-and-swallow suspension but may require oral fluconazole for moderate to severe and recurrent cases. These are all antifungals.
In other words, as antibiotics have the ability to stop the growth of and, in some cases, actually destroy bacteria, antifungals do the same to fungi. An emerging treatment for oral candidiasis involves the use of mouthwash containing silver nanoparticles (SN). Although this approach requires more investigation to include safety and efficacy, it may hold therapeutic potential in the near future. People with candidiasis of the skin should also keep the skin as dry as possible and, if appropriate, use antifungal mouth rinses or shampoos.
Fungal infections of the finger or toe nail plate (e.g., onychomycosis) are typically treated with both topical and systemic antifungals. However, long-term cure and recurrence rates, as well as costs associated with these treatments, are often unsatisfactory. For this reason, researchers have studied the effects of laser therapy (Nd/Yag or also called Laser Genesis). Please enquire from the treating doctor or therapist at a Skin / Health Renewal Renewal branch for the treatment of onychomycosis. We found that this technology capable of inhibiting the growth of the fungus on nail samples. We have been offering this treatment modality for years with great success.
Vaginal candida infections can be treated with topical or oral antifungal drugs such as fluconazole or nystatin. It is important to know which species of candida a woman is infected with as it can influence her treatment response. For example, fluconazole and nystatin are both effective for the treatment of Candida albicans, but in women infected with the nonalbicans species, only fluconazole is highly effective.
Treatment for invasive/systemic candidiasis depends on a variety of factors, but will most likely involve intravenous or oral therapy with a strong anti-fungal.
The side effects of most systemic antifungal drugs are comparable and include the following, headache and gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., nausea and vomiting), hepatitis, kidney toxicity, and lupus-like syndromes, among others.
The main way in which the conventional methods fail is very similar to the over uses of antibiotics. They don't only destroy the harmful organisms, but the normal ones too. This creates an imbalance in the human body which could, in future, elevate your chances of picking up an infection. When an infection is severe, however, it is important to use the antifungals. But if we could get our bodies into a healthier state, it should be able to fight off fungi very effectively.
The initial medical consultation at Health Renewal will be approximately 45 minutes. You will have to complete an in-depth questionnaire before the consultation so please arrive 20 minutes before the time. During the 45 minute consultation, your Health Renewal doctor will obtain a full medical history from you to determine your personal risk. A physical examination will be done after which he will decide which blood tests need to be requested from your local pathology laboratory. These results will then be analysed by your Doctor and this will be discussed with you at your follow-up appointment. This will determine whether a definite deficiency exists and you will be advised on your treatment options. These options may range from prescription medications, nutraceuticals, bio-identical hormonal creams or tablets or alternatively to having bio-identical implants or pellets inserted. Keep in mind that a fungal infection is often a symptom of an underlying problem. Treating the infection/overgrowth is important, but finding and fixing any systemic issues is the key to longterm health and to reduce the risk of re-infection.
The complications of Candidiasis, as explained in the top script, can be quite vast. The severe complications from a very aggressive infection are death, but this doesn't usually occur in anyone with a normal immunity. The most infections are chronic and deplete the system of its natural resources leading to constant fatigue and, slowly, degrading the host's immunity. Often the cause of this fatigue is never identified and a the idea that chronic low-grade candida infestation (primarily in the gut and urogenital tract) can cause various, seemingly unrelated symptoms is viewed with skepticism, among conventional infectious disease experts. As a result, the conventional medical community is often at odds with some innovative healthcare practitioners as to the treatment strategy of candida infestation in chronic health conditions.
The potential complications from treating the fungal infection are related to the type and dose of anti-fungal used. Most of these medications can cause gastric discomfort, diarrhoea with nausea and headaches.
Resveratrol This a compound found in the skin of grapes may contribute to the anti-inflammatory characteristics of red wine. In 2007, researchers investigated (in a laboratory) the fungicidal activity of resveratrol against Candida albicans. They concluded that resveratrol demonstrated potent antifungal properties, and appears to be safer than conventional antifungal drugs such as amphotericin B. In 2010, further research revealed that resveratrol impairs the ability of Candida albicans to convert into its more infectious form, and thus may be a useful agent against candida infections. In fact, resveratrol’s chemical structure may form the foundation of an entirely new class of antifungal drugs.
Goldenseal Also known as Hydrastis canadensis L. is a botanical that has been used to fight inflammation and infection. An active ingredient in goldenseal is berberine which has been shown to have strong antifungal effects against candida in a laboratory setting.
Lactoferrin This protein is found in mucosal secretions (e.g., human colostrum/milk, tears, saliva) possesses broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity against bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa. Lactoferrin demonstrates a significant antifungal effect against a variety of pathogenic candidias. In addition to lactoferrin’s ability to interfere with candida growth on its own, it also displays potent synergism with common antifungal drugs; it has been shown to enhance the antifungal activity of fluconazole against candida. Although lactoferrin’s antifungal activity against Candida albicans has been well established, the mechanism by which it achieves this effect is not as clear. Lactoferrin’s ability to bind to iron may contribute to its antifungal activity, especially since iron appears to enhance the proliferation of candida species.
For all health conditions, the nutraceuticals are individually tailored by the Health Renewal Doctor. The doctor will decide- based on your history, physical examination and blood tests what would be the best for you and your specific needs and/or deficiencies. Please do not self-medicate. Self-Medicating is done when a person takes prescription medication or neutraceuticals on their own without a doctor's supervision and/or consent. By not having a physical examination and blood testing done by a qualified medical practitioner, you could be not treating vital deficiencies or conditions such as elevated blood pressure and high sugar levels. In addition, there is no single supplement given to clients as there is no magic bullet that can support all the essential nutrients that one's body needs.
Make an appointment to consult with your Health Renewal Doctor and they will assist you in determining your risk factors and how best to prevent any problems/ conditions that you may be susceptible to.
Depending on which form of supplementation you and your Health Renewal Doctor have decided on, one could expect to follow up with your physician from anything between every 3 months to once every 6 months.
Dietary modifications such as limiting intake of refined carbohydrates (e.g., pasta, bread, sweets, soft drinks, etc.) may be helpful for people with candida infections. Higher dietary sugar is associated with vulvovaginal candidiasis and abnormal glucose metabolism is associated with recurring vulvovaginal infections. Diets rich in carbohydrates are also associated with candida overgrowth in the gastrointestinal tract and may contribute to mucosal invasion. Laboratory studies indicate that excess glucose weakens the immune system’s response to candida as well as the azole class of antifungal drugs.
Candidiasis patients should maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet, as poor nutrition is a commonly overlooked risk factor for bacterial and fungal infections.
Probiotics Data suggest that probiotics such as lactobacillus are beneficial against mucosal candida infections, and should be especially considered for women who suffer from more than three yeast infections per year. Research shows that probiotics exert their beneficial actions by suppressing the growth of candida (in various regions of the body) and inhibiting candida’s ability to adhere to cell surfaces.