You’ve probably heard or read about the many beneficial uses of probiotics. In some ways, it may seem like they can be used to treat just about anything. But what about a condition like Candida overgrowth? This article will dive into the details of Candida, why it is important to understand and treat, and the role that probiotics may be able to play in its treatment.
Candida is a type of yeast that is present in all humans in small amounts. It lives on places like the skin as well as inside the mouth, digestive tract, throat and vagina(1). At normal levels, it does not cause any problems, yet it can sometimes grow out of control and enter places like the bloodstream or even into organs like the kidneys. This causes a type of fungal infection called Candidiasis, which is the most common fungal infection in humans(2).
Candidiasis can grow in various parts of the body, and a different name is given to each condition. Candidiasis that grows in the mouth or throat is called thrush, or oropharyngeal candidiasis, which can lead to a variety of dental problems as well. When it grows in the vagina, it is commonly referred to as a yeast infection. If it enters the bloodstream or affects internal organs, it is known as invasive candidiasis, which is perhaps the most serious form.Unfortunately, the frequency of Candida infections is growing in the past decade(3).
The following factors may play a role in the overgrowth of Candida:
If not controlled, Candida overgrowth can lead to a variety of health problems, some of which are described above.
Other signs and symptoms of Candida overgrowth include:
There are a variety of treatment options for Candida overgrowth. As with treating any condition, the underlying cause should always seek to be identified and addressed. Currently, antifungal drugs are a primary method for treating Candidiasis. However, the role of probiotics as a treatment option has been emerging in the research and is definitely an option worth considering.
The method by which probiotics may help is through introducing more beneficial bacteria into the body, which can help treat a number of health conditions (which you can read more abouthere). Under normal circumstances, the healthy bacteria in your body help keep Candida levels under control. However, if the balance of these healthy bacteria levels are disrupted, such as in the case of dysbiosis(16) or during times of illness when the immune system is compromised, Candida can begin to overproduce.
Bacteria in probiotics can have a positive impact on many areas of health. These include things like fighting off and even preventing the growth of harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses (and thus supporting the immune system), protecting against toxin exposure, enhancing the intestinal barrier function and producing anti-inflammatory compounds(17). Many studies demonstrate that probiotics can be an effective alternative treatment against Candida infections, both by helping to prevent its overgrowth and in fighting off the infection once it is already present.
There are many different strains of probiotics, and each has the potential to play a different role in treating fungal infections like Candidiasis. Research has shown positive effects of various lactic-acid bacteria in producing anti-candida effects.
Of thelactobacillus strains, the following have been specifically researched for their use in treating various forms of candidiasis, most specifically that of the oral region(18):
In addition, other strains of probiotics have also been studied for their antifungal effects on the Candida pathogen during in vitro (test tube) studies(19). These include:
However, these positive effects are dependent upon the method and form of use and well as the dosage and potency. In addition, some strains work best when used together, rather than by themselves. It is also important to keep in mind that some of the research on the use of probiotics for Candida was not completed on humans, and also may have been done in small study group sizes.
Candida is a type of fungal infection that leads to a variety of unwanted symptoms and potentially serious health complications if not treated properly. Research supports the use of probiotics in both protecting against and treating Candida infections, yet the findings have some limitations.
Joanna Foley - Contributing Writer, Physician's Choice