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Yeast Infection

Candidiasis is an infection caused by a yeastlike fungus called candida. It can infect the mouth, vagina, skin, stomach, and urinary tract. Approximately 75 percent of women will get candidiasis of the vagina during their lifetime, and 90 percent of all people with HIV/AIDS develop candida infections.

Signs and Symptoms

bulletCreamy white patches in the mouth or on the throat
bulletPainful cracks at the corners of the mouth
bulletSkin rashes, patches, and blisters found most commonly in the groin, between fingers and toes, and under the breasts
bulletVaginal itching and irritation with a curdlike discharge

 

What Causes It?

Normal amounts of candida existing in the mouth, stomach, and vagina do not cause infections. Candidiasis occurs when there is a buildup of candida. This may be caused by taking certain drugs (especially antibiotics), pregnancy, being overweight, bacterial infection, or by several health conditions (for example, immune disorders, diabetes, and psoriasis).

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Your health care provider may take samples for testing (for example, a vaginal wet smear) and do extensive tests (such as a CT scan or test of your stool) if it appears that the infection has spread. Your provider will probably prescribe an antifungal medication. He or she may also recommend changes in your diet. These treatments usually cure candidiasis. If you have recurrent bouts of candidiasis, your provider will explore the possibility of an immune deficiency or some other disease.

Treatment Options

Treatment Plan

A number of antifungal medications are available to treat candidiasis. Your health care provider will prescribe a drug depending on the location and severity of your disease. Most treatments last from 2 to 3 days to 2 weeks. Be sure to take all medicine exactly as prescribed. If you do not, the same infection could come back. Reinfection with a new strain of candida also can occur. For more severe candidiasis, you will be given fluids and electrolytes intravenously.

Drug Therapies

Prescription

 

bulletAntifungal medications—include oral rinses and tablets, vaginal tablets and suppositories, and creams; various side effects
bulletAntibiotics—cure certain types of candida
bulletTopical vaginal creams and suppositories
bulletCreams combined with low-strength corticosteroids—reduce inflammation and itching

 

Over the Counter

Some topical vaginal creams and suppositories are available over the counter and may be used for one to seven days; see provider if condition persists

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

The "candida diet" allows no alcohol, no simple sugars, and very limited amounts of refined foods. Alternative therapies aim to "starve" the yeast and use natural antifungals.

 

bulletVitamin C (500 to 1,000 mg per day), vitamin E (200 to 400 IU per day), and selenium (200 mcg per day) are anti-inflammatory.
bulletEssential fatty acids: anti-inflammatory, a mix of omega-6 (evening primrose) and omega-3 (flaxseed) may be best (2 tbsp. oil per day or 1,000 to 1,500 mg twice a day). Reduce animal fats in your diet and increase fish and nuts.
bulletBiotin (300 mcg) inhibits a form of candida that is the most irritating to membranes
bulletB-complex: B1 (50 to 100 mg), B2 (50 mg), B3 (25 mg); B5 (100 mg); B6 (50 to 100 mg), B12 (100 to 1,000 mcg), folate (400 mcg per day)
bulletCalcium (1,000 to 1,500 mg per day) to correct deficiency often found in people with yeast infections, and magnesium (750 to 1,000 mg per day) to balance calcium intake
bulletLactobacillus acidophilus (2 to 5 million organisms three times per day) to help restore normal balance of bowel and mucous membranes.
bulletCaprylic acid (1 gram with meals) is an antifungal fatty acid
bulletAvoid simple carbohydrates including fruit juice, yeast, and fermented foods; limit fruit to one serving per day, increase garlic (fungicidal), nuts (essential fatty acids), whole grains (B vitamins), oregano, cinnamon, sage, and cloves (antifungal spices)

 

Herbs

Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers; 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day.

 

bulletPau d'arco bark (lapacho or taheebo): antifungal, best used as a tea (2 tbsp. boiled in 1 quart of water; 3 to 6 cups per day), or use the cooled tea as a vaginal douche
bulletGoldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Oregon grape root (Mahonia nervosa), and barberry (Berberis vulgaris) are digestive and immune stimulants. Chamomile (Matricaria recicuta) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) are anti-inflammatory. Use a tea or tincture of the four herbs listed above (1 cup tea three times per day or 30 to 60 drops tincture three times per day) for six weeks. Do not take licorice if you have high blood pressure.
bulletTopical treatments include tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) or lavender essential oil (Lavendula species) two to three times a day; apply full strength to skin infections (discontinue if skin irritation develops); marigold (Calendula officinalis) apply three to five times per day in a salve for rashes.
bulletFireweek (Epilobium parviflorum): take as a tea for oral, vaginal, and intestinal candidias

 

Homeopathy

Some of the most common remedies used for candidiasis are listed below. Usually, the dose is 12X to 30C every one to four hours until your symptoms get better.

 

bulletBorax for bleeding oral mucosa, especially with diarrhea
bulletBelladonna for bright red, inflamed skin that is not raw or oozing, but is painful, especially with irritability
bulletChamomilla for "diaper" rash, especially with irritability
bulletArsenicum album for burning, itching rashes, especially with anxiety
bulletGraphites for thick, cracked skin (corners of mouth or heels)
bulletKreosotum for leukorrhea that causes itching and swelling

 

Acupuncture

May be helpful to stimulate immune system, digestion, and relieve stress.

Following Up

You can prevent another yeast infection by taking lactobacillus acidophilus when you take antibiotics, avoiding antibiotics that act against a wide variety of bacteria when possible, wearing cotton or silk underwear, maintaining good hygiene, and staying at the proper weight. Women should avoid douches (except when medically necessary), vaginal deodorants, and bubble baths.

Special Considerations

Tell your health care provider if you are pregnant.

Supporting Research

Bartram T. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Dorset, England: Grace Publishers; 1995:263, 417.

Berkow R, Fletcher AJ, eds. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Rahway, NJ: Merck & Company Inc; 1992.

Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Boston, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998:463.

Coeugniet E, Kühnast R. Recurrent candidiasis: Adjutant immunotherapy with different formulations of Echinacin®. Therapiewoche. 1986;36:3352–3358.

Conn RB, Borer WZ, Snyder JW, eds. Current Diagnosis 9. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 1996.

Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C et al, eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 1998:728.

Henry JR. Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Company; 1996.

Morrison R. Desktop Guide to Keynotes and Confirmatory Symptoms. Albany, Calif: Hahnemann Clinic Publishing; 1993:68, 115–117, 171–172, 210.

Thierney Jr LM, McPhee SJ, Papadakis MA, eds. Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment 1999. 38th ed. Stamford, Conn: Appleton & Lange; 1999.

Copyright © 2000 Integrative Medicine Communications

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein