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Oral Candidiasis (Thrush)

November 2005

Treating and Preventing Fungal Infections Naturally

There is a strong connection between what you eat and the health of your immune system. Nevertheless, nutritional approaches to prevent and treat conditions like candidiasis are complicated and controversial. While there isn't a magic recipe that prevents or treats yeast infections in everyone, following some basic guidelines may lower the risk of yeast becoming a problem.

Most nutritionists agree that sugar, yeast, dairy, wheat, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol are the main culprits in Candida diseases because they help yeast to grow. To prevent this, nutritionists recommend ingesting as little as possible of these substances that contribute to the excess production of yeast.

garlicAnother approach is to eat larger amounts of foods that may suppress the growth of yeast. For example, garlic is believed by some nutritionists to have natural antifungal properties and may help to prevent candidiasis. Fresh garlic is considered best, although commercial garlic "pills" offer the advantage of reduced odors. Fresh garlic can be mixed into other foods, eaten raw after removing the dry outer skin, or minced and put into empty gelatin capsules, up to six cloves a day. (Note: it is unknown if large amounts of garlic interfere with anti-HIV therapies, but some evidence exists that it may increase the risk of side effects associated with ritonavir [Norvir].)

Another factor that can contribute to uncontrolled yeast growth is the use of antibiotics. "Friendly" bacteria are found naturally in the body and establish a healthy balance while eliminating unfriendly yeasts. These bacteria are similar to Lactobacilli, the bacteria that turn milk into yogurt. Many common antibiotics (like tetracycline and penicillin) kill these bacteria -- which then promotes yeast growth.

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In order to lessen this effect from antibiotics and promote healthy bacteria in general, many nutritionists recommend adding Lactobacilli acidophilus bacteria to your diet. It can be found in yogurts and certain milks (look for Lactobacilli acidophilus on the label). You can also take it in pill form, available at many health food stores. (Note: there is not a great deal known about the effect vitamins, herbs and supplements on HIV disease. It is further not known if there are interactions between commonly used anti-HIV therapies and complementary medicine. To minimize risk, discuss these issues with your doctor and pharmacist.)

Oral candidiasis can change how you taste and enjoy foods. It can also make eating and swallowing difficult. Avoiding acidic, spicy or hot foods as well as cigarettes, alcohol and carbonated drinks may lessen this effect. All of these can irritate the insides of your mouth. Soft, cool and bland foods (like oatmeal, mashed beans, apple sauce, etc.) are recommended.

Many people use liquid food supplements to ease painful mouth infections and to keep or add on weight. Unfortunately, many of these supplements are high in sugars, which can promote yeast growth. If you use liquid supplements, make sure they contain mainly complex carbohydrates, are high in protein and have low-to-moderate sugar levels. It's important to remember that these products are intended to be supplements and should not replace solid food.

There are some reports that gargling with Tea Tree oil diluted with water can help treat oral candidiasis. Generally these gargles (two drops of oil in a tablespoon of water) are used in the morning, night and after meals. They are sometimes swabbed directly on mouth sores (one drop of oil to one drop of water). Grapefruit seed extract and 1% hydrogen peroxide may also be used in a similar way, but must be more heavily diluted and should NEVER be swallowed. However, these approaches (especially grapefruit seed extract) may irritate the mouth and promote infection. Moreover, they only address the local symptoms of yeast growth and not the underlying causes.

Help From Food and Diet Changes

  • Decrease or avoid sugars (corn and maple syrup, glucose, fructose and sucrose). Sugars are food for Candida and help it to grow.
  • Decrease or avoid alcohol. Alcohol converts to sugar and promotes the growth of Candida.
  • Some nutritionist and complementary therapy advocates suggest that ingesting large quantities of garlic might be helpful as an antifungal. According to garlic advocates, fresh garlic is considered best (mince and put into empty gelatin capsules, up to six cloves a day). Garlic is believed to have some natural antifungal properties and may help to prevent candidiasis.
  • Drink milk or eat yogurt that contains acidophilus bacteria. Acidophilus is "friendly" bacteria which helps keep our body in balance and able to fight of "unfriendly" bacteria and fungus, like Candida.





  
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