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Candida

Background to candidiasis

The yeast Candida albicans is the most common form of over 20 species of Candida, present on, or in, most humans as a harmless organism. However, it can also become a major fungal pathogen of humans. Infections can be localised, occurring in areas such as the vagina or the mouth, spreading to affect almost any organ system. Candidiasis can be associated with, or be a predisposing factor for, a number of conditions, including: chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and allergies.

A study showed that the normal gut flora have a natural resistance to Candida but this may be reduced when antibiotics are taken1. Many women suffer from recurrent yeast infections, indicating that there must be a reservoir of Candida albicans. There is a significant association shown between the presence of yeasts in the rectum and in the vagina2. A review of the literature concluded that, due to the recurrent nature of candida vaginitis, a complete treatment would not be possible without removing Candida albicans from the gut3.

The use of live bacteria supplements

Live microbes not only suppress the growth of Candida spp. in the gastrointestinal tract and vagina, but they also inhibit the adherence of Candida spp. to the mucosa. The ability of live bacteria to stimulate innate and acquired immune systems in the host and activate phagocytic cells is also thought to play a role in the inhibition of Candida. It is thought that, although probiotic bacteria may not be able to cure yeast vaginitis, when combined with anti-fungal drugs they are useful in reducing the risk of recurrence. The use of live bacteria supplements can help fortify natural resistance of the gut microflora to Candida albicans, particularly if antibiotics are used.

In a normal healthy individual, overgrowth of Candida albicans is prevented by the commensal bacteria, found in the normal balanced microflora. However, antibiotics have the ability to disrupt the bacterial populations within the gut, which can then lead to the overgrowth of undesirable microorganisms like Candida albicans. If probiotic bacteria supplements are used in this situation then, although Candida albicans will not be completely eliminated, yeast counts will be reduced. By reducing the pH of the vaginal tract, probiotic bacteria also make it an unfavourable environment for yeast growth.

References

  1. Payne S., Gibson G., Wynne A., Hudspith B., Brostoff J., Tuohy K. (2003), “In vitro studies on colonisation resistance of the human gut microbiota to Candida albicans and the effects of tetracycline and Lactobacillus plantarum LPK”, Curr Issues Intest Microbiol 4(1):1-8.
  2. Peer A.K., Hoosen A.A., Seedat M.A., van den Ende J., Omar M.A. (1993), “Vaginal yeast infections in diabetic women”. S Afr Med J, 83(10):727-9.
  3. Miles M.R., Olsen L., Rogers A. (1977), “Recurrent vaginal candidiasis. Importance of an intestinal reservoir”, JAMA 238(17):1836-7.

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