Fighting candida with probiotics

Lactobacilli restore the correct balance of vaginal microflora and reduce the risk of recurrence.

The term Candida is often used as a synonym for candidiasis or candidiasis, that is, a mycosis caused by a yeast belonging to the Candida family.

In most cases responsible for the infection is Candida albicans, a strain physiologically present in different parts of the body, for example on the mucous membrane of the oral cavity, in the terminal portion of the intestine, on the skin and on the vaginal mucosa. Its presence does not cause any symptoms or discomfort as it is kept under control by our immune system and lactobacilli, “good” bacteria that protect us from the proliferation of pathogenic microorganisms.

In certain circumstances (such as a decrease in immune defenses, alterations in the bacterial flora resulting for example from a treatment based on antibiotics, or, again, diseases such as diabetes) there may be an excessive proliferation of candida in the intestine (where it causes symptoms such as bloating and an alternation of constipation and diarrhea and can favor, in case of chronic candidiasis, the development of food allergies and intolerances) or on the vaginal mucosa, triggering the fungal infection and causing candida vaginitis.

It is estimated that about two-thirds of women of childbearing age have had at least one episode in their lifetime, dealing with the annoying symptoms of candida, such as itching, burning and whitish discharge (typically described as similar to cottage cheese).

How can it be cured

When an acute candida infection appears, therapy with antifungal drugs should be planned. Generally, these are azole derivatives, easily available in pharmacies and available in different formulations (cream, vaginal ovules, tablets, etc.), to be applied topically in a single dose or once a day (usually, in the evening before bedtime) for 3-5 or 7-10 days, depending on the specific preparation used and the severity of the symptoms. Treatment should also be extended to the partner, as mycosis can be transmitted sexually.

Topical antifungals against candida can be purchased without a prescription, but if it is the first episode it is still preferable to consult a doctor to be sure that you have correctly identified the disease and treat it adequately. In fact, it is good to exclude that it is a urinary tract infection (such as cystitis), which can manifest itself with symptoms similar to those of candida vaginitis, which can also be associated with difficulty urinating, cramps in the lower abdomen and pain when urinating. For the diagnosis there is no need for blood tests: generally, in addition to the physical examination, patients may be required a vaginal swab, a very simple test that consists of taking secretions with a cotton swab. The sample taken is then examined under a microscope to ascertain which pathogen is at the origin of the disorder.

The support of the doctor is, however, always necessary for the therapy of recurrent forms, more complex, prolonged and delicate to manage. Candidiasis, in fact, can become chronic and relapsing, that is, return to recur several times despite the therapies, also because Candida tends to organize, especially at the vaginal level, in a sort of pathogenic biofilm, in which a network of proteins and sugars protects it from the attack of drugs and immune defenses.

Treatment of these forms is usually based on periodic administration of local antifungal (or by mouth) at decreasing dosages, over several weeks or months. Unfortunately, the outcomes of this type of therapy are not always satisfactory.

In addition to predisposing underlying conditions, one of the reasons behind treatment failure is the alteration of the balance of the vaginal ecosystem that normally accompanies the therapeutic action of the antifungal and facilitates new infections.

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More protected with lactobacilli

To prevent these side effects, both after the treatment of an acute episode and in the intervals between subsequent treatments of the recurrent forms, it may be useful to use a specific vaginal probiotic product, able to restore a favorable endogenous microflora, which represents the best defense against possible relapses.At the level of the vaginal wall, as already mentioned, the mucosa hosts a bacterial flora that offers an important barrier to infections. About 90% of the microorganisms present in the healthy vaginal ecosystem of women of childbearing age are made up of strains of lactobacilli, which maintain their pH at typically acidic values (3.5-4.5) and protect it from potentially harmful fungal and bacterial colonizations. Lactobacilli, in fact, produce lactic acid, which helps maintain adequate pH levels, so that the vaginal environment is inhospitable to germs.

In addition, lactobacilli counteract adhesion (i.e. adherence to the epithelium of the vaginal mucosa), proliferation and growth of pathogenic microorganisms such as candida also through other mechanisms. In fact, it is thought that lactobacilli can destroy the biofilms already present on the cells of the vaginal mucous membranes thanks to the production of substances such as hydrogen peroxide and bacteriocins.

Probiotic products based on lactobacilli, are indicated to restore the balance of the vaginal ecosystem altered by various factors such as antibiotic therapies, situations of intense or prolonged psychophysical stress, significant changes in lifestyle habits, physiological or pathological changes in hormonal balance (for example in pregnancy or menopause ), incorrect intimate hygiene due for example to the use of inappropriate or low-quality intimate cleansers, etc.

What are probiotics?

According to the definition of the World Health Organization, probiotics are live microorganisms (usually bacteria, but also yeasts) that, when administered in adequate quantities, bring a benefit to the health of the host. They can overcome the acidic environment of the stomach, arrive alive and vital in the intestine and rebalance the bacterial flora of the organism.

Probiotics and prebiotics should not be confused, despite the similarity of the names: the latter, in fact, are not live microorganisms, but particular types of substances of food origin (generally fibers such as inulin) that have beneficial properties, as they favor the development and growth of microorganisms present in the body, including those introduced with probiotics.

It is also good not to confuse probiotics with lactic acid bacteria, bacteria that produce lactic acid from lactose, but which are not able to survive the passage into the stomach.

Not all probiotics are the same. Among the most common are lactobacilli which, as seen, are also the main bacteria present in the vaginal ecosystem.

Compared to oral probiotics against candida infections, vaginal capsule formulations to be applied topically have the advantage of getting lactobacilli directly to the site of action, in higher concentrations and more quickly. In addition, vaginal capsules require less frequent intake cycles, resulting in reduced practical effort and overall treatment costs.

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Probiotics for candida: even in pregnancy?

Gestation represents a phase of female life in which the balance of the vaginal microbiota, that is, of the bacterial flora present at the genital level, can be altered, thus facilitating the appearance of infections.

In this delicate moment of the woman’s life, however, fungal vaginitis such as candidiasis, as well as causing intimate discomfort to the pregnant woman, are generally not dangerous for the unborn child, while vaginal bacterial infections must be treated promptly, as they could go up along the vaginal canal and favor an infection of the amniotic membranes, increasing the risk of premature birth.

The intake of probiotics can therefore be a useful tool for preventing maternal inflammation and infections, helping to maintain the vaginal bacterial ecosystem in balance and, with it, an adequate pH level.

Eye also to the diet

Taking probiotics, especially lactobacilli, in the form of food supplements or as vaginal capsules is not enough if you continue to follow unbalanced diets, because it can alter the composition and balance of bacterial flora, helping to promote candida recurrence. Following a specific diet, under the guidance of the gynecologist, is therefore one of the first natural remedies to be implemented if you often deal with candidiasis.

It is generally recommended to drastically reduce some foods (such as those rich in carbohydrates) and to favor others. Let’s see which ones.

To be privileged Things to avoid
Rice and wholemeal pasta (which contain complex sugars)








Olive oil

Foods rich in simple sugars (sweets, ice cream, sugary drinks)

Leavened foods (such as bread, pizza, etc.) because they nourish the mushrooms and promote their multiplication)

In addition to a proper diet, it is also good to follow a healthy lifestyle, practicing sports regularly and drinking plenty of water.

Joycelyn Elders is the author and creator of EmpowerEssence, a health and wellness blog. Elders is a respected public health advocate and pediatrician dedicated to promoting general health and well-being.

The blog covers a wide range of topics related to health and wellness, with articles organized into several categories.

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