If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve experienced the annoying effects of fungal Candida.
While you can get rid of the fungus, fungal Candida can unfortunately show its ugly head again even if an overgrowth has been successfully treated. The good news is that research suggests that candidiasis reoccurs in fewer than 5% of women who develop an overgrowth. Knowing what triggers fungal Candida recurrence will help you keep the fungus at bay.
What does recurrent candidiasis imply?
Candidiasis is considered recurrent when an individual experiences either:
- At least four specific episodes in a year.
- Or at least three episodes unrelated to antibiotic therapy within one year.
Factors associated with recurrence of fungal Candida
More research is needed to clearly understand the reasons why some individuals are repeatedly affected by recurring Candida infections. However, there are a number of factors that increase the predisposition to fungal Candida recurrence.
1. Failure to eliminate Candida overgrowth for good.
If followed properly, anti-fungal therapies involving drugs such as Diflucan or herbs like Pau D’Arco and oregano extracts do a great job when it comes to killing the Candida. However, in many cases, the Candida can become immune to the drugs or herbs. You see, when the Candida ‘notices’ that it is being attacked, it fights back by producing spores which will lay ‘dormant’ until the attacks stop. This causes the symptoms to clear up and that is when the individual will usually stop the therapy. However, once the spores sense that the immune response has stopped, they will go out of hiding resulting in a new bout of Candida infection.
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2. Prolonged antibiotic use.
The issue with antibiotics is that they do not only kill pathogens (harmful bacteria): they also eradicate healthy bacteria. In other words, prolonged use of antibiotics will suppress the immune system – this will adversely impact the body’s production of antibodies and phagocytes (immune cells that engulf pathogens) thus leading to a lowered resistance to fungal Candida infections.
Moreover, when antibiotics are used for an extended period of time, Candida is able to alter the gut flora by dominating the gut as it rebuilds after the antibiotic therapy. In fact, research indicates that Candida alters the gut’s pH while also preventing the growth of good bacteria that are likely to thwart its growth. For instance, Lactobacillacae reduce the gut’s pH and, in doing so, they prevent Candida from colonizing the gut. By increasing the gut’s pH and preventing these good bacteria from populating the gut, the Candida is in fact creating an environment where it can grow faster and colonize the gut more extensively.
3. Uncontrolled diabetes or persistently high blood glucose levels.
Have you ever tried an anti-Candida diet? This diet recommends limiting sugar and carbohydrate intake since Candida absolutely loves feasting on sugar. Put simply, the more sugar the Candida has access to, the more it will grow. So if someone has uncontrolled diabetes or has blood glucose levels that are consistently high, the Candida will be encouraged to keep growing. Seemingly healthy diets can lead to spikes in blood glucose levels – for instance, if someone regularly consumes a breakfast consisting of fruit juice and a big bowl of oats, her/his blood glucose levels will surge allowing the Candida to celebrate.
That’s not all; high blood glucose levels also impair the body’s defense mechanisms and depress the immune system – this creates the perfect environment for the Candida (and other pathogens) to flourish. In another study, researchers reported that diabetes mellitus (also known as diabetes type II), stimulates the formation of budding Candida cells – this facilitates the transition from colonization to a full blown infection.
4. Contraceptive methods.
Spermicidal jellies and creams, the contraceptive sponge and the diaphragm have been associated with recurrent Candida infections. You see, most spermicides are really harsh on the vagina and can lead to a disruption of the vaginal flora. This, in turn, facilitates the adhesion of Candida organisms. In fact, it is usually a clear indication that the vaginal immunity is being disturbed if the woman feels that the spermicide is irritating her vagina.
Research also suggests that women who take oral contraceptive pills are more likely to suffer from recurrent episodes of fungal Candida infections. One proposed theory is that Candida cells possess both estrogen and progesterone receptors. When these receptors are stimulated by the oral contraceptive pills, proliferation of the Candida cells often occurs.
5. A weakened immune system.
Scientific research indicates that individuals who are more prone to reoccurrence of fungal Candida overgrowth might have a deficient cell-mediated immunity. For instance, 40 to 70 percent of women with recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis often do not have a normal immune response to fungal Candida. This causes their bodies to produce a suboptimal level of T-lymphocytes (a subtype of white blood cells which play a central role in cell-mediated immunity) in response to Candida.
6. Mechanical factors.
Wearing tightly fitted or synthetic clothes or underwear that do not allow for proper ventilation can also cause fungal Candida to reoccur. That’s because these types of clothes increase both local temperature and moisture thus creating the optimal conditions for the Candida to grow. Moreover, these types of clothes can also irritate the skin, creating micro tears that will make it easy for the Candida cells to get a strong foothold.
It is also worth noting that synthetic panty liners also impede ventilation in the vaginal area – this increases the vagina’s temperature and moisture, making it a perfect area for the yeast to proliferate. As such, it is recommended to wear cotton panties and to change them every six to twelve hours.
Tampons, whether synthetic or scented, also irritate the vaginal tissues – as mentioned, anything that irritates the delicate tissues of the vagina can facilitate the growth of the Candida and cause the infection to reoccur.
7. Excess body weight
Obese individuals often have more skin folds (in other words, more warm and moist areas) than their leaner counterparts. As mentioned earlier, this can facilitate the growth of the Candida.
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8. Transmission from a sexual partner.
The role of sexual transmission when it comes to fungal Candida recurrence is still controversial. Although it seems logical that a person who has Candida overgrowth can infect her/his partner, clinical trials that attempted to treat male sexual partners were not found to prevent recurrences of candidiasis.
Do you suffer from recurrent episodes of Candida infections? If so, which of the above factors could be triggering these infections and what have you tried to get rid of them?