Fungal infections can take the form of numerous different conditions such as Tinea Pedis (athletes foot), Onychomycosis (nail infections), oral thrush, vaginal yeast infections, fungal lung infections, overgrowth in the digestive tract, and systemic candidiasis(see Candida). Each of these conditions present with different symptoms and typically successful treatment embraces dietary and/or lifestyle change with additional either topical or internal treatment.
There are lots of different yeasts naturally present within our normal microbiome and not all of them are pathogenic. These are managed by the bacteria in our digestive system and only become problematic when there is an overgrowth of the fungi. Sometimes certain fungi from external sources such as mold can be either digested, inhaled or in contact with our skin which also has the potential to impact upon our health.
Overgrowth of problematic yeasts can also happen due to an immune issue where our body is not able to fight the infection as well as previously mentioned situations of imbalances of the microbiome. If our immune system is compromised for various reasons, then we might find ourselves presented with a fungal overgrowth issue.
Symptoms of fungal overgrowths can vary. For vaginal yeast infections the symptoms tend to be white discharge, itching and some pain on urination and during intercourse. Oral thrush can present with white patches in the throat. For Athletes Foot the symptoms are itchy and dry flaky skin on the foot particularly between the toes. Fungal infected nails can get a discoloration and the nail will get brittle and possibly break off.
There are multiple areas we need to address to help tackle the issue of fungal infections and taking a multidisciplinary approach can be particularly helpful. There are ranging treatments from prescription creams, lotions and medication but there are also a lot of researched natural approaches to help regain the natural balance of the body.
Lowering your sugar intake can be helpful as yeasts thrive in an environment where there is lots of glucose available. Focus on reducing refined sugar and minimising white and processed carbohydrates as much as possible. Natural sugars and fruit sugars are okay in moderation but whole fruits are encouraged as opposed to dried fruits or fruit juices.Intake of other foods that are quick to convert to glucose such as alcohol should also be minimised.
Eat plenty of vegetables and remember to eat the rainbow. There are important nutrients such as phytochemicals which play a pivotal role in both the digestive microbiome balance and immune health, along with fighting free radicals. Good quality coconut oil, oregano, ginger and garlic are natural antimicrobials, so make sure to include plenty of them in your diet as they will help to rebalance the fungal overgrowth as well as strengthen your immune system.
Natural probiotic foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi may also be beneficial to strengthen the immune system and also include prebiotic fibre to help to regain a better microbial balance. Digestive health also influences vaginal health, so whilst this seem like a distant site in the body, these recommendations hold true for thrush too.
Antimicrobial supplements may help to readdress the microbiome balance and have shown as great potential as some antifungal medications. However, it is important to remember that resistance can build to both pharmaceutical and natural antifungals and whilst one approach may work for one person, a very different approach may be needed for the next. Our digestive testing solutions may be helpful in these instances to as these can actually test the unique microbial balance of the person and test a sample using various anti-microbials to suggest efficacy of different options. Some popular supplements when it comes to anti-fungal support include Caprylic Acid from coconut, Oregano oil, Grapefruit seed extract, Olive Leaf Extract, Allicin which is the compound found in garlic and berberine. There are a couple of nice formulations such as Caprylic Acid Plus and Micro Defense but we recommend working with one of our trained Nutritional Therapists to create a specific plan for your health needs.
Beneficial bacteria known as probiotics used at the same time as anti-microbials may also be helpful to repopulate the digestive system and strengthen it against pathogens. A specific strain that helps with fungal infections is Saccharomyces Boulardii (actually a yeast itself). Multi Strain probiotics have also been well studied for their beneficial use around immunity and therefore, may also form a useful part of a successful protocol.
Medicinal Mushrooms have been used traditionally for centuries for their properties pertaining to the health of the immune system. However, as a complex part of the fungal kingdom themselves, they were previously thought to be avoided in anti-fungal dietary programmes… More recent studies have made scientists rethink this previous theory and they have now been proven as a useful adjunct in treatment of fungal conditions.
The immune balance as a whole should also be considered such as optimising the critical nutrients here including vitamin D, zinc and vitamin C. Other herbal preparations may also be useful for the immune side of the picture too. Also topical considerations may be appropriate to use to address symptoms whilst we work on the root cause from within. Simple natural oils such as coconut oil or neem oil may be used topically or in combination with essential oils such as Tea Tree. For fungal nail infections, the Nail and Cuticle Oil by Dr Hauschka is a nice formula or Z gel for more external skin related conditions.
As mentioned previously digestive testing can a useful tool to assess microbiome balance which looks at bacteria and parasites as well as the unique fungal picture of a person.These tests offer valuable insight into which types of organisms are present and if found, are then tested with anti-microbial compounds to get a clear picture of efficacy versus resistance so a much more accurate protocol can be developed for the individual.
Food sensitivity and environmental sensitivity testing may also be useful is assessing the balance of the immune system and whether specific foods and environmental allergens may be exacerbating a specific condition.
Any testing is done with the guidance of our Nutritional Therapy team so please do not hesitate to contact us to find out more.
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Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.