Which probiotics are best for Candida?
One of the conditions we're constantly asked about, by consumers and practitioners alike, is if probiotics can help in cases of Candida albicans yeast overgrowth, commonly known as Candidiasis or fungal dysbiosis. The ‘Candida’ genus has many different species, but Candida albicans is the most common species to proliferate and cause health issues, though others, such as C. glabrata and C. auris are increasing in prevalence.
The following information is designed to be utilised by healthcare practitioners as, ideally, we would always recommend that all Candida diet and supplement protocols are undertaken with the support and guidance of a suitably qualified therapist.
But can probiotics actually help with Candidiasis?
As Candida yeasts are natural residents of the human body, doctors are often reluctant to offer allopathic support unless the condition manifests as obvious fungal infections such as thrush. Even then, their arsenal is limited to anti-fungal medicines, though it's been encouraging to note that some doctors are now suggesting that their patients consider natural supplements including probiotics.
Strain specificity is very important here, however, and so when recommending probiotics for Candida to your clients, it’s best to use those products containing species and strains that have been well-researched and proven to help prevent and address Candida overgrowth.To find out more about probiotic strains and what exactly a 'strain' is, read our information page about probiotic strains.
It’s good news, then, that we have within our range a couple of products containing probiotic cultures with a proven track record in preventing and addressing Candida infections.The first is Saccharomyces boulardii, which is itself a yeast, but which has been proven to be an effective probiotic with powerful anti-Candida properties. For more general information on this probiotic read our FAQ 'What is Saccharomyces boulardii', but to see some of the studies that support its use for Candida overgrowth then see our Saccharomyces boulardii research page. S. boulardii works against Candida in a variety of different ways: it's been shown to inhibit populations of Candida and prevent them from establishing in the digestive tract1; to reduce the potential for Candida infestation and inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease2; how S. boulardii can help prevent Candida yeasts from translocating from the digestive tract3 and how it produces caprylic acid which has antifungal properties against Candida4.Beneficial bacteria can also help to displace Candida populations; in particular, one of the most well-researched strains of Lactobaccilli, Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM®, has been shown in studies to stimulate the production of antibodies to C. albicans antigens7.
Is there a recommended probiotic supplement protocol for Candidiasis?
We recommend the following regime for your clients:
The dosage varies from person to person actually but the best thing to do is to start off with a low dose and gradually increase. This helps to reduce the possibility of a 'die off' reaction (for more information about 'die-off' reactions see specific section at the bottom of this article).
- Start with 1 capsule twice a day (morning and evening) for the first week.
- Increase to 2 capsules twice daily for the second week.
- By the third week increase to 2 capsules three times daily.
However you may find that sufferers don't need to reach 6 capsules a day, and that 3-4 work fine to reduce symptoms. We recommend that patients stay on this dose for a number of weeks/ months until you feel the Candida has sufficiently left the system, or until the appropriate tests have confirmed this.Just to note – we recommending taking S. boulardii away from other anti-fungals (2 hours gap should be enough).
NB: Please note that recommend that clients should check with their doctor before using this supplement during pregnancy or whilst breast-feeding.
For every day EXTRA Strength:
- 1-2 capsules daily with breakfast
S. boulardii is a transient probiotic, meaning it does not take up residence within the gut, so 'For every day EXTRA Strength' is recommended as a good general probiotic to take at the same time. In this way at the same time that the S. boulardii is helping to eradicate the pathogenic yeast, the friendly bacteria in 'For every day EXTRA Strength' can come in and repopulate the areas where the Candida once inhabited, and help to restore the balance of intestinal flora. This will hopefully prevent Candida overgrowth from re-occurring and will re-enforce the mucosal lining of the gut – a vital part of the immune defences.
Other helpful probiotics for Candida symptoms
'Bifidobacteria & fibre'
As constipation can sometimes be an issue for sufferers, it can be helpful to start off the programme by trying to improve regularity in patients, particularly as S. boulardii can sometimes cause constipation at high doses. For this we would recommend ‘Bifidobacteria & fibre’, a combination of Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12® and Fructooligosaccharides (FOS). B. lactis BB-12® has recently been the subject of one of the world’s largest clinical trials on probiotics, and has been found to promote regular bowel movements.
Vaginal thrush can be an unpleasant and persistent manifestation of Candida infection for many women. Our 'For women' product has over 30 years of scientific evidence to support its use.
It contains two strains of probiotics – L. rhamnosus GR-1® and L. reuteri RC-14® - which are different to our other probiotics in that they have been shown to colonise in the vaginal tract rather than the intestines. 'For women' has been clinically trialled by over 2,500 women who found it to be helpful in managing the symptoms of thrush as well as preventing its recurrence.See also our FAQ 'Will probiotics help to prevent thrush?'
Are any probiotics NOT recommended for Candida?
In general, there aren’t any probiotics that are contraindicated in Candida overgrowth; in fact, most probiotic bacteria offer some degree of anti-Candida potential through competitive inhibition and by lowering the pH in the intestines; like most pathogens, this troublesome yeast prefers an alkaline environment. There is some debate over whether an anti-Candida protocol should include prebiotics, in the form of fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) or inulin, though as long as the prebiotics are of a high-quality source, the benefits of including these at the start of the programme can outweigh any potential they have to 'feed' the pathogenic yeast. If you are interested in finding out more about the debate you can read our blogpost, 'Does FOS feed bad bacteria?'
How does Candida become a health issue?
The Candida genus of yeasts is very large and includes many different species, though C. albicans is the most common offender in human fungal infections. Candida is a natural resident in our intestinal tract, and normally our own defence mechanisms help to keep it in check; however, stress, illness, medications such as antibiotics and a high intake of sugary foods can create conditions favourable for the yeast to proliferate. (Candida is a mould that feeds on other moulds). Even environment is important to reduce the mould count in houses, schools etc. and thrives in dark moist places so our bodies provide a multitude of potential hang-outs for this opportunistic yeast.
Once it has taken hold, Candida can then be a challenge to manage and overcome. Conventional treatments include anti-fungals such as Nystatin and Clotrimazole, which can initially help symptoms, but Candida is a survivor and can retreat deep into body tissues when faced with anti-fungals, lying dormant there until conditions for its survival improve.This is why it can sometimes take a combination of prescription or natural anti-fungals, appropriate dietary interventions and supplements, and effective probiotics to finally put this pathogen back in its place. It's also why some therapists believe that it's best not to eradicate all potential food sources for the yeast from the patient's diet, believing that it's better to just reduce intake of these foods instead to keep the yeast 'living', albeit in a less powerful form, in order for it to be displaced and eradicated.On the whole, however, anti-Candida diets typically exclude processed, high-sugar foods, some fruits, and 'yeasty' foods and drinks like bread and alcohol which are all thought to promote the growth of this pathogen, and any foods to which the patient may have become intolerant. A gut-healing, immunity-supporting diet is desirable, along with foods that can help to naturally suppress Candida and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria - coconut oil contains caprylic acid so can be a useful addition, as can olive oil, garlic, onions and ginger for their anti-fungal and prebiotic potential.
How do you know if your clients have Candidiasis?
Symptoms of this yeast overgrowth can manifest in such a wide variety of ways that it can sometimes be as tricky to identify as to address, and so in the first instance, we would always recommend that any undiagnosed symptoms are first discussed with a client’s doctor, or that the appropriate clinical tests be conducted.
Potential Candida overgrowth can be associated with a history of high sugar/fruit consumption; severe stress; taking antibiotic/steroid/birth control medication or even prolonged exposure to mould-ridden environments. The symptoms which make a fungal overgrowth easy to identify include thrush (vaginal or oral) or other fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, but the broader range of Candida-related symptoms can include diarrhoea/constipation, bloating, belching, rectal itching, food intolerances, and a propensity towards stomach upsets. Other health conditions thought to have their basis in Candida overgrowth are chronic fatigue syndrome, acne/eczema, headaches, mental disorders such as anxiety, confusion and ‘foggy brain’ and many other chronic health complaints.Another harmful side effect of Candida overgrowth can be intestinal permeability ('leaky gut'), as the yeasts burrow into and compromise the delicate intestinal mucosa. Symptoms of this can manifest as generalised inflammation, skin rashes and other allergic symptoms. In this way, Candida can eventually leach through into the bloodstream and become systemic , affecting body organs and other areas beyond the digestive system. The mycotoxins that the yeasts excrete can then even cross the blood brain barrier and this is how the mental symptoms such as confusion (often described as ‘foggy brain’) and anxiety can develop.
The Five stages of Candida Progression5
- The intestinal mucosal lining becomes compromised, general malaise, possible allergic symptoms present.
- Yeasts produce toxic by products, resulting in joint pains, headaches and allergies digestive problems, PMS, food and environmental sensitivities and allergies, headaches, fatigue, sinus and bronchial problems, anxieties, canker sores in the mouth, thrush in the vagina or mouth, athlete’s foot, an itchy groin in men or women, vaginal discharge, mild skin irritations.
- Crosses blood/brain barrier, and mental symptoms can begin to present.
- As Candida continues to grow and destroy the body cells, organ systems within the body may start malfunctioning, along with the endocrine system, musculoskeletal system and respiratory system.
- Many practitioners believe that underlying Candida overgrowth is implicated in a number of serious and potentially fatal health conditions.
What are ‘die-off’ reactions?
‘Die-off’ reactions, sometimes called the Jarisch–Herxheimer reaction after the European doctors who first noted the symptoms, are thought to occur as a result of a toxic overload in the body. When pathogenic bacteria and yeasts are displaced, either by antibiotics, anti-fungals, or probiotics, then they are believed to release up to 70 different types of toxic substances. If these pathogens are dying off in large numbers, then these toxins can be difficult for the body to eliminate, particularly where pathways of elimination may be compromised6.
It's important that patients understand that any anti-Candida protocol is not a permanent fix that will prevent this troublesome yeast from causing future health issues.Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle is essential, but as our intestinal flora form a key part of our immune system defences against this pathogen, it's also very important to maintain a healthy gut microbiota as our intestinal environment is constantly evolving. Once you are happy that your patients have finally put this troublesome yeast back in its place, then our daily maintenance product, 'For every day', is perfect to take for this purpose and, like all of our product range, is safe to take on a long-term basis.
For more information about this subject and other related conditions see:
1. Ducluzeau, R. & Bensaada, M. (1982) Comparative effect of a single or continuous administration of Saccharomyces boulardii on the establishment of various strains of Candida in the digestive tract of gnotobiotic mice. Annales de microbiologie. (Inst. Pasteur). 133: pp: 491-501
2. Jawhara, S. & Poulain, D. (2007) Saccharomyces boulardii decreases inflammation and intestinal colonisation by Candida albicans in a mouse model of chemically-induced colitis. Medical Mycology, Vol. 45. Issue 8. pp 691 - 700.
3. Berg, R. et al. (1993) Inhibition of Candida albicans translocation from the gastrointestinal tract of mice by oral administration of Saccharomcyes boulardii. J Infect Dis. 1993,Nov;168(5):1314-8.
4. Murzyn, et al. (2010) Capric Acid Secreted by S. boulardii Inhibits C. Albicans. August 2010, Plos One, Vol. 5. Issue 8.
5. Malhotra S*, Nirmaljit Kaur*, Bhatia MS**, Kumar P*, Hans C* (2010)'Yeast Infection and Psychiatric disorders' Delhi Psychiatry Journal 2010; 13:(2) © Delhi Psychiatric Society
6. EWhite, Dip.ION & Sherlock, B.A.(ss), Lic.ION The Effect of Nutritional Therapy for Yeast Infection (Candidiasis) in Cases of Chronic Fatigue SyndromeJournal of Orthomolecular Medicine Vol. 20, No. 3, 2005.7.
7. Wagner R.D., Pierson, C., Warner, T., Dohnalek, M., Hilty, M. and Balish,E. (2000). Probiotic effects of feeding heat-killed Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei to Candida albicans colonized immunodeficient mice. J. Food Prot. 63(5):638-644
The Practical Guide to Candida – Jane McWhirter
Biochemical Imbalances in Disease – Lorraine Nicholl and Anne Woodriff Beirne
Digestive wellness – Elizabeth Lipski