As a healthcare practitioner you are probably often asked about thrush. Thrush is a fungal/yeast infection which can be oral (causing white patches and sometimes pain in the mouth) or vaginal (causing itching or soreness around the vagina and vulva). Men can contract genital thrush as well, but it is much more common in women. Traditional medical treatment involves anti-fungal creams, pessaries or pills.

Candida

The yeast causing thrush is called Candida, and is usually the species Candida albicans. Candida occurs naturally within the intestines, mouth, skin and vagina of most people - yet problems occur when this yeast is able to overgrow, in which case thrush can occur. Candida is thought to overgrow when the body's balance of good and bad bacteria is disrupted. This disruption may occur due to factors such as antibiotics, hormonal changes including pregnancy, and by a disruption of the natural pH balance of the vagina caused by factors such as scented intimate products and soaps. Thrush is not commonly known as an STD but it may sometimes be passed on from one sexual partner to another.

Helping to support health in those with thrush

Whilst probiotics may not be a quick acting cure for thrush, optimising one's friendly bacteria with probiotics should help to maintain a healthy balance of beneficial flora in the gut, and thereby reduce the ability of pathogenic yeasts like Candida to overgrow. A number of clinical trials show in particular two probiotic strains, Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14® and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1® have been hugely helpful in supporting health in those with thrush, significantly reducing the incidence of thrush infections developing. These two strains of natural bacteria, L. reuteri RC-14® and L. rhamnosus GR-1®, are some of the most researched probiotics to date, and are certainly the most researched in terms of women's intimate health.

Finding a probiotic supplement with these two strains may be a wise step towards supporting a healthy vaginal flora. Healthcare practitioners may like to read about the research on the Probiotics Database behindLactobacillus reuteri RC-14® andLactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1®.



Thrush graph
In clinical trials participants taking 'For women' had significantly fewer symptoms after four weeks.

For those who suffer from thrush specifically when taking antibiotics, consider a supplement containing the strain combination L. acidophilus Rosell-52 and L. rhamnosus Rosell-11 which have been researched alongside antibiotics and shown to support gut health.

Can probiotics cause thrush?

In short, we would hope not! Good quality probiotics should never be the cause of thrush. However, please be mindful that if sufferers are taking their daily probiotic in the form of a sugary yoghurt drink, they may be exacerbating their symptoms, as sugar feeds the yeast (Candida) that causes thrush.

Preventing thrush

As well as taking a good probiotic there are some other things one might want to consider to prevent thrush from recurring, such as avoiding tight-fitting underwear and tights, choosing cotton underwear rather than synthetic materials, and avoiding irritants in perfumed soaps and shower gels - this includes products marketed specially for the vagina.

Oral thrush

The above information relates to vaginal thrush. For those who suffer from oral thrush, probiotics may be helpful for that too, however more research needs to be carried out into which strains are best. To read more on this, you may find the following blog post interesting: Could probiotics help with oral thrush?