Most people harbor a species of yeast known as Candida albicans. It lives mostly in the gastrointestinal tract, but can also appear on body surfaces, specifically in areas that are dark, damp and airless most of the time. Candida is usually harmless, and may even help us digest certain sugars. However, problems can occur if conditions in our body alter and the Candida is allowed to grow out of control. This can result in multiple negative symptoms.
When people think of yeast infections, they usually think of vaginal yeast infections, though men can suffer from the disease as well. Vaginal thrush and male yeast infections symptoms are the most common, followed by severe diaper rash and oral thrush in children. All of these involve a red and irritated rash, but symptoms may also be systemic in nature and occur when there is an overgrowth of Candida in the gut. Systemic symptoms can include digestive issues, abdominal pain, inflammatory bowel disorders, headaches, joint pain, fatigue, and even memory loss.
It’s impossible to pinpoint any one single trigger or risk factor for yeast infections, but there are certain behaviors and situations that can increase the likelihood of developing an infection. These include:
- A prolonged use of antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy the bacteria in our bodies, even beneficial bacteria which helps keep Candida yeast (and other pathogens) under control. You should always consult a doctor before you stop taking any form of antibiotics.
- Hormonal fluctuations. These alter the biochemistry in our bodies, making us more susceptible to Candida growth. Hormonal fluctuations affect women in particular during pregnancy and menopause.
- A diet high in sugar. Yeasts feed on sugar, which creates an environment where Candida can grow rapidly. To combat this, you can try a Candida diet, which limits the amount of sugars you put in your body.
A doctor can also offer more suggestions tailored to your specific lifestyle. Preventing yeast infections is within your control!