Naturally, avoiding yeast infections is always the best prevention. Disrupting the ideal growth conditions is the goal. Remembering that yeast grow best in warm, moist, sugar-filled reservoirs helps guide prevention strategies to keep tissues dry and free of excess sugar consumption. For athletes who are prone to athlete’s foot or Tinea versicolor of the trunk, frequent washing after sports with adequate drying of the skin is key. For those who struggle with intestinal bloating, eliminating or decreasing diets high in sugar can help prevent a belly buffet for the yeast.
Prevention strategies include the following ideas for yourself and your patients (Martin, 2012):
Protect your nails
- Don’t push cuticles too far back.
- Take your own instruments to a nail salon or confirm they sterilize instruments between clients.
- Clean and dry between toes after bathing.
- Get rid of any shoes/flip flops that you wore if you had athlete’s foot.
- Use topical antifungal powders if you’re prone to foot fungus.
Protect your skin
- Wash workout clothes, T-shirts, swimsuits, etc. after each workout.
- Wear clothing that may “wick” moisture away from skin (e.g., cotton)
- Bathe daily with a soap cleansing product
- Bathe or wash hands after playing with animals
Protect your gut
- Eliminate or more realistically, decrease sugar intake
- Consume natural fruits and vegetables that contain inherent natural pathogens that balance the gut flora
- Consume a daily probiotic
Protect your mouth
- Perform daily oral hygiene and brushing of teeth and tongue
- Rinse your mouth or brush your teeth after consuming sugary foods
- Don’t allow baby bottles to be propped up for feeding
- Rinse a baby’s mouth after feedings
Because Candida auris is generally an issue in hospital and medical facilities and not the general community, hospital cleaning protocols have been established to prevent the spread of candida (Martins, 2014). Candida auris is difficult to detect, especially within the blood or internal organs, and hospital settings have increased their environmental cleaning to use antifungal cleansers and UV lights to detect the yeast on hospital furniture and surfaces.
Prompt and frequent hand-washing remains the best deterrent for transmitting yeast. Improving patient room cleaning between patients has been a focus of recommendations by the CDC for prevention. Manufacturers are improving anti-yeast cleaning agents, though they are still being developed.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
In addition to the FDA-approved pharmacologic approaches to treating a yeast infection, there are many folk medicine strategies. Although not endorsed by the FDA, nor are they considered standard practice guidelines, many people are using alternative methods and it’s important that heathcare workers and providers are aware of what is being used so they can better educate patients on their efficacy or contraindications for use.
Such folk medicine practices include:
- Bone broth cleanses
- Eliminating starchy foods such as rice, potatoes, wheat, syrups, and sugar
- Consuming 1 to 4 tablespoons of coconut oil daily
- Eating fermented vegetables like bitter greens, kimchi, kefir, kale, or sour kraut that offer organic acid, which lowers colonic pH (e.g., apple cider vinegar, thyme, and oregano, which are turpins that kill yeast).
Using specific essential oils can be very beneficial; orally consuming 2 to 3 drops of oregano essential oil in warm water twice daily for 14 days can be very helpful against yeast. Topical oregano essential oil is also powerful, but can burn the surrounding skin, so a carrier oil is needed. One Portuguese study showed that common household herbs such as coriander, bush-basil, and celery could be used as essential oils because of their antimicrobial properties (Alves-Silva, 2013).
Oil pulling is a process of sucking essential oils back and forth through your teeth for 10 to 20 minutes and then spitting them out. Using coconut oil, cloves, garlic, and/or oregano can be very effective against oral thrush.
Colloidal silver (50–150 mcg silver maximum daily) or fermented silver are also being used internally with intriguing claims. Taking a daily probiotic for at least 30 days has been shown to be helpful to create a healthy gut. Another home remedy is using simple baking soda and water for vaginal douching (sodium kills yeast), however it may not be adequate to fight an existing infection.
Another interesting strategy is using yeast to kill yeast. Larger yeast organisms such as mushrooms and soil-based organisms including Saccho boulardi, a Chinese mushroom, can fight the single-cell organism of intestinal yeast.
Warming foods such as meat, lamb, cinnamon, rosemary, cloves, ginger, turmeric, pao darco (a common Chinese herb) and black cumin, are strategies in Traditional Chinese Medicine that dry the body against a moist internal environment, which would make it difficult for yeast to grow. Eliminating processed sugar in the diet is a simple method to starve the yeast and thus inhibit their growth. Some nutritionists suggest eliminating grains from the diet, because they break down into simple sugars that feed yeast.
One way to tell if the yeast is finally destroyed is looking at the tongue. A pink, moist tongue without a white coating is a healthy tongue and a glimpse into the body. Symptoms that point to yeast overgrowth within the body are post meal bloating, whiteness on the tongue, fatigue, pale and irregular stool, and gastric pain, acid reflux, and sluggish metabolism.
Special Case of Candida auris
The above treatments are generally focused on the more common candida; however, the treatment for the more threatening Candida auris is challenging and serious. Currently the incidence of Candida auris is limited to hospital and nursing home settings and has not reached the general healthy population.
Because yeast is highly contagious, it can be transferred easily and transported from person to person. Currently, there have been no reports of Candida auris moving from hospital personnel to out-of-hospital family members or community persons. The risk is real, however.
Touching hands after touching someone with the yeast allows for easy transportation of the yeast. Hand washing remains the best practice to break the link between host and transportation to a new host. The alcohol gel sanitizers used in healthcare facilities are effective, and 20–30 second handwashing with soap and water is effective against candida.
What counsel do you give a patient who has developed an oral yeast infection? What counsel do you give to a family member or friend who has developed an oral yeast infection? Does your advice change?