The following article was written by Karen Thomas in completion of requirements to become an IABDM Certified Biological Hygienist. Congratulations, Karen!

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Natural approaches to fighting Candida albicans overgrowth are generally not addressed in dental offices — but they need to be. The typical, first treatment for such infections is antifungal medication. These meds can disrupt the balance within the body systems. Educating dental staff in natural protocols is essential because they are the first to recognize fungal overgrowth in the oral cavity on routine dental visits. Therefore, the recommendations of natural protocols for fighting Candida albicans can give patients safer options to reduce potential overgrowth.

What IS Candida albicans and Why Is It a Problem?

Candida albicans (C. albicans) is a fungus found in the body. While it’s normal for a healthy individual to have a small amount of C. albicans in their body, an overgrowth causes an imbalance called dysbiosis. These C. albicans disparities become common due to the overabundance of sugars and carbohydrates in the Standard American Diet.

Candida albicans under electron microscopeC. albicans dysbiosis can cause various health conditions. When this yeast consumes glucose, its fuel gives it superpowers to grow and change into its new configuration. Its new shape has a filament that looks like a tail. Its new appendage can pierce parts of the body such as the gastrointestinal tract—giving its new defense system more power and divisiveness. It’s called a 3-dimensional biofilm. This biofilm can now form on various indwelling implanted medical devices, and catheters, causing further damage. This newly fortified community can withstand antimicrobials and create destruction within the host.

Amazingly, when this biofilm is formed, it communicates with other microbes. Their new dialect is known as Quorum Sensing. This fungal biofilm produces hemolysins, which are lipids and proteins that break down the membrane of the cell further compromising the cell’s integrity. Oral infections of C. albicans can be recognized in the mouth as thrush. It can also invade other body parts such as the skin, nails, and vagina.

Not only does C. albicans affect the oral cavity, but it can also enter the bloodstream, travel throughout the body, and strike indwelling medical devices.

This shapeshifter has received the attention of the National Institute of Health (NIH). In 2018, the NIH stated that 80% of infections are caused by biofilms. Left unchecked, overgrowths of C. albicans are linked to cancer, HIV, and diabetes. It is therefore essential to find effective natural approaches — rather than potentially toxic pharmaceuticals — to stop this pathogenic invader.

Clever & Addicted to Sugar

Candida loves sugar. This means sugars and carbohydrates in the diet become a problem. Because glucose is Candida’s main fuel source, we need to become smart, label-reading consumers and weed-out excess sugars from the diet. One of the first areas we notice Candida overgrowth is in the oral cavity. The main clues giving it away are the thick white coatings on the tongue and oral structures, called thrush.

Since we know glucose is the main fuel source of this yeast, we should also recognize how diabetics are a predictable host for this condition. The intelligence of this biofilm is supernatural. Candida senses and finds sugar thus becoming more virulent.

Shape-Up What We Eat

Diet modification is often the most underutilized of natural approaches for combating candidiasis — oral or otherwise. One way to stop or reduce the food source of this pathogen, glucose, from entering is by adopting a low-carbohydrate, low-sugar diet.

The sad truth is…eating a clean diet became too complicated as convenience foods flooded the market. As this happened, pharmaceutical products were also surging into the marketplace. It became much easier to “take a pill” rather than grocery shop for real, whole foods, take them home, prep them for short-term storage, and prepare them for healthy meals. But this is exactly what we all need to come back to — a clean, real food diet. For the most part, we need to ditch the overly processed, highly chemicalized, over-sweetened, prepackaged foods.

Coconut Oil to the Rescue

Another underused natural approach for managing C. albicans overgrowth is adding coconut oil to the diet. Coconut oil is known for its antifungal properties. With the rise in popularity of the ketogenic diet, most households have some form of coconut oil in their pantries. In 2019, Van Ende, M., Wijnants, S., & Van Dijck, P, found using coconut oils reduced the colonization of C. albicans. Adding coconut oil to one’s daily diet regime is a simple and inexpensive way to fight this invader — and it’s great to cook with.

A Clever, 2000-Year-Old Remedy

The last underutilized natural approach I’ll mention here is a medicinal plant called milk thistle. It has been used to support the liver, gallbladder, and body detoxification for over 2000 years. The liver is not only responsible for detoxification but also plays a role in fighting infection. When bile becomes congested it can lead to overgrowth of bacteria. Milk thistle works as an antifungal and a detoxifier.

This relatively unrealized, multifaceted supplement is a great natural approach we can use as a one-two punch in combating the fight against C. albicans, as well as help support liver function.

Dental Professionals Can Make a Bigger Difference

Dental offices are in a unique position — at the forefront of seeing the signs and recognizing these types of potential issues. We can then recommend natural remedies to our patients. More individuals today are looking for natural approaches instead of using pharmaceuticals. Dental personnel should be well versed in easy-to-use natural protocols, thus helping patients reduce the potential of Candida albicans overgrowth.

These under-utilized natural approaches are less pricey than most pharmaceuticals and can be easily instituted into one’s daily regimen. The relatively easy approaches constitute a smart set of tools to keep in mind for the overall health of dental patients. It’s up to savvy dental professionals to assure we are doing our best for our patients.

References

Gunsalus, K. T., Tornberg-Belanger, S. N., Matthan, N. R., Lichtenstein, A. H., & Kumamoto, C. A. (2015). Manipulation of Host Diet To Reduce Gastrointestinal Colonization by the Opportunistic Pathogen Candida albicans. mSphere, 1(1), e00020-15. https://doi.org/10.1128/mSphere.00020-15

Hills, R. D., Jr, Pontefract, B. A., Mishcon, H. R., Black, C. A., Sutton, S. C., & Theberge, C. R. (2019). Gut Microbiome: Profound Implications for Diet and Disease. Nutrients, 11(7), 1613. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11071613

Janeczko, M., & Kochanowicz, E. (2019). Silymarin, a Popular Dietary Supplement Shows Anti-Candida Activity. Antibiotics (Basel, Switzerland), 8(4), 206. https://doi.org/10.3390/antibiotics8040206

Maukonen, J., & Saarela, M. (2015). Human gut microbiota: Does diet matter? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 74(1), 23-36. doi:10.1017/S0029665114000688

Ohshima, T., Ikawa, S., Kitano, K., & Maeda, N. (2018). A Proposal of Remedies for Oral Diseases Caused by Candida: A Mini Review. Frontiers in microbiology, 9, 1522. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2018.01522

Schaarschmidt, B., Vlaic, S., Medyukhina, A., Neugebauer, S., Nietzsche, S., Gonnert, F. A., Rödel, J., Singer, M., Kiehntopf, M., Figge, M. T., Jacobsen, I. D., Bauer, M., & Press, A. T. (2018). Molecular signatures of liver dysfunction are distinct in fungal and bacterial infections in mice. Theranostics, 8(14), 3766–3780. https://doi.org/10.7150/thno.24333

Tsui, C., Kong, E. F., & Jabra-Rizk, M. A. (2016). Pathogenesis of Candida albicans biofilm. Pathogens and disease, 74(4), ftw018. https://doi.org/10.1093/femspd/ftw018

Van Ende, M., Wijnants, S., & Van Dijck, P. (2019). Sugar Sensing and Signaling in Candida albicans and Candida glabrata. Frontiers in microbiology, 10, 99. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2019.00099

Lower image by Vader1941, via Wikimedia Commons

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