Candida albicans is a type of yeast that is commonly found in healthy human guts as a natural part of the microbiome. But, unlike the other bacteria and yeasts I commonly write about, this isn’t one that you want to take as a probiotic supplement. In fact, if Candida albicans gets out of control, it can cause serious health conditions. If you think you are having any of the problems that it causes see your primary care physician asap (you may even need to go to the emergency room, tbh).
The human gut is pretty amazing. All kinds of bacteria and yeasts (like Candida albicans) live there – and if you are healthy, it’s all in harmony and contributing to a healthy life. However, when things get out of control (if you have a disease that compromises your immune system, for example), friendly things living there can turn bad.
In normal circumstances, the presence of Candida albicans is harmless as it exists in a balanced relationship with other microorganisms in the gut. The gut microbiome works in harmony, and the balance between the various species of bacteria and fungi is essential for maintaining optimal health.
Where does Candida albicans come from?
One of the things that I really started to appreciate when I was studying to become a pharmacist was how amazing the human body is. We have all of these amazing species that live ON or IN us – and Candida albicans is one of them. It can live in the mouth and throat, gastrointestinal tract, vagina, and on the skin in healthy people.
Where Candida albicans lives on people
Candida albicans is a commensal organism, meaning it naturally lives on and within the people’s bodies without causing harm under normal circumstances. It can be found in various locations on the body, including:
- Mouth and throat: Candida albicans can be found on the mucosal surfaces of the mouth and throat, where it usually exists in small amounts without causing any issues.
- Gastrointestinal tract: The yeast can also be found in the gastrointestinal tract, particularly in the lower intestine and colon, as a part of the normal gut microbiota.
- Genital area: Candida albicans can colonize the vaginal area in women and the penile area in men. In healthy individuals, the presence of this yeast is kept in check by the acidic environment and the balance of other microorganisms.
- Skin: The yeast can also be found on the skin, particularly in warm, moist areas such as the underarms, groin, and under the breasts. However, it is typically kept under control by the skin’s natural defenses and the presence of other microorganisms.
Under certain conditions, such as a weakened immune system, prolonged antibiotic use, hormonal imbalances, or poor hygiene, the balance of microorganisms can be disrupted, leading to an overgrowth of Candida albicans. This overgrowth can result in various infections and health issues, such as oral thrush, vaginal yeast infections, and skin infections.
Candida albicans overgrowth
An overgrowth of Candida albicans can be dangerous. This regularly friendly yeast can lead to various diseases and health issues. This Candida albicans overgrowth can occur due to factors such as a weakened immune system, prolonged antibiotic use, poor diet, and high levels of stress.
Candidiasis – Candida overgrowth
The most common cause of Candidiasis (overgrowth of Candida yeast in/on the human body) is caused by Candida albicans. The National Institute of Health lists all five of the most common causes of Candidiasis, saying, “Approximately 90% of infections are caused by five species: Candida albicans, Candida glabrata, Candida tropicalis, Candida parapsilosis, and Candida krusei.”
When it gets out of control, it can cause a number of diseases in different places on the body. Here are the most common infections it can cause:
- Oral thrush: A fungal infection in the mouth, characterized by white, creamy patches on the tongue and inside the cheeks.
- Esophagitis: Inflammation of the esophagus, leading to difficulty swallowing and chest pain.
- Vaginal yeast infections: Characterized by itching, redness, and discharge in women.
- Cutaneous candidiasis: A skin infection causing red, itchy rashes in moist, warm areas of the body.
- Invasive candidiasis: A severe systemic infection that can spread through the bloodstream, affecting multiple organs and potentially leading to septic shock.
As a pharmacist, I see patients getting antifungals to treat Candidiasis. It’s really important to see a doctor if you think you have any of these diseases caused by yeasts!
Probiotics to fight Candidiasis
Again, if you think you have Candidiasis see a doctor asap. In addition to an antifungal, they may recommend you try a probiotic to fight Candidiasis. The National Institute of Health shares a clinical study that shows that some strains of Lactobacillus strains have been shown to help prevent oral Candida overgrowth, including L. acidophilus and L. plantarum. However, you have to see your doctor to make sure you don’t need more aggressive treatment before just trying probiotics to treat it.
Is Candida albicans a probiotic?
Even though you likely have Candida albicans in your gut already, it is NOT probiotic and should not be taken as a supplement. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria and yeast that help maintain a healthy balance in the gut microbiome and support overall health. This yeast is NOT one of those you should take. In fact, many probiotics you buy are designed to help limit Candida albicans growth in your gut!
Incorporating probiotics into your diet or as a supplement can help prevent the overgrowth of Candida albicans in the gut. Probiotics work by competing with harmful microorganisms for nutrients and space, producing substances that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi, and strengthening the gut barrier to prevent the entry of pathogens. By maintaining a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, you can help keep Candida albicans and other harmful microorganisms in check, reducing the risk of overgrowth and associated diseases.