What is candida albicans? Does it really affect many organs in the human body? How to notice it? How to treat it? Learn everything!
Vaginal yeast infections are very common, causing, on average, infection in the urogenital tract in 75% of women, at least once in their life. Even up to 10% of them present this pathology frequently. In any case, Candida is capable of causing other conditions, such as intestinal candidiasis.
Candida albicans is a yeast that lives in the gut microbiome of humans. When a person has immunosuppression or associated diseases, it can take advantage of it to spread uncontrollably. Otherwise, it is not that harmful. Do you want to know more about it?
What is candida albicans really?
The genus Candida is a group of yeasts that includes more than 60 species. The yeast causes vaginal yeast infection, which affects almost all women one year or another. It is so common, since it is usually due to the hormonal and physiological changes in the menstrual cycle.
Beyond its most typical variant, candidiasis can present in other forms. Thrush is the second most common clinical manifestation, representing an invasion of C. albicans into the oropharyngeal environment of the patient. As indicated in the journal Anales de Pediatría, thrush is an infection almost exclusively in young children.
During labor — or by consuming breast milk — the baby gets Candida inevitably. As his immune system is not yet fully up, it develops a whitish, cottony-looking mouth infection. It is not a worrisome clinical entity, since with antifungals it heals quickly.
In any case, a thrush in adults could be a problem. Studies say esophageal candidiasis or the oral one is usually a sign of the transition to AIDS in patients with HIV. When Candida settles outside the urogenital tract in a supposedly immunocompetent person, it is always a sign that something is wrong. So, what is candida albicans in intestines?
Possible causes of intestinal candidiasis
Candida albicans can attack the urogenital tract and the oropharyngeal cavity, but it can also develop in the intestinal tract, leading to “intestinal candidiasis.” Next, we present some of the possible triggers of this clinical entity.
Crohn’s disease manifests itself as recurrent inflammation of certain parts of the digestive tract, especially the lower end of the small intestine. Up to 22% of patients with this condition present a significant colonization of Candida albicans at the intestinal level, as indicated by studies.
This condition is due to the imbalance between immune responses and the microbiome that inhabits the intestinal environment of the person. Significantly, Crohn’s patients present populations of Candida in their gastric tract, but the interaction between the two concepts is not yet clear.
This is an inflammatory disease of the rectum and colon, with frequent symptoms in the form of diarrhea and abdominal pain. According to the aforementioned study, patients with a chronic form of this disease appear to have increased populations of C. albicans in their intestinal environment.
In addition, the administration of antifungals can be useful in reducing symptoms in patients with active ulcerative colitis. All of these data seem to indicate that intestinal candidiasis is due to with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases than it might appear.
The yeast can infest stomach ulcers, especially those existing ones, with a firm form. In fact, the greater the colonization of Candida in the wound environment, the more difficult the general treatment will be.
Pathologies that cause immunosuppression
A yeast infection outside the vaginal environment is almost always a sign of immunosuppression. This can derive from own pathologies or, failing that, from habits and consumption of certain drugs. We can highlight the following:
Consumption of corticosteroids: corticosteroid drugs are used to alleviate the symptoms of autoimmune diseases, among many other things. Due to their uses, they are considered immunosuppressive drugs.
Prolonged stress over time: cortisol, the stress hormone par excellence, causes immunosuppression, as studies indicate. For this reason, people with chronic anxiety and other emotional disorders tend to be more prone to infectious events.
Alcoholism, diabetes, smoking, and other lifestyle-related factors
AIDS: HIV destroys CD4 lymphocytes, essential for the development of the immune response. If its count is less than 200 units per cubic millimeter of blood, the person goes from being infected to having AIDS. In this state of immunosuppression, Candida infection is assured.
Blood cancer: In some types of cancers, healthy lymphocytes are replaced by mutated and useless strains. The yeast can cause profound immunosuppression in the patient.
In summary, candidiasis outside the vaginal environment is caused by previous pathologies. Therefore, in addition to being a clinical entity in itself, it is considered an indication of another more serious underlying condition.
Symptoms of intestinal candidiasis
Some of the symptoms are abdominal distension, colic, paleness, anorexia and irregular diarrhea (no mucus or blood), as indicated by clinical reports. In fact, lack of food intake and dehydration can also cause fatigue, headaches, among other nonspecific symptoms.
Intestinal candidiasis inhibits the repair of lesions and inflammatory events in animal models, according to studies already cited. Therefore, beyond the invasion itself, the symptoms can be more dictated by the lack of healing of the original condition (an ulcer, Crohn’s, colitis, etc.). Knowing where the painting begins and ends is complex in these cases.
The biggest risk of yeast infection
Candidemia, within candidiasis, is defined as the presence of Candida albicans units in the circulatory system. In fact, this fungus enters the bloodstream and spreads to different organs of the body.
According to studies, in countries like Spain, candidemia occurs in 4.3 people per 100,000 inhabitants. The incidence increases over the years, as more and more patients remain alive for long periods in intensive care units with serious pathologies. The mortality rate in this clinical picture is 44%.
How to diagnose it?
Unlike other variants of candidiasis, doctors diagnose it by performing a stool culture, or what is the same, an analysis of the stool. Once they obtain a sample, they isolate it and incubate it under specific conditions. If the fungus begins to grow (forming a cottony film), the patient has the infection.
You can also go for a blood test and the quantification of immunoglobulins in the hematological profile. Expectations are that, in the presence of candidiasis, IgA, IgG, IgM Anti-C antibodies will increase c. albicans.
Treatment for intestinal yeast infection
Finding a standardized treatment for intestinal candidiasis is complex, as it is a very rare clinical entity that happens in people with immunocompromise problems or people with previous intestinal problems. Of course, once you eliminate the infection, it is necessary to treat the root problem.
In fact, a single oral dose of the antifungal fluconazole in tablet form is effective in 90% of cases of vaginal candidiasis. For the condition that concerns us here, doctors recommned antifungal treatments, but it is necessary to vary the patient’s diet.
For example, you should avoid foods with simple carbohydrates, yeasts, or fermented products, at least until the intestinal yeast infection begins to show signs of disappearing. Restrict all simple sugars, too, since it is one of the energy sources Candida uses most to proliferate.
The main treatment is antifungal, but you must also limit the growth of Candida with a diet very low in carbohydrates and sugars.
What is there to remember?
Most cases of intestinal candidiasis are preceded by a previous clinical entity. In fact, it is important to do regular checks once the infectious picture has ended to avoid its reappearance. Similarly, it is convenient to address its triggers. Such as cancers, HIV, chronic inflammatory problems in the gut, and other entities.
Ultimately, little can someone do to prevent a yeast infection. The best prevention will always be to go to the doctor. The sooner the better, after you notice intestinal symptoms, to establish a treatment as soon as possible.
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