Thrush, like athlete's foot, jock itch and vaginal yeast infection, is caused by an overgrowth of a normally harmless bacteria -- Candida albicans. Candida lives in your mouth and throughout your digestive tract. If you take antibiotics, birth control pills, have a weakened immune system or a diet high in sugar, your Candida population may grow out of control. When you have a Candida overgrowth, symptoms such as thrush appear. Changes in diet will help treat Candida, but you may need an anti-fungal medication as well.
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Candida is a type of bacteria, one of over 1,000 species that live in your body. Candida is an opportunistic microbe and can easily repopulate under the right conditions -- anything that upsets the balance of beneficial bacteria that keeps Candida in check can cause thrush. Taking antibiotics will kill both the harmful and friendly bacteria and raise your risk for a Candida overgrowth, notes the Mayo Clinic. Other risk factors include cancer and chemotherapy, diabetes, HIV, wearing dentures and smoking. A combination of anti-fungal medication, probiotics and dietary changes can help fight Candida.
Candida feeds on sugar, which is one of the reasons that uncontrolled diabetes and chronic high glucose levels can cause frequent yeast infections. Eliminating as much sugar as possible will help starve the yeast and stop the Candida overgrowth. "Sugar" refers to anything that your body can easily convert to glucose -- not just table sugar -- but all forms of sugar, even natural ones such as fruit, honey or maple syrup and all refined grains and starchy vegetables. Foods do not have to taste sweet to quickly be converted into sugar and feed the Candida.
Other Dietary Changes
In addition to simple sugars, you may need to eliminate yeast, molds and fungi, which your body can mistake for Candida and can cause an immune system response. Limit or avoid baked goods, vinegars, alcohol, dried fruits, nuts, mushrooms, hard and aged cheeses and artificial additives, preservatives, colorings and sweeteners. The bulk of your diet should be vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, legumes and fermented foods that contain live, active probiotics.
Adding probiotics -- either as supplements or from food sources -- is an important part of a Candida diet. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that keep Candida in check. Often the overgrowth is caused when something destroys the good bacteria in your system, allowing the Candida to reproduce quickly. Lactobacillius acidophilus, a bacteria found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt, can help treat thrush, says the National Institutes of Health. Choose an unpasteurized product -- pasteurization kills both bad and good bacteria. Look for a label that says live or active cultures.