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Yeast Infections and Antibiotics
Understanding how yeast infections and antibiotics often go hand in hand.
Antibiotics don't technically cause yeast infections.
A common fungus called candida albicans causes yeast infections when it gets out of hand.
While antibiotics don't directly introduce this fungus and thus directly cause a yeast infection, they do create an environment where candida spores can multiply quickly and easily with plenty of food and no competition.
While it's not particularly pleasant to think about, we human beings have microorganisms such as bacteria and fungal spores all around us, all the time.
There are very few places in or out of our bodies that are completely sterile. We don't notice this most of the time because most of these microorganisms are relatively harmless, especially in small quantities.
A healthy bacterial load of the correct species is even necessary to proper intestinal function, so trying to make ourselves completely sterile is actually a bad idea.
How does antibiotics cause an environment conducive to yeast infections on the human body?
The problem comes when you get a bacterial infection that you must take an antibiotic for.
Antibiotics aren't surgical strike weapons. Instead, an antibiotic functions a lot more like carpet bombing. All of the bacteria start to die, including the healthy kind.
The normal bacterial load of your body takes a serious beating from any course of antibiotics.
In addition, antibiotics usually change the natural pH of the body, creating an environment less suited to bacteria but more suited to fungal growth.
Now, candida is just one of the most common fungi in existence. Competing bacteria normally keep it in check, but when the bacteria all die, the normal limitations go right out the window.
Candida spores start multiplying like mad when given such a wide open environment. When the load of candida gets to a high enough population, congratulations, you have a yeast infection.
I've heard that you have to treat yeast infection because of antibiotics. Is this true? Sometimes.
Are the Yeast Infection Symptoms, that Antibiotics may Cause, any different?
You can get this yeast infection just about anywhere, from mouth to genitalia to knees to armpits.
Candida, being a member of the yeast family, is an opportunistic little fungus. No matter where you get it, you're still incredibly contagious to all of your loved ones.
Unlike some other sexually transmitted diseases, candida doesn't require sexual contact in order to spread.
You can spread it on fingers or through towels and clothing.
This little fungal organism is one of the reasons daily personal and laundry hygiene is so important.
In short yeast infection symptoms caused by antibiotics, is the same as all the other yeast infection symptoms, no matter what caused the yeast infection.
Should I avoid taking antibiotics for yeast infection prevention?
Whenever you have to take a course of antibiotics, it's important to finish the entire course.
Antibiotics can cause plenty of unpleasantness, not just yeast infections.
In addition to contributing to yeast infections, they often give you indigestion, abdominal cramps, nausea and so on.
On the flip side, some people recover from the symptoms of a bacterial infection so fast they think they don't need to continue the medication. However, if you don't take the entire course, you can breed an antibiotic-resistant strain of whatever bacteria you were going after in the first place.
You see, by the second or third day, the bacterial population has died back to such a small number that you don't get symptoms anymore. That doesn't mean it's all gone yet. The strongest bacteria are still right there until you finish the entire course.
If you quit early, that small, strong, resistant bacterial population will just start to breed again, and this time antibiotics might not do the job.
So, even if you suffer from unpleasant side effects or start getting a yeast infection, you must finish the entire course of antibiotics.
Antibiotics are most commonly used to treat bacterial infections of all kinds, including bronchitis, urinary tract infections (UTI antibiotics), wound infections, ear infections, and so on.
Penicillin, amoxicillin, erythromycin, vancomycin and cefalexin are all examples of the antibiotic class.
The three main subdivisions of antibiotics are the penicillin, streptomycin and cephalosporin classes, so if it ends in -cillin, -mycin or begins with cefa- or cepha- it's probably an antibiotic.
Of course, asking your doctor or pharmacist what exactly you're taking is always a good idea.
In short, because antibiotics are most often being used to kill off an uncontrolled bacterial infection, avoiding their use as a yeast infection prevention is NOT wise.
Yeast Infection Symptoms and Dangers
Even when caused by antibiotics, yeast infections are NOT safe
Most yeast infection symptoms include itching, burning, soreness and whitish to whitish-grey coating or discharge.
They can occur on the lips, mouth, nails, navel, genitalia, navel, or armpits.
To the vast majority of people, candida infections are an unpleasant inconvenience.
However, if the immune system is compromised by disease or medication, candida infections can develop into systemic, life threatening health conditions.
It can also seriously threaten newborn and very young children who don't have the bodily reserves to fight it off.
Most people who get it won't have to worry too much about danger, but it can be downright annoying.
If left untreated, candida often comes back again and again.
Once a candida infection has become a recurring problem, it's a lot more difficult to deal with than if taken care of properly the first time.
The Role of Systemic Yeast Infections Caused by Antibiotics in other Illnesses
There is a school of thought widely found on the Internet today that various ailments are produced by "systemic candida infections."
The original book this theory is founded on is called "The Yeast Connection: A Medical Breakthrough" and is written by Dr. William Crook.
His theory states that a wide variety of symptoms such as fatigue, PMS, digestive problems, urinary problems, and muscle pain, among others, can be caused by body-wide populations of candida that don't get numerous enough to cause the classic symptoms of life-threatening systemic yeast infection.
The "systemic" theory also states that you can get this ongoing subclinical yeast infection from antibiotic use and recommends a holistic diet and lifestyle regimen for treatment along with prescription antifungals.
No scientific studies have ever been done on either Dr. Crook's causal theory or his treatment suggestions.
He developed and wrote his book based on his own anecdotal, clinical experience.
In some instances he was found to be right, particularly in the area of diet during an active infection. He suggested cutting back on starches and sugars during an active yeast infection in order to stop feeding the yeast.
However, many of his theories don't follow what we know about yeast infection and have since been disproven.
People who have candida infections in their blood or internal organs are in intensive care units, not suffering chronic illnesses for years.
While Dr. Crook did successfully draw attention to some of the other potentially unpleasant aftereffects of antibiotics and proved that those aftereffects did require medical attention, his work was largely found to be inaccurate and is no longer relevant today.
Taken a course of antibiotics? Suspect a Yeast Infection? Proper Diagnosis is Next
It's important to get a candida infection diagnosed accurately.
It's usually fairly obvious when it crops up in the mouth or on the skin, but yeast infections of the genitalia can be much more difficult to diagnose.
Many women who believe they suffer from a vaginal yeast infection actually have bacterial vaginosis instead. The bacteria within the vaginal canal have multiplied beyond normal, not candida spores.
Of course, bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics while fungal infections are treated with antimycotics.
If you don't know exactly what you have, you can waste a lot of time and money using the wrong medication.
If you already know that you're susceptible to yeast infections, no matter where on the body, then you're probably safe diagnosing yourself at the next occurence. However, things aren't always what you think they are - there are other things apart from ducks that can swim, waddle and fly.
However, if you've never had a yeast infection before, going to a doctor to confirm the diagnosis is generally a good idea.
How To Treat Yeast Infections Caused by Antibiotics
Treating a yeast infection started by an antibiotics course is really no different from treating any other yeast infection.
The medications for a candida infection are called antimycotics, and include clotrimazole, topical nystatin, fluconazole, and topical ketoconazole.
While some of them are available in over the counter versions, it's still important to get a confirmed diagnosis the first time you think you have a yeast infection.
In addition, if you start a course of antimycotics to get rid of a yeast infection, it's important to take the entire course just like with antibiotics, for the exact same reasons. The last thing the human race needs is a medication-resistant version of candida.
If you know you're susceptible to yeast infection during antibiotic treatment, you may want to start treating for it as soon as you begin the course of antibiotics.
There are even antimycotics you can take at the same time as antibiotics. You may want to ask your doctor about these if you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you're going to get a yeast infection.
However, antimycotics, and antibiotics, are seldom used for preventative medicine, so don't take either to try and avoid getting a yeast infection in the first place.
Yeast Infection Prevention as an Aid when taking Antibiotics
Support your immune system by eating well, sleeping enough and getting a bit of exercise in.
Wash all clothing and towels in sufficiently hot water to kill the fungus and try not to share your linens with family members.
Don't use irritating dyes, perfumes or deodorants in vulnerable areas.
Avoid tight fitting clothing and try to get cotton next to your skin. Cotton naturally wicks moisture away from the skin which makes your skin less inviting to fungal spores.
Yeast feeds on sugars and starches, so try cutting down on those in your daily diet.
Add yogurt to your diet to repopulate your system with beneficial bacteria. I've heard of some people putting yogurt other places than in one's mouth but this is not a good idea. The point is to let the active cultures in yogurt bring your body back into balance. Applying it directly to the infection might wind up feeding the candida spores instead of eliminating them, unless it is a true low calorie type yoghurt.
Yeast Infection and Antibiotics in Conclusion
With proper diagnosis and treatment, yeast infections caused by antibiotics don't have to make you suffer every time you get an ear infection.
If you use your common sense, talk to your doctor, and incorporate a diet and lifestyle that supports a healthy body and immune system, once you do, yeast infections will usually never bother you again.
Main Yeast Infection and Antibiotic References:
Taber's Medical Encyclopedia
Physician's Desk Reference 2006 Edition
Crook, William G. (1986). The yeast connection: a medical breakthrough. New York: Vintage Books
Anderson JA and others. Position statement on candidiasis hypersensitivity. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 78:271-273, 1986.
Tabor E. Potential toxicity of ketoconazole. Journal of Infectious Disease 152:233, 1985.
Dismukes W and others. A randomized double-blind trial of nystatin therapy for the candidiasis hypersensitivity syndrome. New England Journal of Medicine 323:1717-1723, 1990.
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