Uncomfortable and unattractive, oral thrush is both painful and problematic. It can easily be passed from one person to the next before oral candida symptoms even begin to appear. To make matters worse, there are also drug-resistant strains of candida that cannot be treated with antifungal medications.
But guess what? There are safe, natural and proven ways to help treat thrush. By strengthening the immune system, embracing fermented foods and using beneficial essential oils, you can not only treat oral thrush, but also help prevent it.
What Is Oral Thrush?
An overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans in the lining of the mouth causes thrush. It is perfectly normal for candida to live in the mouth, and in normal amounts, it remains harmless. However, when it accumulates, it can spread to the roof of the mouth, gums, tonsils and back of the throat — creating symptoms such as creamy white lesions, redness and even bleeding.
If left untreated, oral thrush — also called oral candidiasis or oropharyngeal candidiasis — weakens the immune system and allows more serious diseases to take hold.
Oral thrush is communicable, meaning it can be passed from one person to another. Pregnant women can pass thrush to their newborn babies during birth, children can get it from sharing toys with other children, and adults can pass it back and forth through the saliva.
When healthy adults and children are diagnosed with oral thrush, an antifungal medication is commonly prescribed or recommend. Antifungal medications do have some unwanted side effects, however, such as the potential to cause liver damage and affect estrogen levels. They may also cause allergic reactions and drug interactions.
In addition, antifungal creams and medications only treat the symptoms and do not address the environment that allows candida to flourish.
If the candida fungus is resistant to the medication — which is common in adults with weakened immune systems and a prime example of our modern problem of antibiotic resistance — the drug called amphotericin B may be prescribed.
Amphotericin B is an antifungal medication that is added to an intravenous fluid that drips through a needle or catheter in the vein for two to six hours once a day. It can cause serious side effects, including fever, fast breathing, blurred vision, fainting, vomiting and changes in heartbeat.
It should only be used for the treatment of life-threatening fungal infections. However, people with weakened immune systems — which can be due to stress, medications and illnesses — are prescribed a stronger medication like amphotericin because of drug-resistant microorganisms that have grown in the body.
Luckily, there are natural and safe ways to treat candida overgrowth and, specifically, oral thrush. The most important element is to eliminate the underlying cause of thrush in your diet or medications.
Instead of relying on antibiotics, use all-natural and powerful essential oils, like oil of oregano, that have antibiotic and antifungal properties. It is also important to restore the body’s pH balance and boost the presence of good bacteria with probiotics and fermented foods.
Oral thrush typically develops suddenly, and the following symptoms may become more serious and noticeable with time:
- Creamy white lesions in the mouth — they can be on the tongue, roof of the mouth or on the inner cheeks. These lesions may be painful or even start to bleed when agitated by the teeth, food or a toothbrush.
- Oral inflammation
- Loss of taste
- Erosion of tooth enamel
- Oral mucus
Breastfeeding infants and mothers can pass the infection back and forth from the mother’s breast to the baby’s mouth. During pregnancy, a woman with a vaginal yeast infection may also pass the fungus to her infant during delivery, causing the baby to develop oral thrush.
Infants with oral candidiasis may show signs of irritability and fussiness. They may also have trouble feeding.
If a woman’s breast becomes infected with candida, she may experience red, itchy and sensitive nipples; a shiny or dry areola; and stabbing or unusual pain deep within the breast and nipples.
In severe cases, the lesions may spread beyond the mouth, moving through the esophagus and into the stomach. This is called candida esophagitis, and it may cause difficulty swallowing and gastrointestinal bleeding.
Your body may also show signs of a metabolic reaction when candida and toxins are released. Symptoms that may be experienced during a candida cleanse include:
- impaired brain function
- sinus infection
- skin breakouts
- flu-like symptoms
These signs typically clear up within seven to 10 days. When the candida leaves your body, you will feel more energized and focused.
1. Weakened Immune System
A weakened immune system is at the root of what causes thrush. This is why it commonly affects babies and the elderly.
Although it is normal for the candida fungus to live in the mouth, skin and digestive tract, stress, certain illnesses and medications can disturb the healthy balance of fungi, bacteria and microorganisms in the body, causing candida overgrowth.
Diseases and health conditions that damage or destroy the immune system make you more susceptible to infection. HIV/AIDS, for instance, destroys cells of the immune system, as do other inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.
In fact, there was an increased incidence of oral thrush during the 1980s because of the escalation in HIV infections and the AIDS epidemic. This, along with a more widespread use of immunosuppressive medications and therapies, have contributed to the problem.
Certain medications, such as birth control pills, corticosteroids and antibiotics, disrupt the balance of microorganisms in the mouth.
Birth control pills can adversely affect the body, leading to a candida infection. Some women find that birth control pills instigate yeast infections and allow candida to take root. A study involving 153 patients that was conducted in Italy found that oral contraceptives may influence the recurrence of candidiasis.
According to the study, patients with recurrent candida overgrowth were more likely than the control group to have used birth control pills in the year before evaluation, to have used antibiotics in the last month and to have a higher number of lifetime sex partners, which increases the risk of candida vaginitis.
Corticosteroid inhalants that are commonly used by people with asthma may also be problematic because they increase the risk of developing candida in the mouth.
In the last decade, there has been ample scientific evidence for the immune dysfunction associated with antibiotic use and the reduction of healthy probiotics. Overuse of antibiotics kills both the good and bad bacteria in the body, allowing candida to flourish.
Probiotics are the good bacteria or flora that live in the digestive tract. These bacteria, yeasts and molds make up 70 percent to 85 percent of the immune system and help us to break down foods and gain nutrition from them.
3. Cancer Treatments
Cancer patients have an increased risk of candida infection because the disease and treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, weaken the immune system — allowing the bad microbes to spread and inhabit the body.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of Infection found that invasive candidiasis is a common and serious complication of cancer and cancer treatments. Thirty-three percent (74 out of 224) of patients who were being treated for cancer had active candida pathogens and confirmed diagnosis of invasive candidiasis.
People with untreated or uncontrolled diabetes have large amounts of sugar in their saliva, encouraging the growth of candida. Because candida is a type of yeast, and sugar feeds yeast, it is clear that people with diabetes are at a greater risk for developing oral thrush.
According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, diabetic patients are more susceptible to infections because the hyperglycemic environment causes immune dysfunction.
Sugars and bacteria can build up on dentures, allowing for candida to thrive and overpower the good bacteria in the mouth, especially if the person has taken too any antibiotics in the past or has a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. It is important that people with dentures take good care of them — cleaning them properly every day.
Plaque accumulation on dentures may lead to a buildup of microorganisms and candida overgrowth.
Studies have shown that people who include cinnamon into their diets generally suffer from less candida overgrowth than those who don’t. According to a Brazilian study, of the many health benefits of cinnamon, one is its anticandidal compounds that can be effectively utilized for the control of thrush.
Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
Research published in Pathogens and Disease investigated cranberry juice and extracts for their effects on oral candida. The study authors found that cranberry possesses anti-adhesion agents that help prevent candida activity.
Fermented vegetables strengthen the immune system and boost microflora in the body. Kimchi, pickles and sauerkraut provide the body with probiotics and help restore the balance of bacteria in the mouth and body.
Regular consumption of fermented vegetables also improves the immune system.
Warm, Starchy Vegetables
Vegetables like sweet potatoes, yams, peas, mung beans, lentils, kidney beans, butternut squash, carrots and beets are able to support the spleen in clearing candida from the body.
Adding cultured dairy and probiotic foods to your diet, like goat milk kefir and probiotic yogurt, can effectively kill the candida in the body by boosting probiotics and helping restore the balance of bacteria.
Coconut oil has antimicrobial properties, and the combination of lauric acid and caprylic acid found in coconut oil kills off harmful candida through ingestion and topical application. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that coconut oil was active against species of candida at 100 percent concentration compared to fluconazole, a common antifungal medication prescribed to patients with candida overgrowth.
Coconut oil pulling is one of the best ways to promote a healthy mouth. According to the Indian Journal of Dental Research, oil pulling detoxifies the oral cavity and creates a clean, antiseptic environment.
Simply swish one to two tablespoons of coconut oil in your mouth and between your teeth for 10–20 minutes, making sure that you don’t swallow any of the oil because it contains bacteria and toxins. Spit out the oil in the trash, and immediately rinse your mouth out with warm water and brush your teeth.
Foods to Avoid
Processed and refined, sugary foods create the environment that candida and other diseases need to survive. Even fruit and natural sugars, like honey and maple syrup, should only be eaten in small amounts.
A study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine found that eliminating excessive use of sugary foods brought about a dramatic reduction in the incidence and severity of candida overgrowth. The study involving 100 women was undertaken in an attempt to gain insight about the role of dietary sugar ingestion in the pathogenesis of this type of infection.
Alcohol is another substance to avoid in order to treat or prevent oral thrush. Alcohol weakens the immune system and allows for the growth of candida.
- Raw Garlic — The allicin in raw garlic is a powerful antifungal, antibiotic and antiviral, making it one of several effective natural thrush treatments. Take one clove of raw garlic per day, and use an organic raw garlic supplement to fight infections. Topical garlic paste has been shown to help treat oral candidiasis as well.
- Oil of Oregano — Oregano oil has antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can inhibit candida biofilms. Take 500 milligrams or five drops daily for no more than 10 days at a time.
- Colloidal Silver — This beneficial alkaline and antiviral agent supports and strengthens the immune system in the fight against candida overgrowth. Take one to two tablespoons daily to fight infections.
Milk thistle supplements help cleanse your liver from prescription medications, such as steroids, birth control pills and antibiotics. It also helps the body detoxify environmental pollution, heavy metals, and the remnants of chemotherapy and radiation — all factors that lead to a weakened immune system.
In addition, silymarin, a supplement derived from the seed shells of milk thistle, has displayed in anti-candida activity in studies.
Ascorbic acid, aka vitamin C, shows promise in inhibiting candida, and we know that vitamin C is a huge immune system booster. Take 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C twice daily to boost the adrenal glands and restore the immune system.
Because caprylic acid acts as a natural yeast-fighting agent, it’s believed that it can penetrate the cell membranes of candida yeast cells and cause them to die off, detoxifying the digestive tract and speeding up the healing process. A 2001 study found that caprylic acid reduces symptoms associated with viral and fungal infections like candida.
- Clove — One of the most powerful applications of clove oil is its ability to fight oral thrush. A study published in Microbiology was conducted to see how clove oil fared against other antifungal treatments. The results suggest that clove was as effective as nystatin, a drug commonly prescribed to manage oral thrush (which comes with a slew of ugly side effects). Another study conducted in 2005 found that clove oil possesses strong antifungal activity against opportunistic fungal pathogens such as candida. Use two to three drops of clove oil with one tablespoon of coconut oil, and swish in the mouth for 20 minutes. Then spit it out, and brush your teeth.
- Oregano — Oregano oil acts quickly to kill bacteria, viruses and infections within the body. A 2010 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Microbiology notes that oregano oil has powerful antifungal activity against candida and may represent an alternative treatment for oral thrush. Add one to two drops of oregano oil to a glass of water. Do not use oregano oil internally for more than 10 days without taking a week off.
- Myrrh — Myrrh oil kills a variety of parasites and fungi, including candida. A 2012 study found that a combination of sodium fluoride present in toothpaste and herbal components such as myrrh, sage and chamomile exhibited antifungal activity, stimulated immune response and reduced inflammation. The herbal toothpaste effectively controlled candida in the mouth.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
Good Denture Hygiene
Because of the plaque and sugars that build up on dentures, it is important that they are cleaned thoroughly and properly. Leave dentures out of the mouth while sleeping. This gives the mucosa, the mucous membranes in the mouth, a chance to recover.
The dentures should also be soaked overnight in vinegar or a natural denture cleaner.
Pau D’arco Tea
Drink pau d’arco tea, or take a tablet to treat oral thrush. It has antifungal properties and naturally kills candida overgrowth in the mouth and vagina.
To make pau d’arco tea, put two cups of bark into four cups of boiling water, and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then remove the heat, and let it cool for at least an hour. Strain the water, and drink small portions throughout the day.
- An overgrowth of the Candida albicans yeast causes oral thrush.
- Oral thrush can be passed easily between people, including mothers and babies.
- The best way to reduce your risk of thrush is to maintain a strong immune system and reduce sugar intake to help limit the growth of candida in your body.
- Avoid processed, refined and sugary foods and alcohol.
- The top foods to help treat oral thrush include cinnamon, unsweetened cranberry juice, fermented vegetables, starchy vegetables, cultured dairy and coconut oil.
- Some supplements that can help in include garlic, oregano, colloidal silver, milk thistle, vitamin C and caprylic acid.
- Other potential natural remedies for oral thrush include essential oils like clove, myrrh and oregano; baking soda and vinegar; practicing good denture hygiene; and pau d’arco tea.