Candida Overgrowth in Babies and Children
Many of us might be unaware of the abundance of microorganisms that live inside a healthy human intestinal tract, on our skin, and in other organs such as the mouth, the olfactory canal, the genitourinary tract, and the eyes.. The intestinal tract contains the most flora, as these organisms are collectively called. They’re mostly bacteria, but they also include fungi, and simpler similar organisms.
As far as the bacteria in a healthy human gut, we have so many varieties and species, that the best that researchers can tell us is that a healthy person has between 500 and a thousand different types. As for their actual numbers, they are staggering. An average human body is made up of ten trillion cells. The gut is home to ten times that number of bacteria — a hundred trillion! Bacteria are considerably smaller than human cells.
With so many bacteria and microorganisms living inside and on our bodies, it stands to reason that they would serve some kind of legitimate purpose there, right? And indeed, they do.
Eighty-five percent of gut bacteria and fungi are classified as “beneficial” or “friendly,” while fifteen percent are “unfriendly.”
Both types, friendly and unfriendly, perform important functions for us: they help break down the foods we eat, they kill harmful bacteria and viruses that enter our systems, and they even produce many vitamins and enzymes that help keep our entire body healthy. The flora in our gut are so critical to our good health that they’re sometimes referred to as “the forgotten organ.”
But just as organic or environmental toxins, and an unhealthy diet, can produce many different types of disease, these factors can also alter the balance of good vs. bad organisms in our guts. The consequences of flora imbalances can range from bothersome to catastrophic — and all of us, even young infants, can fall victim to imbalances in our flora.
Candida and Candidiasis
Candida is one of the many yeasts, or fungi, that live in a healthy gastrointestinal tract, on our skin, in our mouths, and in our genitourinary tracts.. When its numbers are low, candida serves the important function of eating any decomposing food left behind in the digestive tract as a result of improper digestion. Candida is also responsible for decomposing corpses.
But the numbers of candida fungi can suddenly begin to grow quite rapidly, as a result of a diet that’s high in sugar or refined carbohydrates, from overuse of antibiotics or steroid-containing medicines, or from other environmental pollutants or circumstances.
When candida numbers grow unchecked, they can give rise to one — or many — conditions in a very, very long list of possible maladies. Because an increasing number of health practitioners recognize candida overgrowth to be behind a great number of conditions and illnesses, candida overgrowth, or candidiasis, is receiving a lot more attention these days.
Diaper Rash in Babies
In babies, candidiasis can manifest itself as diaper rash. Candida diaper rash is different from ordinary diaper rash, in that a Candida rash does not respond to diaper rash creams. It lasts longer and is brighter red than an ordinary rash; it may also present small red bumps.
The best course of action for a candida diaper rash is prevention. Good hygiene is important. Making sure to change a wet or soiled diaper as soon as possible; using a clean cloth dipped in warm water to wipe baby, instead of disposable wipes with fragrances and chemical preservatives; bathing baby frequently; making sure that baby or toddler is thoroughly dry, before putting clothes on after a bath. These will go a long way in preventing candida overgrowth in the diaper area.
For a child who is in the process of being potty-trained, a parent should make sure to change and launder bed sheets when “accidents” happen in bed. Placing a waterproof thin mat under the bed sheet will protect the mattress from urine.
Vaginal Candidiasis in Young Girls
Candidiasis can manifest itself as vaginal itching in little girls. Here again, prevention is important. A young girl should be taught to dry thoroughly after a shower or bath, before putting clothes on; cotton underwear is preferable to synthetic fabrics, as it allows skin to breathe. Also, she should be taught the proper way to wipe after a bowel movement, from front to back, to avoid candida being brought to the front from the anus.
If there appears to be a susceptibility to candida overgrowth, it is best to keep baths short. The longer a girl stays in the water, the greater the possibility that she may wind up with a vaginal yeast infection, as candida thrives in wet environments. This is a reason to also teach girls not to stay in a wet bathing suit too long.
Oral Thrush in Babies and Children
Oral thrush, also a result of candida overgrowth, can present itself as white, milky-looking patches on the tongue, the back of the throat, or even the lips. If the condition does not appear severe and there is no pain associated with it (for instance, from swallowing), the best thing to do is to let time mitigate the condition, which usually improves after a couple of weeks.
If a mother is breastfeeding, she should be careful to keep her nipples free from excess bacteria, by rinsing nipples after each feeding with a mild soap and water.
If the nursing mom’s diet may be what’s causing the infant’s symptoms, mom should make appropriate changes, such as avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates as much as possible (including fruit juices); avoiding yeast-containing foods (pastries, breads, beer and wine); increasing consumption of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; and adding yogurt with live cultures, or a probiotic supplement, to her diet.
It’s good to remind new moms that nothing is as nutritious or health-promoting for their infants as breast milk. So, if mom has to modify her diet to keep candida in check, the reward of being able to nurse her baby, and thus give baby optimal nutrition, is well worth any small sacrifices that mom may have to make in the short term. Mom’s health will be better for them, too!
Candidiasis in the Gastrointestinal Tract
Candida overgrowth in the gastrointestinal tract occurs primarily in the large intestine. This is the most potentially dangerous place for candidiasis to occur. For starters, we can’t see the problem with our eyes. Further, the symptoms can be so wide-ranging and sometimes so seemingly unrelated, that a medical condition can be misdiagnosed by doctors as being caused by something else, when in fact, it’s the result of quickly multiplying candida fungi in the gut (one candida cell can grow into a hundred cells in a 24-hour period; which means that after five days, one cell will have multiplied into a hundred million!).
Symptoms of candidiasis in a child’s g-i tract include: food allergies; bloatedness; alternate diarrhea and constipation; an itchy anus; recurrent ear problems; ongoing nasal congestion, cough, wheezing; hypersensitivity to pathogens; skin rashes, including eczema; chronic fungal infections like athlete’s foot; poor attention span; hyperactivity; irritability; and memory problems.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
The overuse of antibiotics to treat common childhood conditions such as ear infections (or even the common cold, which in any case, does not respond to antibiotics), results in harmful and beneficial bacteria alike, being indiscriminately destroyed inside our guts. Candida, however, are not affected by the antibiotics.
Once the friendly bacteria are out of the way, candida, which has the ability to mutate rather effortlessly under the right conditions, begins to change into varieties that grow root-like filaments. The candida fungi then burrow these new appendages into the intestinal wall, in search of nutrients. The filaments make tiny holes on the intestinal mucous tissue. These holes serve as an escape route for microscopic food particles to enter the bloodstream, resulting in a condition called leaky gut syndrome.
In addition to small food particles, bacteria and other toxins are able to pass into the intestinal wall, also. This causes inflammation of the intestinal lining and damage to the villi — the worm-like appendages that line the inside of the intestinal tract and absorb nutrients. Damaged villi are then unable to produce enzymes and other secretions that are necessary to digest the foods we eat and absorb the nutrients.
The leakage of harmful substances, including undigested food particles, from the large intestine into the bloodstream, is usually mitigated by the immune system. But when candida populations are growing rapidly, the immune system becomes overburdened. It allows the toxic substances to enter and leave the liver. When the liver can no longer keep up with all the toxins coming at it, it sends them back into the blood. The longer this goes on for, the bigger the substances and organisms that can get through the damaged intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. This causes allergic reactions — irritation and inflammation — in different parts of the body.
How Do We Help Our Children Avoid Gastrointestinal Candidiasis or Get Rid of It?
Prevention is once again the best measure. Natural health advocates recommend to parents that they not be too quick to pressure doctors to prescribe antibiotics. Parents should look for natural solutions, and use preventive measures, to cure or prevent adverse health conditions.
The use of steroid-containing medications should also be avoided, as these suppress immune system function.
As with all aspects of good health, consuming a healthy, balanced diet is key. A good diet will not only reduce the possibility of candidiasis — it will also help reduce fungal overgrowth and eventually get candida numbers back to normal levels.
Here are some good dietary suggestions that will decrease candida populations and strengthen your child’s immune system:
- Limit your child’s sugar intake, down to allowing only a small glass of juice to be consumed a day
- Orange juice is a great immune system strengthener; favor that over other juices, when your child drinks juice
- Limit consumption of refined and starchy carbohydrates (white flour, potatoes, rice)
- Limit the consumption of yeast-containing products (leavened breads, pastries, and foods with vinegar)
- Choose whole-grain cereals or home-made oatmeal, over sugary breakfast cereals Sweeten oatmeal with minced banana or other chopped fruit
- Increase your child’s consumption of vegetables and fruits
- Eat whole-grain breads
- Supplement diet with a good multi-vitamin/mineral tablet
- Introduce a biotin supplement; biotin makes it harder for candida to reproduce
- Eat biotin-rich foods: cooked beef liver, cooked eggs, avocado, bananas
- Drink purified water, as chlorinated tap water kills beneficial bacteria (and encourage your child to drink plenty of water, to keep flushing out toxins)
- Incorporate yogurt with live cultures or a probiotic supplement with Acidophilus in their diet
- Try to buy organic meats and eggs, as these don’t have residues of pesticides or hormones that could harm the gut’s flora composition
- If your child has a lactose sensitivity, try organic milk (some children with lactose sensitivities respond well to it) or lactose-free milk, or buy lactase enzyme drops — milk has many important nutrients for growing children
- Avoid processed, pre-packaged foods.
Making sure that your child has a bowel movement daily is important, especially if you suspect or you know that there’s a candida infestation going on. Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains will keep them regular.
Finally, exercise is important for children, like it is for adults. Regular moderate to strenuous exercise will go a great way toward detoxifying your child’s system, promoting bowel regularity, and enhancing overall physical and emotional health.
By Jamell Andrews