Common fungal infections in Australia and the 7 most common symptoms
Common fungal infections in Australia and the 7 most common symptoms
- What is a Fungal Infection?
- Common Fungal Infections in Australia
- Tinea Versicolor
- Jock Itch
- Athlete's Foot
- Ringworm of the Scalp
- Ringworm of the Beard
- Fungal Nail Infection
- Interface Dermatitis Reaction
- The problem with only treating Fungal infections topically
- 7 signs you may be suffering from a fungal infection
- Tiredness and Fatigue
- Oral Thrush
- Recurring genital or urinary tract infections
- Digestive Issues
- Sinus Infections
- Skin and nail fungal infections
- Joint Pain
- How to treat Fungal Infections
- How we can help you
Fungal infections are common throughout Australia and much of the natural world. We commonly see fungal infections in residents of our capital cities Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide, as well as in many remote areas of Australia. In humans, fungal infections occur when an invading fungus takes over an area of the body and is too much for the immune system to handle.
Fungi can live in the air, soil, water, and plants. There are also some fungi that live naturally in the human body.
Like many microbes, there are helpful fungi and harmful fungi. When harmful fungi invade the body, they can be difficult to kill.
Fungal infections are quite common, but many people don’t know they have them and conventional medicine does not always take them seriously, antibiotics do not always clear the fungal infection and the damage caused by the use of antibiotics can be high.
In this article, we take a look at common fungal infections, symptoms and natural treatment options.
What is a fungal infection?
Candida is a fungus, which is a form of yeast, a very small amount of which lives in your mouth and intestines. It is the most common cause of fungal infections in humans.
Its job is to aid with digestion and nutrient absorption but sometimes conditions are ripe for Candida to grow out of control – often when there is a decrease in beneficial bacteria, such as with a course of antibiotics or due to a poor diet. This allows overgrowths of opportunistic bacteria, parasites, and yeasts like candida, causing dysbiosis, or an unhealthy microbiome. In addition to diet and antibiotics, this can be caused by stress, chronic illness, other medications, or a combination of any of these. 1
Some other circumstances that can allow a candida overgrowth to become pathogenic are immune-suppressing drugs, chemotherapy, diabetes, HIV infections, abdominal surgeries, medical implants such as pacemakers, joint replacements, catheters, etc. and oral contraceptives and estrogen HRT. 2
It’s important to treat candidiasis early to prevent it from spreading and causing more serious complications. 3 However, the idea is not to completely wipe out all fungi species, but to get things back into balance.
Fungal infections can lead to many different health problems, including chronic illnesses, allergies, chronic inflammation, joint problems, mood and brain disorders, fatigue, and digestive symptoms.
Common fungal infections in Australia
Tinea versicolor, also known as Pityriasis Versicolor, is a fungal infection of the top layer of the skin, the epidermis. The yeast that is responsible for this rash loves oil glands, so teenagers and young adults tend to get tinea versicolor more often than older people.
Jock itch, also known as tinea cruris, is a fungal infection of the skin in the groin. Fungi flourish in a warm, moist environment—and that certainly describes the groin. Women can get jock itch, though the infection tends to strike men. Jock itch is difficult to treat and commonly comes back. 4
Athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis, is a common fungal infection of the feet. There are different types of athlete’s foot infections, but the most common one occurs in between the toes. This infection causes intense itching and breaks down the skin, so it often looks like white goo between the toes.
Ringworm, also known as tinea corporis, is a common fungal infection of the skin. There are several fungi that can cause ringworm and they live in the epidermis.
Ringworm causes more symptoms than tinea versicolor, like itching and a noticeable rash. The rash consists of scaly, red patches or bumps that gradually turn into the shape of circles. Its shape makes for an easy diagnosis.
Ringworm of the scalp
Ringworm of the scalp, or tinea capitis, is a more intensive fungal infection than ringworm that appears on other areas of the skin. The fungi that cause this ringworm not only invade the skin of the scalp but also hair follicles. It can cause the involved hair to fall out, leaving a bald spot with a ringworm-type rash in the centre.
Ringworm of the beard
Ringworm of the beard, or tinea barbae, is similar to ringworm of the scalp in that the fungus infects both the skin and the hair follicle. The most common type of tinea barbae is an infection deep in the skin that causes very red nodules on the face with pus that drains and tunnels through the skin to other areas close to the nodules. A less common type of tinea barbae is a mild infection on the surface of the skin.
Fungal nail infection
A fungal nail infection, or onychomycosis, is caused by a fungal infection in the part of the toe that makes the nail. As the nail grows out, it becomes brittle, thickens, and separates from the nail bed.
Intertrigo is a yeast infection that occurs in skin folds. Since this yeast grows easily in warm, moist areas, any place on the body where skin touches the skin is susceptible. Intertrigo most commonly occurs in the armpits, in the groin, and under heavy breasts or fat folds. Symptoms such as pain and itching significantly decrease quality of life. 5
Thrush is a yeast infection inside the mouth. It is common in babies because their immune systems are still developing. The goal of any oral thrush treatment is to stop the rapid spread of the fungus, but the best approach may depend on your age, your overall health, and the cause of the infection. 6
Interface Dermatitis Reaction
The interface dermatitis reaction isn’t exactly a fungal infection. It’s a rash on one part of the body that happens in response to a fungal infection that’s somewhere else on the body.
An interface dermatitis reaction is very itchy and often causes blisters on the skin. White spots on the skin are another common sign that there is a deeper fungal infection at play.
The problem with only treating Fungal infections topically
Many people only treat fungal infections topically. This will often resolve the problem short term or provide some relief but it doesn’t fix the underlying infestation. Fungal infections, if present, aren’t always just localised, they are can be systemic.
So, painting your fungal toenail only may help but often cause the infection to return or migrate to other areas. Or the use of Canesten antifungal cream for vaginal thrush will often see a recurrence at a later date.
Treatment with systemic antifungal herbs as well as topical herbal applications works best with all fungal infections.
7 signs you may be suffering from a fungal infection
1. Tiredness and fatigue
One of the most common symptoms associated with candida is fatigue due to:
- Nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B6, essential fatty acids and magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is particularly known to cause fatigue. Candida will rob you of your nutrients, expel toxins for you to deal with and lower your overall health and immunity.
- A weakened immune system. A low-functioning immune system in itself may leave you feeling tired and fatigued.
2. Oral thrush
People with oral thrush typically develop white, bumpy patches on their tongue, inner cheeks, gums, tonsils or throat. The lesions can be painful and may bleed slightly when scraped.
It’s most common in newborns, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system. Individuals with poor oral hygiene or removable dentures are also at an increased risk. A white coated tongue is often a strong sign you have a yeast overgrowth.
3. Recurring genital or urinary tract infections
Candida is found in the vaginal tracts of most women.
An overgrowth of it can lead to candidiasis of the vagina, also known as a yeast infection. Men can also get genital yeast infections, but it’s much less common.
Symptoms of vaginal candidiasis include redness, swelling, itching, painful intercourse and a thick, white discharge from the vagina.
Candida can also cause a urinary tract infection, also known as a UTI, most common in the elderly, hospitalized or immune-compromised individuals.
Symptoms of a UTI include a burning feeling when you urinate, a frequent urge to urinate, cloudy, dark or strange-smelling urine and pain or pressure in your lower abdomen.
4. Digestive issues
The health of your digestive system relies heavily on a good balance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria that live in your gut. The “good” bacteria that normally reside in your gut are important for digestion, as they help process starches, fibres and some sugars.
When the bacteria in your gut become imbalanced, you can experience digestive issues, including constipation, diarrhea, nausea, gas, cramps and bloating.
5. Sinus infections
Common symptoms of chronic sinus infections include a runny nose, nasal congestion, loss of smell and headaches.
Although short-term sinus infections are mostly caused by bacteria, many longer-term, chronic sinus infections are believed to be fungal.
If you have sinus infections that last longer than one month, candida may be to blame.
6. Skin and nail fungal infections
Just like in your gut, there are bacteria on your skin that prevent candida from growing uncontrollably. All bacteria thrive in different conditions, including varying temperature, moisture or acidity levels.
That’s why a change in the environment on your skin can allow candida to overproduce. For example, cosmetics, soaps and moisturizers can alter skin conditions, especially the antibacterial varieties.
While skin candidiasis can affect any part of the body, areas that are warm and moist, such as the armpits and groin, are particularly prone to infection.
Itching and a visible rash are the two most common symptoms of skin fungal infections.
7. Joint pain
If a candida infection enters your bloodstream and travels through your body, it can infect the joints and cause arthritis.
This typically only happens after surgery or when an overgrowth of candida is left untreated for an extended period of time. Patients with high levels of intestinal permeability also progress to this stage.
Candida arthritis is associated with pain, stiffness and swelling in your joints, most commonly hips and knees. Candida can also cause bone infections, or osteomyelitis, which can cause pain and tenderness in the infected area.
Bone and joint infections are not very common, but once you are infected, they can be very difficult to get rid of.
How to treat fungal infections
Often over the counter antifungal creams, such as Canesten, and fungal skin infection treatments merely mask symptoms without getting to the root cause of the infection. They drive the infection deeper and it will resurface at a later date.
The best way to treat candidiasis and prevent recurring fungal infections is to address the underlying cause.
The food you eat plays an important role in maintaining the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut.
Refined sugars, carbs and high-lactose dairy products can encourage candida and other “bad” microorganisms to grow.
Eating too many of these foods may promote infection if you have a suppressed immune system. Treating systemically rather than just topically is the key to long term resolution of fungal infections.
On the other hand, certain foods have specifically been shown to encourage “good” bacteria to grow and inhibit the growth of candida.
Food that help fight candida infections:
Garlic contains an antifungal substance called allicin, which has been shown to act against Candida yeasts in animal and test-tube studies
Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, which has been shown to fight candida infections in multiple test-tube studies
Studies indicate that curcumin may kill candida yeasts, or at least reduce their growth
Aloe vera gel may inhibit the growth of candida in the mouth and prevent infections
Plant compounds in pomegranate are beneficial against candida yeasts
Kombucha tea is rich in tea polyphenols and acetic acid, both of which have been shown to kill candida
Probiotics like Lactobacillus may reduce candida growth and protect against infections.
“Yeast can form biofilm, which is an extracellular matrix that they can live in that makes it harder for the immune system and for any external antimicrobials that you might take to be effective, so disrupting the biofilm with disrupters such as N-acetylcysteine, nattokinase and others can be helpful.”Chris Kresser, M.S.
Other methods by which to overcome yeast overgrowth include:
- Address predisposing factors. Don’t take antibiotics, steroids, or hormones unless absolutely medically necessary.
- Take antifungal herbs and medications when indicated
- Identify potential environmental toxic fungi and moulds in your home or workplace
- Reduce stress
How we can help you
With fungal infections being so underdiagnosed in our communities, the first step is to identify if you have one and what treatment if required.
At our Advanced Functional Medicine clinic, we aim to identify the cause of your symptoms through advanced diagnostic testing and then implement a plan to work on your fungal infection naturally and holistically.
We have experience with fungal infections and find them as a common block in patients’ health journey.
Get in touch with us by filling out the form below or call us on 1800 11 22 36.