Candida is a very common genus of fungi which take on the form of yeast instead of mold. There are many species of Candida, probably about 20 or so, although it is possible more are yet to be discovered and described. C. albicans is probably the one species of yeast that is most likely to cause an infection in humans and it is actually pretty common, especially among some people. However, despite some of the hysteria you might encounter, especially on the Internet from Dr. Google and from some so-called holistic or homeopathic “medical” practitioners, Candida is usually not a significant problem for most people.
C. albicans is an example of a type of microorganism known as a “commensal,” which simply means that it lives normally inside our bodies without causing any harm, and in fact in many cases these organisms are very important to our overall health and wellbeing. They may help us digest food, help fight off and prevent infection with more harmful organisms, or they might just simply live quietly inside us doing nothing in particular but not causing harm either. Normally, C. albicans lives quietly inside us and that is perfectly normal. Some questionable practitioners will perform very expensive “tests” that inevitably conclude that someone has Candida in their bodies which can sound scary, but these tests are useless except for the purpose of enriching those who order them and perform them. Everyone has Candida in their intestines, on their skin, and in their mouths. This is totally normal. However, it is possible for Candida to cause a real problem sometimes in some people.
In very young children it is common for Candida to get out of control and overgrow in the mouth causing a condition known as thrush. Usually, this condition is very obvious as the inside of the mouth and throat will be sore with readily visible white patches growing.
This condition is usually easily treated with oral medication and will resolve. Thrush also occurs in people with compromised immune systems and once was very common in people with AIDS, although this doesn’t happen often anymore because of the effective treatments that exist. Many times people with cancer will experience thrush due to the medications they are receiving to fight the cancer. Again, this can be treated easily, usually just by sucking on lozenges that contain medicine to fight the Candida. When Candida gets out of control in a body site in which it lives normally, that is a problem, but finding Candida when it isn’t causing active symptoms isn’t a problem. If you are having mouth pain and/or seeing white spots in your mouth or throat, you should consult a reputable doctor or dentist about the problem.
Vaginal Candida Infections
Candida is perhaps most infamous as the cause of vaginal yeast infections, and many women will experience one of these in their lifetimes. The exact cause isn’t always understood but antibiotic treatment can easily disrupt the normal balance of microorganisms in the vagina (the vagina is not sterile under normal conditions, but the balance and type of microorganisms can shift or be out of balance) and Candida can overgrow.