As many as 75% of women experience vaginal yeast infection or thrush at least once in their life. (learn more about this below)
Thrush is a fungal or yeast infection caused by the yeast, Candida albicans. Because there’s actually yeast in some probiotic products, you might be wondering if these can cause thrush. Also, if you already have thrush, can probiotics make them worse?
Here’s some good news: the answer appears to be “No” Probiotics don’t appear to cause thrush, in men, women, or babies. What’s even better, some studies even indicate that some probiotic strains can be beneficial in helping prevent or alleviate the oral form of thrush.
If that’s the case, will probiotics benefit thrush that affects the genitals and other parts of the body? Which probiotic strains are great for preventing or treating thrush in various body parts?
Let’s take a look at each one below.
Can Probiotics Cause Thrush?
According to the book posted by the IQWiG (Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care) on the NIH (National Institutes of Health) website, as many as 75% or 75 out of 100 women experience vaginal thrush at least once in their life.
Thankfully, probiotics don’t appear to cause thrush, but might actually help prevent or treat this yeast infection.
The IQWiG also points out that some women take probiotics containing live lactic acid bacteria as a treatment for thrush. It is believed that probiotics, whether taken orally or inserted vaginally as a suppository, can promote a healthy vaginal flora (balance of microbes).
It’s important to remember, however, that there isn’t enough research to prove that probiotics can cure thrush.
Still, I’m happy to learn that probiotic intake isn’t likely to cause vaginal thrush.
But getting that question answered led me to wonder whether the same applies to thrush in other body parts.
Can Probiotics Cause Oral Thrush?
In IQWiG’s online resource book mentioned above, the researchers didn’t list probiotics among the causes of oral thrush.
Instead, probiotics are identified as a possible prophylaxis option to prevent fungal infections, especially in older people.
Can Probiotics Increase Candida?
This appears to be unlikely. While some probiotics do contain some yeast strains, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. boulardii, these products don’t contain Candida albicans.
On the contrary, a 2020 study in the Journal of Fungi even showed that Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. boulardii, the only commercially available probiotic yeast, can be used as a treatment against Candida albicans.
The study also showed that the probiotic yeast can also fight other invasive Candida species:
- Candida krusei
- Candida parapsilosis
- Candida glabrata
- Candida tropicalis
- Candida auris
Can Too Much Probiotics Cause Thrush?
There aren’t any studies about the effects of taking too many probiotics, whether for thrush or other medical conditions. The good news for us is that probiotics have a long record of apparently being safe. However, this usually applies to immunocompetent people.
It’s also important to note the lack of extensive studies about probiotic safety. That means that these products aren’t clinically established as safe yet.
There’s even a possibility that they might cause thrush if taken too much, yet this hasn’t also been established in any clinical trial or lab-based study.
As already mentioned, probiotic safety might have been experienced by healthy people, but take extra precautions if you are immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system).
The same goes for pregnant women, people taking antibiotics or antifungal medications, and babies younger than 6 months old.
Talk to your doctor before taking probiotics if you meet these criteria or planning to give them to your baby. Even just a single probiotic dose might be too much for people that meet these criteria.
Why Do Probiotics Cause Thrush?
I already explained above that probiotics aren’t likely to cause thrush. However, in the remote possibility that it might do so, the reason could be because of an imbalance in the microbiota of the affected area.
For example, when you take probiotics, these good bacteria can kill the pathogenic bacteria. The sudden shift in the microbiota might trigger an overgrowth of Candida yeast species, leading to thrush.
Of course, that’s just a theoretical situation and hasn’t been proven clinically.
Can Probiotics Make Your Thrush Worse?
Not likely. Based on the studies I mentioned above, probiotics are more likely to treat thrush than to cause an infection. So, it also goes that probiotics aren’t likely to make thrush worse.
Due to the lack of studies, however, it’s unknown how probiotics interact with the normal flora of an immunocompromised patient. So, it could be possible that probiotic intake might worsen thrush in these people.
So, if you’re an immunocompromised patient, consult your doctor before taking probiotics to combat thrush.
Should I Take Or Avoid Probiotics If I Have Thrush?
The answer actually depends on your situation and current health.
If you have thrush but are otherwise healthy in other aspects, you can probably continue taking probiotics. But be sure to consult your doctor to be sure.
If you’re immunocompromised, changes in your normal flora can be dangerous. BE SURE to ask your doctor before taking any probiotics, especially if you have thrush.
Can Probiotics Cause Thrush In Babies?
There are limited studies on probiotic use and babies. That’s why it’s important to consult your doctor before giving probiotics to your little one.
I can’t tell you for certain if probiotics can cause thrush in babies because of the following reasons:
- There are no studies to specifically test probiotic use and its relationship with thrush in babies
- Different babies react to certain products, including probiotics, differently
Now, let me remind you that the yeast species that causes thrush, Candida albicans, is actually present in our bodies, including your baby’s skin. Even in healthy babies, Candida overgrowth can lead to oral thrush as well as diaper rash (diaper dermatitis).
Just as I explained above, probiotic use could change your baby’s normal flora. That might lead to an overgrowth because the opportunist Candida will find lots of room to grow in because of the microbiota’s imbalance.
But because studies above showed that probiotics can help treat Candida infection, these results might also apply to your baby. Still, be sure to consult your pediatrician.
Can Probiotics Treat Thrush? (mechanisms on how they do it)
Yes, probiotics can help manage or treat thrush. According to the 2020 study mentioned above, probiotics use different protective mechanisms to combat thrush.
They can pose as a physical barrier and render the pathogens avirulent (inactive or no longer virulent)
Probiotics can secrete metabolites, including short-chain fatty acids, that might inhibit the adhesion and morphological transition (diverse growth) of Candida species.
Through these mechanisms, the researchers believe that probiotic yeasts might be a promising combination or alternative treatment for Candida infections. However, they recommend additional studies to help prove this hypothesis and bolster probiotic yeast applications.
Also, you can achieve a healthy vaginal microbiome through probiotics intake. These probiotics could optimize the friendly bacteria population.
But these mechanisms don’t work for everyone. They also don’t work for all probiotic strains.
Everything will also depend on the type of probiotic you take and how you take them.
Lactobacillus species have been shown to help against Candida infections; however oral intake of these probiotics might be useless. It’s possible that these won’t even reach your genitals or the other body parts that need them the most.
Topical yeast probiotic supplements might be better.
Can Probiotics Prevent Oral Thrush?
Yes, probiotics might help prevent oral thrush.
The 2007 clinical trial published in the Journal of Dental Research showed that probiotic intervention can reduce the risk of yeast overgrowth by 75% and hyposalivation (low saliva levels) by 56%.
The researchers concluded that probiotic bacteria might be effective in controlling oral thrush or candidiasis.
A 2019 systematic review of several laboratory studies and clinical trials further showed that probiotic intake can help prevent oral thrush. The researchers also discovered that this benefit might be more pronounced in those who wear dentures, such as elderly people.
I’m curious whether all probiotic strains could work against this common yeast infection. Let’s discuss below what I found while researching this topic.
Which Probiotic Strains Help With Thrush?
According to the 2019 systematic review above, these two strains might have the strongest effects against Candida albicans:
- Lactobacillus paracasei
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
The review also explained that the following bacterial strains can also be good against thrush:
- Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14- produces lactic acid that can reduce the growth and virulence of Candida yeast
- Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus B1 and TAB2 – release lactic acid
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and IMC 501 – can stop Candida growth through complete inhibition of fungal biofilms (colonies)
- Lactobacillus paracasei IMC 502- can inhibit Candida growth
- Lactobacillus acidophilus ATCC 4356 – can inhibit fungal films
- Lactobacillus fermentum SD11 – strongly inhibits oral Candida cell growth
- Lactobacillus casei GG – can reduce Candida overgrowth
- Bifidobacterium animalis – can reduce Candida overgrowth
Knowing that clinical trials have shown these bacterial strains to be effective, it’s a good idea to check for them in your probiotic supplement.
Let me share below my top picks to help you choose the right probiotic supplement.
Probiotic Supplements for Thrush
Not all probiotics are created equal. While the probiotic strains above can be good for thrush, it’s still best to find a supplement that’s actually formulated against the condition.
The following are my recommendations:
Let’s take a closer look at each probiotic supplement below.
Frezyderm EcovagBalance Vaginal Capsules
Frezyderm EcovagBalance vaginal capsules contain Lactobacillus rhamnosus PB01 and Lactobacillus gasseri EB01, two probiotic strains that are naturally occurring in the vaginal microbiota.
These carefully selected, patent-protected probiotics have unique properties that can promote vaginal health.
This Lactobacillus product is a vaginal suppository classified as a Class IIa medical device.
It’s specially formulated to prevent and/or treat burning, unpleasant odor, itching, or vaginal discharge due to bacterial or yeast vaginitis (thrush), inappropriate cleansers, douches, antibiotics, and/or poor hygiene.
The vaginal suppositories help restore and maintain healthy vaginal flora and enhance natural defense mechanisms against vaginal infections.
It’s a vaginal suppository. So, this product can work more effectively than oral supplements because it is delivered right where it’s needed. No need for guesswork on whether the bacterial strains survived the journey through your stomach acids.
Optibac For Women Probiotics
Optibac For Women Probiotics contains the following well-researched strains:
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1
- Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14
- Lactobacillus paracasei F-19
These three probiotic strains are among those mentioned in the 2019 systematic review above to be possibly effective against the overgrowth of Candida albicans.
As a specialist supplement, this product isn’t formulated to help the gut but is designed specifically for the vaginal microbiome.
According to the brand, this probiotic supplement has been clinically proven to reach the vagina. It also supports natural PH levels and contains strains that are natural to the vaginal tract. That can help them thrive better in the vagina and provide assistance where they’re needed.
As an oral supplement, it might not be as effective as vaginal suppositories but it’s ideal for those who are uncomfortable or unable to use the insertable vaginal probiotics.
Can Yakult Help with Thrush?
Yes, Yakult can help with thrush. That appears to be the case.
Yakult LBz, a probiotic yogurt drink with Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium breve, was shown to be possibly effective against oral thrush in a 2008 clinical trial published in the Brazilian Dental Journal.
Drinking this specific probiotic yogurt three times a week, over 30 days, led to a statistically significant decrease in Candida albicans in saliva samples from test subjects.
The researchers also found a statistically significant increase in the levels of specific anti-Candida antibodies in the test subjects’ mouths.
Can I Take Yogurt for Thrush?
Yes, that could be a good idea. As I’ve explained above, the probiotic yogurt drink Yakult was shown in a study to be a possible treatment against thrush.
Aside from Yakult, probiotic yogurt drinks DanActive or YoPlus yogurt were shown in a 2013 Mycopathologia study to significantly reduce vaginal fungal colonization.
DanActive appears to be more effective than YoPlus in this study. Based on the study results, vaginal fungal colonization affected 54% of the women during the non-probiotic yogurt consumption period.
In contrast, only 29% had vaginal fungal colonization during the DanActive period, while 38% experienced this during the YoPlus yogurt consumption period.