What is thrush?

Understanding candida

Thrush occurs when conditions allow candida albicans, an opportunistic fungal species, to overgrow from unnoticeable levels to causing symptoms of itching, pain, and white discharge. Candida albicans occurs naturally on and in the body, and is only a health issue when allowed to flourish to levels that cause symptoms. Some less common candida species infections are harder to detect, as the vast majority are caused by C. albicans.

Thrush is very common in people of all ages. It can occur in the mouth, digestive system, armpits, groin, and genital areas, however it is most prevalent in women of reproductive age. Recurrent vulvo / vaginal thrush infections can be debilitating, affecting up to 75% of all women at some stage of their lives. It can be a one-off event, recurring or chronic.

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Treating candida overgrowth naturally

Some people are susceptible to recurrent thrush (aka candidiasis or yeast overgrowth). Frequently, it is misdiagnosed as IBS, skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, eating disorders or psychological problems. This impacts treatment strategies and allows further proliferation of candida which can make symptoms worse. In immunosuppressed individuals, C. albicans can enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body, called invasive candidiasis or candidemia. This type of candida overgrowth can occur after contact with contaminated medical equipment.

The good news is that there are natural thrush treatments in Australia that are safe and effective. If you need to treat thrush, functional medicine practitioners can help to restore balance and give you long term relief.


Thrush / candida overgrowth symptoms

Initially, symptoms may be minimal, meaning you can have thrush without discharge, yet this may increase with the amount of overgrowth. Candida overgrowth can present with different symptoms depending on its location, such as:

Gastrointestinal symptoms:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Sugar & carbohydrate cravings
  • Difficulty concentrating, brain fog
  • Bloating, gas and distention - particularly after eating sweet or starchy foods

Genital thrush symptoms:

  • Itching and irritation to the genital area
  • White ‘cottage cheese’ like discharge, from penis or vagina
  • Pain and stinging with urination or sex
  • Difficulty retracting the foreskin

Oral thrush symptoms:

  • White ‘cottage cheese’ like deposits in the mouth
  • Redness and thick white coating to the tongue
  • Unpleasant taste or odour in the mouth
  • Burning sensation in the mouth
  • Redness inside the mouth
  • Cracks at the corners of the mouth

Chronic candidiasis can contribute to nutrient deficiencies, creating further symptoms and increasing health complications, affecting digestion, skin, nails and hair health, mood and cognitive function.

Candida can also impact the immune system negatively by promoting production of Th2 (T helper 2) cells, therefore suppressing Th1 (T helper 1) cells. The immune system ideally has a balance of Th1 and Th2 cells, with Th1 responsible for killing of viruses, fungi and bacteria, and Th2 directing attacks on pathogens. Th2 dominance, where there is a dominance of Th2 cells, may increase the risk of development of autoimmune conditions in genetically susceptible people, increasing this risk further with chronic infection. For this reason, candidiasis has been linked to onset of autoimmune conditions such as vitiligo, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, and initiating antibodies to a part of the brain called the cerebellum.

What causes thrush?

C. albicans lives in two main forms: as a yeast, a spherical, single celled spore which is not pathogenic, and as a hyphae, which is shaped like a spear and can puncture cell walls, taking zinc and iron from the cells. Candida lives in our gut and on skin as one of our normal (commensal) microbiota species, and will opportunistically overgrow when the conditions allow it. This occurs in immune suppressed individuals, or where the gut microbiome has been disrupted, occurring with these risk factors or conditions:

  • Antibiotic use - antibiotics are indiscriminate killers of the gut flora, both beneficial and pathogenic, and allow space for opportunistic species to overgrow, including candida
  • Diet high in sugar, and refined carbohydrates - candida’s favourite foods, which stimulates the change from the non-pathogenic yeast form into the proliferating hyphae form
  • Stress - which can alter the pH of the gut, and therefore the type and number of gut flora species, and can deplete an immune protein called secretory IgA, which would usually control C. albicans
  • Lowered immune resilience - due to other chronic or acute health conditions or medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, HIV, glandular fever, and COVID-19
  • Autoimmune conditions such as lupus, thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis
  • Diabetes Type 1 or Type 2, and metabolic conditions - if blood glucose is not managed well, it can feed C. albicans and can suppress immunity
  • Medications such as immunosuppressants and steroids, and drugs that alter the microbiome pH, and the oral contraceptive pill
  • Nutritional deficiencies such as Zinc and Vitamin A - which can contribute to inflammation and suppress immune function
  • Heavy metal toxicity
  • Intrauterine devices, spermicidal use
  • Oral contraceptive pill use, hormone / oestrogen replacement therapy, or high levels of oestrogen, such as the surges occurring in perimenopause and pregnancy
  • Gut dysbiosis due to food allergies or intolerances, poor diet, nutritional deficiencies or other factors

In some instances, C. albicans can combine with other microbes to form a biofilm, which is a protective layer that makes it resistant to many conventional antifungal treatments.

Low grade candida infections can be difficult to detect, as they may be asymptomatic, with recurrent flares associated with the above risk factors. Candidiasis is related to gut flora dysbiosis, and if low grade and chronic, can be a source of inflammation. The following seemingly unrelated dysbiosis symptoms combined with recurrent episodes of candidiasis may indicate a chronic low grade infection:

Other candida non-albicans species are less common, including; C. glabrata, C. tropicalis, C. krusei and C. parapsilosis, which are often accompanied by milder symptoms than caused by C. albicans. These non-albicans species are more common in women following antibiotic treatments, or in high oestrogen states such as pregnancy, perimenopause, or taking hormone replacement medications.

What causes eczema?


Research has found people with the ‘atopic triad’ have a defective barrier of the skin and upper and lower respiratory tracts.

These genetic alterations cause a loss of function of filaggrin (filament aggregating protein), which is a protein in the skin that normally breaks down to create natural moisturisation and protect the skin from penetration by pathogens and allergens.

Filaggrin mutations are found in approximately 30 percent of people with atopic dermatitis, and also predispose people to asthma, allergic rhinitis (hayfever), keratosis pilaris (dry rough patches and bumps on the skin), and ichthyosis vulgaris (a chronic condition which causes thick, dry, scaly skin.)If one parent carries this genetic alteration, there is a 50 percent chance their child will develop atopic symptoms. And that risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are affected. 

Food allergy and sensitivity

Food hypersensitivity has been found to cause or exacerbate atopic dermatitis in 10-30% of cases, and 90% of these are caused by eggs, milk, peanuts, soy and wheat.

Compromised gut health

The connection between the gut microbiome and skin health is complex, however, research has found the microbiota contributes to the development, persistence, and severity of atopic dermatitis through immunologic, metabolic and neuroendocrine pathways.

Nutritional deficiencies

Deficiency of Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA) has been linked with the increased incidence of atopic dermatitis, along with the inability for the body to efficiently metabolise EFA’s to gamma linoleic acids (GLA) and arachidonic acids (AA).

Weather and environment

Changing weather conditions can certainly aggravate eczema symptoms, but the triggers are subject to change among individuals.


Hormones also play a role in the course of atopic dermatitis, including the stress hormone cortisol which triggers an inflammatory immune response affecting all organs of the body, including the skin.

Mould exposure

Mould exposure and susceptibility to mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), of which dermatitis is a manifestation.

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How to test for candida overgrowth in the gut in Australia

In order to assess the appropriate natural thrush treatment, in Australia, functional medicine candida overgrowth testing might include the following:

  • Comprehensive PCR stool testing such as GI 360, or GI Map to determine imbalances of specific microbiota species, detect candida albicans or parasites and check for levels of secretory IgA

Other tests that may indicate or suggest the presence of candida overgrowth. are:

  • Food reactivity testing to isolate foods that may be contributing to dysbiosis of the gut flora
  • Heavy metal, mould and environmental toxin testing
  • Organic acids test (OAT) to assess a range of metabolic markers
  • Testing will help to identify all aspects that are causing the imbalance and allowing thrush to thrive, so they can be directly addressed

Thrush treatment - the conventional approach

Conventional antifungal treatments for candida are available by prescription from your doctor, pharmacist, or over the counter. They include a range of pharmaceutical medications as lozenges, creams, pessaries, or tablets.

Most commonly, women with vulvo-vaginal candidiasis present to their GP for diagnosis and treatment when the infection is new or chronic, however, the majority of women self-treat subsequent or recurring infections with over the counter pharmaceutical products.

Your doctor may make an examination or take swabs to rule out other conditions, such as vulval dermatitis, genital herpes, bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infection, vestibulitis or lichen sclerosis.

Two main pharmaceutical classes are prescribed:

Polyenes - such as topical nystatin and the azoles:

  • Imidazoles, clotriamazole and miconazole (both, topical) and ketoconazole (oral)
  • Triazoles, fluconazole (oral)

Other pharmaceuticals, prescribed less often:

  • Boric acid intravaginal capsules
  • Flucytosine (topical)

Pharmaceutical medicines can provide relief, however they come with side effects, and many women with recurrent vulvo-vaginal candidiasis relapse after ceasing treatment. Treatment with the oral fungicidal drug fluconazole can be effective short term, however long term treatment can result in Candida albicans  becoming resistant, and can contribute to disturbances of bowel flora balance.

Patients taking flucanazole long term are recommended to test liver function after 6 months, and liver toxicity has been reported with long term ketoconazole users recommended to have monthly liver function tests.

If choosing pharmaceuticals to manage thrush is preferred, topical antifungals are the best choice over oral medicines, as they exert their action locally rather than systemically, where problems arise.

Chronic thrush treatment can be more difficult with treatment resistance and concerning drug side effects. These are some of the reasons that many people with chronic thrush / recurrent yeast infections seek natural treatment for candida in the gut and throughout the body.

Natural thrush treatment Australia - the functional medicine approach

Candida overgrowth functional medicine practitioners can help provide safe, natural and effective chronic thrush treatment in Australia to address the underlying cause of your candida infection.

As the conditions that allow candida to flourish are caused by imbalances, your functional medicine practitioner will look at the following areas;

  • Your gut health, including the diversity and make up of your microbiota species, any signs of gut dysbiosis, or intestinal hyperpermeability
  • Your immune health and what factors may be contributing to suppressed immune function
  • The quality of your diet, and nutritional status, along with assessing nutrient absorption and food reactions
  • Your nervous system status - how stressed you are can affect your digestive system via the brain-gut axis which can disrupt the microbiome
  • The types and amount of fibre in your diet
  • Other health conditions that may be contributing
  • What medications you are on,and frequency of antibiotics use
  • Refined carbohydrate, processed foods, alcohol, sugar and yeast consumption
  • Your hormonal symptoms
  • The frequency and duration of infections, to determine resulting iron and zinc depletion that arises from candida overgrowth

Your functional medicine practitioner will complete an indepth investigation into all aspects of your life, sleep, and health to identify the root cause of your issue. A thrush functional medicine plan will be tailored to your specific set of circumstances, and may include a range of herbal, supplementary, lifestyle and dietary recommendations, such as:

  • Dietary changes to include anti-inflammatory foods such as whole fruits and vegetables, grass fed meat, poultry and wild caught fish, coconut oil (high in caprylic acid, shown to have anti fungal properties) and remove highly processed foods, sugar, alcohol, fermented foods and refined carbohydrates. Restoring a healthy pH, increasing secretory IgA, reducing inflammation, and providing the gut with fibre and phytonutrients for supporting a diverse microbiome will mainly be achieved by dietary changes
  • Address food intolerances, allergies and sensitivities
  • Specific fibre supplements to help heal the gut, and promote microbial diversity such as slippery elm bark and PHGG
  • Precision probiotics - specific species to help restore microbiota species, and provide an environment that will limit the overgrowth of candida, such as L. rhamnosus GG, L. acidophilis LA02, B. breve BR03, L. crispatus strains, L. fermentum LF16, L fermentum LF10 and Sacchromyces boulardii
  • Herbal antimicrobial medicines such as garlic, oregano, ginger, black tea
  • Herbal immune support such as astragalus, echinacea, andrographis, olive leaf, and elderberry
  • Supplementary medicines such as N-Acetyl cysteine for biofilm breakdown, zinc, magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, glutathione, and lactoferrin

While the above is a broad overview of candida overgrowth or thrush functional medicine solutions, no one person is alike, which is why at Melbourne Functional Medicine, we provide a personalised healthcare service to people with health issues like candida. Over 6 months, you’ll get a personalised healthcare plan from your practitioner, alongside the support of your health coach, who will help you implement your plan so you can feel great again.

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Why do I keep getting thrush? Can stress cause thrush?

Thrush is a fungal overgrowth of (usually) Candida albicans, or less commonly, other candida species. Candida is a commensal species, which means it is found in small quantities in the gut and on the skin of everyone, though as an opportunistic species, will overgrow when the conditions allow. These conditions happen when there is dysregulation to our gut microbiome, or our immune system is suppressed, preventing those two things from keeping candida under control.

Stress, medications like antibiotics and the oral contraceptive pill, changes to the digestive system, alcohol consumption, exposure to environmental toxicants such as mould or mercury, and medical conditions such as diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, COVID-19 infection, or when undergoing chemotherapy, can all be risk factors for candida overgrowth.

Can antibiotics cause vaginal thrush?

Yes, they can. Antibiotics are very effective at killing bacteria, however they are non-selective, which means they do not discriminate the good from the bad, and many species are both good and bad, depending on the proportion of them.

As most commensal species (ie. the bacteria, fungi and other microbiota that make up our gut flora) have the ability to detect a clear space, they will proliferate into that space - a little like weeds in a garden - and candida is very adept at this skill.

So if antibiotics wipe out bacteria, candida can take the opportunity to fill that space. And, as antibiotics are transported in the blood stream, this effect is seen throughout the body, including the very sensitive vaginal microbiome causing overgrowth and thrush.

Can thrush go away on its own?

Yes, it can, however, the body needs the right conditions to allow the microbiome to achieve a healthy balance, thus providing the correct pH in the gut, allowing the immune system to become more robust in mucosal tissues and the vagina for healing.

This may mean removing any obstacles to achieving this healthy balanced state, such as poor diet, nutrient deficiencies, alcohol consumption, smoking, stress, gut dysbiosis or suppressed immune function.

Most conventional medical treatments will eliminate the symptoms in the short term, yet do not address the underlying cause of disruption to the delicate balance of the microbiome. This can mean that some medications become treatment resistant, and symptoms reoccur, which can be frustrating and uncomfortable.

A functional medicine approach to thrush can help to identify the cause of thrush, and create a personalised thrush functional medicine plan to restore the microbiome and help you feel better again.

How to treat candida overgrowth naturally? How to fix candida overgrowth

Natural thrush treatment in Australia is safe and effective.

There can be a range of circumstances that cause the imbalance in your body that allows candida to overgrow.

The root cause of your candida needs to be identified first, and the treatment strategy designed to restore any imbalances.

If you have experienced chronic recurrent candidiasis, then it might be time to seek the health of a candida overgrowth functional medicine practitioner who will identify and treat the root cause, eliminating the underlying cause of the candida overgrowth.

Can coconut oil treat thrush?

Coconut oil contains caprylic acid which has been shown to be an effective anti-fungal treatment, and may be part of a treatment strategy for thrush.

Used in conjunction with other natural remedies for vaginal thrush like dietary, herbal, supplemental and lifestyle strategies, natural thrush treatment can be safe and effective if managed correctly long term.

What is the best probiotic for thrush in Australia? What is the best probiotic for candida?

Chronic thrush treatment in Australia may include precision probiotics that contain specific species to help restore and support microbiota species, and provide an environment that will limit the overgrowth of candida, such as L. rhamnosus GG, L. acidophilis LA02, B. breve BR03, L. crispatus strains, L. fermentum LF16 , L fermentum LF10 and Sacchromyces boulardii

Depending on the location, severity and frequency of the candida, it is likely that probiotics would form only part of an effective candida treatment strategy. Including other natural thrush remedies such as lifestyle changes, herbal, supplemental and dietary changes would form part of a comprehensive strategy to treat thrush long term. Probiotics do not colonise the gut, they are transient - like tradesmen that will come in, renovate, decorate and make the home a nice place to live for species that maybe aren’t thriving, then they leave. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy diet low in sugar and refined carbohydrates, foods that trigger allergies or intolerances which can disrupt the microbiome, to continue to support healthy species diversity. 

Can the pill cause thrush?

Yes, the pill can cause thrush. The oral contraceptive pill, and hormone replacement medicines increase are risk factors for developing thrush, as they alter the balance of hormones, particularly oestrogen which can stimulate the overgrowth of candida.

Other candida non-albicans species are less common, including; C. glabrata, C. tropicalis, C. krusei and C. parapsilosis which are often accompanied by milder symptoms than caused by C. albicans. These non-albicans species are more common in women following antibiotic treatments, or in high oestrogen states such as pregnancy, perimenopause, or taking hormone replacement medications or the oral contraceptive pill.

Is there a chronic yeast infection specialist near me?

Yes, candida overgrowth functional medicine solutions can be found at Melbourne Functional Medicine with women's health practitioners Vicki and Rebecca. If you’re unable to make it to our beautiful clinic space in South Melbourne, telehealth services are also available. Our functional medicine practitioner Rebecca provides a fully remote service, and has achieved great results working remotely with patients from her clinic in Perth.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Reach out to the team directly – we’ll be happy to assist.