26 November 2012

Rwanda: Yoghurt to the Rescue Against Candida

One disease which is still the subject of a lot of misconceptions is candidiasis, better known as candida. Affecting mainly women, it is a fungal infection that often manifests itself in the genital area where it causes itching, swelling and even bad odor.

While many think it is a sexually transmitted disease, it is in fact caused by a type of yeast called candida albicans, which is naturally present in the body in small quantities. However, certain medication and health problems can make the yeast grow, especially in warm and moist parts of the body. That is why the female genitals are often affected, although is can also occur on other parts of the skin, the throat, mouth and even in the blood.

Several myths have surrounded the disease, such as the fact that it is only caused by poor hygiene or an unhealthy diet. However, one gynecologist operating in Kigali, who declined to have his name published, says that a more common trigger is the use of antibiotics like Amoxicillin, rather than not taking regular baths.

While the disease can be treated with medication, recent research indicates that there are much simpler remedies that can help to prevent the affliction in the first place; one of those is yoghurt (and fermented products in general). That is because yoghurt contains probiotics, or so-called 'good bacteria,' that can counteract candida in the genital area. This can be done by simply consuming the yoghurt, but in acute cases also by smearing some of it on the vaginal walls.

That might be the reason why candida is not very common in Rwanda, considering its tradition of fermented milk products, most notably ikivuguto, which is rich in probiotics." Besides being a country that has a lot of milk and the like, the culture of drinking ikivuguto started way back with our great grandfathers, it is rare to see a child grow up without taking that stuff," the Kigali gynecologist says.

37-year-old Beatrice can attest that the remedy does indeed work. She first contracted candida while at school, and given that she had never heard of the disease she feared it could be an STD. So she went to seek treatment, and was rather relieved to hear it was not an STD. She was told to use yoghurt in her treatment. "I tried both drinking it and applying it to my genital area, and within two days I felt much better, because with the itching it was getting very uncomfortable."

Much as yoghurt or any other fermented products have proved to be a simple and cheap way of dealing with the infection, like all medication it can have side effects if not taken in the recommended doses. These are diary products and rich in fat, the gynecologist points out, so when taken in excess they can cause heart problems, obesity, diabetes, among others, so he recommends to make sure one takes regular exercise.

There are also other ways of reducing the risk of candida developing. An elderly lady told The Rwanda Focus that when she was young the disease was very rare, which she attributes to their sleeping habits. "In our time, we girls were taught to sleep without underwear to give the genitalia room to breathe, because we would want to avoid bad odor," she explained, adding that these days most girls keep on their underwear when they go to bed, which she thinks is very unhealthy.

So, drinking some yoghurt regularly and sleeping without underwear - who knew some home remedies could be so pleasant?

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