In a good state of health, humans carry bacteria and fungi on their skin and on the inside of their bodies. In a state of homeostasis, the bacteria and fungi (normal flora) are kept in balance. When that state of homeostasis is brought out of balance, the yeast (Candida albicans) can start growing out of control and take over parts of the body.
Where do yeast live?
Yeast is a type of fungus. Fungi like to live in dark, moist places. Everyone is familiar with yeast infections; they are most common in the female vaginal area. Men can get yeast infections also. The genital area isn’t the only place where yeast can thrive. The mouth and respiratory tract can also succumb to a yeast infection.
What causes yeast infections of the lungs?
Antibiotics – The respiratory tract can get infected with budding (multiplying) yeast organisms when the internal chemistry gets out of balance. Oftentimes, individuals will become infected with yeast after taking a round of antibiotics. Antibiotics are indiscriminate killers; they will kill the normal flora along with the pathogens. The end result is that there are too few bacteria to guard against an overabundance of yeast organisms on and in the body. Antibiotics often cause oral thrush as well as vaginal yeast infections.
Steroids – The steroids used to treat respiratory diseases and other conditions can upset the body chemistry to the point that yeast infections will form. Steroid medications are often administered directly to the respiratory tract via inhalers. The mouth, bronchial tubes and lungs can become infected with yeast when the ratio between the bacteria and yeast get out of balance. Steroids are used in respiratory inhalers to fight inflammation in the respiratory tract; steroids fight inflammation by creating an anti-inflammatory response which relieves pain and facilitates easier breathing. Unfortunately, the side effects of steroids can cause multiple problems, which is why they are usually only used for a short time.
Respiratory inhaler – We tend to leave our microbes behind on the respiratory inhaler’s mouthpiece, which is the applicator device meant to get us better. We can get a yeast infection from inhalers. We can introduce bacteria and fungi into the respiratory tract with a dirty mouthpiece. A yeast infection in the respiratory tract can be circular, simply because the organisms in the mouth can be left on the mouthpiece. The respiratory inhaler’s mouth piece is then put back into the mouth to keep the infection going. Taking the time to rinse the mouth and the inhaler off will help to get the infection under control and put the bacteria to yeast ratio back into balance. See a video of how to clean a respiratory inhaler here.
Here are a few things we can do to prevent a yeast infection in the respiratory tract:
When taking antibiotics, many doctors suggest that you replace the good bacteria by eating foods rich in probiotics. Buttermilk, yogurt with live bacteria, and kefir are foods rich in the type of bacteria that is good for the body. Probiotics are like the soldiers which keep the yeast organisms within normal limits.
It is important that you rinse your mouth after using a steroid inhaler. The steroid in the mouth can cause an imbalance of the organisms in the mouth, which often causes a yeast infection in the mouth. From the mouth, the yeast can be inhaled into the lungs, where the organisms can wreak havoc there.
It is important to clean your inhaler after every use. When we are trying to fight a respiratory infection, it is important that we don’t accidentally add fuel to the fire, so to speak. The inhalers we use to help us breathe can carry bacteria and fungi in them. We leave microorganisms on (and in) the mouth piece of the inhaler when we use it. The organisms will congregate all over the mouth piece and will be administered back into the respiratory tract with every puff, unless we take the mouth piece off the canister and wash it off after every use. It is important to let the mouth piece dry before using it again.
Yeast infection from inhalers