6 Ways to Flush Out Thrush without Medication

Natural approaches to curing candida in kids
little boy with thrush on his tongue
© Can Stock Photo / parinyabinsuk

Your little bundle of love opens his mouth to yawn adorably, and there it is: that dreaded fuzzy white coating known as thrush. The same strain of fungus that many women are familiar with in vaginal yeast infections, Candida albicans, is also the cause of this common condition in babies and young children. Like any yeast infection, thrush is caused by an overgrowth of fungus due to an imbalance in good versus bad microbes. Here are some natural and time-tested ways to prevent, treat, and ease the symptoms of thrush.

Signs and symptoms of thrush

Besides the white layer in the mouth, it is not uncommon for thrush to cause a great deal of discomfort in your child. Look for:

  • sores in the oral cavity

  • cracked corners at the edge of the lips

  • pain when swallowing

  • infected nipples in breastfeeding mamas

In some cases, yeast infections can least to invasive candidiasis where it reaches other organs including the heart, brain, and eyes, the bones, and even the blood. Pre-term babies are especially at risk, so treatment must be pursued.

Treating oral yeast infection

There is no clear reason why certain mouths like to host candida but oral thrush is very often a fuzzy white sign of a compromised immune system. Thrush may clear on its own but when it doesn’t, it can be difficult to treat as drug-resistance to candida is common. Pediatricians often prescribe nystatin or other anti-fungal pharmaceutical oral treatments, but as with adult forms of candida, these are frequently ineffective and the infection recurs. Whether thrush is a persistent condition in your child or you’ve just been unhappily introduced for the first time, there are treatment options that are natural, effective, and can serve to prevent yeast overgrowth in the first place.

1. Boost nutrients to knock out yeast!

Toddlers embracing new foods and weaning off milk or formula are likely not meeting all their nutritional needs. Current conventional agricultural practices mean the soil has become stripped of nutrients so that most foods are not as nutritious as they were 50 years ago. Organic foods are typically more nutrient-dense and safer than conventionally grown foods so be mindful of and judicious about the source of your groceries. Try to maintain a diet rich in whole unprocessed foods, high in plant-based sources, and diverse in nutrients. Boost this good foundation with the following foods for an extra ounce of prevention or treatment.

Call on yeast killers!

These helpful foods contribute to a hostile environment for yeast. Try the following ways to incorporate some of them into your child’s diet.

Garlic and onion: Garlic is known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties but isn’t always popular with little ones on its own! Hummus is an easy way to make garlic more palatable—make your own mixed with coconut oil for an immune boost—and roasted garlic is delightfully sweet and easy to prepare. Try giving your child a few cloves a day mixed into savoury foods or even let them try it straight-up!

Lavender tea: This is lovely and soothing blended with ice. Lavender oil is antifungal and adding lemon to the tea can also alkalinize the mouth and fight yeast. Have fun and blend lavender with other herbal teas like chamomile and mint for added benefits.

Seaweed: Mineral-rich ocean vegetables like seaweed are not only superfoods that help the digestive system thrive and flush out toxins, they pack an iodine punch that can support the thyroid and keep the metabolism chugging along well. Many little people like the crunch of seaweed on a sushi roll made with brown rice and stuffed with veggies.

Nuts and seeds: Omega-3 rich, and anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-parasitic, munching on almonds, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds is an easy yeast-fighting, immune-boosting snack kids can manage on their own. (Make sure they are at a stage where nuts don’t pose a choking hazard.)

Fermented foods: Probiotics that naturally occur in fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and kimchi, serve the microbiome by working with the good bacteria to overcome the bad. Try making a plain Greek yogurt smoothie blended with berries and a squeeze of agave or honey, or consider consuming raw dairy products. For prevention, you can even start getting them used to the taste of the more pungent foods while they’re still in utero!

Acidic foods: A lot of kids like pickles, olives, and vinaigrette dressings, and apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a known anti-fungal. Toddlers can be encouraged to swish and spit a diluted solution of ACV with water at a ratio of no stronger than 2:1 as children’s tooth enamel is vulnerable to erosion. If you’re breastfeeding, you can clean your nipples with a solution of at least 1 Tbsp of ACV in one cup of water (or even try it straight) after feeding to reduce yeast transfer.

Water: Drinking more water in general can swish away yeast by hydrating anti-fungal enzymes and bacteria that naturally occur in saliva. A dry mouth promotes an unfair hierarchy of unwanted microbes.

Raw oat milk: This is also very helpful for both fighting yeast and digestion as it contains prebiotic soluble fiber and antifungal enzymes that encourage a healthier bowel flora. It’s very easy and economical to make oat milk at home too.

Use immune-boosting, thrush-busting supplements

A good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement may be in order especially when patients are experiencing conditions exacerbated by nutritional deficiencies they can’t seem to meet through diet alone. When diet needs a little help, consider supplementing with these nutrients to help give thrush the heave-ho!

Vitamin D deficiency is common in babies and nursing moms but it is critical for the immune system. Be sure to get your blood levels checked and aim for at least 50 on your results. Vitamin D does not naturally occur in many foods and is primarily synthesized in the body through exposure to sunlight. Exposure can be a tricky balance and depends on conditions such as your geographic location, skin colour, and the time of day. Try to make sure children get between 10 and 20 minutes per day of sunlight directly on their skin, preferably before 10 AM and after 2 PM and without sunscreen. If this isn’t possible, see your health care provider about an infant or children’s supplement. If you are breastfeeding, take 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D3 for a month with food that is rich in good fats, as vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin.

Probiotics can help crowd out the yeast right from the mouth all the way on out through the stool. A good probiotic should contain many different strains and be prepared in a high potency, often called a CFU (colony-forming unit, a way to measure the count of bacteria). Look for a good complete formula of strains appropriate to the child’s age that includes L. acidophilus, as lactobacilli are especially effective in suppressing candida. Taking probiotics with a meal is a must: Mix into foods, formula, or sprinkle on your nipples a few times a day before nursing. Overdosing is highly unlikely, however loose stools can occur and should normalize quickly.

garlic heads
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2. Stop feeding the yeast beast

I’m talking to you, sugar and things that contain sugar! For babies and kids, it’s typically sweetened processed foods, juice, and “juice drinks” or “cocktails” which contain sugar and corn syrup which can ferment and feed yeast in the mouth. Avoid pastries, soda, candies, sweetened cereals, and other refined, processed foods.

Diet or reduced sugar juice drinks contain artificial sweeteners and those have no business being in anyone’s mouth! Sports drinks and some “vitamin waters” should be avoided if they have sugar, glucose, fructose, aspartame, sucralose, or acesulfame.

Avoiding sweeteners is the best policy, but if you need a little bit, xylitol, a sugar substitute often added to gums, toothpastes, and lozenges is fine to use and may actually help decrease the microbes in the mouth. Stevia and other sugar alcohol blends like erythritol are also fine in moderation. All can be found at your local health food store in packets or the bulk section.

Ask all caregivers (especially grandparents!) to be on board with the diet changes or else treating thrush will become even harder.

3. Support with gentle therapies

Homeopathic remedies can be very effective for the treatment of thrush. If your little one is susceptible to frequent infections, consult a professional specializing in homeopathy. There are thousands of potential remedies for treating this condition, and while sometimes one type is enough to clear up the issue, other cases may require a combination for a lasting effect. The following are some of the most common ones for treating thrush.

Borax

The most frequently successful remedy for thrush especially for breastfed infants. There are raw sores on the mouth and tongue. Eating is very painful and the thrush easily bleeds upon touching.

Mercurius solublis

The baby’s breath is very offensive and there may be lots of drooling. Swollen gums and a puffy tongue are seen and coating is yellow or dark.

Sulphur

Try this remedy if Mercurius seems indicated but does not help. Tongue and gums are not as affected, breath likely fine. May also have skin problems too.

Chamomilla

Indicated if the child cannot be pleased and is very fussy. This is also a common remedy in teething. Often accompanied by loose stool.

Calcarea carbonica

Another common children’s remedy. These kids tend to be heavy in general, crave milk, and perspire from the scalp. They tend to worry a lot and catch colds easily. Discharge may occur in other places besides the mouth.

Antimonium crudum

Useful when the baby has a thick, milky white coating on the tongue. Coating is more white than yellow. Worse with heat. Lack of appetite can be significant.

Kali muriaticum

Give this remedy at the onset of symptoms when the baby's tongue is becoming white and coated and there are no other strong symptoms. The tongue may be patchy with a grey or white coating on the base. Choose this remedy if there is a cough or runny nose along with the thrush, as it helps clears congestion.

Dosage: Use a 12C or 30C potency of the indicated homeopathic remedy every 3 to 6 hours for a few days. Add three to five pellets to spring water and give to infants and children thirty minutes away from other foods and drinks. Pellets can also be added to mouth directly. (They are sweet, so most kids don’t mind this medicine!) Increase the length of time between doses once symptoms start to improve. If there is no improvement after a few doses of the indicated remedy, try a different one.

Don’t touch the pellets with your hands as moisture may cause the remedy to disintegrate and skin oils can hinder absorption. Dispense them directly into the cap and then into the mouth or water. Store the vial away from cell phones and computers as radiation can interfere with the energetic nature of the remedies.

4. Optimize oral health

Nothing takes the place of good oral hygiene. Scheduling regular dental visits and instilling good brushing habits, along with adding a few of the following methods, are great ways to keep your child’s mouth healthy!

Herb-based antimicrobial toothpastes

These contain neem and tea tree oil. Look for a tooth powder as these don’t contain glycerin which can leave a film in the mouth and trap microbes to the surface.

Tooth products containing charcoal or clay

Charcoal-based tooth products can not only help balance the oral microbes by changing pH levels, they can prevent cavities and bad breath, add minerals back into teeth, remove oral toxins, and gently scrub away stains. Kids get a kick out of making their mouths turn black! These products are found in powder or paste form but use with care as they can stain toothbrushes, white towels, and vanity surfaces. Consult first with your dentist as the abrasiveness can damage enamel, so daily use is not typically recommended.

Antimicrobial mouth washes

These are often too strong for little kids and should be diluted with water first but are definitely worth trying straight up for older kids and adults. No food or drinks for at least 30 minutes afterwards to allow the mouthwash to work.

Oil pulling

This is an ancient method of mouth detoxification, but not appropriate for toddlers and younger. Very effective technique for all oral concerns.

ice water with lemon in a jar
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5. Treat with topical relief

Topical relief remedies can also be tried in addition to applying yeast-busting techniques.

Frozen foods and drinks

A favourite with kids and can soothe an inflamed and irritated mouth.

Hydrogen peroxide

Mix water 50/50 with hydrogen peroxide and wipe out baby’s mouth and your nipples a few times a day. The water can also be made from room temperature herbal infusions of rosemary, lavender, ginger, and/or cloves.

Apple cider vinegar

Swab the mouth out with diluted apple cider vinegar… but this might not be greeted with enthusiasm!

Grapefruit seed extract mixed with coconut oil

Swab this soothing mixture around the mouth.

It can take a bit of experimentation to find out what helps your child and what they will tolerate. Many treatments may require a variety of approaches, such as vinegar one day and then the grapefruit seed extract the next. Experiment carefully to avoid adding to the irritation!

6. Regularly scheduled maintenance

Use hot soapy water to wash bras, garments, and towels that have touched breasts and mouths. Don’t share utensils and glassware, and sterilize pacifiers and bottle nipples until thrush is resolved.

For stubborn infections, rule out food allergies (especially celiac disease!) and environmental allergies—in particular, mold and heavy metals. Conventional blood testing for these culprits is often not accurate or adequate. Consult with a qualified naturopathic doctor to help you determine why candida keeps plaguing the body.

Be consistent with treatment as thrush may take at least a week (and sometimes even longer for resistant yeast) to clear up. And be prepared to combat the fake out: although the thrush may look like it’s gone, it might still be present in the body. Make sure to continue treatment for at least two more days after symptoms resolve (this nugget of wisdom applies to all infections, by the way). Your diligence will be rewarded!