One disease that is still widely misunderstood 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 odour.
Dr. Lajab Sasi senior lecturer at KHI says, “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.”
“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 it can also occur on other parts of the skin like the throat, mouth and even in the blood.” she continues.
Several myths have surrounded the disease, such as the fact that it is only caused by poor hygiene or an unhealthy diet. However, another gynecologist operating in Kigali who declined to have his name published says that a more common trigger is the use of antibiotics like Amoxicillin.
Lajab explains that while the disease can be treated with medication, recent research indicates that there are much simpler remedies that can help prevent the affliction in the first place and one of those remedies is yoghurt for fermented products in general).
Yoghurt contains probiotics, or so-called ‘good bacteria,’ that can counteract Candida in the genital area. Simply consume the yoghurt or in acute cases smear some of it on the vaginal walls.
“Perhaps that is the reason why Candida is not very common in Rwanda.
it is because we consume fermented milk products, most notably ikivuguto which is rich in probiotics. It is rare to see a child grow up without taking that stuff,” the Kigali gynecologist says.
37-year-old Moreen 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 relieved to find out it was not an STD. She was told to use yoghurt in her treatment. “I consumed it and applied it to my genital area and within two days, the itching had stopped,” she remembers
As much as yoghurt and other fermented products are simple and cheap way of dealing with the infection, like all medication there are side effects if not taken in the recommended doses.
“These are dairy products and rich in fat,” the gynecologist points out, “So when taken in excess they can cause heart problems, obesity, diabetes and other diseases.”