Yeast infection is a form of vaginitis, an inflammation or infection of the vagina. During a lifetime, almost 75 percent of all women are likely to have at least one vaginal yeast infection and nearly half have two or more according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Candida albicans (which is the cause of yeast infections) is naturally occurring in our bodies and only becomes problematic when it reaches levels that our immune systems cannot fight. It is a yeast-like fungus which is often found in the mouth, vagina, and intestinal tract. It is a normal inhabitant of humans that usually does not cause any adverse effects. This fungus, in combination with the right growing conditions for the bacteria, is what manifests as a yeast infection. Despite what you might think, a yeast infection isn’t only an external problem; it’s also an internal problem. There are many things that can trigger an infection and while most medications treat the symptoms, none cure the actual cause of the infections.
So what are the conditions under which these bacteria can thrive and multiply? Candida albicans thrives in warm, moist areas and especially so if your immune system is already struggling, for example, following a bout of flu or during pregnancy. It is further encouraged by situations such as insufficient cleansing of the genitals following sex – particularly anal followed by vaginal sex – as well as the use of oral contraceptives and some antibiotics. Being exposed to a partner who already has a yeast infection makes you more susceptible to developing a similar infection also. Menstruation and sperm also can contribute to getting a yeast infection. Yeast infections are more common after menopause.
The fact that many people won’t talk about yeast infections is not surprising. If you have trouble getting rid of yeast infections keep reading. You need to treat the actual infection or prevent one from occurring in the first place. You need to find out the cause of why you may be more susceptible to yeast infections than others.
First and foremost, review your diet! There are a host of factors that actually cause an infection to multiply explosively and get out of hand. Simple sugars actually feed a yeast infection. If you want to alleviate your problem right now you must cut out sugar from your diet in as many ways as possible. Candy, sugary desserts, coke, sugary juices, bottle drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks all need to be reduced or ideally cut out. Strive to restore the pH balance of your body’s own acids.
It’s not just women that can be plagued with yeast infections, anyone can get them. Men, women, children, babies, the elderly. A yeast infection can be chronic and hidden with strange or unusual symptoms that occur from time to time.
People who have diabetes are especially prone to yeast infections. Likewise, taking steroids and some antibiotics may also facilitate overwhelming bacterial infection that will manifest as a yeast infection. In fact, any condition – or treatment for other conditions – that affects a person’s immune system may leave them vulnerable to this troublesome infection. HIV and AIDS sufferers or those with cancers are similarly at risk but even people who are stressed or have dietary deficiencies are more likely to experience recurrent yeast infections. Scratches in the vagina (caused during insertion of tampons or other objects) can also promote yeast infections.
Nix the “feminine deodorant sprays;” no soap, nylon bathing suits, or pantyhose without a cotton crotch. Wear only cotton or nothing at all. Hot, moist environments incubate yeast.
Below are some natural remedies to help alleviate symptoms/infection:
1. Vitamin E as a suppository or vitamin E oil can be used once or twice/ day for 3 – 14 days to soothe mucous membranes of the female reproductive organ.
2. Vitamin A used this way (per vagina) can be irritating to local tissue, should not be used more than once per day for up to 7 days.
3. Insert unpasteurized, plain yogurt with a small spoon, spatula or vaginal cream applicator. Insert at night and wear a pad. Repeat for 3 to 7 nights, until symptoms disappear. Douching with yogurt and water can help, too. It also helps to eat a lot of yogurt.
4. Another option is to create a douche with water and yogurt and insert it via a squeeze bottle.
5. Douche with a vinegar/water solution. One tablespoon of vinegar to one quart of water, once a day. Especially effective when used with yogurt suppositories.
6. Lactobacilli such as acidophilus are natural residents of a healthy vagina. They prevent overgrowths of yeast. (They also turn milk into yogurt.) Insert two acidophilus capsules into your vagina daily. Adding Lactobacilli vaginally stops yeast from growing and creates copius amounts of lubrication.
7. Plain unsweetened yogurt which is available in natural food stores can be inserted as is into the vagina to help maintain or restore natural bacterial balance. Be sure the yogurt you use contains live cultures of acidophilus or lactobacillus (it will say so on the label). Insert at least two (2) tablespoons daily: you will need to wear a pad. Here are some tips on getting it in there. Yogurt can be inserted with an empty tampon inserter, vaginal cream inserter or a turkey baster (the baster works best). Symptoms should be relieved within 48 hours. If the yeast is persistent and you experience chronic or repeated overgrowths, then your partner needs to be treated as well. If your partner is male, have him soak his penis in yogurt or diluted apple cider for 5 minutes daily to kill the yeast living in or on the glans; this way he won’t keep re-infecting you.
8. If neither acidophilus or yogurt cure the yeast, you need to re-acidify your vagina. Boric Acid is the most efficient, and you can purchase it in the drug store. Dilute it one teaspoon to one cup of warm water and mini-douche daily with the barrel of a syringe, or use a diaphragm jelly inserter which can be bought at the pharmacy without having to buy the jelly. Don’t use if the skin is raw or broken, and discontinue if an irritation develops. This is wet and messy but boric acid is anti-bacterial and will cleanse some non-specific vaginitis as well.
9. Apple cider vinegar douches (2 tablespoons vinegar to a pint of warm water) is very effective. Even though yeast flourishes in an acidic environment, there is something in vinegar that inhibits its growth. Vinegar can also inhibit the growth of bacteria and trichomonas by establishing the proper acidity (pH) for the proliferation of “good” bacteria. Don’t douche for longer than 10 days.
10. Drinking apple cider vinegar daily will help in prevention of a yeast infection, keeping balance in your body.
11. Regular douching should be discouraged. The vagina is a self-cleaning environment, so routine douching shouldn’t be necessary and could make your vagina too alkaline. Women who douche more than three times a month are four to five times more likely to have rampant yeast.
Natural home remedies are an alternative to medical treatments, but it is always best to check with your healthcare provider to go over your natural treatment options.
Maintaining a Healthy Vagina
– Wipe front to back when urinating to avoid bringing bacteria from the rectum forward
– DO NOT DOUCHE REGULARLY! This alters the healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina
– AVOID pads and tampons with deodorant/perfumed scents – chemical irritants are present and can help promote vaginal irritation
– Avoid chemical irritants that are present in hot tubs, swimming pools, scented toilet paper, bubble bath vaginal hygiene products (such as sprays, powers, soaps, douches)
– DO NOT USE TALCUM POWDER – this is linked to ovarian cancer
– Change tampons and pads at least every 4-6 hours- be aware of signs and symptoms of toxic shock syndrome
– Reduce intake of dairy products and simple sugars – these favor the overgrowth of yeast
– Consider using condoms for recurrent infections to avoid re-infection
– Avoid repeated intercourse in a 24 hour period – vaginal pH will not return to normal for 24 hours, and you may be more prone to an infection during this time
– Consider taking acidophilus tablets daily – maintains pH in the vagina and prevents the overgrowth of yeast
– Be aware that vaginal discharge is your friend – discharge is evidence of daily cleaning of your vagina and will change throughout your menstrual cycle
– Wear cotton underwear and/or sleep without underwear – helps promote circulation of air around the vulva – Your vulva sweats more than any other body part
– Keep your sexual aids clean to avoid re-infection
– Practice good stress management