Most women are familiar with the panic and alarm when something is *off* down there.
You are alarmed it might be something really bad, you start recounting every single possible unwise decision that could have possibly lead you to this situation, and you panic quietly until they get in the doctor's office because "you just don't talk about that stuff with people".
I see this reaction from women all the time, especially the first time a woman has one. So, my hope is this entry saves even one woman out there a little grief.
Statistics show that almost 75% of women get a vaginal yeast infection at some point in their lives and most of us get at least two.
Having one is not so fun: pain, itching, discomfort, weird vaginal discharge... The good news is the odd vaginal yeast infection is super easy to treat with either natural remedies or prescription anti-fungals.
The most common symptom of a yeast infection is extreme itchiness in and around the vagina. It's important to note that symptom presentations vary. Your symptoms may be mild to severe and may or may not necessarily include all of the following:
The fact that your "spidey sense" is tingling about vaginal infections is correct! You need to be sure it's yeast and not some other kind of infection. There are other STDs and bacteria running around out there masquerading as yeast infections that are much more harmful to your health if not treated promptly. Typically, the more harmful infections come with other identifying symptoms: i.e. strong odours, coloured vaginal discharge, bleeding, sores, etc., but not always. Your doctor can do a simple pelvic exam and lab test to be sure.
The interesting thing, medically speaking, is that the same infection causing yeast (known as Candida albicans) are always present in a healthy vaginal canal. The Candida yeast and other healthy bacteria support the vaginal acidity levels, crowd out infectious microbes, and keep the immune system on its toes. So... what is it that makes the normal happy vagina all of a sudden succumb to a full-out yeast infection?
In short: a weakened immune system. Many things can raise your risk of a yeast infection (and impact your immune system), such as:
Of interest, especially to those with recurrent yeast infections (i.e. more than 3 in the last year) is the connection being made with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). As the theory goes, overgrowth of yeast and other problematic organisms in the gut leads to a weakened mucosal immune system, which then leads to overgrowth on other mucosal surfaces (i.e. vagina).
Treating an active yeast infection typically involves a stopping the yeast overgrowth and restoring the healthy vaginal bacteria and acidity levels.
Getting rid of the yeast overgrowth naturally primarily requires some anti-fungal/anti-microbial treatment. There are many OTC creams, tablets, and suppositories available at the local drugstore. Natural anti-fungals include garlic, tea tree oil, and rosemary. Often, a simple mixture of 3-4 drops of tea tree oil and a cup of water make an effective anti-microbial solution to use as a vaginal rinse. You may need to apply it a few times before symptoms resolve.
Take note of 2 caveats:
1. While douching is not safe for regular hygiene, it is helpful when treating an active infection.
2. Please remember to dilute the tea tree oil! Straight-up tea tree oil on sensitive vaginal tissues will just burn. In this case, stronger is not better.
Restoring healthy vaginal bacteria and acidity levels is also pretty simple. There is a great vaginal probiotic that I use in the clinic exclusively for this purpose. (HMF Candigen) It re-inoculates the vagina with healthy bacteria easily, simply, and without mess.
For longer-term prevention, you have to rebalance the immune system and restore healthy gut micro-organisms. The most important thing you have to do is give up the sugar! Especially if you get recurrent yeast infections. Sugar is what feeds yeast, so eliminating sugar in all of its simple forms like candy, desserts, alcohol and refined flours is absolutely necessary. Sugar has also been shown to severely cripple your immune system for up to 8 hours after ingestion. The second most important thing you have to do is take an oral multi-strain probiotic. Anywhere from 10-25 billion units should restore healthy bacterial flora gently and over time.
If you would like more guidance on treating yeast infections naturally or to find out for sure if you have Candida overgrowth, consider seeing a licensed Naturopathic Doctor who is trained in detecting and treating Candida albicans.
DISCUSSION QUESTION: Do you have any tried and true home remedies for yeast infections? Share 'em here!
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