Millions of women suffer vaginal yeast infections every year — including painful infections that re-emerge just when you think they’re gone for good. In fact, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimates show that around 75 percent of all women will have a vaginal yeast infection at some point in their lives!
What causes a vaginal yeast infection?
You guessed it: yeast! But did you know that the same type of fungal yeast that grows outdoors on trees and plants is actually very similar to the type that can develop inside the body and lead to an infection? It’s true!
While the type of yeast that causes vaginal yeast infections as well as candida symptoms can be completely harmless, at some point its levels can reach high enough to take over our body’s “good bacteria” and cause a vaginal infection or worse.
The good news is that there are several natural steps you can take to get rid of a vaginal yeast infection for good. Vaginal yeast infections can be treated naturally at home with supplements, essential oils, a nutrient-rich diet and probiotics. Take a look at some remedies I recommend to prevent and/or treat this issue that too many women just can’t seem to shake.
A vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina and the vulva — the tissues at the vaginal opening.
Also called vaginal candidiasis, vaginal yeast infection affects up to 3 out of 4 women at some point in their lifetimes. Many women experience at least two episodes.
A vaginal yeast infection isn’t considered a sexually transmitted infection. But, there’s an increased risk of vaginal yeast infection at the time of first regular sexual activity. There’s also some evidence that infections may be linked to mouth to genital contact (oral-genital sex).
Medications can effectively treat vaginal yeast infections. If you have recurrent yeast infections — four or more within a year — you may need a longer treatment course and a maintenance plan.
What Is a Vaginal Yeast Infection?
The human body is home to millions of yeast organisms, many of which are considered “good” as far as our health is concerned. Consider this: Mushrooms and the type of yeast used to make beer and bread both have beneficial roles, improving our immune systems and helping produce food, respectively.
The species of yeast responsible for causing yeast infections is a strain called Candida albicans, which can lead to an overgrowth known as candidiasis. All strains of yeast are types of fungi, which technically aren’t plants at all because they don’t use chlorophyll (a type of energy that plants use from the sun in order to grow). Yeast and fungi are also unique and different from plants because they can actually make their own food, which is precisely how they multiply and spread within the body.
Vaginal yeast infections (also known as vaginal candidiasis, vulvovaginal candidiasis or candidal vulvovaginitis) are caused by the candid fungus. They are a type of vaginitis, which means inflammation or infection of the vagina. Vaginal yeast infections that keep coming back are known as recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC). While there are a number of different health conditions that are categorized together under the broad term of vaginitis (including bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis and non-infectious vaginitis), vaginal yeast infections are the most common type.
People use antibiotics to kill harmful bacteria, but these medications can kill good bacteria as well. This will include bacteria in the vagina. If a person is taking antibiotics, their vaginal pH may be out of balance.
Vaginal Yeast Infection Symptoms
Yeast infections of all kinds tend to develop in areas of the body where conditions are most favorable for yeast and mold to reproduce easily. Yeast and fungus thrive in moist conditions, so damp “folds” of the body (think areas where you sweat a lot) are usually more prone to infections and outbreaks, including:
- The mouth and throat
- Anal area
- Navel (belly button)
- Nasal cavity and around the nose
- Within the ears
- Fingernails and toenails
- In between fingers and toes
- Digestive tract
When yeast overgrows in the vagina, symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection can develop, including:
- vaginal itching (sometimes very uncomfortable and severe)
- slight bleeding
- vaginal pain, especially during intercourse or during menstruation
- pain when going to the bathroom or when urinating
- sometimes a slight smell that’s unusual
- vaginal discharge that’s white, thick, clumpy and odorless (while not pleasant to visualize, some people describe it as looking like cottage or ricotta cheese)
- irritated skin around the opening to the vagina (vulva and labia), redness and swelling
Factors that increase your risk of developing a yeast infection include:
Usually, yeast infections are obvious and somewhat uncomfortable, especially if left untreated, and the symptoms continue to worsen. However, some people don’t realize they have a vaginal yeast infection or mistake it for another problem, like a urinary tract infection, side effects from birth control pillsor irregular periods, or a sexually transmitted disease, for example.
- Antibiotic use. Yeast infections are common in women who take antibiotics. Broad-spectrum antibiotics, which kill a range of bacteria, also kill healthy bacteria in your vagina, leading to overgrowth of yeast.
- Increased estrogen levels. Yeast infections are more common in women with higher estrogen levels — such as pregnant women or women taking high-dose estrogen birth control pills or estrogen hormone therapy.
- Uncontrolled diabetes. Women with poorly controlled blood sugar are at greater risk of yeast infections than women with well-controlled blood sugar.
- Impaired immune system. Women with lowered immunity — such as from corticosteroid therapy or HIV infection — are more likely to get yeast infections.
When candida yeast multiplies, it’s capable of spreading to different parts of the body and causing all types of problems. Just like you can experience a vaginal yeast infection caused by overgrowth of Candida albicans in the genitals, “candida virus” can take over your digestive system too. This is like a form of an internal digestive yeast infection and causes symptoms such as fatigue, digestive upset, changes in appetite or food cravings.
Common Causes of Vaginal Yeast Infections Vaginal yeast infection
Common Causes of Vaginal Yeast Infections Vaginal yeast infection is mainly caused by candida genus which is natural microorganisms that can be found in vaginal areas. The growth of these microorganisms depends on lactobacillus bacteria. In other words if bacteria balance is normal, nothing serious will happen. As soon as the balance changes, it creates perfect environment for yeast infection occurrence. It means that there is misbalance in your system. Such conditions result in yeast overgrowth which leads to yeast infection symptoms. The majority of infections can be treated rather easily and fast. However, conventional treatment can be of no use in some cases. It means that the main cause of infection is hidden in other types of candida genus. In such situation additional laboratory tests and analysis are necessary in order to receive correct diagnosis. You need to consult your healthcare provider and start treatment course as prescribed.
How to Treat Vaginal Yeast Infections
1. Boost Your Immune System with a Nutrient-Rich Diet and Probiotics
A diet that boosts your immune system can help your body stay in tip-top shape, greatly reducing the risk of an infection since an increase in protective white blood cells is able to target the problem before it worsens. This is the reason why a weakened immune system is one of the significant risk factors for recurring yeast infections. People with viruses like HIV, or autoimmune disorders, diabetes or cancer are all prone to developing infections more often.
2. Keep Your Skin Clean and Dry
Yeast can only multiply to harmful levels when the conditions are just right. The best way to stop yeast from spreading is to keep your skin clean, dry and free from scrapes or wounds. Practicing good hygiene and taking care of any open cuts properly helps prevent infections, whether in the vagina, digestive tract, mouth or elsewhere.
Following sexual intercourse, make sure to wash the genital area. It’s possible to spread yeast infections during sex from person to person, and even though women are much more likely to carry yeast infections, men (especially men who are uncircumcised) can develop yeast infections in the genital area too. Always practice safe sex by using condoms, and abstain from sex altogether if you or your partner have an active infection.
3. Wear Clean Clothes
Make sure to wear clean underwear and, ideally, choose cotton underwear or another breathable fabric. Allowing air to reach your genitals helps stop moisture and warmth from developing, which worsens yeast growth.
probiotic microflora help to protect the intestines, improve the immune system and fight yeast. Probiotics are “good bugs” that compete with harmful pathogens in the body. The good kind of bacteria that live within your body and on your skin basically compete with candida yeast for available sources of “fuel.” Luckily, good bacteria are usually stronger than the yeast cells and therefore they can cut off the life supply of the yeast or fungi.
4. Rule Out Allergies
Sometimes allergies to condoms/latex, soaps or other hygiene products such as bath oils, tampons, spermicidal jelly or douches can cause allergies and infections. Chemical products are irritating to the sensitive genital area and can negatively impact the balance of bacteria in your vagina. If you’ve recently started using new products and notice infections taking place, try switching up your products and use something more natural instead.
5. Consider Other Medical or Hormonal Problems
Certain pre-existing medical conditions can increase your susceptibility to vaginal yeast infections because they alter bacterial and chemical balances within your body. Two examples are hormonal imbalances (including kinds that cause high estrogen or progesterone levels) and Type 2 diabetes.
You’re probably aware that diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels play a significant role, but did you know that sugar also fuels candida yeast growth? If you eat a diet high in sugar, or don’t manage your blood sugar properly, you give yeast more fuel to multiply.
When it comes to hormones, the female sex hormone progesterone can increase yeast infections in the vaginal area because it increases the production of glycogen, a natural starch that’s converted into sugar easily. Yeast can thrive off of these starch molecules, and because women have naturally higher progesterone levels than men, they’re more susceptible to yeast overgrowth.
Men can develop yeast infections too. But female sex hormones make them much more likely, especially when hormones are significantly elevated during the second half of the menstrual cycle, during menopause, when a woman is taking birth control or when a woman is pregnant.
6. Fight Yeast with Supplements and Essential Oils
Certain supplements and essential oils are beneficial for stopping yeast in its tracks, including:
- Probiotic supplements: one of the best natural treatments for yeast infections because they replenish good bacteria
- Apple cider vinegar: helps balance pH levels
- Elderberry andmilk thistle: helpcleanse your liver from prescription medications and hormones from birth control pills
- Boric acid: a safe alternative to some prescription medications for the treatment of recurrent yeast infections
- Antioxidants: antioxidants, including vitamin C, help boost the immune system
- Essential oils: tea tree, lavender and myrrh oils are gentle yet help kill a variety of yeast, parasites and fungi; use several drops mixed with coconut oil topically just outside of the vaginal area.
If you are not treated Generally,
vaginal yeast infections don’t cause serious complications. If it is not treated the itching may persist. At the same time if traditional treatment did not come in handy, you can also try several popular alternative methods. On the one hand it will make it possible to avoid taking prescribed drugs. On the other hand you can do it at home without visiting your doctor.
The Real Underlying Causes of Vaginal Yeast Infections
At any given time, many millions of yeast live within, and on the surface of, your body. It’s estimated that among these microorganisms, several hundred different types of yeast exist, which take up residence mostly in damp places throughout the body. While most yeast pose no threat at all to your health, a small percentage of yeast cultures are potentially harmful and capable of causing infections.
While common species of yeast especially thrive in places like the mouth, throat, nose, intestines and armpits, if you were to look under a microscope, you’d find that they’re always present all over the body and on the skin of most humans and animals. Yeast also live within our digestive systems, specifically in the internal lining of the bowel.
This is completely normal and, in fact, beneficial in some ways, since certain types of yeast help ensure that we have regular, normal poop! This is even true of candida yeast, which we all have in amounts that normally don’t cause any trouble when they don’t multiply rapidly and begin to crowd out other bacteria and microbes.
So where do things go wrong, and how does an infection develop?
In the case of vaginal yeast infections, Candida albicans yeast first attaches itself to newborn babies right when they’re born, after coming into contact with the yeast from the mother. Normally, this happens right at the time of birth or, in some cases, shortly after. By the time a baby is about 6 months old, there’s a 90 percent chance that Candida albicans is present in his/her system.
Candida yeast is usually harmless at this point, and although a newborn’s immune system isn’t very developed yet, it’s still able to function normally and prevent the yeast from growing too much. In a small percentage of cases, a baby isn’t strong enough yet to control the yeast. This is why some infants experience yeast infections known as oral thrush.
When someone has a strong immune system that works properly, she’s able to maintain a balance between all different strains of microbes, allowing them to fight candida the natural way and stay healthybefore a problem starts.
“Good bacteria” are capable of balancing “bad bacteria,” which means you remain free of infections, digestive disorders and so on. For example, one common strain of bacteria called Lactobacillus acidophilus is present within the vagina normally, helping keep other organisms, including yeast, from taking over.
The odds of developing a vaginal yeast infection are highest:
- following antibiotic treatments
- during pregnancy (due to high female sex hormone levels)
- when someone has a hormonal imbalance, uses hormone therapy or takes birth control pills
- following sexual intercourse
- when someone has an impaired immune system (for example, because of an autoimmune disorder or a virus like HIV)
- around the time of a woman’s menstrual cycle (infections are more likely to occur during the week before a menstrual period or after a woman’s period, especially if she uses tampons)
- in people who have diabetes that’s uncontrolled
- due to poor hygiene, including dirty skin or wearing damp, dirty clothes
How Do You Know If It’s a Vaginal Yeast Infection?
Vaginal yeast infection symptoms can be mistaken for other health problems, so if it’s your first time having one and you’re not 100 percent sure of the cause of your symptoms, you might want to talk to your doctor. There are at least six other conditions and diseases that can be mistaken for a vaginal yeast infection. These include:
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as chlamydia, trichomoniasis, herpes, and genital warts. These infections can cause vaginal odor and an itchy discharge
- Allergic reactions to feminine hygiene products, soap or even a new laundry detergent.
- Lack of estrogen causes the skin to thin, resulting in vaginal dryness and itching.
- Hemorrhoids may also cause itching in the vaginal area
- Other skin conditions
- Small cuts
Your doctor can rule out other types of infections or disorders and give you a diagnosis.
If you’re familiar with the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection already, then you can easily treat the condition at home on your own. Keep in mind that around the time of your period, you’re more likely to get a yeast infection because menstrual blood can increase pH levels within the vagina and alter hormone levels, allowing for yeast to multiply more quickly. Sometimes getting your period can resolve a yeast infection, but not always. Either way, it’s usually OK to wait a couple days before seeing a doctor if you suspect a problem. But don’t wait more than a week if symptoms don’t go away. If you experience unexpected bleeding, see your doctor right away.
Your doctor will need to perform a pelvic exam. He or she also might decide to run blood or culture tests to diagnose a yeast infection.
Because leaky gut is a major cause of food sensitivities, autoimmune disease and immune imbalance or a weakened immune system, it’s important to consume probiotic supplements. Probiotics are good bacteria that help you digest nutrients that boost the detoxification of your colon and support your immune system.
Research published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutritionsuggests that probiotic organisms may induce different cytokine responses. Supplementation of probiotics in infancy could help prevent immune-mediated diseases in childhood by improving the gut mucosal immune system and increasing the number of immunoglobulin cells and cytokine-producing cells in the intestines.
Vitamin C helps to boost adrenal glands and helps to restore your immune system. I recommend 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C two or three times per day, taking a total of 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams daily.
Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses and a vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection. Research shows that vitamin D works to maintain tolerance and promote protective immunity. There have been multiple cross-sectional studies that associate lower levels of vitamin D with increased infection.
One study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital included 19,000 participants, and it showed that individuals with lower vitamin D levels were more likely to report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient levels, even after adjusting for variables such as season, age, gender, body mass and race. Sometimes addressing a nutritional deficiency is how to boost your immune system.
ALOE VERA GEL
Break open an Aloe Vera leaf and apply the gel directly to the affected area. A 2007 study found it reduced fungal activity. You might consider using a prepackaged gel, but you should be sure it’s organic and pure. Another option is to purchase leaves in the produce section of your grocery or natural foods store.
DRINK CRANBERRY JUICE
Cranberries have antioxidants, a large amount of vitamins, and antifungal properties. In natural medicine, women use it as both a treatment and preventive measure against yeast and urinary tract infections. Juts be sure to choose 100% cranberry juice, organic if possible, and avoid cocktails and blends. You can also eat whole, unsweetened cranberries too.
The ginseng plant, belonging to the Panax genus, can help you to boost your immune system and fight infections. The roots, stems and leaves of ginseng have been used for maintaining immune homeostasis and enhancing resistance to illness or infection. Ginseng improves the performance of your immune system by regulating each type of immune cell, including macrophages, natural killer cells, dendritic cells, T cells and B cells. It also has antimicrobial compounds that work as a defense mechanism against bacterial and viral infections.
A study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine found that ginseng extract successfully induced antigenspecific antibody responses when it was administered orally. Antibodies bind to antigens, such as toxins or viruses, and keep them from contacting and harming normal cells of the body. Because of ginseng’s ability to play a role in antibody production, it helps the body to fight invading microorganisms or pathogenic antigens.