Probiotics For Yeast (Im)Balance
Vaginal yeast infections are quite common, and most women will have at least one in their lifetime. Although uncomfortable, most yeast infections are not of huge concern and can be cleared up fairly quickly and easily. If yeast infections become more than a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence, there may be an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina which is causing them to happen more frequently. Eating probiotic-rich foods and supplementing with probiotics daily can help to balance vaginal flora and prevent yeast infections from occurring. This guide will go over some main causes of yeast infections and how to balance the vaginal flora using probiotics.
Symptoms & Causes of a yeast infection
Itching and/or burning sensation of the external vulva and/or internal vagina
Redness and swelling of the vulva and vagina
Odorless thick cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge
A yeast infection can have many causes, however, they all have one similarity: the bacterial balance, or the vaginal flora, becomes imbalanced and the mucous membranes of the vagina become inflamed.
Vaginal flora imbalance - similar to the intestinal tract, the vagina contains an array of bacteria that make up the vaginal flora. There is both beneficial bacteria as well as bad bacteria. When bad bacteria outnumber the beneficial bacteria, women can experience candida overgrowth and yeast infections.
The use of probiotics & probiotic-rich foods is essential for maintaining balance.
Hormone imbalance - hormone levels naturally fluctuate during the menstrual cycle, through pregnancy, while breastfeeding, during menopause, and while taking contraceptives. This can change the balance of bacteria in the vagina.Work with a holistic practitioner if you’re experiencing ongoing or severe hormonal imbalances.
Birth control pills - these supply synthetic forms of the hormones estrogen and progestin to the body, which alters the body’s natural hormonal balance and can lead to yeast overgrowth. It’s best to find other, non-hormonal methods of birth control.
Antibiotics - antibiotics kill both the bad bacteria and the beneficial bacteria that is needed to maintain healthy vaginal flora.
Rienoculation is imperative post-antibiotic use. 10-50 billion per day.
Diabetes, Insulin Resistance or blood sugar imbalance - poor management of glucose and blood sugar imbalance in the body can lead to an increase of sugar in the mucous membranes which line the vagina, leading to an overgrowth of yeast.
Plenty of protein, produce (fiber) and healthy fats at every meal helps to keep blood sugar stable. Regular meals at regular meal times are best for glucose regulation.
Excess milk and dairy product consumption - dairy products contain high amounts of lactose which promote candida overgrowth. Milk can also contain trace amounts of antibiotics.
Always choose organic options and opt for goat or sheep's milk dairy. There are also plenty of non-dairy alternatives, just be sure they don’t contain added sugar or excess icky ingredients.
Vaginal douche, sprays, and soaps - these can all irritate the mucous membranes of the vagina, disrupt its pH level, and negatively alter the bacterial balance.
Avoid douching at all times. Non-comegenic soap is best for gently cleansing the vagina. Do not over-cleanse, this will disrupt the delicate balance.
Low immune system - this often correlates with an imbalance in the flora of the digestive system and can lead to yeast overgrowth throughout the body, as well as a lowered ability to defend against bad bacteria proliferating. Recurring yeast infections are a common sign of depressed immune function.
Take a multi, probiotics and use immune system boosting herbs to restore immune function.
Sex - a yeast infection is not an STI/STD but it can be caused by sexual partners as different bacteria is passed along from them to you, which can cause an imbalance in the vaginal flora.
Always pee, rinse your vagina or shower after sex.
Other possible causes - bacterial or fungal infections, B vitamins deficiency, poor hygiene, tight clothing, excessive moisture, and foods containing mold and yeast such as cheese, peanuts, and alcoholic beverages.
Probiotics for Balance
As indicated above, bacterial balance has a major role in the health of the vagina and its flora. Probiotics contain the beneficial bacteria that help to maintain a healthy vaginal flora and can prevent overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast. There are two types of probiotics naturally found in the vagina that are beneficial for improving flora and preventing and treating yeast infections.
Lactobacillus acidophilus - has antifungal properties, reduces inflammation of mucous membranes, promotes the growth of good bacteria, and may help to detoxify harmful substances.
Bifidobacterium bifidum (B. bifidum) - aids in the synthesis of B vitamins and vitamin K, and maintains healthy mucus membranes while destroying pathogenic organisms.
To help balance the flora in the vagina and prevent a yeast infection from occurring, it’s important to incorporate sources of probiotics from either food or through supplements
Cultured and fermented foods contain various amounts of probiotics, including kefir, kimchi, raw sauerkraut, yogurt, miso, and tempeh. Including these foods daily in your diet will ensure the support and health of beneficial bacteria in the gut which can help prevent yeast infections.
Try: Adding 1 tablespoon of sauerkraut to your lunch every day.
Probiotic supplements are one of the best natural remedies for preventing and treating yeast infections. They come in powder, capsule, and tablet form and come in refrigerated or shelf-stable options. All forms are beneficial, however, the refrigerated probiotics are the best, most potent option as the bacteria in the supplements can die when exposed to high temperatures. When looking for a supplement, get one containing at least 5 billion CFU, and make sure it includes lactobacillus acidophilus which is a main component in vaginal flora. There are many female probiotic blends on the market
Try: Taking 5-10 billion CFU of the supplement on an empty stomach first thing or just before bed.
If you have a yeast infection currently, or recurrent infections, they tend to respond very well to boric acid suppositories or Bifidobacterium bifidum preparations. Speak to a holistic practitioner prior to using or combining these treatment options.