Preventing & Healing Yeast Infections
The type of yeast (or fungus) that causes yeast infections and candida symptoms is also known as candida albicans and can be completely harmless. However, at some point, its levels are capable of reaching high enough levels to take over our body’s “good” bacteria causing a vaginal infection or worse. The most common causes of imbalanced vaginal microflora are taking antibiotics, douching, sex (especially without a condom or without showering for a long time before or afterward), eating a poor diet, and having a compromised immune system.
Vaginal yeast infections are a type of vaginitis, which is inflammation or infection of the vagina. Yeast infections of all kinds tend to develop in areas of the body where conditions are most favorable for yeast and mold to reproduce quickly. Yeast and fungus thrive in moist conditions, so damp folds of the body (think areas where you sweat a lot) are most prone to infections and outbreaks. These areas include the mouth and throat, genitals, armpits, anal area, navel, nasal cavity, ears, fingernails, and toenails, in between fingers and toes, and in the digestive tract.
Yeast overgrowth in the vagina can cause many symptoms including: vaginal itching, irritated skin around the opening of the vagina (on the vulva and labia), redness and swelling, slight bleeding, vaginal pain especially during intercourse or menstruation, pain when going to the bathroom or when urinating, a slight smell that’s unusual, and vaginal discharge that’s white, thick, clumpy, and odorless.
Eat an immune-boosting diet: A weakened immune system is one of the significant risk factors for recurring yeast infections. When your immune system is boosted, white blood cell count increases which can target the problem before it worsens. Eat a nutrient-dense diet containing mostly vegetables, healthy fats, and good quality sources of protein. Fermented foods that contain lactobacillus or acidophilus bacteria are beneficial for fighting infections of all kinds and are especially beneficial for yeast infections.
Take probiotics: They should ideally contain at least 25 billion CFUs. Your probiotic should contain species of lactobacillus. This species is abundant in the vagina of healthy women. Always store your probiotics in the fridge. Look for blends specifically for women.
Avoid douching: This will disrupt the vaginal pH promoting the growth of yeast infections
Wear clothing made of natural fibers: Infections develop in moist areas when there is an overgrowth of a particular bacteria. One way to avoid creating a hospitable environment is wearing pants and underwear made of cotton or some other breathable material. This will ensure that the area remains dry and less likely to have an overgrowth of yeast.
Eating closer to a low FODMAP or Candida diet: Some of us are naturally more prone to yeast infections. If that’s the case, changing your diet can help with prevention. Yeast feed off sugars, carbohydrates and other high FODMAP foods such as garlic, onions, legumes. By eating high carbohydrate foods less often, you stop feeding the yeast thus reducing chances of overgrowth.
Keep your vagina dry: Practicing good hygiene and taking care of any open wounds properly will help to prevent infections. Make sure to wash the genitals with unscented soap every day and to dry the area well after showering, since fungi are most commonly found in moist environments.
Practice safe sex: Following sexual intercourse, make sure both you and your partner urinate and wash your genital areas. It’s possible to spread yeast infections during sex from person to person, and though women are much more prone to yeast infections, men (especially men who are uncircumcised) can develop these infections in the genital area as well. Practice safe sex by using condoms and abstain from sex if either you or your partner have an active infection.
Wear clean clothes and cotton underwear: Allowing air to reach your genitals helps to prevent moisture and warmth from developing, both of which increase yeast growth. Wearing loose-fitting clothing and avoiding stockings, tights, or bathing suits is beneficial if you’re prone to getting infections since these often increase body heat and retain moisture. When you do wear a bathing suit, be sure to clean and dry it properly after each use and avoid spending time lounging around in a wet bathing suit.
Control blood sugar levels: Restricting sugar is an absolute must for treating and preventing yeast infections because yeast feed on sugars. Too much sugar in the the diet can stimulate the growth of the yeast and promote it spreading to other areas. It can be beneficial to eliminate all sources of sugar, at least for some time while the condition clears up. This includes most processed foods or snacks, alcohol, most grains (especially refined grain products), conventional dairy products, fruits, and even starchy veggies (such as potatoes).
Eat a yeast-free and mold-free diet: Candida thrives in a sweet environment, so as well as decreasing sugars and carbohydrates, you’ll also want to eliminate any products containing yeast and mold. These foods include vinegar (organic apple cider vinegar does not promote yeast growth), pre-made stocks, alcoholic beverages, cheeses, dried fruit, peanuts, and pickles.
Eliminate citrus and acidic fruits: Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, tomatoes, pineapples, and limes should be eliminated entirely for one month. Although they are naturally acidic, they cause the body to become more alkaline which helps the candida fungus to thrive.
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 endometriosis and Type 2 diabetes. Reach out to a holistic practitioner for further support.
Supportive Supplements & Herbs
Boric acid suppositories: An antifungal treatment for vaginal yeast infections. Made of boric acid inside a gelatin capsule which you insert into the vagina. It works against both Candida albicans and the more resistant Candida glabrata.
Take probiotics: They should ideally contain at least 25 billion CFUs. Your probiotic should contain species of lactobacillus. This species is abundant in the vagina of healthy women. Always store your probiotics in the fridge. Look for blends specifically for women. Take higher doses if you have an active infection.
Apple cider vinegar: Helps balance pH levels.
How to use: Add ½ cup of apple cider vinegar to a warm bathtub + soak for 20 minutes. The vinegar will eliminate any harmful microorganisms.
Milk thistle: Helps to cleanse the liver from prescription medications and hormones from birth control pills, both of which increase the risk of developing yeast infections. Take in liquid/tincture form 3x per day with an active infection.
Berberine: Plants containing berberine such as goldenseal, barberry, Oregeon grape, and goldthread all exhibit antibiotic activity. Berberine inhibits the growth of yeast.
Caprylic Acid: Caprylic acid is a natural antifungal compound that has been found to be effective in treating yeast infections. Since caprylic acid will kill bacteria it should not be taken with probiotics.*do not take long-term
Vitamin C: Helps to increase immune system functioning. A robust immune system allows your body to bring itself back into balance naturally. Vitamin C also has antimicrobial components when it’s distilled into tablet form, so it can be used to kill candida overgrowth. Take 1-2000mg per day
Tea tree, lavender, and myrrh essential oils: These essential oils are gentle yet they help to kill a variety of yeasts, parasites, and fungi, helping to maintain a healthy balance of flora in the vagina.
How to use: Apply several drops mixed with coconut oil topically just outside of the vaginal area.
Practice relaxation techniques: A stressful lifestyle can compromise the immune system and allow candida to grow in excess. Taking time to slow down, breathe, and restore balance should be practiced daily, particularly after stressful life events. Other techniques that show many benefits are massage, meditation, yoga, and frequent exercise.
Yeast infections can be prevented and treated naturally, using a holistic approach that incorporates diet, supplementation, and lifestyle. It’s all about understanding the causes of these infections and eliminating the environments that allow them to thrive. With a comprehensive approach, they can be treated quite effectively and eliminated for good.