Overrun By the Yeastie Beasties?
There’s a fungus amungus!
Over the past couple of months I’ve seen a recent spike in patients complaining of vaginal yeast infections, so I thought that I’d write about the subject (especially considering the fact that there are an unbelievable amount of uninformative websites available to someone who might google “yeast infection”). Many of the patients I’ve seen were interested in something more natural than a conventional anti-fungal cream (like Monistat), but after searching online for alternative treatment options, most confessed that they’d ended up more confused than not.
So, ladies and gents, read on for information about Candida albicans and how to treat a vaginal yeast infection, and rest assured…. there are more ways than one to scratch that itch (hee hee).
Candida albicans is the fungus to be held accountable for a vaginal yeast infection. A healthy amount of Candida albicans is always present in the body, including the mouth, intestinal tract, and vagina. However, the amount of Candida albicans can grow out of control and cause a vaginal yeast infection (as well as thrush and gastrointestinal discomfort, like gas and bloating). Click here for signs of a vaginal yeast infection.
There are multiple factors that contribute to vaginal yeast infections, including pregnancy, diabetes, the use oral contraceptives/ steroids/antibiotics, hormonal fluctuations around menstruation, HIV/AIDS, stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet. Also, post-menopausal women are more prone to yeast infections due to declining estrogen levels which thin the vaginal walls.
Diet can affect your tendency for yeast infections, though many people are reluctant to change their diet in order to treat an upsurge in yeast. Let’s be honest – it’s been a long Maine winter, and a long winter is nicely alleviated by warm chocolate chip cookies and giant steins of microbrews – but either way, cookies and beer and all kinds of other comfort foods translate into SUGAR, which is, sadly, the favorite food of candida. Why yeast doesn’t love canned spinach – well, that’s because the world is sometimes so cruel.
The “Candida Cleanse”
The connection between diet and yeast overgrowth is actually the subject of major debate. In 1983, in his book “The Yeast Connection”, Dr. William Crook argued that yeast is a major pathogen that can weaken the immune system and cause debilitating health issues, including some serious autoimmune diseases. Since the publication of this book, there have been hundreds of books/websites/and practitioners purporting the benefits of a ‘candida cleanse’ to cure the sufferers of chronic yeast – a condition referred to “candidiasis hypersensitivity’ or ‘systemic yeast’. However, many conventional medical doctors disagree with this theory, and argue that no such medical condition exists. They argue that if the body (including the blood and organs) were overrun by yeast, the person would be so ill they’d you’d have to visit them in the ICU .
Here’ s my opinion on this, and I have to warn you, it’s pretty simple and incredibly logical. It’s really no secret that a poor diet (especially one high in sugar and refined foods) is connected with yeast overgrowth. It’s also no secret that lowered immunity makes one more prone to yeast infections, and everyone knows that a poor diet can weaken the immune system. So…. my conclusion is that yeast will stop throwing a party in your vagina if you take away their energy source.
In other words, if you are having issues with yeast, take a good look at your diet. Eating lots of candy, pizza, doughnuts, and beer? Well, stop eating that crap. White powdered doughnuts are like crack to members of my family, as are salt and vinegar chips, so I get it. But really, if you want to feel better, you’ve got to regulate what you put in your mouth. Call it a cleanse, call it what you want, but cleaning up your diet will only be beneficial. C’mon now – when there’s a fire in the valley, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can douse it with gasoline.
8 Important Steps to Treating a Vaginal Yeast Infection
Note: If you are pregnant and think you have a yeast infection, make it your first step to consult your primary care provider. Many of these suggestions are not recommended for women who are pregnant.
1. First and foremost, differentiate. Make sure that what is going on is actually a yeast infection (especially if this is the first time you’re having symptoms). It may not be a yeast infection; in fact, it’s pretty common for women to treat an infection as yeast when it isn’t yeast at all. Low on cash? No health insurance? Turn off Rush Limbaugh and make an appointment at Planned Parenthood – a quick culture will tell you whether it’s yeast or something else, and they’ll send you home, informed, and they won’t call you a slut (if you don’t get this, see this link).
2. If you are sexually active, make sure your partner is also being treated (yes, this includes same and opposite sex relationships).
3. Garlic, garlic, garlic. Unless you are romancing a vampire, eat fresh garlic, half a clove a day, preferably raw. You can slice the clove into slivers and try to get it down that way, wrapped in a small piece of (whole grain) bread, or you can swallow the slivers like pills. Garlic is antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, which means that it is basically the most awesome thing ever.
4. You can also try using garlic intra-vaginally. What???? Yes. Intra-vaginally. Take a fresh clove of garlic and peel off the paper shell that covers it. At bedtime, insert the clove into the vagina, and when you wake up, take it out and flush it (no, it won’t get lost in your vagina, though it can move around and you might have perform a minor shoulder stretch to retrieve it). You could always thread the clove with a needle and thread if you are worried about losing it (giving it a pull string, like a tampon). If you go online, there are mixed reviews about this method – some women claim it to be the most efficient way to treat yeast, some women are grossed out by the idea and refuse to try it, and an occasional woman claims that it didn’t work for them. But in general, the results are mostly positive. For an more detailed article on using garlic for yeast infections, click here.
5. Wildwood medicine carries a homeopathic suppository called “Yeast Arrest”. It’s less messy and “gross” than garlic and Monistat, and many women swear by it. Yeast Arrest is made by a company in Oregon called Vitanica (a company that makes supplements formulated by the pro-women superstar Dr. Tori Hudson). It contains some big hitters in the world of the candida freedom fighters, including boric acid, oregon grape root, caledula, and tea tree oil.
6. Adjust your diet. Recurring yeast infection? Start with cutting out or reducing sugar, fermented foods, and refined flours, and I bet you’ll start noticing the difference within a week. Remember – don’t let the initial couple of days get you down – dietary changes usually come with some mood swings and fatigue. Push through, and you’ll feel better.
7. Start taking a good probiotic, such as Lactobacillus GG. Probiotics are live microbial organisms that are naturally present in the digestive tract and vagina. They are considered to be “good bacteria” as they suppress the growth of potentially harmful organisms like candida. Wildwood carries a couple of excellent brands of probiotics; getting a good probiotic is essential if you are going to try this route.
8. If you do experience recurring yeast infections, see your PCP. In some cases, recurring yeast infections can be a symptom of HIV in women. Also, if you’ve gone the natural route and it hasn’t worked for you (and you know what you have is a yeast infection), make the trip to the drugstore and try the Monistat. If that doesn’t work, consult your doc.
Good luck, and remember, the yeastie beasties are a total nuisance, but you’ve got the power and the knowledge to fight back! And like I said earlier, there are more ways than one to scratch that itch! (wink wink)