Oh, the yeast infection… There’s no mistaking the redness, burning, and itching sensation in the vaginal area, not to mention the thick, white cottage cheese-like discharge that goes with it.
Just the thought of one sends many people running for the hills in disgust, but once you get to know more about yeast infections, they’re actually easier to handle than you may think.
The human body is riddled with bacteria (both good and bad). At a ratio of 10 to 1, there are more bacteria running around than there are cells that make up our bodies. We’re walking petri dishes!
This isn’t a bad thing – we need the bugs in our bodies. Most of the time we live in harmony with them. Many are “good” bacteria. These little super heroes they have tons of jobs, including helping us fight disease by keeping our immunity strong, or manufacturing vitamins like the B complex – which are known to help combat stress. Plus they keep our colon happy by regulating bowel movements. But not all bacteria are friendly. Sometimes the “bad” bacteria take over and cause situations like yeast infections to occur.
A yeast infection primarily comes from the fungus Candida albicans, most commonly found in women. Candida is usually always present on skin, and in areas of moisture such as the mouth, intestinal tract, and vagina. The problem comes when it begins to multiply in abundance, causing diaper rash, oral thrush, and the vaginal yeast infection (also known as a form of Vaginitis) to occur.
This can be due to a change in the vaginal environment. Disruptions that favor yeast include increased pH level, too much heat and moisture from tight clothing, allergies, hormonal changes, and reductions in the beneficial bacteria normally present in our bodies.
Frequent or long-term use of antibiotics, corticosteroids (cortisone, hydrocortisone and prednisone) or other medications can wipe out the beneficial bacteria that help keep Candida in check.
Some women find themselves with frequent infections while on birth control or during pregnancy. This is due to changing hormones, as high levels of estrogen and an increased glycogen (sugar) content in the vagina can cause fungus to grow. Changing hormones during menopause can also give way to yeast.
Other factors that can increase risk include a depressed immune system due to stress or disease such as HIV or AIDS. Intercourse can also cause irritation and possible damage the vaginal wall.
The most common way women try to treat a yeast infection is by running to the local pharmacy and purchasing an arsenal of creams, ointments, suppositories, lotions and potions. Unfortunately, other types of bugs called Trichomonas vaginalis or Gardnerella vaginalis could be the cause of your yeast infection, so it’s always best to seek proper medical diagnosis before purchasing any over-the-counter remedies.
After proper diagnosis, there are many things you can do to treat and prevent a yeast infection naturally:
Probiotics: Treat the bacteria with more bacteria. Probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus can stop the growth of Candida by restoring a healthy flora in your gut and vagina.
Yogurt: Lactobacillus acidophilus is also found in yogurt. Clinical studies and many women report the introduction of plain yogurt by application of a tampon can aid in clearing the infection. Just remember to remove it in a few hours!
Give it a rinse: Apple cider vinegar is said to be effective when applied directly to a yeast infection. Mix one-part vinegar with three parts water, and rinse the affected area.
Garlic: It not only adds flavor, it’s also a great antifungal. Peel a garlic bulb carefully without puncturing it, and insert within the vagina for a few hours.
Wild Oregano Oil and Olive Leaf extract: Taken orally, these two herbs are powerful antiseptics able to kill a range of fungi.
Cup of tea: Pau D’arco and clove can be found at your local natural food store. They both contain antibacterial and antifungal agents. Boil one liter of water with two tablespoons of either herb for five minutes, then strain before drinking.
The simplest solution is prevention. Here are some easy ways to keep the yeast at bay: