Vaginal yeast infections are caused by a fungus called Candida. This yeast-like organism is found naturally in small amounts in the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and the female genital tract. Trouble occurs when the fungi “overgrow,” irritating the surrounding tissue and causing a yeasty smelling discharge.
This excessive fungal growth usually is caused by anything that changes the pH of the body cavity where the Candida live. Common culprits include feminine hygiene products, such as douches and feminine deodorant sprays and powders, contact with spermicides, and moist environments (caused, for instance, by spending the day in a damp bathing suit). The pH of the vagina also can be affected by oral contraceptives, antibiotics, diabetes, and pregnancy.
Signs and Symptoms
- Itching, irritation, and/or burning in the vaginal area
- Unusual, white to off-white, curdled appearing discharge from the vagina (in some cases)
- Pain during intercourse (in some cases)
Conventional Medical Treatment
Your gynecologist can diagnose a yeast infection with a pelvic exam, although a sample of the discharge material also may be collected and examined. Over-the-counter medications for yeast infections are now available, and your doctor may recommend one if the infection is not severe. If you have frequent recurrences of yeast infection, you may be given a prescription for an anti-fungal drug such as Diflucan.
Your physician also may discuss physical measures you can take to prevent a yeast infection from recurring, including wearing breathable cotton underwear that doesn’t trap moisture and giving up douches and feminine deodorant products. Note: The use of such products is unnecessary and should be avoided. The vagina is self-cleansing and needs only a daily washing with soap and water to stay healthy. Anything more aggressive can disrupt its natural chemical balance and irritate its tissue, which, in turn, can lead to infections and other disorders.
Complementary and Alternative Treatments
Nutrition and Supplementation
Fungus multiplies in a sugary environment, so avoid sugar in all forms (fruit, refined carbohydrates, and sweets) until the infection has healed. Stay away from alcohol, aged cheeses, fermented foods, mushrooms, and yeast products.
Yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk contain bacterial cultures, which will destroy the fungus. Be sure the label on your yogurt says it contains live cultures; do not consume sweetened yogurt, since yeast thrives on sugar. Avoid all other dairy products until the infection has cleared.
These daily supplements are helpful in treating yeast infections:
- biotin (300 mcg 3 times daily)-inhibits yeast
- essential fatty acids (as directed on label)-speeds recovery
- garlic (as directed on label)-fights the infecting organism
- vitamin C (2000 to 5000 mg in divided doses)-improves immunity
- vitamin A (50,000 IU; do not exceed 8000 IU if you are pregnant)-aids vaginal healing
- a prodophilus formula (as directed on label)-replaces friendly bacteria
- vitamin B complex (100 mg)-deficient in people with yeast infections
- vitamin D (400 1U)-extra amounts are needed when the body is fighting infection
- calcium (1500 mg)-extra amounts are needed when the body is fighting infection
- magnesium (750 mg)-extra amounts are needed when the body is fighting infection
Ayurveda considers candidiasis to be caused by ama, poor digestion of food. To stimulate digestion, a practitioner may advise taking grapefruit seed oil, trikatu, ginger, cayenne, or neem before meals. She may also suggest taking acidophilus and cleansing the system with a pancha karma program, which should be undertaken only with the guidance of a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner.
To relieve itching and fight inflammation, steep 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh chickweed in 1 cup boiling water for 5 minutes; strain. Let cool and use the solution to bathe the perineal area.
A salve made with calendula or St. John’s wort can also calm itching and irritation. Look for these preparations in health food stores, and follow the directions on the label.
Herbalists also recommend boosting your intake of garlic, which is known for its anti-bacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Incorporate at least 8 to 10 cloves a day into your diet. If you can’t eat that much fresh garlic, you can take 3 garlic capsules, 3 times a day instead.
Yeast infections may respond to homeopathic treatment. However, the selection of a remedy-more than one is available-depends on your symptoms and the stage of the condition. Yeastrol is a homeopathic product that works like nothing else on the market today Yeast Infections.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
To treat the vaginal discharge associated with a yeast infection, an acupuncturist may focus on the Spleen, Conception Vessel, and Stomach points on the body, and on the uterus, internal secretion, heart, and ovary points on the ear.
Chinese Herbal Therapy
Garlic may be taken internally or used as an external wash to alleviate the discomfort and itchiness caused by a yeast infection.
Several Chinese herbal formulas are recommended for the treatment of yeast infections, including Ginseng and Atractylodes, Gentiana Formula, Tang Gui and Ginseng Eight, and Rehmannia Eight.