- Gut Health
Vaginal Yeast Infections: Everything You Need To Know
If you’ve had one, you know it. In the best case scenario, a yeast infection is annoying but at worse, it can be a painful disruption to your life!
I think we can all agree that yeast infections are no party, but if it’s any consolation, they’re a really common condition and nearly 75% of women have had one. Some women even get them every month. So, if you haven’t had one yet, well, you’ve got something to look forward to!
Even if you can spot the tell-tale signs of a yeast infection, don’t let it fill you with dread. In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know: what it is, why it happens, how to treat it and prevent it from happening again.
What is a Yeast Infection?
Your vagina is generally a beautiful and harmonious place. All bacteria and fungi that live there, live in balance. Yeast (candida) is a fungus, just like mold or mushrooms. Don’t freak out! It’s actually naturally found in everyone in our mouths, guts and yes, vagina. Usually, the lactic acid of the lactobacilli, found in a healthy immune system, keeps everything under control.
Sometimes, however, our body chemistry is thrown off and this can cause an overgrowth of fungi and bacteria. This can cause all sorts of annoying symptoms including:
- White discharge
- Redness and swelling
- Pain and burning sensation when peeing or during sex
- A bad smell
The problems can be on the outside – like on your labia or clitoris – but also on the inside too.
Often, the hormones of our cycle are to blame for yeast infections.
Yeast Infection vs. UTI
Another common infection in women is a urinary tract infection (UTI). Yeast infections are different from UTIs but if you’re really unlucky, you can have both at the same time. The symptoms of a UTI are also quite different from a yeast infection. When you have a UTI, there’s no noticeable discharge, but you might see a small amount of blood in your urine. A UTI can also make you feel the urge to pee almost constantly and cause pelvic and abdominal pain. If you suspect that you have a UTI, you need to get to a doctor straight away.
Why Do Women Get Yeast Infections?
You may be wondering what causes a yeast infection. Recurring yeast infections typically occur around your period. Just before your period, your estrogen production is at its lowest point. This can cause the acidity in your vagina to increase and thins the mucous membrane. These conditions are not friendly for lactobacilli, so it starts to decrease which clears the way for candida to grow out of control.
Interestingly, you can also get a yeast infection from too much estrogen. This happens closer to ovulation. Fungus loves high estrogen levels.
You are also more prone to yeast infections when you’re pregnant. This is due to the increase in hormones during pregnancy which can cause lower acidity levels in your vagina – just what you need when you’re already dealing with the challenges of pregnancy! Lower acidity allows fungi and bacteria to grow more quickly, and this can easily throw off the all-too-important balance needed for a healthy vag.
But wait… there’s more…
If you use certain types of contraception like the pill, NuvaRing or hormonal IUD, you have a higher chance of getting a yeast infection. This is because these types of hormonal contraceptive can disrupt your vaginal flora.
If you have diabetes, you are also more likely to get a yeast infection. This is because high levels of sugar helps candida grow.
How to Get Rid of a Yeast Infection
Yeast infections often go away on their own. But rather than cross your fingers and hope it goes away, it’s much better to know some ways to get rid of a yeast infection. And better yet, how to prevent them in the first place! Because when it comes to a yeast infection, the old saying is true: the best offense is a good defence.
Candida loves sugar. Less sugar means less food for your fungus to feast on. So, if you’re prone to yeast infections, try to avoid sweets, alcohol and carbohydrates.
If it’s too late, and you’ve already got a yeast infection, you might find that you crave sugar. This is because candida demands more sugar from your body. To stave off the cravings, try chowing down on whole grains, complex carbohydrates and sufficient protein.
If you’re looking for more help on balanced eating, check out our blog post on How to Hack You Cycle with Nutrition.
PRE AND PROBIOTICS FOR YOUR GUT
It may sound random, but a healthy vagina actually starts in your gut. Good intestinal flora helps fight candida and one way to get it is to ensure you’re getting enough natural pre and probiotics.
You can get pre and probiotics from things like kefir and fermented vegetables like kimchi.
AVOID SYNTHETIC CLOTHING
Those sexy pants you bought may look great, but remember: candida loves a hot spot. So try to avoid tight-fitting underwear or tights made from synthetic materials. Instead, opt for cotton, linen, hemp, wool and other natural materials. And, if possible, get some air down there! Try sleeping without underwear at night or wearing breathable, loose-fitting clothing during the day.
AVOID PADS AND LINERS
Convenient though they are, pads and panty liners can be breeding grounds for bacteria. If you can’t do without them, make sure you change them regularly and if possible, try washable period pants made from things like cotton or bamboo.
STAY STRONG! KEEP YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM UP
If your immune system is already under pressure, you’ll likely suffer from a yeast infection. A poor diet or certain medicines like antibiotics are the main culprits, but stress can also negatively play a role.
So, the best strategy is to make your health and wellness a priority. Eat well, rest well, stay hydrated, and move your body (Easy, right!?).
Studies have shown that the use of Magnesium can relieve stress symptoms.
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY CYCLE
When your cycle is healthy, you have natural peaks and troughs in your hormones. Any excess is swiftly removed by your liver once they've done their job. But if your hormones are already a bit out of balance, you could end up with an estrogen surplus which can be a cause of yeast infections.
Take the Quiz and discover how you can support your cycle
BE CAREFUL WITH SEX
Don’t worry: sex does not cause yeast infections! Phew! But if you have an infection, it is possible to pass it on to your partner and vice versa.
If you know you have an infection and still feel like having sex, use a condom. Your mucous membrane is already irritated, and sex can irritate it even more!
There’s a ton of products out there marketing a “fresh vagina." You’d be forgiven for believing that poor hygiene can cause a yeast infection. It can’t! And actually, soap can actually cause a yeast infection! So stop scrubbing! Your vagina is perfect just the way it is. No soap is required!
USE CRANBERRY OR COCONUT OIL
Guud news! It’s not an old wives tale! Cranberry juice or pills can actually help suppress an emerging yeast infection because they have anti-fungal properties!
The same applies to coconut oil. Unscented, cold-pressed coconut oil can also be used to help suppress itching. Big thanks to Mother Nature for these all-natural remedies!
When to get help?
If your symptoms are severe and impacting your day-to-day life, or you are prone to recurrent yeast infections, you may want to contact your GP.
There are plenty of products you can buy at a local pharmacy to quickly treat a yeast infection. Things like creams, vaginal tablets (or pessaries) are available without a prescription. But always check with a doctor first to ensure that you really do have a yeast infection in the first place.
Yeast infections are common, and they’re nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. If you’ve never had one, you probably will at some point in your life! Lots of women get a yeast infection around their period due to hormonal changes. And this is completely normal!
Remember: making small changes to things like your clothing and underwear, diet and lifestyle can help stave off recurring yeast infections! And if all else fails, contact your GP for a recommendation on an over-the-counter product to help. Guud luck!
Do you regularly suffer from yeast infections? Get in touch! Maybe we can help you!
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