Reviewed by

Morgane Leten - Nutrition & Fertility Coach


Vaginal Yeast Infections: Everything You Need To Know

Reviewed by

Morgane Leten - Nutrition & Fertility Coach

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:

  • Itchiness
  • 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 Infections and your cycle

Women most often suffer from fungal infections during their fertile years. This is related to the hormones of your cycle.

PhD Sarah Ahannach is a PhD researcher, microbiologist the face behind Isala, a Belgian research project at the University of Antwerp, which does a lot of research on the vaginal microbiome. She has found that the unique composition of that microbiome and the exact ratio of different bacteria can vary greatly:

‘Women most often suffer from fungal infections in their reproductive years. This is due to the hormonal fluctuations of their cycle. During your cycle, your microbiome changes. Research from Isala showed that women in the beginning of their cycle, in the week after menstruation, had a more diverse microbiome with more different bacteria.’

So do you regularly suffer from a fungal infection and are in your fertile years? If so, that could be exactly the reason. This is because the fungus likes oestrogen, an important hormone in your fertile years.

  • 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.

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.

Adjust your diet

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.

Co-founder of Guud Woman, Morgane says: ‘For me, it helped to avoid sugar, alcohol, gluten and dairy products for a few months and focus on a balanced diet with healthy fats, fermented foods, lots of vegetables, nuts and seeds and fruits low in sugar. However, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support this claim.’

Furthermore, your gut plays a crucial role in your overall health. Thus, they could also have an impact on your vaginal microbiome, this is also called the gut-vagina axis. But unfortunately, we currently have no hard evidence for this. And very few researchers are still studying it. But of course, it never hurts to keep your gut healthy by adding fibre-rich foods like kefir and fermented vegetables to your diet.

If you’re looking for more help on balanced eating, check out our blog post on How to Hack You Cycle with Nutrition.

Avoid synthethic 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.

In summer, a swimming costume or bikini can also create such a breeding ground. Change immediately after swimming, or look into other types of swimwear, such as cotton undies or other natural materials.

Try a menstruation cup or washable period pants

Several studies seem to show that the menstrual cup would have a positive impact on the vaginal microbiome, unlike a tampon or disposable sanitary pad.

Keep you 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!?).

Avoid soap

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!

How to treat a yeast infection?

Still got a yeast infection? You can try solving it with cranberry juice or pills, or (unscented, cold-pressed) coconut oil. Both have fungicidal properties.

Finally, of course, there are medications to get rid of a fungal infection quickly. There are creams, and vaginal tablets, and these are fortunately 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.

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.

Bottom line…

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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