Common Causes of Yeast Infection + Effective Natural Remedies
A vaginal yeast infection is one of the most common reasons women experience abnormal discharge, burning, itching and swelling of their lady parts. In this article I’m going to help you understand what causes yeast infections, how to prevent them, and some of the best natural therapies for yeast infection relief.
What is a Vaginal Yeast Infection?
A vaginal yeast infection refers to the overgrowth of candida, a fungal species commonly found in the vagina and gut. Yeast infections happen when there is an imbalance in flora and a shift in the environment that allows for candida overgrowth.
Normally, your vagina maintains a pH range that prevents the growth of yeast, but when something comes along and disrupts the pH of your vagina it leaves you susceptible to a yeast infection. Keep reading to find out what those disruptors are.
Yeast Infections and Candida Overgrowth
Candida is the organism that causes what women refer to as a yeast infection. Candida is normally found in the vagina and is in balance with other microorganisms. The issue is balance and cultivating a terrain that favors a healthy vagina.
Candida is an opportunistic fungal (yeast) organism, meaning if it is given the opportunity it will overgrow.
What Makes Me Susceptible To A Yeast Infection?
Stress, poorly controlled blood sugar as is the case in diabetes, gut dysbiosis, and medication like antibiotics and birth control can leave you susceptible to overgrowth. The use of spermicides, elevated blood sugar, progesterone suppositories, pregnancy, clothing that doesn't breathe, and douching also make women more susceptible to a yeast infection.
- Your period
- Estrogen therapy
- Hormonal birth control
Blood Sugar, Diabetes & Yeast Infections
Elevations in blood sugar, either by way of diet or because of an underlying issue can leave you more susceptible to yeast overgrowth. Sometimes a recurrent yeast infection is the first sign of diabetes for some women.
Women with PCOS are at higher risk of insulin resistance and blood sugar abnormalities.
Antibiotics & Yeast Infections
Antibiotics that shift the flora in your vagina can also contribute to a change in vaginal pH. Antibiotics do kill both the bad stuff and the good stuff, which can create an environment for yeast to overgrow. Drinking and eating probiotic-rich food like kombucha kefer, pickles, yogurt, kimchi, saurekraut, etc help improve gut and vagina microbiome.
Birth Control & Yeast Infections
Birth control disrupts your hormones. Your natural hormones influence the health of your vagina and what grows there. The synthetic stuff you find in birth control does the same.
Hormonal birth control is associated with an increased risk of yeast infections. Yeast can overgrow in your mouth, gut and vagina while on birth control. There’s been plenty of research and women’s stories to support this.
I recommend all women using hormonal birth control take a probiotic and eat a diet that supports gut health.
Yeast Infection Symptoms
What does it look like to have a yeast infection? Here are a few ways to identify if you have a yeast infection.
- Thick, white, “cottage cheese” like discharge
- Itching or burning
- Swollen tissue
- Pain with urination (dysuria)
- Pain with intercourse (dyspareunia)
Symptoms can be worse the week before your period or following your period
Do Yeast Infections Go Away on Their Own?
In some cases, yeast infections self resolve, but in my experience, most women require more support and treatment. The key to resolving recurrent infections is to investigate what is making you susceptible to yeast overgrowth in the first place. Feel free to book a consultation to get started.
Natural Remedies for Yeast Infection
There are seveal natural remedies that can help alleviate your symptoms and resolve the yeast infection. Over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs like Monistat and Fluconazole are endocrine disruptors (chemical that leads to hormone imbalance) and contain parabens. Headaches, gastrointestinal issues, dizziness, rashes and in some cases, liver toxicity are possible side effects of these medication.
The popular boric acid suppositories are also endocrine disruptors and should be approached with caution.
Studies have shown that bacteria, lactobacillus, in particular inhibit yeast growth. Your gut microbiome is shared with your vaginal microbiome, which is why dietary practices that support a healthy gut also supports your vagina.
It's also why for a comprehensive natural treatment I recommend women start with Yeast Health Kit to support gut immunity, inflammation and infections to help shift their microbiome to a more favorable state, which will support the growth of beneficial organisms.
Neem herb is a powerful anti-viral, anti-fungal and antimicrobial. Neem has been used successfully for years to treat candida and yeast imbalance in women. Because neem cures infection from the inside out while balancing your immune system, it can be more effective than over-the-counter vaginal creams. I include the plant neem in all of my natural yeast supplements, along with other gentle antimicrobial herbs.
Coconut oil is antimicrobial and has been shown to be an effective topical treatment to yeast overgrowth. However, coconut oil is unlikely to treat an acute yeast infection.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is an antifungal that's useful for treating yeast infections. Be sure to dilute tea tree essential oil in carrier oil like coconut to prevent hurting your delicate tissues.
Apple cider vinegar baths (or apple cider vinegar in general)
A vinegar bath as an adjunct therapy can help shift the pH to inhibit the growth of yeast. I would not recommend douching with it for a yeast infection. The action of douching can push an infection higher into the genital tract and disrupts the important organisms that protect against yeast overgrowth.
Best Diet for Yeast Infections
I advise women to avoid sugar, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol to prevent yeast overgrowth and as part of treatment. Your diet largely influences microbial growth in your entire digestive tract, vagina and even skin. While sugar, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol should only ever be consumed in moderation, if you feel you can never eat these foods without experiencing a yeast infection then that warrants further investigation.
If you need help getting started on a diet to support your hormones, gut health, and help you eliminate yeast infections then I invite you to book a consultation to help you optimize hormones, balance your blood sugar and support a health gut.