As a healthy woman, you know how concerning it is the first time you experience burning and itching in your vaginal area.
Closer inspection confirms a redness and swelling of your vagina and vulva. The burning gradually becomes more intense. Intercourse has become painful. Worst of all, there is now a thick white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese.
If you are sexually active, don't strangle your partner—and do not be embarrassed. You are the proud new owner of a yeast infection! If you are sexually active, don't strangle your partner—and do not be embarrassed. You are the proud new owner of a yeast infection! You are not alone, in a woman's lifetime it is estimated that 75% will have at least one vaginal yeast infection.
What causes yeast infections?
Vaginal yeast infections are predominantly caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. To a lesser extent, they may also be caused by either the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis or the bacterial organism Gardnerella vaginalis.
Candida albicans thrives in moist, warm areas—so your vagina is a perfect host. The acidic environment of the vagina prevents the yeast from overgrowing, but any change in your hormone levels or vaginal acidity can allow Candida to flourish, leading to an infection.
An infection can occur whenever the normal balance of beneficial bacteria in your vagina is affected by:
Your period—hormone levels change during your cycle
Antibiotics, steroids, or medications—the number of beneficial bacteria normally living in your vagina are destroyed
Pregnancy—high levels of reproductive hormones and increased glycogen content in the vaginal environment provide a lot of nutrients for the yeast
Diabetes—abnormal sugar levels create a breeding ground for yeast
Menopause—a big change in hormone levels
Birth control pill—high estrogen content
Douches—they inflame vaginal membranes
Sex—can cause damage to the vaginal membrane
Impaired immune system—not able to combat infection
Eating habits—extreme amounts of high-sugar foods actively feed the fungus
Stress—immune function can decrease during periods of high stress
Make it go away!
Many women try to treat vaginal yeast infections by convenient over-the-counter medications (tablets, creams, ointments, or suppositories) available at a pharmacy. Unfortunately only 1/3 of women who self-diagnose and buy medication actually had this type of infection.
Therefore, the first time you experience symptoms of a yeast infection, you should seek a proper medical diagnosis before using these drugs.
In addition, if you are having sexual intercourse during your infections, make sure you use a condom to prevent passing the infection to your partner. While the male anatomy is not an ideal environment, the fungus can survive and your partner will transfer it back to you later.
Treat it naturally
There are some natural remedies that can help treat your yeast infection.
Probiotics—Various strains of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) have been found to accelerate recovery and help prevent vaginal yeast infections. Several studies indicate that two particular strains of lactobacillus—Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14—are especially beneficial for preventing and treating genitourinary infections in women.
Boric acid—You can also use purchase boric acid suppositories from your natural food store. This chemical has mild antiseptic and antifungal properties that can help treat your yeast infection. A note of caution: Boric acid is toxic and should never be taken internally (by mouth) or used by pregnant women.
Tea tree oil—Widely used as an antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiseptic, the essential oil from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant has been diluted and applied topically to the vaginal area to treat various forms of vaginal infection. However, there is almost no scientific evidence proving its efficacy and there is no information regarding safety among pregnant and lactating women.
You can also treat yeast infections with the following natural home remedies that restrict the growth of Candida by balancing your vaginal environment. The following herbal remedies were taken from The Natural Pregnancy Book by Jill Romm.
Apply a healthy dose of yogurt.
You can restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in your vagina. Apply plain yogurt containing live-cultured bacteria vaginally for 5 to 7 days. Don't forget to wear a panty liner because things could get messy!
In addition, you can also buy capsules containing Lactobacillus acidophilus at your health food store, which are easy to insert vaginally.
Use an antifungal rinse.
Rinse your vulva with a mixture of 1 part cider vinegar to 3 parts warm water.
Rinse your vulva with a herb mixture. To make the rinse, mix 1 ounce of herbs (calendula, lavender, and thyme) in 4 cups of water, boil for 20 minutes, and strain. Use it once a day during infection.
Use garlic as an antifungal agent
Prevent further infections
The easiest cure is prevention. There are some things you can do to help decrease your risk of contracting a vaginal yeast infection:
Avoid douches and strong soap or perfume, which can irritate your genital area.
Change your pad and tampon often during your period, and avoid scented hygiene products
Wear cotton underwear. Synthetic fibers trap moisture and provide a good environment for Candida growth.
Decrease your sugar intake to limit the number of recurrent infections.
Make sure you replenish your body with a good probiotic after any antibiotic treatment.
Hopefully you will never experience a vaginal yeast infection. If you do, don't worry; it will be all over within a week. But do make sure you get a proper medical diagnosis, especially if it is your first time.
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