Gut Health

Vaginal Yeast Infections | Everything You Need to Know

Vaginal Yeast Infections | Everything You Need to Know

A vaginal yeast infection, also called vaginal candidiasis, is a type of fungal infection that affects the vagina. It can cause irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina and the vulva. Vaginal yeast infections are very common, and affect up to 75% of women at some point in their lifetimes, with many women experiencing at least two episodes.

 

While 75% of women will get at least one yeast infection in their lifetime, up to 8% of women get more than four a year. When they happen over and over like this, they are referred to as "recurrent yeast infections."

 

What Is Yeast?

 

Yeast under microscope

 

Yeasts are a type of single-celled fungus. There are many different types of yeast in the world, and many that live in or on our bodies. Yeasts make up a part of the body’s microbiome—the community of trillions of microorganisms that live in and on our bodies and help our bodies with numerous functions. Typically, the yeast that lives with us causes us no issue. However, certain things can cause these yeasts to grow beyond healthy levels, leading to a yeast infection.

 

The most common yeast responsible for causing a fungal infection is a species of yeast known as Candida albicans—though other yeasts may also cause infections such as cryptococcosis, trichosporonosis, and geotrichosis.

 

What Is a Yeast Infection?

 

A vaginal yeast infection, according to the Mayo Clinic, is "a condition that is characterized by burning, itching, redness, and a white discharge from the vagina and vulva." Vaginal yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the body—namely the yeast Candida albicans.

 

When the yeast in your body is balanced with the rest of the ecosystem of your body, there are no issues. However, when that balance is disrupted, the yeast rapidly grows and you can get a yeast infection.

 

Vaginal yeast infections are also called vulvovaginal candidiasis or vaginal candidiasis. A vaginal yeast infection is actually a type of vaginitis, a condition where the vagina is inflamed, painful and creates a discharge. There are several types of vaginitis—each with similar symptoms—but vaginal yeast infections are among the most common.

 

What Is a Recurrent Yeast Infection?

 

Vaginal Yeast Infection Graphic

 

A recurrent yeast infection is a yeast infection that happens again and again. For most women, a vaginal yeast infection will only occur once and then will go away with treatment. For some women, the vaginal yeast infection will occur repeatedly. This can be a very frustrating situation and can disrupt quality of life.

 

Underlying a recurrent yeast infection is a severe overgrowth of Candida, as well as a severe imbalance in the gut microbiome. To stop the recurring infections, one needs to address this underlying issue.

 

How Common are Vaginal Yeast Infections?

 

Vaginal yeast infections are very common and happen to over 1 million women in the United States every year. These infections are the second most common cause of vaginitis—bacterial vaginosis being the most common.

 

What Causes Recurrent Yeast Infections?

 

Women stressed out sitting at desk

 

There are numerous causes of recurrent yeast infections, the majority of which are things that create the loss of chemical balance in your vagina and can cause candida to multiply. This can happen for a lot of reasons, including:

 

  1. Taking an Antibiotic Medication

 

Antibiotic medications are prescribed for treating bacterial infections. They are very effective at killing bacteria, which may be very useful when one is suffering from a severe bacterial infection. However, antibiotics are so strong that they also kill off much of the beneficial bacteria in the gut.

 

Beneficial bacteria are responsible for keeping other organisms in the gut (like Candida) in check. When these beneficial bacteria are killed off from antibiotics, they allow the Candida population to grow beyond healthy levels.

 

Antibiotics are a very common cause of fungal infections. Unfortunately, many women take antibiotics to treat urinary tract infections (UTI) only for this infection to be followed by a yeast infection.

 

  1. Hormonal Imbalances

 

Your hormones play a key role in many functions in the body. When your hormonal balance is disrupted, it can also disrupt the balance of Candida in the vagina. This is most common during pregnancy or when using hormonal contraceptives (birth control). However, it can also occur due to exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals such as those found in certain types of plastic, metals, and pesticide sprays, as well as from excessive stress levels.

 

  1. Diabetes

 

According to the CDC, "Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, it signals your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy."

 

If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream.

 

The primary food source for Candida is sugar. When you have diabetes, the excess of sugar in your urine can impact your vagina and throw off the balance of Candida, allowing them to grow beyond healthy levels.

 

  1. Weakened Immune System

 

Having a weakened immune system is also one of the main reasons for recurrent yeast infections. Your immune system has the important job of protecting your body from infections. When your immune system is compromised, it isn’t able to do this job as effectively, and infections can occur more easily. Certain medications can also suppress your immune system, which make you more vulnerable to infection.

 

  1. Poor Diet & Lifestyle

Certain foods and lifestyle habits can also kill off the beneficial bacteria in your gut, allowing for a Candida infection to occur. Diets high in sugar and processed food, for example, are common causes of Candida overgrowth. Substances like alcohol and cigarettes may also kill of beneficial bacteria in the gut, as can stress. To read more about how alcohol can cause candida infections, check out our blog "Why You Should Avoid Alcohol While Fighting Candida".

 

Can beer cause yeast infection? Alcohol and yeast infections are often connected, so when people wonder can drinking beer cause yeast infections, the answer is certainly yes, but it depends. In moderation, beer is unlikely to cause a yeast infection, especially if other areas of your diet and lifestyle are supporting your gut health. But, anything that kills the friendly bacteria in your gut microbiome can allow for the growth of Candida, which may lead to a yeast infection. So it is best to avoid things like alcohol in excess as they can lead to yeast infections.

 

Does drinking beer make a yeast infection worse? If you already have a yeast infection, it is recommended to avoid all alcohol, especially beer, as it can make your yeast infection worse.

 

What Are the Symptoms of a Vaginal Yeast Infection?

 

There are several indicative signs of a vaginal yeast infection. These symptoms can include:

 

  • Intense itching in the vagina and vulva.
  • Redness and swelling of the vulva.
  • A burning feeling when you urinate.
  • A thick, white vaginal discharge.
  • Small cuts or cracks in the skin of the vulva

 

Can a yeast infection cause abdominal pain and bloating? Does a yeast infection cause cramping? Typically, if a yeast infection cause cramps or abdominal pain, it is a sign that it is more than just a vaginal yeast infection, but that you may have a more serious Candida infection in the gut.

 

Can a yeast infection cause swollen lymph nodes? This really depends on the state of your lymphatic system. While a yeast infection itself is unlikely to cause swollen lymph nodes, Candida die off could release toxins that could cause swollen lymph nodes if your lymphatic system is blocked or backed up.

 

How Do You Diagnose a Vaginal Yeast Infection?

 

A vaginal yeast infection is diagnosed by your doctor. Your doctor will check for symptoms of infection and may also need to take a sample of discharge from your vagina to test for a yeast infection. The combination of your symptoms and the sample of discharge will tell your doctor what type of infection you have and will help determine the best way to proceed with treatment.

 

How Do You Treat a Vaginal Yeast Infection?

 

The exact method for treatment of a vaginal yeast infection will differ according to the type of yeast that caused the infection. There are many different types of yeast, and your healthcare provider may discuss different types of treatment depending on the type of yeast infection you have.

 

Typically, vaginal yeast infections are treated with antifungal medication used to combat overgrowths of yeast in the body. There are two forms of antifungal medication prescribed: oral or topical. Oral medications are taken by the mouth, while topical medications are applied to the affected area.

 

Are There Alternative Methods of Treating Yeast Infections?

 

Naturally, some people raise concerns about some of the ingredients in standard antifungal medications and wonder if there are alternative methods of treating their yeast infection. Antifungal herbs and herbal compounds can also work as more natural alternatives, though the method of treatment may differ as well.

 

Regardless of whether natural herbal compounds or prescription medications are used, it is often recommended to use both an oral and topical medication. The oral medication will help to kill the overgrowth of yeast in the gut, while the topical medication will help to kill the overgrowth of yeast in the vagina.

 

What tea is good for yeast infections? If you want to try some tea for yeast infection in addition to other supplements, go for an antifungal herb tea like pau d'arco, or a peppermint or ginger tea that will support your gut health.

 

Are baths good for yeast infections? Baths can be helpful for yeast infections, especially if you add in some antifungal essential oils like tea tree essential oil, or antifungal herbs like chapparel powder. However, they are only likely to be supportive of treatment and not something to rely on exclusively.

 

It is best to discuss with your doctor which is the best form of treatment for you. If you do go the alternative route, make sure to focus on lifestyle habits and an anti-candida diet during your cleanse.

 

How to Get Rid of Recurrent Yeast Infections for Good

 

The issue with recurrent yeast infections is that they come back after treatment. They can be an annoying and persistent health concern that you just can’t seem to get rid of. In order to get rid of recurrent yeast infections for good, you need to go a step beyond just killing the overgrowth of yeast. You need to completely reset your gut environment.

 

It is essential to understand that beneficial bacteria are primarily responsible for keeping yeasts like Candida under control and preventing them from causing an infection. When you do not have a healthy gut microbiome that is full of beneficial bacteria, it doesn’t matter how many times you kill the overgrowth of Candida, they will just grow back since nothing is there to prevent them from doing so.

 

To really stop a yeast infection at the root, you need to follow a very specific process:

 

 

The first step in successfully getting rid of a yeast overgrowth is to starve the yeast. Yeast, being a form of fungus, feed on sugar as their primary fuel source. If you remove sugar from your diet, it will rob the yeast of its food. This will weaken the yeast population.

 

The next step is to kill the remaining yeast with powerful antifungal compounds—whether those are from herbs like Oregon grape root and goldenseal or in certain antifungal medications.

 

The third step is to recolonize the gut. This is primarily done by adding probiotics and prebiotics to your diet. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can be found in fermented foods or supplements. Prebiotics are a type of indigestible fiber that acts as food for probiotics and helps them to grow. You may also need to focus on some gut-repair and heal the gut lining damaged by Candida using compounds like butyric acid, colostrum, and L-Glutamine, and herbs like licorice root and slippery elm.

 

The final step is to maintain your gut health long term so as to prevent another infection from occurring. This is a complex topic that deserves plenty of personal research and attention. However, the basics are fairly simple:

 

  • Avoid toxins and foods that harm your gut
  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet filled with organic fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains
  • Be sure to eat plenty of fiber
  • Include fermented foods in your diet in moderation
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid overeating or following unhealthy eating habits
  • Follow healthy lifestyle habits like exercising regularly, sleeping well, and finding healthy ways to manage stress

 

For our comprehensive candida cleanse protocol, sign up for our email list and you will receive this guide for free!

 

Summary

 

A vaginal yeast infection is a type of fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina and the vulva. While 75% of women will get at least one yeast infection in their lifetime, up to 8% of women get more than four a year. When they happen over and over like this, they are referred to as recurrent yeast infections.

 

Underlying a recurrent yeast infection is a severe overgrowth of Candida, as well as a severe imbalance in the gut microbiome. To stop the recurring infections, one needs to address this underlying issue and restore balance in the gut.

 

Beneficial bacteria are primarily responsible for keeping yeasts like Candida under control and preventing them from causing an infection. When you do not have a healthy gut microbiome that is full of beneficial bacteria, it doesn’t matter how many times you kill the overgrowth of Candida, they will just grow back since nothing is there to prevent them from doing so.

 

To really stop a yeast infection at the root, you need to follow a very specific process:

 

  • Starve the Candida yeast with an Anti-Candida Diet
  • Kill Candida yeast with antifungal herbs or medications
  • Recolonize the gut with probiotics and prebiotics
  • Maintain gut health with healthy diet and lifestyle habits

 

Of course, it is always recommended to speak with your healthcare provider about the best way to treat your specific condition. There are many different types of yeast. While Candida albicans is the most common to cause an infection, it is recommended to get properly diagnosed and to identify exactly what yeast has caused the infection. This will help you make the best decision with your doctor for how you want to proceed with treatment.

 

 

 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560624/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459317/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK543220/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7151053/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5031164/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32809459/

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