There is nothing worse than sitting or standing in public and being itchy… down there. It’s uncomfortable, painful and it happens to all of us, the dreaded yeast infection. Though we all get them at some point or another, do you know what’s causing them?
Let’s jump in! Yeast infections can be brought on by your period, stress, blood sugar, medication, tampons, douching, menopause, pregnancy, estrogen therapy, semen, lube, and hormonal birth control.
Before we go into why those things can cause yeast infections, let’s quickly talk about what a yeast infection is because besides being interesting, it’s important for you to know about.
It can be confusing to remember which symptoms are associated with a yeast infection verses a bladder infection. When you’re not feeling 100%, it can be hard to focus on the symptoms for self diagnosis.
Here is a little chart to help you figure out which one you might have:
As mentioned above a yeast infection will normally have thick, white, “cottage cheese” like discharge, itching or burning, redness, pain with urination (dysuria), pain with intercourse (dyspareunia), and your symptoms can be worse the week before or after your period.
What can be confusing is that normally pain when urinating is associated with a bladder infection, however it can happen with a yeast infection. If you have pain when urinating and it’s paired with one of the other symptoms like having a thick white “cottage cheese” like discharge you’ll know it’s a yeast infection.
Your body knows what’s up and it works hard to keep you balanced. Even your vagina maintains a pH range that inhibits the growth of yeast to maintain its own health. However, it only takes something disrupting that pH level for you to be susceptible to a yeast infection. This imbalance in flora shifts the environment and causes candida overgrowth. Candida is a fungal (yeast) organism that is normally found in the vagina and has its own balance with other microorganisms.
Causes & Why they make you more Susceptible to a Yeast Infection:
Blood Sugar - If you have PCOS and are consistently dealing with yeast infections meeting with a doctor to discuss a diabetes screening might be a good idea. This is because blood sugar and diet can be underlying issues of yeast overgrowth. It’s been said that a recurring yeast infection is the first sign of diabetes for some women and with PCOS women being at a higher risk of insulin resistance and blood sugar abnormalities, it would be a good thing to check on with your doctor.
Medication - Antibiotics kill the good and the bad which is why people often suggest you take probiotics or eat yogurt to help counter its effects. What it can cause (depending on the antibiotic) is a shift in the flora in your vagina which can alter the pH levels and cause a yeast infection.
Birth Control - Remember when we talked about estrogen and your body finding estrogen in the world and using it as if it was your own? Same goes for your hormones verses the hormones coming from your birth control, your body uses them as if it’s their own. This influences the health and balance of your vagina. Hormonal birth control can cause yeast overgrowth in your mouth, gut and vagina. To counter this yeast overgrowth and prevent a possible yeast infection, try taking a probiotic and maintaining a healthy diet that supports good gut health.
Semen - Sperm isn’t a direct cause of yeast infections however semen can shift the pH levels in a vagina and increase your risk of yeast overgrowth which might cause a yeast infection.
Lube - Some women are sensitive to certain types of lubrication and some lubricants are glycerin-based (sugar) especially the warm or flavored ones which can prompt a yeast infection. If you’re prone to yeast infections try sticking with a water-based lube that doesn’t have glycerin.
Douching - Isn’t recommenced by physicians and can cause a lot of infections but women often do them to smell better or to clean their vagina. This practice can actually do more harm than good. There are different kinds, some involving vinegar or contain antiseptics and fragrances all seeming to have disadvantages such as causing yeast infections, pregnancy complications, cervical cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease and more.
Tampons - Yeast loves moist environments so when you don’t change your pad or tampons often enough and create excess moisture, you’re letting yeast right into a yeast infection.
Menopause - When menopause occurs the estrogen content in the vagina decreases and this causes dryness and thinning tissue which is an ideal environment for yeast overgrowth. See your doctor to confirm there isn’t another underlying issue like diabetes. They should be able to suggest a vaginal estrogen cream to help restore the vaginal lining and prevent future yeast infections.
Yeast Infection, be gone!
So now that you know more about what’s causing your yeast infections, what can you do about it?
First there are natural remedies you’ll see suggested online that maybe helpful but maybe not all the way or to the right degree. For example:
Coconut oil is often suggested but though it is an effective topical treatment for yeast overgrowth, normally it isn’t sufficient to treat an acute yeast infection (meaning if you’re already seeing that cottage cheese fluid or have a ton of redness, you’ll probably need more that just coconut oil).
Tea Tree Oil* is another suggested anti fungal tool but keep in mind that if you already have symptoms of redness it can be painful and irritate an already sensitive area. Your doctor can compound suppositories with tea tree oil to decrease the risk of irritation or find a product that is a Suppository with Tea Tree Oil For Vaginal Hygiene. (*Only use tea tree oil occasionally, and never swallow it. If you have sensitive skin, do not use tea tree oil. Discontinue use if any discomfort occurs.)
Apple Cider Vinegar Baths are something that seem to work by adding a 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar to a lukewarm bath and soaking for about 20 minutes. This is not the same as douching, please do not douche with apple cider vinegar as it will do more harm than good.
Boric Acid Suppositories are affective for overcoming a yeast infection, giving some women relief within 24 hours. Boric Acid will be prescribed by your doctor. Boric acid is an endocrine disruptor meaning it has chemicals that interfere with endocrine (hormonal) systems. It’s important to only take it for as long as the doctor has prescribed and to remember that boric acid should never being taken orally as it is toxic and can be fatal, so this is a vagina only solution.
Lastly if you’re trying to get over a yeast infection try avoiding sugar, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol. This will help prevent yeast overgrowth. Tell that yeast infection to get lost!
This content is strictly the opinion of S'moo and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither S'moo nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.