Dealing with a vaginal yeast infection can be incredibly uncomfortable, with itchiness and discomfort in the affected genital area. Surprisingly common among women, these conditions should not be ignored. Studies reveal that approximately 75% of women face a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lifetime, and nearly 45% may experience multiple cases. This guide provides comprehensive information on this infection and discusses practical preventive tips and home remedies for effective treatment. (1).
What is Vaginal Yeast Infection?
A vaginal yeast infection, known medically as ‘vaginal candidiasis,’ is a fungal infection affecting the vagina and the surrounding tissues, including the vulva (2). The vagina naturally hosts healthy bacteria, such as lactobacilli and yeast cells. Estrogen, a hormone in the body, promotes the growth of lactobacilli, which helps maintain a healthy vaginal environment by eliminating harmful organisms. However, when the balance between these bacteria and yeast cells is disrupted, yeast cells can multiply excessively. This overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans results in a yeast infection. Symptoms include a white or yellowish, clumpy discharge without a foul smell, along with intense itching, swelling, and irritation in and around the vagina.
Read Also – All Natural Home Remedies for Vaginal Dryness
Causes of Vaginal Yeast Infection
The microorganism ‘candida’ occurs naturally in the vaginal area, and its growth remains in check by lactobacilli. But when there is an imbalance in the system, and the ‘goo’ bacteria’ fails to work, the yeast increases, resulting in an infection. The following are the most common factors responsible for it (3):
- Excessive stress
- Lack of proper sleep
- Poor eating habits
- Higher levels of sugar in the mucus membranes of the vagina due to uncontrolled diabetes
- Antibiotics that lower the amount of lactobacillus in the vagina
- A weak immune system with no potential to fight the infection
- Hormonal imbalance triggered by menopause, pregnancy, breastfeeding, or birth control pills
- Use of products, such as vaginal sprays and douches
Vaginal yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted infection or STI. Sexually inactive women can also experience it any time. However, sexual contact, especially mouth-to-genital contact (oral-genital sex), can spread the infection from person to person more rapidly.
Moreover, one can also develop vaginal yeast infection from excessive sweating combined with poor hygiene. Yeast and bacteria thrive in warm and moist environments, which perfectly describes your underwear during sweaty sessions! Once you leave your crotch area sweaty, yeast will rapidly multiply until it grows out of control.
Symptoms of Vaginal Yeast Infection
When it comes to vaginal yeast infection, the severity of the symptoms usually depends on the time it is left untreated. Following are some of the telltale signs of vaginal yeast infection that you must not ignore:
- An odorless, whitish-gray discharge that is thick and clumpy like cottage cheese. Sometimes, the discharge can be watery, too.
- Vaginal itching, irritation, soreness, and discomfort
- Rashes, redness, and swelling of the vulva and the vagina
- Burning sensation and pain during urination and intercourse
Treatments for Vaginal Yeast Infection
Millions of women suffer from vaginal yeast infections without really doing anything about it, as they are either unaware of remedies or too conscious to seek help. However, proper treatment can cure it within a few days or a couple of weeks, based on the severity of the issue. Uncomplicated vaginal yeast infections are easily treatable with over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams, ointments, tablets, or suppositories. You may also need to follow a 1-to-7-day regimen of prescription medications like ketoconazole, clotrimazole, miconazole, terconazole, fluconazole, etc. But if you have severe symptoms that tear vaginal tissue, a weak immune system, uncontrolled diabetes, HIV, or even pregnancy, the infection will be complicated. The most common solutions to complex vaginal yeast infections are long-term (14-day) use of antifungal creams, ointments, tablets, suppositories, or 2-3 doses of fluconazole. (4)
Once you get a vaginal yeast infection, you are more likely to get one more. If you keep getting it over and over again, the condition is called recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC). If it is more than 4 times in a year, a weekly dose of fluconazole pill is needed for 6 months.
Home Remedies for Vaginal Yeast Infection
Not all vaginal yeast infections are similar, and only an expert can suggest the best possible treatment for the one you are suffering from. However, if you are not ready to seek help from the doctor, turn to these natural home remedies for relief rather than suffer from the infection silently:
Enrich your diet with probiotics by choosing plain Greek yogurt (no added sugar). The live bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, in it restores the bacteria-yeast balance throughout the body by bringing your digestive tract and vaginal flora back into alignment. This helps remove the infection-causing candida fungus and promotes the multiplication of the good bacteria in the vagina (5). Probiotic supplements and suppositories are also known to lower the risks of infection by slowing down yeast growth and creating a healthy environment in the vagina.
Garlic is an antimicrobial agent that stops the uncontrolled growth of yeast in the vaginal area, thereby curing the infection faster (6). Make a paste out of a few cloves of garlic and a little warm water, and consume a teaspoonful of this every day. Applying crushed garlic to your vagina can curb the infection effectively. You can even add more garlic to your daily diet to avoid it.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Add four tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to half a cup of warm water and wash your vaginal area with it every day. ACV ensures that the yeast does not get a suitable environment to proliferate anymore (7) and, thus, cures the infection within just a week. An apple cider vinegar bath may also eliminate harmful microorganisms from the body, including yeast. All you need to do is add (1/2) ACV to a lukewarm bathtub and soak yourself in it for 20-30 minutes.
4. Grapefruit and Olive Oil
The antifungal and antimicrobial properties of grapefruit may help treat different candida infections (8). On the other hand, olive oil has been an effective topical treatment for patients with vulvovaginal candidiasis (9). Hence, applying grapefruit seed extract mixed with a few drops of olive oil to the affected area may control the infection naturally. You need to practice it every day before bed and wash it off the following day with plain water.
5. Coconut Oil and Cinnamon Powder
Coconut oil has excellent antifungal properties, contributing to its anti-candida activity (10). Cinnamon is also powerful enough to fight against the yeast successfully (11). You can mix a pinch of cinnamon powder with pure organic coconut oil and apply it around your vagina. Leave it on for about an hour, and then wipe it off. Follow it up with another application of plain coconut oil.
Tips to Prevent Vaginal Yeast Infection
Apart from trying home remedies, you should also make some lifestyle changes and follow the best preventive measures to keep vaginal yeast infections away. We have the most effective tips for you:
- Eat a well-balanced diet and drink lots of water to keep your body nourished and hydrated all the time.
- Reduce your sugar intake or try some natural alternatives to sugar.
- Replace your synthetic undergarments with cotton or linen ones.
- Choose slightly loose underwear over tight pants or pantyhose.
- Do not use harsh soaps or detergents to clean your vaginal area.
- Do not use hot water to wash your undergarments.
- Avoid douching and feminine deodorants.
- Stop using scented sanitary tampons and pads.
- Steer clear of frequent hot baths or spending time in hot tubs.
As mentioned earlier, hygiene and cleanliness are vital to keeping your flora healthy and happy. Since your underwear is its most important barrier against the surroundings, keep it well-fitting, comfortable, and dry at all times. Avoid undergarments made of silk, lace, and polyester; opt for 100-perfect cotton materials. Women’s rights underwear should be breathable and moisture-absorbent to minimize risks of yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomonas vaginitis.
After a sweaty session, wash your vulva with mild soap and warm water. However, the vagina is known to be self-cleaning, you you’ll pass the outer parts of your vagina. Keep your flora away from scented products that can disrupt its self-regulating environment. Then, change into clean, dry underwear with breathable properties.
Words of Caution
Finally, here are a few essential points that you should keep in mind while dealing with vaginal yeast infections:
- Before treating yourself with OTC medicines for vaginal yeast infections, consult a doctor. The symptoms of these infections can be pretty similar to bacterial vaginosis, which is bacterial overgrowth in the vagina and a more severe condition (12). Therefore, proper diagnosis is essential to get the best results.
- Pregnant women should stay away from oral fluconazole tablets as it may lead to congenital disabilities in their babies (13).
- Certain medications used for treating vaginal yeast infections may weaken condoms and diaphragms, thus increasing your chance of getting pregnant or developing STIs.
Vaginal yeast infection or vaginal candidiasis is a common fungal infection of the vagina caused by the overgrowth of the fungus ‘Candida albicans‘.When the healthy balance of lactobacilli bacteria and yeast cells gets disrupted in the vagina, the yeast cells start to multiply. This causes an odorless, clumpy, icky, and white or yellowish discharge from the vagina along with intense itching, swelling, and irritation. There are multiple reasons behind vaginal yeast infections including stress, poor sleep, uncontrolled diabetes, hormonal imbalance, weak immune system, etc. Mild yeast infections can go away with OTC antifungal creams, ointments, tablets, etc. while complicated ones need prescribed medications. However, you can also try simple home remedies, such as probiotics, garlic, apple cider vinegar, grapefruit and olive oil, coconut oil and cinnamon powder, etc. to get rid of the issue.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Are the Consequences of Neglecting Treatment for a Yeast Infection?
While a vaginal yeast infection brings discomfort due to its symptoms, it typically doesn’t result in long-term consequences or permanent damage if left untreated. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to promptly address any signs of a yeast infection, as neglecting it can significantly impact your daily life.
Can a Yeast Infection Resolve Itself Naturally?
A mild yeast infection might resolve independently, but there is a risk of recurrence. Spontaneous resolution is less likely in more severe infections, making professional treatment advisable.
Is There a Foul Odor Associated with Yeast Infections?
Unlike some other vaginal infections, yeast infections typically do not produce a noticeable odor.
Do Baths Aggravate Yeast Infections?
Yes, baths can exacerbate yeast infections by causing irritation and potentially prolonging the condition. Therefore, when dealing with a yeast infection, opting for showers rather than baths is recommended.
Can Increased Water Intake Help Eliminate Yeast Infections?
Drinking ample water may aid in flushing toxins from the body through increased urination, eliminating excess sugar, and potentially preventing yeast infections.
- “Vaginal Yeast Infections“, WebMD.com
- “Yeast Infection (Vaginal),” MayoClinic.org
- “Everything You Want to Know About Vaginal Yeast Infections“, Healthline.com
- “Vaginal Yeast Infections,” WomensHealth.gov
- “Effect of Ingestion of Yogurt Containing Lactobacillus acidophilus on Vulvovaginal candidiasis among Women Attending a Gynecological Clinic,” ENG.eg.net
- “Effects of Fresh Garlic Extract on Candida albicans Biofilms,” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Authenticating Apple Cider Vinegar’s Home Remedy Claims: Antibacterial, Antifungal, Antiviral Properties, and Cytotoxicity Aspect,” TandFOnline.com
- “Effects of 33% Grapefruit Extract on the Growth of the Yeast–Like Fungi, Dermatopytes and Moulds“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “The Effects of Ozonated Olive Oil and Clotrimazole Cream for Treatment of Vulvovaginal Candidiasis,” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Comparison of Antimicrobial Activity of Chlorhexidine, Coconut Oil, Probiotics, and Ketoconazole on Candida albicans Isolated in Children with Early Childhood Caries: An In Vitro Study,” Hindawi.com
- “Healthy Eating: Health Benefits of Cinnamon,” eMedicineHealth.com
- “Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)“, WebMD.com
- “Vaginal Yeast Infections During Pregnancy,” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov