Vaginal yeast infection can make our life hell sometimes. Itchiness and discomfort in and around the infected genital area are extraordinarily embarrassing and annoying. But surprisingly, such conditions are prevalent in women, and you should never leave them untreated. Studies have found that around 75% of women experience a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lifetime, and nearly 45% suffer from multiple cases (1). So today, we will give you all information regarding this infection and talk about how to treat it through practical preventive tips and home remedies.
What is Vaginal Yeast Infection?
A vaginal yeast infection, medically termed ‘vaginal candidiasis’, is a fungal infection of the vagina. The entire area around it, including the tissues at its opening (called ‘vulva’) gets affected (2). Our vagina naturally contains some healthy bacteria named lactobacilli bacteria and yeast cells. The hormone estrogen in our body supports lactobacilli’s growth, destroying harmful organisms in the vagina and keeping it healthy. However, when the healthy balance of these bacteria and yeast cells gets disrupted, the yeast cells start to multiply. As a result, it causes the overgrowth of the fungus ‘Candida albicans‘, leading to a yeast infection. In this condition, a white or yellowish discharge comes out of the vagina, which does not have any foul smell but is clumpy and icky. Moreover, the infection causes intense itching, swelling, and irritation in and around the vagina.
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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 ‘good 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 is a perfect description of your underwear during sweaty sessions! Once you leave your crotch area sweaty, yeast will rapidly multiply until they grow 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
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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 tore vaginal tissue, 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 to suffer from the infection silently:
Enrich your diet with probiotics by choosing food like 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 steer clear of it.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Add 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to half a cup of warm water and wash your vaginal area with it every day. ACV makes sure that the yeast does not get a suitable environment to proliferate anymore (7) and thus, cures the infection in just within 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) cup of 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 types of 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 going to 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, make sure to keep them well-fitting, comfortable, and dry at all times. Stay away from undergarments made of silk, lace, and polyester, and opt for 100 perfect cotton materials. The right women 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. Although the vagina is known to be self-cleaning, you’ll need to wash the outer parts of your vagina. Keep your flora away from scented products that can disrupt its self-regulating environment. Then, change into a new, clean, and 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.
Read Also – Expert Review: Abzorb Clotrimazole Dusting Powder
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 Will Happen If a Yeast Infection is Left Untreated?
Vaginal yeast infection causes discomfort because of the symptoms associated with it. However, it does not cause long-term consequences or permanent damage if left untreated. But, if you notice any signs of yeast infection, don’t hesitate to seek your professionals as leaving it untreated can greatly affect your daily life.
Can a Yeast Infection Go Away on Its Own?
A mild yeast infection may go away on its own, but it may return very soon too. However, if you’re experiencing a worse case, it’s most likely to progress unless you seek professional treatment.
Do Yeast Infections Smell?
Unlike other vaginal infections, yeast infection in the vagina causes no noticeable odor.
Do Baths Make Yeast Infections Worse?
Yes, baths can worsen yeast infections by causing irritation and prolonging it. Hence, it is always better to take a shower instead of bathing in this condition.
Can Drinking Water Flush Out Yeast Infection?
Drinking lots of water may help flush the toxins out of the system through frequent urination, eliminating excess sugar from the body and 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