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What is a Yeast Infection?

A vaginal yeast infection is a common condition experienced by females at least once in their lifetime and it occurs due to the overgrowth of Candida albicans – a yeast that normally thrives in small numbers in the vagina. Your vagina also naturally contains bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus to regulate the mildly acidic pH which inevitably keeps the overgrowth of yeast at bay.

Typical conventional treatments include the use of oral or topical antifungal pharmaceuticals and creams to eradicate it.

Potential Causes of Yeast Infections

The cause of a yeast infection can vary. It can be passed between sexual partners leading to a recurring condition if both partners aren’t treated for it. Other causes include hormone imbalances during pregnancy or from the use of hormone contraceptives; antibiotics; uncontrolled diabetes or a diet that is high in sugar.

It’s also important to avoid personal lubricants that contain fragrances and sugar as this can also be a potential cause.

Symptoms of a Vaginal Yeast Infection

Before assuming that you have a yeast infection, see your doctor for a swab to confirm it. Symptoms of a yeast infection include itchiness, white cottage cheese-like discharge, painful intercourse and swelling of the vaginal walls.

Home Treatments for a Vaginal Yeast Infection

There are many natural remedies used to treat yeast infections available, however it’s also important to speak with a naturopathic doctor if you are unsure how to use these remedies correctly and to ensure these remedies are suitable for your condition.

Oregano Oil

Oregano oil is a potent, concentrated extract of from the herbaceous plant and it’s also used as a culinary herb. The oil has antifungal activity when taken orally and the potential halt the growth of Candida albicans when used in a sitz bath. Sitz baths can also help reduce swelling and soothe the irritation of a yeast infection. To do a sitz bath fill your bath tub just to above your hips or use a special sitz bath tub.

You can add 6 drops of oregano oil and ¼ cup of sea salt or Epsom salt to neutral or warm water and sit in it for a minimum of 10 minutes. This can be repeated as many times as you’d like in the week until symptoms improve.

Vaginal Probiotics

The beneficial bacteria that line your vaginal walls also help to keep down the numbers of Candida albicans simply by out crowding the yeast giving it no place to grow. A vaginal probiotic inserted for 1 to 2 weeks can help reestablish the protective bacteria and eventually cause the yeast to die-off. There are other suppositories that contain garlic and boric acid which work by killing the yeast.

Oral Probiotics

This is especially important if you believe antibiotic use is what caused your yeast infection. Most antibiotics kill not only the pathogenic or ‘bad’ bacteria, but the beneficial bacteria in your body as well. These beneficial bacteria form an essential part of your microbiome; basically, you couldn’t live without them. Beneficial bacteria make nutrients and are an important part of your immune system. A probiotic taken orally during and after a round of antibiotics can help repopulate the good bacteria as well as prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections.

Coconut Oil

Applied liberally to the vulva, organic virgin coconut oil can help soothe inflammation and itchiness as well as reduce yeast numbers. Coconut oil has antifungal properties and it readily absorbs into your skin. It can also be applied first directly onto a cotton tampon and then inserted overnight.

How to Prevent Yeast Infections

Dietary changes – Sugar can cause yeast to multiply. To heal naturally it takes removing sugary foods, avoiding yeast in foods and beverages.

Cotton Underwear – Wearing cotton allows the vaginal area to breathe. Yeast thrives in warm, dark and moist environments.

Check your Feminine Hygiene Products – Use scent-free tampons and pads. Fragrances can disrupt the pH of your vagina and create an environment that yeast can grow in. Avoid douching and feminine care wipes that contain fragrance.

Alternatives to the Birth Control Pill – If it’s discovered that the birth control pill is causing recurring yeast infections try a different type of contraception method or switch to another type of hormone based pill. Or, if you are currently using oral contraceptives for something other than birth control such as acne or painful periods, consider seeing a naturopathic doctor to review the natural options that may help treat the cause.

Yeast infections are uncomfortable and are often a sign that your immune system and the population of your good bacteria have become unbalanced. Hopefully these tips can help you overcome vaginal yeast infections naturally.

Dr. Olivia Rose
About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and in 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

In addition to her private practice, Dr. Rose is the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a mobile service that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination at Toronto fertility clinics. Her special areas of interest include infertility; children and teen health; stress management; weight loss; heart disease; digestive and immune health; skin rejuvenation and pain management. She is a birth doula and has additional training in cosmetic acupuncture and needle-less therapies for skin rejuvenation and joint pain.

Dr. Rose is a sought-after lecturer for community organizations; a freelance writer and mentor to new graduates. She has been interviewed by various media outlets including Global Toronto’s, “The Morning Show”, “News at Noon” and “News Hour”. In her free time, she unplugs at the spa and she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, son and tea-cup Yorkie. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and special events, please visit - www.oroseND.com