Our bodies play host to a number of fungi. Under normal circumstances, our immune systems and good bacteria living in our bodies known as probiotics keep these fungi under control. Change the pH balance of the body, however, these fungi can grow unchecked. Yeast infections are a manifestation of this problem. Candida albicans, a common fungus found in the body, normally doesn’t cause any harm, but when allowed to grow uncontrollably, it can lead to Candidiasis—more commonly known as a yeast infection.
While vaginal yeast infections are the most common form of Candidiasis, they are not the only kind. Diaper rash and thrush are also types of yeast infections. Vaginal yeast infections are characterized by itching, burning, pain and a thick discharge. Diaper rash creates bright red, puffy and tender-looking skin along a baby’s bottom, sometimes with red bumps along the edge of the rash. Thrush, also common in babies, produces soft white sores in the mouth.
A number of factors can lead to a yeast infection. Antibiotics, which kill off all bacteria in the body, can wipe out the healthy bacteria that keep fungi such as Candida albicans at bay. Some antibiotics have even been shown to promote the growth of yeast infections. Hormonal changes such as those caused by pregnancy can also alter the pH of the vagina and lead to development of a yeast infection. A suppressed immune system can also upset the balance of microorganisms in the body. High-sugar diets provide yeast infections with the fuel they need to grow.
While vaginal yeast infections are more common, they're not the only kind—and women aren't the only ones susceptible! Yeast infections can occur in children, babies and even men. Photo By Christopher Nuzzaco/Courtesy Fotolia.
Treating yeast infections is fairly simple. For a quick road to recovery, try these natural remedies and tips.
Keep it lose, keep it dry. Yeast grows best in warm, moist conditions with little oxygen, so for vaginal yeast infections, be sure to dry the vaginal area after bathing or showering, and wear breathable underwear that doesn’t fit too tightly. Avoid wearing nylon panty hose, and change out of a wet bathing suit as soon as possible after swimming.
Avoid feminine products. The companies that produce feminine hygiene sprays want to you to think that their products will keep you clean and healthy—but that’s far from the truth. These heavily scented products can irritate the vagina and upset the pH balance, leading to growing conditions for yeast infections.
Stay clean. Wash up with a mild soap that won’t cause irritation. Be sure to wash your clothes thoroughly (this might be a time to consider the hot water cycle), and change your towels regularly to avoid passing the infection on to other members of the household.
Check your partner. Yeast infections can be sexually transmitted, so unless both partners are treated, the infection can be passed and forth. (And yes, men can get yeast infections, too!)
Avoid heavily scented soaps and feminine hygiene sprays. Keep clean with a mild soap. Photo By Lynae Zebest/Courtesy Flickr.
Vinegar douche. Douching on a regular basis can upset vaginal pH balance, but in cases of yeast infections, douching with vinegar can help restore balance to the vagina. Mix 1 to 3 tablespoons of vinegar with 1 quart water. (Click here for instructions.)
Raid the spice cabinet. Oregano oil and garlic both have antiviral properties and can also help boost immune system function, which will help your body fight off the yeast infection. Take 300 to 500 mg of oregano oil three times daily and 500 to 1,000 mg of garlic twice daily. Garlic suppositories are also a common treatment for yeast infections.
Pump up on probiotics. These good bacteria can restore balance to the body and fight back excessive growth of yeast infection-causing fungi. Probiotics can be taken as a supplement or found in a number of foods, such as yogurt. Douching with a dollop of yogurt can also help restore balance to the vagina. Dilute 1 to 2 tablespoons of yogurt in warm water, or insert a small dollop directly in.
Try tea tree oil. The natural antibacterial and antiviral properties of tea tree oil make it useful for treating yeast infections. Undiluted, tea tree oil can cause burning and irritation, so be sure to mix it with water for direct application. For this reason, tea tree oil is best used for skin-related yeast infections and thrush. For the latter, mix 5 to 15 drops in water and rinse with it.