Let's talk about symptoms.
Vaginal yeast infections are common and usually present with vaginal itching, burning, redness, and often thick or white discharge (often referred to as “cottage cheese” discharge). However, an absence of any of these symptoms doesn’t mean there isn’t a yeast infection present. Sometimes it’s just itching, for example. The way to know for sure is to get a vaginal swab for yeast through your doctor, and this can quickly confirm whether your vaginal symptoms are related to yeast. However, most people who have had a vaginal yeast infection can recognize when the symptoms come back and don’t need a test every time.
How are they treated?
Treatment of vaginal yeast infections usually includes vaginal anti-fungal creams or oral medications, conventionally speaking. But there are a host of other treatment considerations that can be incredibly useful, which I’ll get into in a moment.
What happens if a vaginal yeast infection keeps coming back?
When vaginal yeast infections are frequent, say once per year, once per month, all the time, etc, it is useful to ask my favourite question: WHY? Vaginal yeast infections are usually caused by an overgrowth of a particular yeast called Candida albicans, which is part of our natural microbiome but which can cause a lot of issues if it’s allowed to get out of control! Some of the reasons why Candida grows out of control are:
Yeast is usually kept in check by the healthy bacteria in our digestive tract and vagina. When we eliminate the healthy bacteria (by taking antibiotics, which kill both the bad bacteria and the good bacteria), yeast can flourish! If we add to this a high-sugar diet (even too much fruit), we can make matters worse! Steroid use and high blood sugar caused by diabetes can also lead to yeast growing out of control.
We might need to go deeper.
Often, and especially if vaginal yeast infections keep occurring, our best bet is to turn our attention to what’s happening in the digestive system. It is not uncommon for sufferers of vaginal yeast infections to also have symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) like chronic bloating, gas, and loose or explosive stools. In fact, many yeast infection sufferers have been diagnosed with IBS and have accepted these symptoms as a normal fact of life. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — digestive symptoms like those we see in IBS are never “normal” and are always a sign that something is out of balance. People who have an overgrowth of intestinal yeast may also experience:
How is it tested?
Intestinal yeast overgrowth has traditionally been diagnosed by evaluating for yeast in the stool. These days, most conventional labs don’t offer this, but there are still many specialty labs that offer stool testing for yeast.
Ok, get to the good stuff. How do I treat this?
By treating yeast where it starts (ie. through the diet, in the blood sugar, or in the gut), we can help the microbiome get back to a healthy normal state and prevent yeast overgrowth in the vagina for good.
The treatments I use when treating frequent vaginal yeast infections are:
Treating yeast at the source usually results in:
There you have it! If you experience frequent vaginal yeast infections, please know that this is not an issue you just have to accept. Tests and treatment are available, and I love treating yeast and helping people reclaim their health.