I’m a certified nutrition consultant, and I specialize in yeast and bacterial overgrowth. I got into this profession in response to my own battle with the nasty buggers and I’ve experimented with nearly every crazy anti-fungal trick in the book. I’m going to share some of the better ones with you, but first, a few things:
- This article is for education purposes only. I’m not a doctor, and this article is not intended to replace proper medical attention. Visit your gynecologist to ensure you don’t have a venereal disease or other serious condition.
- Infections can be caused by any combination of yeast or bacteria. It may be necessary to do a stool test and work with a health practitioner who specializes in yeast and bacterial overgrowth to create an effective protocol specifically for your infection.
The set up
There are lots of reasons why you developed a vaginal yeast infection: The weather is hot and humid, maybe you’ve consumed too much sugar or drank too much booze, or wore synthetic underwear. Yeast and bacteria thrive in warm, damp conditions, and they feed on alcohol and sugar in our bodies. And yet some women get an infection at the drop of the hat, while other can party the night away in spandex leggings without a problem. What gives?
The Good Guys vs. the Bad Guys
Our bodies contain over four pounds of yeast and bacteria, which we have collected over our lifetime. Everyone’s body contains a wide array of beneficial and pathogenic bugs, and quite a few neutral critters as well, it’s a matter of ensuring there are enough good guys to keep the bad guys in check. We need good strains known as probiotics to fight unwanted visitors, produce B vitamins and vitamin K, repair our intestinal lining, and basically keeps us healthy and strong.
Then there are all the bad guys that irritate our crotches, make our stomachs bloat and seriously threaten our health. Candida albicans is the most notorious yeast, but there are many other yeasts and bacteria that can cause similar problems. Our digestive tract is yeast and bacteria headquarters, and a vaginal infection can signal an issue on the home front. While pouring anti-fungals into your vagina may seem like the solution, real improvement depends on altering the balance of bacteria in your gut.
There are lots of possible reasons why things got out of control. We get our first dose of bacteria and yeast from our mother’s birth canal and breast milk, so you could have gotten a rough start if she was out of balance, if you were born by C-section or you were formula fed. Many medications such as corticosteroids, birth control pills and of course, antibiotics can throw our systems out of wack. Anyone with insulin resistance or diabetes is a walking target since these people have exceptionally high levels of glucose in their blood stream, every critter’s favorite snack.
The following are additional signs that a serious yeast or bacterial infection is afoot:
Eczema or rashes
Itchy or flaky scalp
Thrush (a white coating in your mouth or tongue)
Bloating or gas
Heart burn/acid reflux
Intense craving for anything sweet, starchy, or alcoholic
Ear and sinus infections
Moodiness, anxiety or depression
Diarrhea or constipation
Strong body odor
Reoccurring bladder infections
Unexplained weight gain or loss
Dudes can also suffer from genital rashes or jock itch, basically the male equivalent of a yeast infection. It’s important to avoid sex until the infection is resolved, or at least use a condom to avoid passing the infection back and forth.
Below are my favorite ways to feel better immediately. Note that antimicrobials KILL things, so they might irritate to you too. These topical tricks won’t work long term alone, so back them up with the recommendations in the next section.
- Garlic: Stick 1-2 cloves of peeled garlic deep into your vagina for 12 hours. Be careful not to cut the surface of the garlic before inserting, since the juice is quite irritating. This suggestion is the mildest of the three, but it can be very effective.
- Tea tree oil douche: This technique kills unwanted critters and washes them away. Douche with 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil mixed with one 1 quart of water. A company called Tea Tree Therapy also makes suppositories if douching isn’t your thing.
- Boric Acid: Yes, the stuff used to kill cockroaches. As scary as it sounds, boric acid is a safe and powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Fill gelatin caps with boric acid and insert them into your vagina. Boric acid can irritate the vagina, especially with repeated use.
Don’t stop there
Sticking an anti-fungal bomb up your vagina isn’t going to do it, especially if you experience any of the additional symptoms of a serious infection. You know how hard it is to get rid of cockroaches when the whole apartment building is infested? These guys are smaller, stealthier, and reproduce way more quickly. It’s time to reclaim your body. Don’t get mad. Get even.
- Get better air circulation by going commando, or wear cotton panties and loose clothing.
- Avoid using harsh soaps that contain heavy perfumes on your sensitive lady parts. Instead choose an unscented, mild soap to prevent further irritation, or a natural soap that contains tea tree oil to further discourage overgrowth. Dr. Bronners is available in many stores and available online.
- Take care of yourself. Sleep at least 8 hours a night, get some gentle exercise, drink 8-10 oz. of water, you know the drill. A yeast infection is a sign that your immune system is overwhelmed, so treat yourself right.
This is the most important section, and the hardest to follow. DO NOT FEED THE CRITTERS. This step is easier if you are really sick and tired of your infection and are motivated to feel better. As challenging as this diet looks, it may need to be even stricter if your body is seriously out of balance.
Avoid the following foods:
- Sweet and starchy foods. This includes agave nectar, maple syrup and honey. Even sweet fruit like mangos and pineapple are problematic. Do your best to cut back on the pastries, potatoes and pasta as well. Whole cooked grains like brown rice are your best choice, but even then keep it to one cup a day.
- Vinegar. Even raw apple cider vinegar.
- Alcohol. This is important. Even vanilla should be in a glycerine base if you are dealing with a tough infection. Cooking may kill the alcohol, but the remaining residue can still be problematic.
- Moldy cheeses, mushrooms, nutritional yeast and yeasted breads.
- Milk. Unsweetened yogurt may be okay for some people, since some of the lactose (milk sugar) has been consumed by probiotic bacteria.
Foods to emphasize
- Enjoy a little unsweetened cranberry, lemon or lime juice mixed with water that has been sweetened with stevia. Use vegetable glycerine on whole grain flaxseed pancakes once your body can handle some carbs. Green apples and berries are fine once the infection begins to ease up. Cranberries, lemons and berries contain vitamin C and provide a sense of “treat.”
- Lots of non-starchy vegetables like greens, summer squash, okra, fennel, cauliflower, tomatoes, and so on. Walk slowly around the farmer’s market or grocery store, and choose a new vegetable to try.
- Increase your organically raised animal protein to at least two servings a day. Beans and rice contain too many carbohydrates to eat in sufficient amounts. Soy, eggs and dairy are common sensitivities, especially if eaten daily, so consider including some meat or fish if you don’t already. My apologies to the vegans and vegetarians who are reading this.
Kill the buggers!
Probiotics: Buy a bottle of capsules that promises 25 billion or more lactobacillis acidophilus and bifidobacterium per dose. I like Natren, Metagenics and ImmunoProbio available at most health food stores. Good probiotics aren’t cheap, but you get what you pay for.
You can also enjoy probiotic foods such as lactofermented pickles, which are rich in bacteria and vinegar free. You can learn how to make lactofermented pickles in my video.
People think of plain yogurt when think of probiotics. Unfortunately, most yogurt only contains a moderate amount and still contains lactose, a sugar which feeds yeast and bacteria. Enjoy yogurt in moderation if your infection isn’t severe and it agrees with you, but don’t depend on it for your dose of probiotics
My favorite antimicrobial is called Candidase, and is produced by a company called Enzymedica. The enzymes in this product literally digest yeast and bacteria, and I’ve seen it work for a lot of people. It is important to take these products between meals so it digests the buggers, not the food in your tummy.
Herbs are another popular way to kill yeast and bacteria. I like to make a salad dressing with 2 cloves of raw crushed garlic, half an avocado, the juice of one lemon juice, tablespoon of fresh marjoram and two tablespoons of water. Raw garlic and marjoram are both powderful antimicrobial, and delicious together.
Putting it all together
It will take courage to make many of these changes, but the more committed the process, the faster you will notice a difference in how you feel. You may see improvement very quickly if you are working with a mild infection, or it may take longer and some trial and error to if you have been struggling with a deeper infection.
If you would like professional support, I work with clients in person and over the phone, and I can order stool analysis to discover exactly what is going on in your gut, as well as food sensitivity labs. I hope these suggestions will help you have a fun and worry-free summer.