This One Goes Out to All the Ladies
Yes ladies, we’re going to talk about it. Yeast Infections. Reading those two words, did you experience the slow materialization filth and shame? Well no more! Think of it this way, if you were a dude, it would be called Jock Itch. So let’s drop the technical term and get to a discussion about the Diva Nuisance, Woman Prickle, or Queen of the Universe Irritation (too much?). According to the Centers for Disease Control, 75% of women have at least one Diva Nuisance in their lifetime. Most likely, 100% of that 75% then head to the local drugstore or doctor’s office for medicine to mediate symptoms and quash the vaginal rebellion. If you’re like me, you try to minimize the number of foreign and unknown materials you introduce into your body. When it comes to food, if I cannot pronounce the name of it, I don’t eat it, and I try to adopt the same philosophy with medicines. As GI Joe so wisely stated during Saturday morning cartoons: “Knowing is half the battle”. It’s imperative to understand what the root cause of a yeast infection might be and how you can handle them with home remedies, and diet and lifestyle modifications. The remedies listed below are best suited for mild yeast infections. If you have tried conventional therapies with no luck, these alternatives may also bring you relief. As with any home remedy, please consult with your trusted physician or naturopath first.
LET’S GET STARTED
The human body is home to diverse species of microbes. These microbes have evolved with the human body to create a mutually-beneficial ecosystem. We give them food and housing, they help us perform a multitude of physiological functions; i.e. bolstering the immune system or digesting food. They come in all shapes and sizes- there are bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and they are everywhere on the human body- especially in the vagina. Dr. Martin Blaser notes that, “seventy to ninety percent of all the cells in your body are nonhuman”. That means we are drastically out-numbered, but that is not necessarily a problem, until it is.
Picture your vagina being a bustling Microbe Metropolis. Every microbe has a purpose and function. There are good microbes like Lactobacillus and then there are the more nefarious types like Candida albicans. When things are working properly, the good microbes keep the bad microbes in check. But alas, problems can arise in Microbe Metropolis in two ways. First, when the immune system is taxed by illness or stress, the opportunistic “bad guys” can take over. Or secondly, when there is a lack of good bacteria from over-use of antibiotics, birth control pills, poor diet, or poor digestion, the “bad guys” wreak havoc and we find ourselves with a royal case of Queen of the Universe Irritation.
THE THREE STEP PROCESS FOR RECLAIMING YOUR LADY BITS
STEP 1: KILL (Pick one method, or alternate both. Do not do both at the same time you little overachiever you.)
Boric acid: You see the word acid and you’re breaking out in hives. Not to worry. Boric acid, also known as hydrogen borate, is a very weak acid with antifungal and antiviral properties. Dr. Joseph Mercola’s natural health website states that: “Studies show the effectiveness of boric acid is very high especially in women with chronic resistant yeast infections -- one study with 100 women showed a 98 percent success rate with this condition”. You can find boric acid vaginal suppositories or pessaries at your local compounding pharmacy, naturopath, or alternative health store. Insert a suppository every night at bedtime for 10- 14 days.
Tea tree oil: Among herbalists, tea tree oil is well revered for its antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral abilities. Tea tree oil, or melaleuca oil, hails from Australia and has been used in Aboriginal medicine for thousands of years. The terpenes, chemical compounds, found in tea tree oil are what make it so kick ass. In his book Candida Crusher, Dr. Eric Bakker suggests using a “tea tree oil tampon”. First and most importantly, test the tea tree oil on the inside of your wrist to make sure you don’t have an allergy. Unwrap the tampon and drop several drops of tea tree oil on the top, insert tampon as you would normally. Change out the tampon every few hours and continue using for few days to a week. The beauty of tea tree oil is that it doubles as a handy-dandy, anti fungal, laundry booster. During treatment for the Diva Nuisance, launder your underwear in hot water, soap, and add 10- 12 drops of tea tree oil. You may also want to clean your sheets and towels this way until the issue is under control.
STEP 2: SOOTHE (Pick one method, or alternate. Play with it, see what works for you.)
Calendula: Red and itchy down there? A calendula salve or lotion can help. Calendula, a.k.a. marigold, is used most as a topical agent to calm minor skin irritations. Its antiseptic properties promote healing. Apply a calendula salve to the affected area until symptoms dissipate.
Yogurt: I’m not talking Jamie Lee Curtis yogurt, I’m talking about plain, unsweetened, natural yogurt. Yogurt can be a bit messy, but applied topically, it helps to cool inflammation and reduce irritation.
STEP 3: MAINTAIN
Apple cider vinegar douche: Your vagina has a pH of 3.5- 4.5 meaning that it has a slightly acidic environment. (Nerd alert, your vagina has roughly the same pH as a tomato or apple.) Remember Microbe Metropolis? A healthy pH keeps everything running smoothly. An unhealthy pH tips the scales towards infection. Do not douche every day- that’s overkill. Douches are appropriate after using boric acid or tea tree oil as a way to finish treatment. Douches are also important after sex or at the end your period as a way to maintain acidity. The pH of blood is 7.35- 7.45 and the pH of semen is 7.2- 7.8, so you can see how both fluids could seriously ruin your hoo-ha’s natural environment. You can find a douche kit at your local health store, or if you’re lazy like me, Amazon. You’ll want to use 2- 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in 1 quart of warm, filtered water. Douche for 3- 4 days to round out a treatment and/or douche as needed after your period or intercourse.
Probiotics: Remember the good guys of Microbe Metropolis? A good quality probiotic works to build up good flora within the body. The main role of probiotics is to provide enough friendly strains of bacteria to “crowd out” the yeast thereby bringing balance to the intestinal tract. Wait, intestinal tract? Weren’t we just talking about vaginas? Yes, however, according to The Clinicians Handbook of Natural Medicine, “significant intestinal colonization with Candida may be the single most significant predisposing factor in vulvovaginal candidiasis”. Basically, a yeasty gut correlates directly with having a yeasty vagina. So, eat your yogurt, kefir, fermented sauerkrauts and kimchi, and take a probiotic.
Diet: If you take away anything from this article, please let it be this: if you do not make diet modifications, your Woman Prickle will be harder to get rid of and it will most likely make a dreaded reappearance. So please, in conjunction with the home remedies listed above, adopt a sugar-free diet. Yeast feeds on sugar, so stay away from refined carbohydrates and simple sugars. It is also important to abstain from moldy or yeast-containing foods like cheese, alcohol, peanuts, and melons. Yes honey, put down that gin and tonic at least for now. Your ‘insert your personal favorite vagina euphemism here’ will thank you.
Bakker, E. (2013). Candida Crusher: Permanent Yeast Infection Solution. Havelock North, New Zealand. Bak to Health Ltd.
Blaser, M. (2014). Missing Microbes. New York City, NY. Henry Holt.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2014, Feb). Genital/ Vulvovaginal Candidiasis. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/Candidiasis/genital/
Mercola- Take Control of Your Health. (2008, Dec). How Yeast Can Create Havoc in Your Life and How to Address It. Retrieved from: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/12/02/how-yeast-can-create-havoc-in-your-life-and-how-to-address-it.aspx
Pizzorno, J, Murray, M., & Joiner- Bey, H. (2008). The Clinicians Handbook of Natural Medicine. St. Louis, MO. Churchill Livingstone.