There are very few adult women who haven’t experienced at least one vaginal infection or yeast infection. In fact they’re quite common, and many women will struggle through multiple bouts in their lifetimes.
For some women who are prone to them vaginal or yeast infections they can be a chronic struggle. Which is why there are also very few adult women who haven’t wondered in frustration, “How can I avoid yeast infections?”
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common type of vaginal infection, followed by yeast infections. The infections are most often caused by either a bacterial imbalance (too many bad bugs) or an overgrowth of Candida a fungal yeast.
If you’ve ever had to suffer through either BV or a yeast infection you can probably list the unpleasant symptoms in your sleep:
- unusual discharge,
- a strong, fish-like odor (especially after sex),
- burning during urination,
- itching around the outside of the vagina,
- and vaginal irritation.
Some of the most common yeast infection symptoms are symptoms of yeast infections are burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina and/or vulva, pain during urination, pain during sex, soreness, and a thick white discharge.1,2
Antibiotics destroy good bacteria along with the bad
Antibiotics and anti-fungal medications are some of the most common treatments for BV and yeast infections. While these might treat your infection, they can also cause some harm. The antibiotics and medicines can’t tell the difference between good and bad bugs so they actually kill off both in the vagina. And they don’t stop there, they also wipe out many of the beneficial bacteria in your gut too.
When antibiotics disrupt your intestinal flora it can lead to a weakened immune system, poor digestion, and is even sometimes linked to severe digestive disorders. To make matters worse, while you’re trying to cure your yeast infection of BV with an antibiotic you may also be raising your risk for a urinary tract infection or vaginal candidiasis. Without the beneficial bacteria to help keep things in balance, harmful bacteria and fungi can grow unchecked.3
The beneficial bacteria in probiotics could help
If you’re one of the many women who have found yourself at your wits’ end wondering “How can I avoid yeast infections?” it turns out probiotics could be the answer.
Since bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections are often caused by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the vagina, the key is to support your vaginal flora with beneficial bacteria like the kind you can find in probiotic foods and supplements.
And in fact studies have shown that if you take probiotics along with your antibiotics you’ll get far better results.4 Probiotic supplements containing the Lactobacillus bacteria (a good bacteria) have been shown to be especially helpful for encouraging a balanced vaginal environment.5 They do this by keeping your vaginal environment more acidic which helps promote a favorable balance.9
Of course, that’s not everything probiotics can do for a woman’s body.
Good gut bugs can help a woman stay healthy
The vital importance of probiotics in women’s health is becoming clearer every day. In addition to supporting a healthier vagina and urinary tract, probiotics also support digestion.6 For example, irritable bowel syndrome is more common in women,7 but probiotics have been proven to help ease the discomfort of the condition for some women dealing with this condition.8
Women who take in probiotics regularly (whether through diet or supplements) and eat alkaline foods significantly increase their chances of normal, vaginal balance.10
If you’re looking to add probiotics to your diet, a few of the best options include:
- Yogurt with live, active strains (look specifically for live strains)
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh and pickles
- Miso soup
So next time you find yourself on an antibiotic don’t forget to bump up your probiotic intake. It turns out they may be able to help you avoid another yeast infection or bout of BV (as well as having to ever ask the question “How can I avoid yeast infections?” again).
1.“Bacterial Vaginosis.”Office of Women’s Health, Department of Health and Human Services, last updated May 26, 2015.
2. “Vaginal Yeast Infection.” Office of Women’s Health, Department of Health and Human Services, last updated January 6, 2015.
3. Kurowski K1, Ghosh R, Singh SK, Beaman KD. Clarithromycin-induced alterations in vaginal flora. Am J Ther. 2000 Sep;7(5):291-5.
4. Pendharkar S1, Brandsborg E2, Hammarström L3, Marcotte H4, Larsson PG5.Vaginal colonisation by probiotic lactobacilli and clinical outcome in women conventionally treated for bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection. BMC Infect Dis. 2015 Jul 3;15:255.
5. Cribby S, Taylor M, Reid G. Vaginal Microbiota and the Use of Probiotics. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Infectious Diseases. 2008
6. Harvard Medical School. “Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics”. Harvard Health Publications, last updated December 1, 2015.
7. Lee SY, Kim JH, Sung IK, Park HS, Jin CJ, Choe WH, Kwon SY, Lee CH, Choi KW.Irritable Bowel Syndrome Is More Common in Women Regardless of the Menstrual Phase: A Rome II-based Survey. J Korean Med Sci. 2007 Oct; 22(5): 851–854. Published online 2007 Oct 31. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2007.22.5.851.
8. Aragon G, MD, Graham DB, MD, Borum M, MD, EdD, MPH, Doman DB, MD, FACP, FACG. Probiotic Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2010 Jan; 6(1): 39–44.
9. Waigankar SS, Patel V. Role of Probiotics in Urogenital Healthcare. J Midlife Health. 2011 Jan-Jun; 2(1): 5–10.
10. Lactobacillus. Medline Plus, last reviewed February 15, 2015.
Dr. Edward F. Group III has his Naturopathic Doctorate, Clinical Herbalist, Holistic Health Practitioner, Clinical Nutritionist certifications, and is a Diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition and the American Board of Functional Medicine. He founded Global Healing Center Inc. in 1998 which has earned recognition as one of the largest alternative, natural and organic health resources on the Internet.
A dynamic author and speaker, Dr. Group focuses solely on spreading the message of health and wellness to the global community with the philosophy of full body cleansing, most importantly colon cleansing, consuming pure clean organic food, water, air, exercise and nutritional supplementation. Visit GlobalHealingCenter.com to learn more about living green and healthy!
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