by Dr. Heather Herington, ND, DHANP
Ah, Candida albicans, the little critters. The bane of a woman’s (and a man’s) sex life. As good a reason for not having sex as the proverbial headache.
These one-celled yeasts, as many women can attest, cause an irritating vaginal discharge accompanied by redness and swelling that can result in an almost unbearable itching. (For some women this clear or cheesy discharge is merely annoying.) And yet candida (albicans and relatives) are normal inhabitants of a healthy vagina. It’s their home; we can’t evict them, and we wouldn’t want to.
What we can do is make candida happy to live in a small (therefore beneficial) colony. Fortunately, yeasts are usually agreeable to population constraints. This lets them settle down to be good neighbours to other normal inhabitants of a healthy vagina such as Lactobacilli, a bacteria that does an excellent job in keeping the vagina in its normal state of acidity.
Keep in mind that yeast lives in harmony with other organisms until their environment is disrupted. When this happens, the vagina, being warm and moist and susceptible to a changing pH, becomes an ideal breeding ground for population overgrowth.
Lactobacilli thrive in an acidic vagina. When this changes due to drugs, diet or emotional upset, the stage is set for candida to multiply out of control and create an irritating discharge.
Almost every woman has a yeast infection at least once in her life. The most common reason why the vaginal ecosystem goes awry is the use of antibiotics, birth control pills or other allopathic medications. These kill off the good bacteria as well as the bad. Other factors include a weakened immune system, increases in blood sugar levels (from poor diet, increased sugar intake, uncontrolled diabetes, pregnancy), emotional stress, hormonal changes, metal toxicity, chronic vulvar dampness, excessive douching, wearing tight-fitting or synthetic underwear and soaking in hot tubs.
Candida overgrowth can also result from stressful or repeated intercourse over a short period of time. A healthy vagina needs an environmentally friendly pH of 4 to 4.5. Yeast overgrowth begins at 5.5, and irritation is noted as the pH climbs. The pH of semen is 9, and one session of intercourse can increase pH for eight hours.
Times in a woman’s life and monthly cycle can increase the possibility of a yeast infection. During menopause, as estrogen and progesterone diminish, vaginal secretions naturally become less acidic and therefore can lead to yeast overgrowth. Before and during menses, when mucosal immunity is lowest, a woman can become more vulnerable to infection. This time also produces an increased sensitivity to blood sugar levels.
Treatment for yeast infections focuses on curbing the overgrowth of yeast and on creating a healthy home. To do this, first nourish the good bacteria by eating well. Keep your blood sugar levels stable by avoiding sugar, alcohol, refined or junk food, bread and high-glycemic carbohydrates such as potatoes or fruit.
Instead, eat lots of coloured vegetables to let their phytochemicals build up your immune system, and eat legumes and beans for protein and fibre. You may also want to carry around a mix of almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds to make sure you have something to eat every three hours. Drink lots of purified water.
Sometimes all the treatment that is needed is to eat well, be emotionally clear and take a few drops of grapefruit extract (in water by mouth a few times a day.)
Call in the Controls
Insert two acidophilus (a variety of Lactobacillus) capsules every day or every other day for two weeks. Insert as far up as you can until you touch your cervix, which feels like the end of your nose.
At night, for a few nights, vaginally insert two or three tablespoons of plain yogurt (one high in good bacteria-read the label).
Try a douche of apple cider vinegar - four tablespoons in a quart of warm water daily for two weeks. Or use tea tree oil - two to three drops in a tablespoon of yogurt and soak in tampon. Insert for seven nights.
If the infection is stubborn, use boric acid–600 milligrams in size 00 capsules (the pharmacist will do this for you). Insert one high up in vagina every day for two weeks.
If these treatments don’t work, you may have a mild bacterial infection that is creating an alkaline environment. Insert a clove of garlic (caution: peel garlic carefully. If ultra-sensitive, pierce clove with skin intact; otherwise, grease clove and insert). Insert clove before bed for five to 10 nights.
To increase your immune system, take echinacea, ginseng or goldenseal. Drink nettle tea (for increased lymph flow). Eat lots of fibre (for good bacteria) and garlic (inhibits all bad micro-organisms), along with cranberries and blueberries (for arbutin content). Yogurt or pau d’arco (beta-lapachone) salve can be applied to relieve irritation.
Avoid intercourse. Yeast infections are easily passed back and forth between partners. Make sure you say no to sex when you want to.
Don’t neglect your body and then let it speak for you. Instead feed yourself well, and take time to listen to deeper needs. To be driven to madness by yeast is a lousy way to start or finish a day.
Rosemary Gladstar’s yoni powder is a medicinal talc that can be sprinkled to keep the vulvar and vaginal area dry.
1 cup (250 ml) fine clay
1/2 cup (125 ml) cornstarch
2 Tbsp (30 ml) black walnut powder
2 Tbsp (30 ml) myrrh powder
1 Tbsp (30 ml) goldenseal root
powder (organically cultivated)
1-2 drops tea tree oil (optional)
Combine all the ingredients and mix together using a wire whisk. Spoon some into a jar with a shaker top for easy application. Store the remainder in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.