Vaginal yeast infections are among the most common reasons women seek medical attention. Properly termed candidal vaginitis, the condition is caused by an overgrowth of a species of fungus called candida albicans in and around the genitals. (While men can and do have genital yeast infections, it is far more common and troublesome in women.) The classic symptoms of vaginal yeast infection include severe itching and burning, redness, swelling and a white discharge. While topical creams and ointments sometimes help, a more thorough program involving changes in diet and some of the following natural remedies is often necessary to address the problem.
The first line of defense against yeast overgrowth, probiotics such as lactobacillus acidophilus help maintain the proper balance of friendly bacteria in the vagina. Probiotics produce lactic acid, which acts as a natural antifungal shield against candida yeast. Eating plain yogurt or kefir with live acidophilus cultures may help to prevent vaginal yeast infection. However, to properly treat an existing condition, the higher doses available in capsules or powders are necessary. Some women find relief using a yogurt douche for a few days, or up to several weeks.
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Also known as GSE, grapefruit seed extract is a powerful, broad-spectrum inhibitor of mould, fungus, parasites, viruses and bacteria. It is widely used by health practitioners to treat vaginal yeast infection due to its long-term safety and effectiveness. In one study, 20 women with chronic vaginal itching responded well to GSE douches. GSE is also available in capsule form for oral use.
Research shows that garlic is more effective against candida yeast than many other anti-yeast agents, including the commonly prescribed drug nystatin. According to Dr Michael Murray, ND, a daily dose of garlic containing at least 10 mg of allicin (or one whole clove of fresh garlic) is necessary to properly treat the condition.
Other notable treatment options for vaginal yeast infection include olive leaf extract, pau d’arco, echinacea and the homeopathic remedies pulsatilla, sulphur and kali bichromium.
Risk factors for vaginal yeast infection:
• elevated vaginal pH
• gastrointestinal yeast
• oral contraceptives
• panty hose
NOTE: Some vaginal yeast infections are an extension of a more serious or chronic candida infection in the gastrointestinal tract. If you suspect a larger problem with a wider range of symptoms, consult a natural health care practitioner for treatment options.
Sources: Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (2nd Ed) by M Murray and J Pizzorno, Prima:1998; The Natural Pharmacy by S Lininger et al, Prima 1998; Dietary Supplement Information Bureau