Seventy percent of women will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection during their lives, and 40 percent will have more than one infection. Studies show that 45 percent of vaginal yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans or another species of Candida fungus. These fungi, or yeast, normally exist in the intestines and vagina in small numbers, but changes in the internal environment can cause them to proliferate, wreaking havoc on various body systems. The fungi produce hormone-like substances that resemble human hormones, and some types have their own hormone receptors. The immune system often produces antibodies against Candida, causing an allergic response to an organism that normally exists in our bodies.
Vaginal itching and irritation and cheesy white discharge with a distinct odor are common symptoms. Urination may be painful. The skin of the vulva may be raw and red. Often, symptoms worsen the week before menstruation.
Our bodies contain organisms that live in a delicate balance with one another, and Candida is normally held in check by “beneficial” bacteria in our bodies. When the beneficial bacteria become outnumbered, however, the stage is set for Candida overgrowth. Internal environmental changes can be caused by the use of antibiotics, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy and other steroid medications, drinking chlorinated water, stress, diabetes and poor nutrition with a diet high in sugar. Other contributing factors include multiple pregnancies, smoking and a weakened immune system.
*Pregnant women should consult their naturopathic doctor for treatment of Candida overgrowth.
HEALTH TIPS TO ENHANCE HEALING
The best protection from Candida is to enhance immune function. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, seven to ten half-cup servings daily. Legumes, fish, whole grains, nuts, seeds and their oils will provide your body with balanced nutrition. Avoid eating simple carbohydrates such as white bread, cake, cookies and chips, and too many citrus fruits that create an alkaline environment in the body and allow Candida to flourish.
If Candida is a reoccurring problem, switch to a diet that excludes all yeast and sugar (that means fruit, too). Any food that has been aged or fermented should also be eliminated, so no cheese, soy sauce, pickles, raw mushrooms, vinegar or alcohol, to name a few. Avoid gluten and eat millet, quinoa and brown rice instead.
Eat plenty of plain probiotic-rich (look for the words acidophilus or bifidus or bifidobacterium) yogurt to increase the good bacteria population in your intestines. Half a cup to one cup every day will ward off yeast infections and restore balance to the body. If you are taking antibiotics, always supplement with probiotics.
Choose organic dairy products to avoid hormones and xenoestrogens.
Drink at least eight to ten glasses of pure, filtered water daily. For every juice, caffeinated or alcoholic beverage you consume, have another glass of water.
Do not overeat; it suppresses the immune system.
Take one or two digestive enzymes before every meal. Do not drink fluids while eating or you will dilute your enzymes.
If you suspect you have low stomach acid because you have gas, bloating and digestive distress, take one capsule (600 mg) of hydrochloric acid before a large meal. If symptoms worsen, stop – you do not have low stomach acid. If you feel the same or better, increase your dosage by one capsule at your next meal. Keep increasing the dosage up to a maximum of seven capsules or until you feel warmth in your stomach. If you feel warmth, cut back to a dosage tolerated prior to the feeling. Use fewer capsules for smaller meals.
Start a diet diary and write down everything you eat and see if there is any correlation to your allergy symptoms. Ask for a referral to an allergy specialist and get tested for possible triggers. Some allergies may only be detected with the help of an ELISA test. Once you know what you are allergic to, avoid those allergens. Get tested for environmental allergens as well.
Wear loose, white cotton underwear instead of synthetic and leave the panty hose in the drawer. Change undergarments daily and wash them at high temperatures.
After going to the toilet, wipe front to back to avoid spreading the fungus back to the vagina.
Take baths instead of showers to ensure that the genital area is washed thoroughly. Make sure that you dry off very well.
Avoid taking oral contraceptives or steroid medications; they can alter your body’s environment to encourage yeast growth.
Although there is still the need for more research in this area, sexual transmission is being investigated for its role yeast infections. To be safe, use a condom during sex so you don’t infect your partner (who then infects you again).
Reduce your exposure to chemicals, perfumes, dyes, fragrances and scents. When fighting an infection, don’t use bubble bath, douches, perfumed toilet paper, deodorized tampons, etc. Soap should be natural as well.
Mercury toxicity can make the body vulnerable to yeast overgrowth. Have a hair, urine and blood analysis done to determine if it is a factor. If so, avoid exposure to mercury and have dental amalgams removed.
If you are having four or more vaginal yeast infections in a year, consult your physician or naturopath.
Not all infections in the vagina are yeast problems, so have sexually transmitted diseases ruled out.
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