Vaginal Health Series: Yeast Infections

women's health May 07, 2021

Let's chat vaginal health! The most common vaginal infections we treat in clinic are yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. In practice we find there to be too much shame and secrecy around our vaginal health, and more often than not we feel women are embarrassed or withhold information that may be concerning them. We are here to say these things are COMMON and they need to be treated appropriately. Knowledge is power, there are answers, so don’t be afraid to ask your health care practitioner!

HOW COMMON ARE THEY? Vaginal concerns are something we see frequently in the clinic. They are uncomfortable, confusing and frustrating if you are unsure of what you are dealing with. This is because sometimes they can present with little to no symptoms, or they can recur even after having used conventional treatments such as antibiotics and anti-fungals like canestan. They can be difficult to treat because sometimes risk factors are circumstances that can be difficult to adjust - think of a hot yoga teacher converting to primarily cotton work clothing.

HOW DO ND'S APPROACH TREATMENT? We work with patients to help them understand the root cause of their concerns and treat them internally to prevent recurrence. We also provide natural alternatives to managing flares without having to use antibiotics or anti-fungals and these can increase the risk of the infection returning.

Y E A S T  I N F E C T I O N  1 0 1: Yeast infections are the result of an overgrowth of a fungal organism called candida albicans. Candida albicans is a naturally occurring organism in our body. It exists in our gut, our skin and our vaginal canal. However, when this yeast overgrows it disrupts our natural flora and manifests in uncomfortable symptoms. Vaginally, it presents with pain, itching and redness of the canal. Depending on the severity of the infection it can cause micro tearing or fissures, both of which contribute to increased pain and are worsened with intercourse. Vaginal discharge changes often present as white, thick and sometimes resembles cottage cheese. It is often odor-less, but can sometimes have a smell similar to bread (yeast).

*Province Apothecary Sex Oil is an amazing treatment to heal and reduce pain from fissures. Coconut oil and Vitamin E nourish and heal the mucosal cells of the vaginal canal to speed up healing and reduce pain.

R I S K  F A C T O R S: Risk factors are elements of your life that act as contributing factors to developing any health concern, they can be related to diet, lifestyle, hormone balance, and more. Some common risk factors in developing yeast infections are: 

  • Antibiotic Use - this damages and disrupts natural gut and vaginal flora, leaving an imbalanced environment where fungi and bacteria can overgrow.
  • Birth Control Pills and Contraception with Synthetic Estrogen (Nuva Ring and Hormone Replacement Therapy)
  • Pregnancy and Menopause - hormonal impact of less estrogen causes dryness which allows yeast to overgrow.
  • Sexual Activity - can be transmitted between partners, which increases risk of re-infection.

U N D E R L Y I N G  C A U S E S:

Hormonal Imbalance - estrogen is protective to the vaginal canal and requires balance to maintain a healthy vaginal flora and prevent infection. Having balanced estrogen levels is key to preventing re-occurrence of infection. Treatment for hormone balance will vary with every patient, but always and important piece of the puzzle.

  • What INCREASES estrogen? hormonal contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy and pregnancy.

  • What DECREASES estrogen? menopause.

Chronic Blood Sugar Disregulation - changes in blood sugar metabolism or due to diabetes, poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and pregnancy increase risk of yeast infections. Yeast feeds primarily on glucose, so increased blood sugar and issues with metabolizing it provide more glucose to sustain yeast overgrowth. This is addressed using diet and exercise to optimize sugar metabolism in the blood

Immune Suppression or Insufficiency - our immune systems need to be functioning optimally to help fight yeast overgrowth and maintain a healthy gut flora. Auto-immune disease, chronic stress, burnout or anxiety, nutrient deficiencies and poor sleep quality are all large contributors to immune suppression.

  • IV nutrient therapy to boost and increase immune function is used to clear and prevent infection. This is paired closely with managing the root cause of immune suppression - stress/burnout, anxiety, poor sleep, and so on.

Poor hygiene - not always in the typical sense of “being dirty”. Hygiene refers to exposure to the genital and vaginal environment. Excess heat and moisture to the vaginal canal and genital area can help promote growth of yeast and disrupt our natural vaginal flora.

Chronic Vaginal dysbiosis* - Dysbiosis can occur for various reasons, synthetic estrogens (birth control and Hormone replacement therapy), antibiotic exposure and stress are all contributing factors. Ultimately vaginal dysbiosis begins in the gut and therefore any stress related damage to the gut (chronic stress, work burn out, anxiety, continued exposure to processed foods and sugar etc) will contribute to vaginal health. Continued use and exposure to antibiotics reduces the gut’s capacity to build a healthy microflora, which inevitably leads to worsened gut dysbiosis.

  • Dysbiosis is treated internally with a strong food based probiotic for 3-6 months and dietary modifications if allergies exist.
  • We use a cultured coconut product as it is a live bacteria and clinically we have seen the best results.
  • Vaginally we would use a probiotic specific to addressing the bacteria balance to clear the infection. This can range from a ten day protocol to 1 month. Depending on the severity of the infection.
  • *Dysbiosis is defined as an imbalance of the good bacteria to bad bacteria in the gut. We have millions of naturally occurring bacteria in the gut, that when functioning optimally are most populated by good bacteria. When we have dysbiosis the bad bacteria are able to overpopulate the good and cause downstream issues like candida, inflammation, mood concerns and reduced immunity.

P R E V E N T I O N: Here are some tips to help prevent yeast infections and their recurrence!

  • After a work out, change + put on dry clothing! Especially if you're already prone to getting yeast infections. The same is true for bathing suits post beach or swim, changing can help mitigate risk of infection occurring.
  • If you are not working out, are at work, or doing a lot of walking around during the day, bring an extra pair of underwear in your bag and change mid-day to keep the environment fresh!
  • Try wearing cotton underwear and reducing materials such as spandex, lycra and polyester.
  • Wiping front to back to avoid bacteria from the rectum coming in contact with the vaginal canal.
  • Avoid using douches, vinegar, or steaming. The vagina doesn’t need “cleaning” because it does a very good job of self-cleaning + will regulate itself! If you are cleaning because of an abnormal odour/discharge, we encourage you to see a physician to be sure you're not covering smell of an actual infection that needs treatment!
  • Overall a big culprit is sweaty, moist underwear as it can lead to an environment that encourages yeast growth because yeast loves dark + moist environments to thrive!

If you experience recurrent yeast infections, or want to take action in preventing them for good, book today!

M O N C T O N : [email protected] // (506) 830-8333 // Click Here to Contact Moncton

C H A R L O T T E T O W N : [email protected] // (902) 367-5300 // Click Here to Contact Charlottetown

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