Fighting Yeast Part I
While I know that this email topic won't be relevant to all of you, I have been noticing (and have noticed in the past) what an enormous percentage of women with VVS also struggle with yeast infections. And even those of you who don't get yeast infections often can attest to the need to have a solid plan of attack the moment you feel one coming on. So, that is precisely why this email is devoted to suggesting what to have in your "arsenal" in the chance that a yeast infection (or even just an overabundance) rears its ugly head.
It is still actively being debated whether yeast is a symptom or a cause (or both?) of VVS. However, I am not here to argue that particular point; mostly because, frankly, I don't know. What I am here to do is to acknowledge the fact that even minuscule amounts of yeast can cause major increases in pain levels for women with VVS (itching, burning, that dreaded raw feeling, and so on!). Because of this, I have compiled a list of the best (and usually easiest to implement) yeast treatments that I have come across so far.
I have decided to break this email up in 2 parts because there are so incredibly many different yeast remedies (very good news!). The first part will be devoted to yeast treatments that I have personally tried (they'll have more detail because of this). The second part will follow in several weeks and will consist of treatments that I have learned about through either talking to someone who has tried them and given me feedback or treatments that I have read about on forums, books, and websites.
And so with that, here's Part 1!
Note: I have, at one point or another, used all 10 of these treatments and many of them simultaneously as I do think that yeast requires a full on attack from several sources (they're stubborn like that). But just because you can, of course, doesn't mean that you should. What I did is I started with a couple of the treatments, gauged my body's reaction, and then added/took away treatments until I found the combination that worked best.
Now what I'm going to say next is difficult for me to say: yeast isn't something to really mess with so please consult a medical professional before you start treating yourself for it. The reason that it is hard for me to say that is because I have had an extremely difficult time proving that I have problems with yeast and this has caused me a great deal of distress. I certainly wouldn't wish this on anyone else. But I do think it is incredibly important, however, to be truly sure that it is NOT something else (other bacteria, STD, another disease) besides yeast. The distinction here is important. So please check with your doctor before starting any of these treatments.
Ok but with that,
1) Gynatren (Pink Label):
These are homeopathic vaginal suppositories that are a combination of boric acid and probiotics. I know that some women with VVS aren't able to tolerate boric acid suppositories but Gynatren has a much smaller dose of the boric acid than is traditionally used. Because of this, I have never experienced any irritation whatsoever (which, as you know, is a bit rare for me). I include this one first because this has been my favorite so far out of everything else I've tried.
I usually insert one at night "as needed"; because I am trying to really clear up the yeast once and for all, I actually used it each night for one whole month. After that though, I've cut down to once or twice a week. I follow a yeast diet (see below) but am not perfect with it; when I know that I ate something that can set me off (cake), I use a Gynatren that night. I also use it when I know that I am coming up to a part in my cycle where I usually have yeast (for example, I am nearing the end of my period now and will use one suppository tomorrow night just in case).
Here's the link: Gynatren
An alternative (cheaper and probably will require less "wait time"): small doses of Boric Acid in gel capsules. These are a DIY remedy but it works better than the prescription kind becuase you can control the dosage. That being said, I still think this is secondary to the Gynatren because it does not also have the probiotics that you get with Gynatren.
For information on how to make your own Boric Acid Suppositories, go to my case study.
2) Grapefruit Seed Extract
I put 10-15 drops of this in about 8 oz. of water about 2-3x a day and it really seems to help control the yeast. I have found that this is best used in conjunction with other yeast remedies (Gynatren) if you are actively struggling with yeast but works great by itself as a tool for staying yeast-free once you're in the clear. I usually increase my dosage if I am expecting to have yeast come up as a problem (around my period, if I exercised and couldn't get out of my work out clothes immediately afterward, etc.). Again, this is an easy remedy to keep up with.
Here's the link: Grapefruit Seed Extract.
This is a supplement I take orally (2 capsules, 2x a day). It is a whole combination of herbs such as garlic, grape seed extracts, and so on...all to combat yeast overgrowth in the body. Again, this is best used in combination with other treatments and remedies (such as a yeast diet; see below). Unfortunately, yeast can be a tough thing to truly get rid of but supplements such as these can be a big help in winning the battle.
Here is the link: CandidaStat
4) Can Albex 30X
This is a homeopathic remedy for yeast of which I use 10 drops, 2x a day (this is a liquid); this one was recommended to me by my naturopath and definitely seems to be helping to control the yeast. I'd like to cover homeopathics in a separate email so I won't go into specifics here on how it works just yet...coming soon! I will say though that dosage seems to be a tricky business with homeopathics so talk to your naturopath about this one.
Here is the brand that my naturopath recommended: Can Albex
4) Yeast Diet
The premise of this diet is to eliminate the foods that the yeast thrives on. This means eliminating refined sugars, carbohydrates, fermented foods, foods that often have mold growing on them (peanuts, mushrooms), a lot of dairy, and alcohol. Now, I know that this has worked incredibly well for many women; I, however, will warn you from personal experience that the diet is a hard one to follow since it eliminates so many foods that we often eat the most of (standard dinner: pasta, wine, dessert. All off limits.). But it is definitely doable and can make a big difference.
One quick change that I made (very easily, I'll add) is switching to yeast-free bread. Honestly, it tastes so delicious that you might not even notice that you've made a change at all.
This bread comment brings me to another important point: it does not have to be an all-or-nothing affair. Certainly cutting down on refined, high sugar foods will make a difference. Overly strict eating habits have killed more diets than a Klondike bar ever did!
In addition to the probiotics that can be found in Gynatren, I take oral probiotics which have really helped to regulate the flora in my body so that yeast can be controlled on all fronts. One tablet of a very good probiotic a day really makes a difference. I have found that taking this alone does not get the job done but using it allows other remedies to work much more easily and effectively.
Here's the one that my naturopath recommended and I have really liked: Probiotics.
6) Swabbing the vagina with yogurt
This is the do-it-yourself version of vaginal probiotics. While I prefer to use the ready-made ones (it is easier to get it in there) and have had the best results with them, this is a really good option for those times when my skin is feeling extremely sensitive. I've found that it can still work very well, especially if I use it together with the oral remedies!
Of course, it is important to get the plain kind with absolutely no added sugar so that you don't accidentally feed the yeast. And also, please be careful with inserting a large quantity deep into the vagina (swab is a good term to use for what is best to do) because you want to be cautious of starting a pelvic inflammatory disease issue.
7) Watch out for too much Estrogen
Instead of a what-to-use, this is a what-not-to-do: it's been found that an estrogen rich environment can trigger the growth of yeast. So you can either a) be very proactive against yeast if you are using an estrogen cream (diet, supplements, suppositories) or b) choose not to use an estrogen cream (there are usually alternative although it depends on what you are using the estrogen cream for...a naturopath is a good person to talk to about this) or c) find out if there is an alternative place you can rub the estrogen cream instead of on your vulvar area.
8) Baking Soda Soaks
By adding baking soda to a tubful of water, I have found that it can help eliminate yeast that grows on the skin. (This one is probably the most relevant for those of you who, like me, usually test negative for yeast but feel as though you have some. It could be just on the skin in which case it won't culture as you would expect.) I had the most luck with this remedy when I was doing it twice a day for 2 weeks in a row and then as needed after that. In addition to helping get rid of an active yeast infection, this seems to be a good remedy to use for maintenance.
I used this 1x a week for 5 weeks and am now using follow up doses once every month. Like most of these treatments, it works best when you use it together with the other remedies, especially the diet and the probiotics (as you can imagine, killing off the yeast is difficult when your body's environment is incredibly well suited for them to thrive). I have also found that it takes several days for the benefits to be felt so I always use it in conjunction with the Gynatren if I feel an active yeast infection starting.
10) Drinking Lots of Water
To be perfectly honest, I am not sure how to even explain this one but I have found that drinking a significant amount of water throughout the day seems to help control yeast. I don't have a lot of hard proof to back this one up; just personal experience and hearing the same from many other women with yeast problems. I drink well over the 8-glasses-a-day recommendation that you usually hear about; any less, and I seem to breed yeast.
So, that's it for Part I! I'll have Part II out in a couple weeks; in the meantime, I hope this gives you some places to start. If you have any suggestions for thing that have worked for you, please add them in the comments section!