Yeast live in the vagina all the time in small, harmless numbers. But when these fungi grow out of control, the resulting itchiness, burning, and redness are extremely uncomfortable. In some cases, a thick, white, odorless discharge, resembling cottage cheese, also appears. Lactobacillus bacteria (a healthy type) normally keep the vagina's pH and yeast levels in check. But the balance can be tipped by antibiotics, corticosteroids, uncontrolled diabetes, or raised estrogen levels from birth control or pregnancy. Yet, in many cases, there's no easily identified culprit for the pesty yeast infection. Here's what's new, what's natural, and what's tried-and-true in the battle to beat vaginal yeast infections.
While women often self-diagnose a vaginal yeast infection, in many cases, "they actually have bacterial vaginosis, which has similar symptoms but, unlike a yeast infection, needs to be treated with antibiotics," says Jennifer Reinhold, PharmD. Urinary tract infections also have overlapping symptoms (pain and burning, though not discharge), but they, too, require different medications. A home vaginal swab that measures pH levels, taken with an OTC test such as the Vagisil Screening Kit, can confirm a yeast infection diagnosis. But health experts recommend that women with complicating factors, such as pregnancy or recurrent infections, schedule a doctor visit.
Tea Tree Oil
The essential oil derived from tea tree leaves has been shown in several lab and animal studies to act as an antifungal against yeast. While more studies need to be done to prove the oil's efficacy, some women report that they get yeast infection relief from inserting a tampon doused in tea tree oil at night. Try this with caution, Cullen advises: "The vagina is very sensitive, so I would hesitate to put something that might be irritating in an already irritated environment." If you find this home remedy uncomfortable, discontinue it immediately.
Boric Acid Suppository
"For uncomplicated yeast infections, my top-shelf treatment is boric acid," says Cullen. The substance is a natural antifungal and antiseptic, and studies have shown that it inhibits the growth of Candida albicans, the strain of yeast behind most cases of the infection, as well as other kinds, such as Candida glabrata, an increasingly common cause of infection that tends to be more resistant to other treatments. The powder, an irritant, should never be applied directly; look for a suppository capsule that contains it, such as Vitanica Yeast Arrest (sold at health-food stores), and use for only 5 to 7 days.
Cotton Underwear (or none)
A warm, moist environment may push a yeasty infection colony into overdrive, so the age-old advice—wear cotton-lined underwear, avoid panty hose and tight jeans, and change out of wet swimsuits and gym clothes right away—still stands.
While the type of yeast that causes vaginal yeast infections as well as candida symptoms can be completely unharmful, at some point its levels can go high enough to take over our body’s “good bacteria” and cause a vaginal infection or worse.The good news is there are several natural steps you can take to get rid of a vaginal yeast infection for good. Vaginal yeast infections can be treated naturally at home with supplements, essential oils, a nutrient-rich diet and probiotics. Take a look at these home remedies that are recommended to prevent and/or treat this issue that too many women just can’t seem to shake.