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We’ve heard a million times about bacterial, fungal, and viral infections, haven’t we? They appear ugly and feel painful. Vaginal thrush is no different. No wonder microbes are unanimously hated, and we do everything we can to destroy their existence. But just to look at it from a different viewpoint, have you ever realized that the microorganisms in your body actually do a whole lot of good to you and the fact that you technically can’t exist in harmony without their existence? They form a sort of symphony on and in the body.
It is when this symphony goes off-scale that the problem arises. Let us discuss today which microorganism causes vaginal thrush, what its causes are, and what can be done to make your body a ground for microbial symphony and not microbial infection!
What Is Vaginal Thrush?
As I said, infections usually happen when there is an uncontrolled increase in the rate at with they grow and spread. In this case of vaginal thrush, the fungal species Candida albicans is predominantly responsible. This yeast is present in all our bodies, but when it comes to vaginal thrush, otherwise termed as Candidiasis, they outnumber the usual proportions.
Symptoms Of Vaginal Thrush
- The most prominent and uncomfortable of all symptoms is itch and burning sensation in the vulvovaginal region.
- Apart from pain, you might observe unusually foul smelling urine.
- There could also be a vaginal discharge that looks white and milky and resembles cottage cheese.
- The inflamed skin might have redness and lesions in severe cases.
- You might also find it painful while urinating or during intercourse.
What Are The Causes Of Vaginal Thrush?
- Perineal Spread-The small space between the anus and your vagina is called the Candida exists here in most women. However, when you clean your anus after urinating or having sex, these Candida enter the vagina and this spread is one of the most common causes for you to catch a yeast infection in the vagina. It is important to remember that several Candida species live in the genital area; however, only Candida albicans causes the itch, inflammation, and other vaginal thrush symptoms.
- Hormonal Changes – Women are unlikely to have a yeast infection in their girl parts before hitting puberty and after crossing the menstrual stage. Plus, they are more likely to have one when their menstrual cycles are round the corner. This suggests that ‘certain’female hormones make you more vulnerable to the infection. Precisely, it is estrogen – it enables Candida to alter its physical structure toaid in its infection installation.
- Medication – Antibiotics and birth control pills are the two main medications that make you more prone to a yeast infection. When you are on antibiotics for a long time, they kill even the beneficial bacteria in your body, which disrupts the gut flora. Yeast population increases drastically when the friendly bacteria reduce in number. In addition, birth control pills increase estrogen in the body, which again makes it conducive for Candida albicans to thrive in your vagina.
- Improper Underwear – Synthetic panties might make you look chic and sexy, sure! But this undeniably increases the risk of a yeast infection. Synthetic fibre is inefficient when it comes to absorbing moisture. It is natural that your genitals are constantly wet. When your lingerie doesn’t absorb this, it remains moist for long hours, allowing it to become a breeding ground for the fungi. Also, wearing tight underpants is another practice that will lead to similar repercussions.
- Diabetes/Excessive Sugar Consumption –Increased sugar levels in urine could be one of the possible causes of recurrent thrush. Candida feeds on sugary substances. This is one of the reasons yeast is always added to sugar solution to activate it while using it for culinary purposes. However, in this case, you wouldn’t want to ‘activate’ the yeast further.
- Chemical Vaginal Products – Most vaginal products available in the market like vaginal washes, sprays, creams and tightening productsact like irritants on the sensitive skin down there. These products inflame the walls and decrease the immunity of that area to fight an infection. This is why, the more products you use the more susceptible you are to a fungal infection.
- Increased Alcohol Consumption –Funnilyenough, the yeast in the vagina is painful, but the yeast in your bottle gives you pleasure! However, that was to remind you that alcohol brewing includes yeast as one of the major ingredients. Increased consumption is not only going to increase the risk of an infection, but is also going to throw the beneficial bacterial number out of whack. This leads to a major imbalance in microbes all along the gut right up to your vagina.
How To Prevent Recurrent Vaginal Thrush
- Always clean your anus from front to back to avoid pushing Candida into the vagina.
- If you find your thrush to be recurring during the menstrual cycles, ask your doctor if it could be signalling an underlying hormonal imbalance. Try to address the root cause simultaneously.
- Limit popping too many antibiotics. However, if you can’t avoid them, make sure you eat lots of probiotic foods to increase the population of healthy bacteria. To avoid a thrush, see to it that you include foods rich in Lactobacillus bacteria, like yogurt.
- If your oral contraceptive pill is causing the infection every now and then, report this to your gynaecologist and ask for alternative pills if that is feasible.
- Always wear clean breathable cotton panties and avoid using panty liners too much. They irritate the skin and make it vulnerable to an infection. Plus, it locks the moisture, allowing further Candida overgrowth. In fact, it is best to go commando whenever you can!
- Limit your consumption of simple sugars, flour, sweetened carbonated drinks, and fruits that are high in fructose.
- Keep your blood sugar levels in control with timely supervision
- Refrain from using too many chemical laden vaginal products. Your lady parts are better left alone – they are self-cleansing organs that require minimum attention; just a mild soap and lukewarm water.
- Limit your alcohol intake, specifically during the infection.
How To Cure A Yeast Infection At Home
While prevention is always better, if you have managed to get yourself a Candida albicans infection, it is still not late. Here are some natural remedies to cure thrush at home! Try them but definitely visit your physician if the problem persists or increases beyond tolerance levels because these remedies are not substitutes, in any way, for medical vaginal thrush treatment.
1. Make Yourself A Natural Vaginal Wash
- Aloe Vera Wash
Extract Aloe gel from the plant and add 1 tablespoon of it to 1 cup of fresh filtered water. You could use this as a natural alternative for chemical-filled vaginal washes.
This mucilaginous plant has been garnering quite a bit of attention for treating different kinds of infections in the body. As of now, research says that certain components of aloe increase the number and enhance the functioning of macrophages. When there is an infection in the body, as a part of the defence mechanism, your body’s immune system produces more macrophages. They help in destroying infected cells.
Aloe, being a cell proliferent immediately acts on producing new and healthy cells hastening the process of healing. That’s how Aloe helps you ward off infections, especially yeast infections like Candida. Adding to it, Aloe is also an antipuritic and helps relieve itching instantly.
- Neem Vaginal Wash
Neem’s antifungal properties are harnessed to its maximum in India. Research says that Indians have used every part of the Neem tree, including its leaves, seeds, roots, bark, and of course flowers. Every part of the Neem tree has the antimicrobial and disease fighting capacity, which makes it a powerful treatment for thrush.
Collect some Neem leaves straight from the tree and wash them under running water. Add them all in a cup of boiling water. Once the leaves starting leaving traces of their colour, the water begins to acquire a greenish-yellow tinge. This is an indication that your concoction is ready. Take it off the heat, strain the leaves, and store the liquid in a bottle. You could use this liquid as a vaginal rinse or a spray. Use it twice or thrice a day to get rid of the thrush quickly.
- Apple Cider Vinegar Wash
Although douching with vinegar is usually not considered a very healthy habit, using Apple Cider Vinegar for yeast infection is a completely different ball game and is something you should consider using for quick relief from vaginal thrush.
Begin with choosing the right kind of Apple Cider Vinegar. Confused? Fret not, I will walk you through the selection process of the ‘right kind of Apple Cider Vinegar.’When apples are fermented carefully, ACV is formed. For culinary purposes, ACV is pasteurized and refined. In this process, the culture of bacterial strands is filtered off.
However, for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, holistic healers claim that it is these strands that actually contribute to the healing. ACV that is not refined and filtered with all the bacterial strands forming sediment in the bottom of the bottle is called the Apple Cider Vinegar with the mother. So, pick that bottle which has the sediments and looks dark and murky in colour.
These good bacteria in ACV are going to balance the microbiome of your vagina. This helps in killing the yeast quickly. Take a glass of warm water and mix 2 tablespoons of ACV with the mother. Mix well and rinse your vagina twice a day. ACV also has wound healing properties which will soothe the itch and soreness of the vaginal walls.
- Salt Wash
Salt has an inhibitory effect on the fungi colonizing your lady parts. The saline environment is not favourable for their survival, and hence they die out eventually. However, use a purer form of salt which is non-iodized and not treated. Avoid using table salt. Rather, replace it with the sea salt or Himalayan rock salt. They are replete with minerals from the sea. These salts not only help in relieving you of the infection but also have a soothing effect on the inflamed vaginal walls.
Mix 1 tablespoon of sea salt or pink salt (Himalayan rock salt) in a glass of hot water. Stir well until the salt dissolves. Pour the solution in a spray bottle to spray it over the vagina or use it as a rinse.
An alternative is that you could prepare a salt sole. This is prepared by super saturating a glass of water with either of the salts. When left overnight, the salt settles down in the container and forms a layer in the bottom. Store this saturated solution in a clean place. Make sure you don’t shake or stir the bottle and allow the sediment to remain undisturbed in the bottom. Now take 1 tablespoon of this solution, mix it in hot water and your salt wash for vaginal thrush is ready!
- Green Tea Wash
Laden with anti-oxidants and fungicidal properties, green tea is another must-try home remedy for vaginal thrush. The catechins and tannins in green tea are primarily responsible for the antimicrobial action and astringent effects.
You could make a green tea vaginal wash just like you brew green tea. You could either use the tea leaves or also a green tea bag. Rinse your vagina with the tea twice a day. However, you could also use the remaining tea bags or the residue of green tea leaves too! Refrigerate them and place it on the vaginal walls. This will relieve the itch and inflammation. Be careful not to go too deep when it comes to application of the green tea leaf residue!
2. Olive Leaf Extracts
Olive leaves serve several medicinal purposes like reducing inflammation, inhibiting the growth of microbes like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Plus, it is an efficient antioxidant and immunity boosting substance. However, latest research on Olive leaves with a special focus on its fungicidal properties gives us insights on the mechanism of its action. As of now, two constituents of Olive leaves, hydroxytyrosol and oluropein have been isolated and proven as potential fungicides. They attack the yeast by breaking its cell wall. The effect can be seen really quickly, which makes it one of the best home remedies for vaginal thrush.
Olive leaves are available in multiple forms – pills, teas, and even tinctures. However, the most effective treatment is taking the pills. They go deep into the gut and heal wherever Candida exists, not just in the vagina but also high up in the gut. Plus, they are much more concentrated than tea and tincture. However, if you want a milder remedy for maintenance or any other reason you could consume the tea or even tincture.
There are a number of ways you could use Calendula (Pot Marigold) for treating vaginal fungal infection. One way of using it is the readymade creams available in the market. However, if you have access to the tree, you can brew Calendula tea by boiling the flowers in hot water. If you wish to topically apply Calendula, you can add a spoonful of dried flowers in any mild oil and use the infused oil to apply directly on the vaginal skin.
Calendula is a strong fungicidal and has been scientifically proven to have abilities to kill Candida for good. The main species that cause the infection is Candida albicans. However, when tested, Calendula proved to be effective in killing several other Candida species that invade various parts of our gut. In fact, the efficiency of Calendula in killing the fungus was found to be equivalent to the power of an OTC antifungal called Fluconazole. Remember to do a patch test if you’ve decided upon direct application on the skin. Rinse immediately if you find any increase in the symptoms.
4. Witch Hazel
Simply by restoring the natural pH levels of your vagina, Witch Hazel cures the itch and other symptoms of vaginal thrush. Since it helps in the restoration of the vaginal pH, it proves to be one of the best treatments for recurrent thrush. The high tannin content of this herb makes it a powerful astringent. It gives you immediate relief from inflammation by soothing the skin in the vagina and also the mucous membranes. Get yourself a pure form of Witch Hazel, for many commercial brands distil the product and in the process a lot of tannins are lost. Dip a clean ball of cotton in the solution and apply it gently on cleaned vaginal surface.
5. Clove Essential Oil
Cloves contain eugenol – an efficient fungicidal. Research says that it has the ability to kill most of the fungal species, specifically those that thrive in the vagina, causing all sorts of problems like vaginal thrush, vaginitis, and more. Use carrier oils like Coconut or jojoba oil and dilute the clove essential oil since the undiluted one is too concentrated and strong for the vaginal skin. Direct application is one way of using the essential oil. You could alternatively try inserting a clove essential oil-dipped tampon. However, make it a point NOT to forget changing the tampon every 15 hours.
6. Coconut Oil
One of the mildest yet most effective remedies is to use Coconut oil for yeast infection. The antibacterial activity of Coconut oil has gained a lot of attention, but it has fungicidal properties too. With repeated drug use for inhibiting fungal overgrowth, a lot of species continue to become resistant to the antifungal activity. This is when natural remedies like Coconut oil prove to be much more effective and safe at the same time. Coconut oil shows its antifungal activity even on drug-resistant fungal species.
Do yourself a huge favour and keep a really big bottle of virgin Coconut oil because there are endless healing properties of Coconut oil that you can take advantage of. Just apply the oil on the infected place and leave it to work wonders. You could also consider the consumption of Coconut oil as this would penetrate deeper into the gut removing Candida even from there rather than just the vagina.
After the rampant spread of awareness among women that garlic has antifungal properties, thanks to holistic practitioners who are trying to revive the traditional practices of healing naturally, its use for fungal infections like toenail fungus have drastically increased. However, this usage extended to curb fungal infections in other parts of the body including the vagina. This was why inserting slightly crushed garlic clove in the vagina had become apopular practice. This can be done by sewing a thread into the garlic and insert it the way you would do with a tampon.
However, this is not a very comfortable or a welcoming thing for all women. In fact, while many women find it beneficial, this crude method of treating is considered a not-so-appropriate way. This is why consider crushing few cloves of garlic and immediately consume it every day until the infection subsides.
The biologically active compound allicin present in garlic is the main component that is said to reduce the virulence of the yeast. Since allicin is an unstable compound, it is suggested that you eat the garlic cloves immediately after crushing, which activates the compound.
8. Teat Tree Oil
Think of any infection and Teat Tree seems to be an answer for it. It heals a ton of skin issues and now you could use this for your vaginal thrush as well. Eugenol and other components of Teat Tree oil alter the morphology of Candida cells. It directly changes the natural make-up of the cell membranes of Candida. Plus, it also inhibits the respiration by attacking the mitochondria of Candida cells. This is what makes Teat Tree Oil one of the most effective natural remedies to cure thrush.
Dilute Teat Tree Oil in water in a 1:20 ratio first. Dip a clean cloth in the solution and place this cloth over your vagina such that the cloth is in direct contact with your insides. Another method to ensure the oil is reaching the right place is to dip a tampon in the solution and inserting it inside. You can also use this oil is by soaking up your body, especially from hips down in a bathtub filled with lukewarm water. Add no more than 10 drops to the water. If you feel the intensity is too much, regulate the dosage accordingly. Start with few drops and increase only when necessary.
The best part of herbs is that most of them are usually safe for both external application and oral consumption. At least, that is the case with Chamomile. For controlling Candida overgrowth, Roman Chamomile was proved to be more beneficial than German Chamomile. So, brew a cup of the tea and then decide if you want to drink it or rinse your vagina with it or spray some from time to time. Of course, you could also decide on doing all of them. Of all the healing properties of Chamomile what you would be interested in knowing is obviously is that it is anti-inflammatory and fungicidal in nature. Have I used the word antifungal and anti-inflammatory thousand times by now? That is Nature’s abundance!
10. Colloidal Oatmeal
If you’ve had enough with the itch and are looking for immediate relief, indulge in an Oatmeal bath. Colloidal Oatmeal works as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the production of those chemical substances in the body that cause the sensation of pain. Plus, the proteins, flavonoids, and polysaccharides in oatmeal contribute to the anti-inflammatory effect to rid you of the itch that comes from vaginal thrush.
There are two things you could do – one, mix approximately 3 cups of Colloidal Oats in your bathtub filled with lukewarm water. Soak your body in the water or sit with your body immersed until the hips with legs wide apart. This will work wonders in reducing the redness and itch in your vagina. If this is too much of a process and there’s something easy you want to do, just apply a paste of this colloidal oatmeal on your vagina and rinse with lukewarm water after 20 minutes.
Although you can buy readymade colloidal oatmeal, let me tell you that it is very easy to make at home. Just make an ultra-fine powder of unflavoured rolled oats in a food processor. By doing so, it dissolves better in water. Plus, it doesn’t settle down in the bottom and remains homogenously dissolved in water, giving it a milky appearance and consistency. Apart from the fact that it is anti-inflammatory, it also makes your skin unbelievably soft.
One of the most commonly found products in most Indian houses is Camphor. It is a popular remedy used among Indians as a remedy for infections. Camphor not only proves to have antifungal properties but is also an antipuritic that helps in reduction of itch and pain. Camphor is toxic and lethal when used in high dosage. However, in appropriate doses, it is a medicine that can efficiently treat Candida infections.
Carefully dilute Camphor oil in Coconut oil and apply it in the vagina to reap the benefits of this oil. By doing so, the Camphor oil will eradicate the growth of fungi by inhibiting the microorganism’s biofilm activity. That means the fungi’s ability to stick to the vaginal walls drastically reduces.
Ever wondered why Indian women have Turmeric paste smudged all over their feet? That is because women constantly work in moist surroundings while doing household chores. With persistent moisture in the feet, there are higher chances of catching a fungal infection. The Turmeric paste would form a barrier and its infection-fighting capacity would keep all infections at bay! This is also why a teaspoon of it goes into almost every dish Indians make.
You can exploit these very properties to your benefit, specifically as a recurrent thrush treatment. Applying a thin film of Turmeric paste on your vagina will control the overgrowth quickly and the anti-inflammatory properties will help you with the itch and redness. The ingredient Curcumin is responsible for inhibiting the growth by acidifying the cells of Candida, thereby leading to their death. Curcumin also reduces the biofilm production and drastically decreases the adhesive power of Candida.
Honey has an antimicrobial property, which is why it is in use to treat infections since ages. The constituents of unprocessed raw honey have the ability to inhibit microbes because an enzyme called glucose oxidase produces hydrogen peroxide which is responsible for stopping Candida overgrowth. Apply generous amounts of raw honey on the vaginal skin, allow it to sit for a while and rinse with water after 10 minutes. You could also mix raw honey in cool yogurt and apply topically. By mixing it with yogurt, you enhance the consistency – it is less sticky and more manageable. Plus, yogurt is an excellent probiotic and helps in increasing the population of beneficial bacteria in your vagina.
14. Oil of Oregano
Most natural herbs that have antiseptic properties invariably have more than one component in them that synergistically contribute to the overall anti-infective property. Oregano oil is no exception. It is full of flavonoids, and the substances thymol and carvacrol are the most effective against Candida, specifically the species Candida albicans.
You can make your own Oregano pills by filling the oil in capsules and taking them orally or applying a coat of Oregano oil (mixed with base oils like Coconut or Olive) on the vaginal skin. The skin down there is very susceptible and relatively more sensitive, which is why you should dilute the oil. Also, always start with a patch test to ensure you have no allergy issues with the oil before applying it to the affected area.
Just A Word Before Winding Up!
- Although thrush occurs more rampantly in women, it is possible even for men to have yeast infections in their genitals. All the above mentioned home remedies can be used by both men and women. However, when it comes to topical application of any ingredient, men should carefully apply it around their penal region.
- Another thing to remember is that a vaginal thrush is not contagious unlike STDs. A partner can’t catch the infection from another during vaginal or anal sex.
Vaginas do so much for you, women! They go through a lot each month and this is the least you could do in return – spare them an infection by preventing it as far as possible, keeping the area clean, and providing the necessary solace even if it happens to get infected after all those efforts. That is all it takes for that microbial symphony I was talking about!