8 Common Causes of Yeast Infections
If you have a vagina, then chances are that you’ve had a yeast infection. While anyone can experience a yeast infection, they’re more common among those with vaginas. In fact, it’s been found that up to 75% of women will get a yeast infection in their lifetime.
Luckily, a variety of treatments are available to soothe yeast infections. Keep reading to learn about the common causes of vaginal yeast infections and what you can do to help prevent them.
What Is a Yeast Infection?
Yeast infections, also called vulvovaginal candidiasis, are a type of fungal infection that affects the genital area. They are caused by a type of fungus called Candida albicans, which is normally present in the vagina in small amounts.
Candida is the same fungus responsible for oral thrush, which is essentially a yeast infection in the mouth. When left untreated, vaginal candidiasis has the potential to spread throughout the body, posing risks for women’s health.
Symptoms of a yeast infection in women can include itchiness, burning, and soreness in the vaginal area, as well as a thick, white vaginal discharge that may resemble cottage cheese. Some women may also experience pain during intercourse or urination.
These vaginal infections are quite common, with many women experiencing at least one in their lifetime. Certain factors can increase the risk of developing a yeast infection, including taking antibiotics, using certain types of birth control, and having a weakened immune system.
Fortunately, yeast infections are usually not serious and can be easily treated with over-the-counter antifungal medications. However, if left untreated, they can cause more severe symptoms and may even lead to long-term health complications.
What Can Cause Yeast Infections?
The discomfort associated with yeast infections can be annoying at best and downright miserable at worst. Here are a few of the most common causes of yeast infections.
One of the most common causes of yeast infections is antibiotics.
While antibiotics are effective at fighting bacterial infections, they also disrupt the body's natural balance of healthy bacteria. This can lead to an overgrowth of yeast, which can cause a yeast infection.
If you are taking antibiotics, it's important to also take probiotics, which can help support the body's natural balance of bacteria and minimize the risk of yeast infections.
You can find probiotics in a number of whole foods, such as:
- Apple cider vinegar
Pro Tip: Not a fan of probiotic-rich foods? Try Good Girl Probiotics®, a vaginal probiotic that maintains urinary tract health while balancing vaginal pH and bacteria.*
Eating a high-sugar diet can also increase your risk of yeast infections. Sugar is a food source for Candida, so when it's present in high amounts, it can cause the bacteria to grow more quickly.
If you have a sweet tooth, it's important to choose natural sources of sugar, such as fruit, and limit your intake of processed sugary foods.
Another surprising cause of yeast infections is tight clothing. Tight clothing can trap heat and moisture in the affected area, creating an ideal environment for yeast to thrive in.
To keep yeast infections at bay, choose clothing made from natural, breathable fabrics like cotton or linen. Avoid wearing tight pants and underwear if you can help it, and opt for looser styles and breathable materials whenever possible. If you’d rather skip going commando, opt for cotton underwear.
Immune System Disorders
A weak immune system can also lead to an increased risk of yeast infections. When the immune system is compromised, it can be more difficult for the body to fight infections, making individuals more susceptible to yeast overgrowth.
If you have a weakened immune system, it's important to take extra precautions to avoid yeast infections. Consider taking a probiotic like Gut Feelings Probiotics® to help support healthy gut function and immunity.*
And, of course, talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your ability to fight off yeast infections.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but sexual activity can increase the risk of yeast infections. Sexual contact can introduce bacteria into the vagina and create an imbalance in the body's natural flora, which can lead to yeast overgrowth.
If you are sexually active, it's important to practice safe sex and use condoms or dental dams whenever possible. This can help reduce the risk of infection, as well as the risk of passing infections to your partner. We also suggest switching to a safer, cleaner lubricant that supports your vaginal health instead of working against it.
Douching is a practice that has been linked to a higher risk of yeast infections. This is because douching can disrupt the body's natural balance of bacteria and yeast, leading to an overgrowth of yeast.
Your vagina is a self-cleaning organ that can take care of itself. In other words, douching is typically not necessary. If you need some help freshening up your intimate region, we recommend using ourpH Balancing Cleanser™, a fragrance-free and gentle cleanser for your vulva.
Of course, there are other ways you can keep your vaginal clean. For instance, changing your tampons every few hours and changing out of wet clothing can help you not only avoid a yeast infection, but also support overall vaginal health.
Uncontrolled Blood Sugar
Believe it or not, uncontrolled blood sugar levels can also increase your risk of yeast infections. This is because when blood sugar levels are too high, the body can produce an environment that is favorable to yeast overgrowth.
For those with imbalanced blood sugar, managing blood sugar through dietary changes and medications can help minimize the risk of yeast infections. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of whole foods and reducing intake of processed and sugary foods can help keep blood sugar levels in check.
Hormonal birth control can also be a cause of yeast infections. Hormonal contraceptives like the birth control pill, patch, and ring can disturb the body's natural balance of hormones, potentially leading to an overgrowth of yeast.
If you are using hormonal contraception, it's important to regularly check for signs of yeast infections and talk to your doctor if you experience any symptoms.
How Are Yeast Infections Treated?
If you suspect you have a yeast infection, it's important to see a healthcare provider to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), urinary tract infections (UTIs), and bacterial vaginosis (BV).
Treatment for vaginal yeast infections typically involves antifungal medications, which are available over the counter in the form of antifungal creams, ointments, boric acid suppositories, and tablets. These medications work by killing the overgrowth of yeast in the vagina.
In addition to antifungal medication, there are several other steps you can take to help treat and prevent yeast infections.
If you are prone to recurrent yeast infections, your healthcare provider may recommend additional treatment. Prescription treatment may include a longer course of antifungal medication or additional testing to rule out underlying conditions such as a weakened immune system.
It's important to note that while yeast infections are not usually serious, they can cause discomfort and inconvenience and, in some cases, may indicate an underlying health issue. If you experience symptoms of a yeast infection, it's important to see a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
The Bottom Line
These common causes of yeast infections are just a few examples of how your lifestyle and environment can affect your body's natural balance of bacteria. Taking steps to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle and avoiding factors that may contribute to yeast overgrowth can help minimize risk factors associated with yeast infections.
If you do experience symptoms, it's important to seek medical advice — yeast infections are easy to treat, and there’s no reason to remain in misery when solutions are just a click away. With the right treatment plan, you can get back to living your life without giving yeast infections a second thought.
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