A vaginal yeast infection can be a miserable experience, with constant itching and discomfort. Unfortunately, it’s extremely common. The good news, however, is that there are plenty of natural remedies that are thought to be effective in easing some of the symptoms associated with yeast infections.
What is a Vaginal Yeast Infection?
When a woman has a vaginal yeast infection, she is suffering from irritation caused by an overgrowth of a type of yeast known as Candida albicans. As many as 75 percent of women will have at least one episode during their lifetimes, while many women have two or even more. A vaginal yeast infection is generally not thought of as an STD (sexually transmitted disease), but it can spread through sexual contact.
If you suspect you have a yeast infection, we always suggest seeing a medical professional, especially if the symptoms are frequently-occurring or long lasting.
Symptoms and Causes
The symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection can vary from woman to woman. Women typically experience not only itching and irritation near the opening of the vagina (known as the vulva), but also swelling and redness. Vaginal yeast infection symptoms can also include pain and soreness, a rash, and a watery discharge. In severe cases, the discharge is thick and white, with an appearance that resembles cottage cheese.
There are several reasons why the candida yeast can take over. For example, if you take antibiotics for any reason, that can deplete the supply of Lactobacillus, the bacteria designed to keep candida in check, as well as other beneficial bacteria. That’s why it’s so important that you take a probiotic supplement and eat foods rich in beneficial microbes in order to make sure you have enough probiotics in your system to ward off a vaginal yeast infection. Pregnancy, diabetes, hormone therapy, and immune system problems can also promote an overgrowth of candida.
Antibiotics and Vaginal Microbes
It’s very important to focus on the connection between antibiotics and the microbes that reside not only in the vagina, but in other areas of the body as well. Antibiotics are essential medications that have made life better for millions of people. However, these powerful drugs not only kill pathogenic, or “bad,” microbes, but beneficial ones as well. This can lead to an increased risk of a vaginal yeast infection, as well as digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea. It can also weaken the immune system, making us more susceptible to a variety of health issues.
That’s why you need to make sure you increase the number of good microbes to replace the ones that have been lost due to the use of antibiotics. One of the best things you can do to ensure a good supply of beneficial microbes is to take probiotic supplements that contain Lactobacillus bacteria.
Coconut Oil as a Yeast Infection Treatment
Many women prefer trying a natural remedy for a vaginal yeast infection, before than using over-the-counter or prescription treatments or to provide temporary relief while waiting to see a doctor. Though again, if you suspect you have a yeast infection, it’s best to see a medical professional ASAP.
Still, for some people, natural remedies can ease discomfort, at least temporarily.
There are some indications that coconut oil contains certain properties that could make it effective in fighting a vaginal yeast infection.
According to one study, coconut oil can kill the Candida albicans strain of yeast, which is the main culprit that causes a vaginal yeast infection. The researchers conducting the study found that this strain was very susceptible to coconut oil.3
It’s relatively simple to use coconut oil if you want to try it as a yeast infection treatment. Make sure you find an organic version to obtain maximum benefits. You’ll be able to tell that it’s pure if it doesn’t have an overly strong coconut aroma.
To use, simply apply coconut oil directly on the area that’s affected.
Using Tea Tree Oil for a Vaginal Yeast Infection
Another natural remedy you can try to fight an overgrowth of candida is tea tree oil, which you should be able to find at your local health food store. Tea tree oil contains terpinen, a substance that has both antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.4
There are two different ways you can use tea tree oil to treat a vaginal yeast infection. One is diluting the oil with water and applying topically, to the outer area of the vagina. All you need to do is mix a half a teaspoon of oil in a half cup of water and then apply to the affected area with a cotton ball. Let it sit for a few minutes and then wash thoroughly. Dry the area, and repeat two or three times a day. You can also mix tea tree oil with peppermint, oregano, or lavender oil to soothe the area.
You can also make a tea tree oil sitz bath. Pour a cup of baking soda and 10 drops of oil in the bath and add warm (not hot) water. Soak for about 30 minutes, rinse the area, and dry thoroughly. Repeat a couple of times a day until the vaginal yeast infection symptoms abate.
When to See a Doctor for a Vaginal Yeast Infection
Unfortunately, there are times where symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are so severe that a visit to a doctor will be necessary. If you are uncertain that you are dealing with a yeast infection, you are experiencing unusual symptoms, or if you have never dealt with a yeast infection before, see a doctor as soon as possible.
This will also be necessary if your symptoms return within two months, or if you continue to experience symptoms even though you’ve attempted to treat the problem at home.
If you have a high fever and abdominal pain, along with vaginal discharge, get medical help immediately. You should also get to a doctor as soon as possible if you are pregnant and show the signs of either a vaginal yeast infection or a urinary tract infection.
In a severe case of vaginal yeast infection, treatment may last for up to two weeks. This will typically involve prescription creams, suppositories, ointments or tablets. A moderate vaginal yeast infection will typically clear up in about a week with medications. Frequent infections will usually require a medication regimen to help control overgrowth of the candida yeast.
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