All About Yeast Infections: Causes, Prevention and Treatments

There is just nothing good about a yeast infection. Anyone that’s ever had one can tell you that. If you’ve ever had one, you don’t need anyone to tell you that because you already know. We all basically know what causes yeast infections but it can be a bit harder to know how to prevent them and it can be even harder to know how to treat them – especially if you don’t want to mess around with medicated creams and similar store bought treatments. To understand how to treat yeast infections naturally, let’s first talk about what causes yeast infections and how to prevent them.


What Causes Yeast Infections?

The vagina is an amazing thing when it’s working properly. There is a fine balance going on down there between all sorts of things that works to keep your vagina healthy. A yeast infection occurs when that balance is interrupted. You can actually get yeast infections in various places on your body including under the breasts, around nail beds, in folds of skin, and in your lower abdomen but for the purposes of this article, we’re just going to be talking about the vaginal kind as it’s the most common and often the most irritating.

Most vaginal yeast infections are called by a normal vaginal fungus called Candida albicans. So if the fungus is normal and typically found in the vagina how does it cause an infection? Good question and a simple answer. Candida is generally found in very small levels in the vagina. An infection occurs when that very small level increases. This refers back to the fine balance I mentioned earlier. When the level gets to high, an infection occurs.

A lot of things can contribute to that balance getting out of whack causing a yeast infection. The most common triggers for yeast infections include:

  • Antibiotics: Because whatever illness you had to require antibiotics wasn’t bad enough.
  • A High Sugar Diet: Yet another reason too much sugar is a bad thing.
  • Stress: Have a high stress job? It could be making your downstairs itch.
  • Birth Control: Vaginal yeast infections are quite common in women just starting out on birth control. Most women begin taking birth control because they want to have sex and sex while you have a yeast infection is not just painful but can spread the infection to your partner. Nature’s little joke? Perhaps.
  • Pregnancy: Decided birth control wasn’t worth the risk of yeast infection? Make sure you have a back up plan because yeast infections during pregnancy are extremely common.
  • Menstruation: Because there just isn’t enough about that time of the month that sucks already.

Vaginal yeast infections are also extremely common in menopausal women. The reason for that is probably pretty obvious. During menopause a woman’s body goes through a whole laundry list of changes so its only natural that the delicate balance in the vagina may be thrown off a little bit in the process. While many women choose to just grit their teeth and go through menopause on their own, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor and see what kind of help is available. Your doctor may be able to give you something that will help keep your body balanced which will in turn help prevent yeast infections.


What Are the Symptoms of Vaginal Yeast Infections?

Let me start this section off by saying there is absolutely nothing pleasant about yeast infections. I mean that – nothing. Here’s a short list of symptoms you’ll likely experience if you have a yeast infection:

  • Itching in the vagina, vulva and sometimes even the upper thighs.
  • Burning
  • Swelling
  • Soreness
  • Painful urination
  • Pain during sex
  • A thick, white, odorless discharge that almost looks like cottage cheese. Apologies if you were eating a bagel and even more apologies if you’ll never be able to look at a bagel the same way.

It’s important to note that all of these symptoms will not be present with all women. In addition, having a certain set of symptoms during one yeast infection does not necessarily mean you’ll have the same symptoms during the next one. The discharge is not always present but don’t assume your yeast infection is more severe if it suddenly shows up. That likely isn’t the case. Also, many women notice a ‘baking bread’ sort of odor during yeast infections which might actually sound kind of pleasant as, well, who doesn’t like the smell of baking bread? Smelling bread baking in the oven? Love it. Smelling bread baking in my pants? Not so much. Worth mentioning: my husband and I now refer to yeast infections as ‘bread box’. Crass? Perhaps but it makes me smile at a time when I kind of want to punch the whole world in the face so I’ll take it.


How Can I Prevent Yeast Infections?

For some women, yeast infections are just a part of life. I’m one of those women. I suppose I was just born with a naturally unbalanced vagina. It kind of makes sense when considered with my naturally unbalanced brain. I choose not to take medication for either of those ailments, preferring to take preventative measures and treat any problems that arise naturally. It’s important to mention though that I chose this path after speaking with my doctor and getting my options. That’s an important step. Yeast infections can sometimes be the symptom of a larger problem. It’s best to verify that isn’t the case before you decide to handle things on your own.

With all that said, there are a lot of pretty simple ways to prevent yeast infections. These preventative measures include:

  • Swearing off douches: While douches are supposed to help keep the vagina clean, they can actually cause an imbalance in the vagina and leave you with a yeast infection.
  • Avoid hot tubs: I know. Who doesn’t love a good soak in the hot tub? You know what else is a big fan of hot tubs? Bacteria. In general, hot tubs are okay just make sure you practice good hygiene. Sex in a hot tub? Bad idea.
  • Avoid scented vaginal hygiene products: It’s not meant to smell like roses. The perfume on scented products can irritate the vagina and cause yeast infections so it’s best to leave them alone.
  • Keep it clean: Bathing regularly is a great way to prevent yeast infections but be careful of what kind of bath products you use. As I mentioned above, scented products can cause more problems than they solve. Plain water on your vagina should be enough to keep you clean.

Are There Really Effective Home Remedies for Yeast Infections?

Yes and there are even all natural ways to reduce your chances of getting yeast infections. Drinking cranberry juice, eating yogurt and finding healthy, all natural probiotic supplements are all great options for helping reduce the likelihood of getting an infection. Even so, yeast infections may still occur because our bodies are just like that. Try some of these common home remedies to help you recover more quickly.

Loose Fitting Clothing: Have an old pair of pajama pants that are a few sizes to big? Wear them around the house. You should also consider going commando as often as possible. Tight restricting clothing like tight pants or panties will make the situation much worse. If you’re able to get away with wearing lose clothes at work, all the better.
Garlic: How far you want to go with the garlic cure is up to you. I have garlic tablets I take. Others crush it drink it with water. It is more effective to take a clove of garlic and insert it directly into the vagina for an hour every day because it puts the anti-bacterial properties of the garlic directly at the source of the problem but some women just aren’t comfortable with that option. I happen to be one of them but it may be something you want to try. It is very effective.
An Apple Cedar Vinegar Bath: This is probably my favorite home remedy for treating yeast infections as there is little in this world I love more than a nice, relaxing warm bath. I think part of the reason this one is so effective is the fact that it does allow you the chance to relax. Add a little apple cedar vinegar to a warm bath and just let yourself soak in it for a while. You don’t even need to use much – two or three tablespoons should be adequate.
Plain Yogurt: It’s not just for eating. Dip a tampon in yogurt and insert the tampon into your vagina. This gets the helpful properties of the yogurt directly to the source of the problem much like with the clove of garlic but it offers the added bonus of not making you worry that your vagina smells like a plate of garlic fingers. You can also apply a little yogurt to the outside of the vagina as long as you make sure you wipe it off when you notice it’s done its job. It’s also important to make sure you buy plain, unsweetened yogurt as sugar contributes to yeast infections.