Itching, burning, and discomfort are only a few of the symptoms associated with yeast infections. Women’s bodies have a biome stacked with good bacteria that keep our pH levels downstairs in check and running smoothly. However, sometimes, yeast buildup of a fungus called candida can overpopulate our lady bits. This eventually causes yeast infections.
According to the Office on Women’s Health, three out of four women will experience a yeast infection during their lifetime. The facts are statistically against us, assuming that 75 percent of women will have to deal with the uncomfortable infection. Below, we’ve listed ten ways that you may be unknowingly building candida downstairs. Read on as we dive into each cause and provide ways to avoid, or reverse, the potential development of yeast infections.
1. You’re staying in dirty clothes.
We’re not talking about wearing the same pair of jeans two or three times before washing. (We’ve all done it, but it may not be ideal for our skin). Instead, the development of candida can occur after hanging out in clothes worn during a workout. Or, it can occur by continuing to wear a wet bathing suit after going for a swim. Cathy Amy, co-founder of We Warriors, which works to promote vaginal health, states, “Moisture (like sweat and pool water) creates the ideal environment for yeast to thrive.” Immediately after working out, or after a dip in the pool or ocean, rinse off and change into clean clothing.
2. You’re on antibiotics.
Board-Certified Infectious Disease Physician Amesh A. Adalja states, “One way people can unknowingly develop a yeast infection is through the use of inappropriate antibiotics. Antibiotics are tremendously overprescribed for conditions for which there is no benefit, such as colds, bronchitis, and other upper respiratory infections. [These] are predominantly caused by viruses. When a person takes antibiotics, it will kill many types of bacteria in the body. Because of that, yeast that lives in or on the body finds less competition and can overgrow.”
Due to the abundance of candida, Adalja recommends that “one should only take antibiotics when they are necessary.”
3. You’re stressed.
More than impacting mental health, placing the body under stress can have physical effects, as well. Stress increases the body’s level of the hormone called cortisol, which can impact the immune system. According to Dr. Wendie Trubow, president of Five Journeys, “This inhibits bacteria but does not inhibit yeast. They are unaffected and grow.” She continues to say that this is made worse by the fact that many people, when stressed, resort to unhealthy habits, such as drinking or eating junk foods.
4. You’re not taking probiotics
When antibiotics take away your body’s good bacteria, probiotics will place them back where they belong. The good bacteria provided by probiotics help minimize the growth of candida and the development of yeast in the reproductive system. According to OB-GYN Alyssa Dweck, “To restore and maintain an optimal vaginal pH balance, consider a daily vaginal health probiotic. For the perfect fit, look for brands that are packed with Intelliflora. They’re the only probiotic blend with four unique strains of the most dominant lactobacilli found in healthy vaginal microflora.”
5. You’re eating processed carbs and excess sugar.
As mentioned earlier, when we’re stressed, we can resort to unhealthy habits. This includes consuming junk food with processed carbs and excess amounts of sugar. These behaviors are self-destructive to the body and can cause yeast infections. Trubow mentions, “These foods can be inflammatory. [They] directly feed any yeast that is present in the system, causing the yeast to grow.”
Josh Sabourin, a specialist in bacterial health, recommends, “Eating a diet that contains whole unprocessed foods and eliminating excess sugar consumption from drinks, juices, desserts, and other simple sugars. Any healthy whole food diet that consists of high-quality meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fats will be the foundational step in preventing fungal overgrowths (like those [that] cause yeast infections).”
He continues, “It’s also recommended that fruit servings are kept to one or two per day. And [it’s] best to focus on berries when dealing with a yeast issue. Berries contain the lowest amount of sugar in fruits. Avoiding processed foods, as well as sugary drinks, like sodas and juices, is vital. Good diets to check out for baseline ingredient lists are the Low FODMAP diet, paleo diet, and specific carbohydrate diet. We are now learning that each person has a unique microbiome and body, so personalizing a healthy whole food diet is the best.”
6. You’re being careless about your sexual health.
Believe it or not, not wrapping up can lead some to develop yeast infections for several reasons. Trubow states, “having a partner ejaculate inside the vagina can set an imbalance to the bacteria levels in the woman’s reproductive system. The sperm eats the vaginal bacteria for energy while trying to fertilize.” The imbalance in the system causes candida to overgrow.
Chief Medical Officer of Your Doctors Dr. Richard Honaker states that yeast “can sometimes spread from intercourse, especially if the male partner is an uncircumcised diabetic. (They can carry yeast germs in the foreskin.)”
7. You’re not getting a full night’s sleep.
Not getting an ample amount of sleep is usually the precursor for many of the previously mentioned causes, as it starts at the root. Not getting a full night’s sleep can cause stress on the body. [This] increases cortisol levels and leads to unhealthy eating and drinking habits. It’s important that “we get at least seven to nine hours of sleep,” as recorded by the National Sleep Foundation, to maintain optimal health.
8. You’re overgrooming.
“Although many women believe it is more hygienic to shave their pubic hair, recent studies are indicating that women should stick to minimal grooming,” says Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics Caleb Backe. “Like all things on the human body, pubic hair offers an evolutionary advantage. In this case [it’s] a shield against bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Shaving can create tiny wounds that are highly susceptible to infection. So, going Brazilian might have you going to the doctor. Similarly, pubic hair creates a neutral zone between your skin and clothing. [This] allows the vagina to breathe and better protect against bacterial build-up and infections.”
9. You’re wearing tight clothing.
Clothing that is too tight or made from harsh synthetic material could be causing your body to develop yeast infections. Just like sweaty and wet clothing, clothes that are too tight can cause the same moist environment. This allows yeast to grow and overpopulate. (This is especially true if the fabric doesn’t allow for proper airflow). Instead, wear clothing that is looser fitting and underwear that is made from breathable cotton.
10. You’re on the pill.
Sabourin believes that oral contraceptives can cause yeast infections with their ability to harbor the overgrowth of candida. In particular, this speaks to high estrogen level pills. If this is a problem to your vaginal health and a constant occurrence while on the pill, try switching to a lower dose pill. Or, look into the potential of a copper-based IUD (which eliminates excess estrogen).
There are many ways to cure a yeast infection, whether natural, over-the-counter, or prescription grade. Talk to your medical professional to discuss which option may be right for you, if one should appear.