Prevention is better than cure, so the saying goes, and in the instance of yeast infections it certainly can be the case.
Yeast infections can cause the recipient a great deal of misery as well as physical symptoms, particularly if the infection is recurrent on a regular basis. Having too much yeast in your system can cause what seems an endless episode of itching, irritation and sometimes soreness in various parts of the body, some of which are intimate spots and the last place you want them. The desire to scratch the affected area as a form of relief is only going to exacerbate the condition. Oral yeast infection also demonstrates itself as a rash in the mouth, which is also itchy and very sensitive.
These are not the only areas where yeast infections occur – they can occur in any area, as the infection will survive particularly in moist and dark places (yeast infections love the dark!) but commonly in places such as the mouth, rectum and vaginal regions. The infection is known as ‘Candida’, the most common fungal infection of this type. Most of us know this as ‘thrush’ and the symptoms are quite recognisable. You can also have the same infection on your skin, such as around the armpit area or between the top of the legs – again, moist and dark regions.
Medicine in the form of tablets, cream and pessaries are the common treatment from over the counter, but if the infections persist, or recur regularly, then it is time to check out your diet and potential home recipes to alleviate the symptoms and effect on your body. You need to redress the balance of the ‘good’ bacteria that protect against infection and keep the yeast content at a manageable level. Certain illnesses can also affect the balance and acidity (particularly in the vaginal area) and can kill off any beneficial bacteria that is present. This is when the irritation begins.
Can medicines cause the infections?
Yes, certain types of medicine can certainly cause infections, as can certain illnesses. Whilst antibiotics will help cure a specific problem you have, commonly used antibiotics prescribed by your doctor can kill of the beneficial bacteria quite quickly. Amoxicillin is a known protagonist of candida-style infections.
If you suffer from asthma, the content of any of the well known inhalers can also cause this type of infection.
Other reasons for yeast infections can be a change in hormone levels – pregnant women can be prone to infection as their oestrogen and progesterone levels change. Those experiencing the menopause and taking HRT can also suffer. What type of clothing you wear is also important – cotton underwear to allow the area to breathe is a must, as is avoiding tight clothing of any type of jeans or trousers. Change your clothes regularly – yeast infections will thrive and love the environment otherwise!
If you use personal hygiene products such as a vaginal spray, desist from using it for several days to see if it makes any difference to your symptoms.
Foods that can help you
One of the highly recommended foodstuffs that GP’s favour is yogurt. Due to its fermentation, it is full of beneficial bacteria, overall increasing the amount of these blessed bugs in your system. The yeast productivity diminishes as it simply doesn’t have the room to manoeuvre round the omnipresent bugs! Just remember, it’s not any old yogurt off the shelf – you need one with live cultures and sugar free. Sugar will just help feed the yeast back up to fruition.
One less palatable suggestion is garlic. If you don’t like it, or you find it a little overwhelming to eat on a daily basis, that is understandable. Raw garlic is more beneficial, so this could be too much of an anti-social step to take. Garlic is a wonderful powerhouse of nutrients to keep your immune system at optimal level, so it doesn’t just benefit candida infections. Unfortunately, it comes with drawbacks in terms of smelly breath, but it can also cause irritation in the gastrointestinal tract. Consult your doctor before taking garlic and ask his advice; he may suggest low-odour garlic tablets from a health shop, as an alternative to crunching down on raw garlic. You could of course crush the garlic to a find paste and add to a salad or in other dishes to get your quota (2 cloves a day is the recommended amount).
What foods to avoid
Avoiding certain foods has a simple answer, as it is based on the things that we should be avoiding (in quantity) anyway.
Anything high in sugar is a definite no, as yeast just adores the stuff and becomes all singing and dancing in a sugar-filled environment. Fruit juices and high fructose syrups, desserts, soft drinks, cakes, biscuits and sugary cereals should stay off your menu. Be vigilant with fruit though and avoid high sugar fruits such as melon.
Also off the menu are refined grains and starchy products such as white bread, white rice and normal potatoes. Whole grains are infinitely better for you at any time, let alone if you are suffering from a yeast infection.
You need to keep the levels of glucose in your body down, as once again, yeast simply loves it.
What doctors may recommend
Your doctor may recommend probiotic supplements, particularly if you don’t like yogurt, or if you are taking antibiotics and prone to yeast infections. Some brands of yogurt contain additional probiotics, but this still may not be sufficient.
It will be worthwhile trying these alternative methods of controlling yeast infections, and who knows, you might find a really good result to stop your months of misery and discomfort.
Written by Bev Walton, BSc Nutritional Science
I achieved a First-Class Honours degree in BSc Nutritional Science, Nutrition Sciences from the University of Reading and now have over 35 years experience in all types of cuisine, dietary plans, recipe development, health and nutrition. I have been writing for over 10 years for magazines and websites as well as ghostwriting for ebooks, Kindle and fully published books. I’m also a proud member of the Guild of Food writers.