Three out of every four women suffer a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lifetime. If you’ve ever had a yeast infection, you know how uncomfortable it is. The symptoms include insatiable itching of the vaginal region, burning, vaginal discharge, and irritation of the genitalia. The infection can also cause painful urination and sexual intercourse.
Have you ever wondered what causes yeast infections and why they are so prevalent? It usually starts with an organism called Candida albicans.
What’s Candida Albicans?
Numerous colonies of bacteria and fungi live in the human body and Candida is one of them. Candida is a naturally occurring yeast-like fungus found in the mouth, the intestinal tract, and the vagina. There are different types of Candida, but Candida albicans is usually the culprit behind yeast infections.
In its normal state, Candida is kept under control by beneficial bacteria. When conditions are right, however, Candida begins to multiply rapidly, overgrowing its normal boundaries. That’s when a yeast infection occurs.
Common Causes of Yeast Infections
What makes conditions right for a Candida population explosion? Several factors can contribute to the problem.
Antibiotics, prescribed to kill harmful bacteria, also kill friendly bacteria that control Candida Albicans. Antibiotics are the number one cause of yeast infections.
High estrogen levels are conducive to yeast infections as well. This can happen when women are pregnant, are nearing time for their period, or taking birth control or hormone replacement therapy.
A weakened immune system makes women more prone to infections of all types, including yeast infections. Women with HIV and multiple sclerosis are especially vulnerable.
Uncontrolled diabetes causes high blood sugar and Candida feed on sugars and carbohydrates. Poor nutrition falls into this category as well, especially if you eat a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates.
Tight clothing creates the warm, moist environment in which Candida thrives.
Perfumed feminine products and toilet papers can create irritation, which makes the tender vaginal tissues more susceptible to infections.
Frequent douching disturbs the natural PH of the vagina and encourages Candida growth.
Unprotected sex with a partner is another way women get yeast infections. Yeast infections are not considered a sexually transmitted disease but it can be transferred from one person to another by direct oral genital contact.
Tips for Preventing Yeast Infections
Although all women are susceptible to yeast infections, you can take some steps to help prevent the problem.
1. Wear cotton underwear.
2. Keep the vaginal area dry. Remove wet bathing suits as soon as possible and dry well after showering.
3. Avoid tight clothing.
4. Don’t douche.
5. Use unscented toilet paper, tampons, napkins, and avoid scented products such as bubble bath.
6. Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet.
7. Eat a cup of yogurt that contains live cultures daily.
8. Practice proper hygiene, wiping from front to back after using the bathroom so you don’t transfer yeast from the rectum to the vagina.
If you suspect you have a yeast infection, contact your doctor for a definite diagnosis. Other health problems can mimic yeast infections and may need immediate medical attention.