What is Candida infection?

Candida or vaginal yeast infection is a common female condition where women experience itchiness, burning, abnormal discharge and even pain during intercourse. The vaginal wall can be red and swollen which can hurt terribly.

What causes yeast or Candida infection?

The main reason for Candida infection (also known as a yeast infection) is an overgrowth of Candida due to diets that include a lot of sugar and wheat. Eating sugar (pastries, sweets, chocolates, cereals with sugar, bread, pasta, pizza, and alcohol) will inevitably lead to yeast infection.

Other factors causing yeast infections are hot climates, tight synthetic clothing, stress, travel, intake of antibiotics and a suppressed immune system. Some women experience a yeast infection at a certain time of their cycle usually before their period, this is related to hormonal changes in the cells and their susceptibility to yeast infection. Women who have suppressed immune systems due to chronic illness, or taking of medications (for example, steroid drugs) can struggle from recurrent Candida.

Women who have taken a course of antibiotics may develop Candida infection because antibiotics kill normal bacteria in the vagina and allow Candida growth.

Rarely recurrent Candida infection is a sign of suppressed immune system so checking for Diabetes and HIV is part of the check-up when recurrent infections are involved.

What are the reasons for Candida infection to come back after treatment?

Once the yeast infection has been treated with antifungals, (vaginal creams or oral tablets) it sometimes comes back. It happens because the initial trigger of infection is still in play. If you are still eating sugar and wheat, are under a lot of stress, in an unusually hot environment, Candida will most likely come back.

How to identify Candida infection?

Usually, during a clinical (vaginal) examination, the doctor can see vaginal discharge which is very typical for Candida infection. Discharge can be white, yellow, greenish in colour, thick in consistency and look like cottage cheese. In cases of severe infection, the vaginal wall can look red and swollen. Sometimes, there is no abnormal discharge, but we pick up Candida infection on tests such as Pap smear or vaginal swab.

It is important to see a doctor if you treated Candida infection with over-the-counter medications and symptoms are still there and come back. Sometimes doing a culture of vaginal discharge we find a rare type of Candida (such as Candida Glabrata and Candida Krusei) that are not sensitive to the usual medications and need special suppositories or ointment to treat it.

How to treat a yeast infection?

It is important to avoid any irritants for washing of genital area. I recommend that my patients only use water to wash the genital area.

To treat an episode of Candida infection you need to use vaginal cream, vaginal tablets, or suppositories which a doctor can prescribe. If you have itchiness, irritation, even burning in the vagina and typical discharge you can safely get a cream (for example, clotrimazole cream) and use it for a week vaginally. You should feel relief from your symptoms within 1-3 days. If you are not feeling better, see a doctor.

How to stop infection coming back?

Women who have frequent yeast infections are advised to adjust their diet and lifestyle and take antifungal medications for up to 6 months.

How to avoid yeast / Candida infections?

Treating your Candida means making some changes to your eating habits and lifestyle, you should avoid sugar, wheat, alcohol, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, beets, peas, and parsnips. Include apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut, (and other fermented vegetables) green vegetables, garlic, coconut oil, chia, flaxseeds, cranberry juice, cultured dairy (kefir), turmeric and cinnamon. A balanced diet rich in lean protein and vegetables is the way to go.

Stay on the Candida diet for a few months, once you feel like you are Candida free you can re-introduce some food, such as fruit, but still choose low in sugar options such as green apples and strawberries.