Vaginal Candida Infection

The triggers of Candida infection are various and include stress, hot weather and humidity, occasionally a new sexual partner, and consumption of sugar. The reasons for recurrent vaginal candida infection (more than three episodes of infection a year) can be diabetes, conditions causing immune deficiency (such HIV, taking steroid medications, chemotherapy, chronic illnesses).
Living in the gut Candida feeds on gut nutrients and sugar and wheat (pasta, pizza, bread) stimulate the growth of Candida.
On occasions, women have symptoms of Candida infection at certain times of the menstrual cycle, or every time they have sexual intercourse or they find it difficult to find an actual trigger.

Vaginal Candida Infection

Candida infection is very common. Women can get it at any age. The majority of women will experience at least one Candida infection in their lifetime and about one to two women out of ten struggle with recurrent Candida infection.
Candida is a fungus that lives in the gut and can easily move to the vagina and cause unpleasant symptoms.
Women usually feel itchiness, lots of discharge, and burning. Discharge can be white, green or yellow, sometimes the discharge looks like cottage cheese
Candida infection is not sexually transmitted, and treatment of partners is not necessary.

There are several types of treatment of Candida such as vaginal creams, vaginal tablets, oral tablets. The treatments are generally quite effective. It is important to limit sugar in food and drinks and keep stress under control to prevent Candida infection.
Hygiene also plays a role in triggering Candida. Use only water to wash (no soaps or gels). Wear cotton underwear and loose clothing.
It is acceptable to self-medicate with a vaginal cream or vaginal tablets as soon as the symptoms appear. However, if the symptoms have not cleared within a week it is necessary to see a doctor and confirm the diagnosis to manage it further.
Sometimes women feel no symptoms of Candida infection, but it’s found on routine Pap smear testing. It is not necessary to treat Candida which causes no symptoms.

Itchy / Burning Vagina
The commonest cause of itchiness and burning in the vagina is not sexually transmitted infection and not dangerous diseases though it does feel like that. Candida or Yeast infection is the usual reason for itchiness, burning, abnormal discharge and even pain during intercourse. The vaginal wall can be red and swollen and hurt terribly.

The main reason for Candida infection (or yeast) is an overgrowth of Candida because of nutrients that they strive on, which is sugar and wheat. Eating sugar (pastries, sweets, chocolates, cereals with sugar, bread, pasta, pizza, alcohol) will inevitably lead to yeast infection. Other factors causing yeast infections are hot climate, tight synthetic clothing, stress, travel, intake of antibiotics, suppressed immune system. Some women experience a yeast infection at a certain time of their cycle usually before the period and 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 medications (for example, steroid drugs) can struggle from recurrent Candida.
Women who took 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 work-up of recurrent infection.

Once yeast infection has been treated with antifungals – vaginal creams or vaginal or oral tablets it can still come back, sometimes. It happens because the initial trigger of infection is still in play. If you are still eating sugar and wheat, and are under a lot of stress, in an unusually hot environment, Candida, which normally lives in the bowel, has nutritious food and milieu.

Usually during clinical (vaginal) examination doctors can see vaginal discharge 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 a special suppository or ointment to treat it.

It is important to avoid any irritants for washing of genital area. I recommend women only use water to wash the genital area.
To treat the first episode of Candida infection you need to use the vaginal cream or vaginal tablets or suppositories or a doctor can prescribe the tablets. 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 the relief of your symptoms within 1-3 days. If you are not feeling better, see a doctor.

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

You have to avoid sugar, wheat, and alcohol. In terms of vegetables, avoid potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, beets, peas, parsnips.
Include in your diet apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut, other fermented vegetables, green vegetables and green drinks, garlic, coconut oil, chia, flaxseeds, cranberry juice, cultured dairy (kefir), turmeric, cinnamon. A balanced diet rich in lean protein and vegetables is the way to go. Stay on a 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, strawberries. A nutritionist is immensely helpful in guiding you in this process.