Women's Health | July 15, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Yes ladies, we’re going to discuss common vaginal infections. If you have ever had thrush or bacterial vaginosis, you are far from alone. These uncomfortable infections account for 90% of all cases of vaginal inflammation (vaginitis) in women of reproductive age. Other less common infections can also occur and include gonorrhoea, herpes, Chlamydia, Campylobacter and some parasites. Some infections can progress to the ovaries and fallopian tubes if left untreated. Pelvic inflammatory disease, is an example of advanced infection of this type which often leads to infertility.
Vaginal discharge is a normal phenomenon. It serves as an important housekeeping function in the female reproductive tract by removing bacteria and carrying away dead cells. This helps to keep our vagina clean and prevent infection.
Normal discharge usually has an unnoticeable odour, causes no discomfort and looks clear to slightly milky. The amount that each woman produces is different—varying in consistency and quantity, particularly at different times during the menstrual cycle.
None of these changes are cause for alarm. However, if you are experiencing significant changes in colour, smell or consistency and this is accompanied by vaginal itching or burning, you could be experiencing an infection.
Any changes to the vagina’s balance of normal bacteria can affect discharge. Here are some things to look out for:
In bacterial vaginosis, there is an unpleasant foul or fishy odour. Discharge is thin, milky white or grey and is usually increased. Itching and burning is sometimes present. In this case bacteria are the cause of infection.
In cases of thrush, the infection is usually caused by yeast, such as Candida albicans and in more stubborn cases Candida glabrata. Discharge is usually thick and curdled, similar to cottage cheese. The smell is usually described as ‘freshly baked bread’ and vaginal itching and burning is normally present.
Trichomoniasis infection is caused by a protozoan parasite and is not as common as yeast or bacterial infections. It causes discharge to smell unpleasant, with a yellow-green or grey frothy or sticky texture.
Other symptoms that can accompany these infections include discomfort or burning when urinating and inflammation of the inner and/or outer area of the vagina. This inflammation can lead to minor or severe inflammation, redness and irritation.
There are many factors that can increase your risk of infection. Here are some of the major causes:
Remember the vagina is like a self-cleaning oven, there’s no need for any heavy-duty cleaning, especially douches. Warm water, with a very small amount of a mild natural soap is all that is needed. Avoid perfumes, sprays, deodorants, creams and harsh soaps. Try to keep the area dry by wearing panty liners and patting dry carefully after showering and urinating. Avoid long durations in water, such as bathing and swimming.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing and avoid synthetic materials which trap moisture and encourage sweating. Avoiding activities which encourage excessive sweating and exertion may also be helpful. Avoid sexual activity, until the infection clears and then use condoms. Maintain good hygiene by wiping from front to back after a bowel movement.
A change in diet is really important to help clear up an infection and prevent future ones.
Reduce sugars in the diet from processed foods and even from too many grains and fruit. Infective organisms thrive in individuals who consume a highly refined diet.
Try eating more vegies and healthy protein sources such as natural yoghurt, legumes, seafood, poultry, nuts and seeds.
In yeast infections, avoiding yeasts in foods can be very helpful. This includes avoiding bread, pastries, pizza bases, yeast spreads, store-bought fruit juices, left-over food, mushrooms and sometimes even fermented foods.
To maintain normal vaginal flora, supplementing with good bacteria is a must.
Specific strains to achieve this include Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14. Clinical trials suggest that these strains re-establish and maintain the beneficial levels of bacteria, while reducing overgrowths of other pathogens. A healthy yeast, Saccharamyces boullardii could be supplemented too. Studies have shown it to be successful in treating vaginal yeast infections.
During acute infection, a capsule of any of the probiotics suggested above could be mixed with a small amount of plain yoghurt and using a syringe or applicator, inserted well into the vagina. Continue this for 7 days each evening before bed.
There are many natural substances that have antibacterial, anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties—and garlic is one such example. Buy fresh, Australian cloves and swallow a diced clove after a meal or use in cooking. Alternatively, aged garlic can be taken as a supplement, take in a high dose for an acute infection or a low dose as a preventative.
Oregano oil contains many natural chemicals, including carvacrol, which make it effective in treating bacterial and yeast infections. Try taking 5 drops three times a day in water or diluted fruit juice. Capsules are available too if you’re wanting to avoid the unpleasant flavour.
For best results, it’s ideal to combine a probiotic with an antimicrobial herb and take doses at separate times. If your symptoms persist, it’s best to seek advice from your health care provider.
Pericolini E, et al. Therapeutic activity of a Saccharomyces cerevisiae-based probiotic and inactivated whole yeast on vaginal candidiasis. Virulence. 2017 Jan 2;8(1):74-90
Cianci A, et al. Efficacy of Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GR-1 and of Lactobacillus Reuteri RC-14 in the treatment and prevention of vaginoses and bacterial vaginitis relapses. Minerva Ginecol. 2008 Oct;60(5):369-76.
Martinez RC, et al. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 on the ability of Candida albicans to infect cells and induce inflammation. Microbiol Immunol. 2009 Sep;53(9):487-95
Karaman M, et al. Origanum vulgare essential oil affects pathogens causing vaginal infections. J Appl Microbiol. 2017 May;122(5):1177-1185