The fungus Candida albicans is always present in the vagina, but when the fungus multiplies out of control, a yeast infection results. Antibiotics, birth control pills, wearing tight undergarments, and a suppressed immune system are just a few factors that can trigger the overproduction of fungus.
Several alternative therapies place the emphasis of yeast infection treatment on the elimination of the causes, rather than eliminating the fungus.
Nutritional Therapy for Yeast Infection
Nutritional therapy employs dietary changes and supplements to treat and prevent yeast infections. If you have problems with vaginal yeast infections, there are some foods that you should avoid and other foods that you should be sure to include in your diet.
Eating certain foods can contribute to a yeast infection in one of two ways: by encouraging the growth of the Candida albicans and by taxing the body's immune system. These bothersome foods may contain yeast or mold or trigger the symptoms of food allergies or sensitivities. Foods you may want to avoid include:
- sugars (including honey, fruit juices, and maple syrup)
- artificial sweeteners
- dried fruit
- meat, poultry, and milk (which can have traces of antibiotics in them)
An elimination diet can help pinpoint any foods that trigger allergy symptoms: Frequently eaten foods and common food allergens (such as wheat and milk) are avoided and then reintroduced one by one, taking note of which ones bring on symptoms.
Some items can introduce "good" bacteria that keep fungus growth in check. They include live yogurt and the bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus and certain species of Bifidobacterium, which can be taken orally or used as a douche. (Beware of sweetened yogurt and, for people with milk intolerance, lactose.)
Nutrient deficiencies may also contribute to an overabundance of fungus. Supplements that can be helpful include vitamin A, vitamin B6, zinc, magnesium, and essential fatty acids, among others. (If taken, these should be yeast-free.)
Garlic can be added to the diet for its fungus-blocking properties and may prevent infections. Caprylic acid, grapefruit seed extract, and undecenoic acid also have strong antifungal properties. In general, good nutrition that comes from eating a varied, whole-foods diet contributes to a strong immune system -- one that can ward off infections.
Herbal Medicine for Yeast Infection
Several herbs have the ability to knock out excess fungus, bringing the levels back to a healthy normal. Others can be effective in strengthening the immune system.
The bark of the pau d'arco tree has achieved folk-remedy status as a treatment for fungal infections, including vaginal yeast infections and athlete's foot. Researchers have examined its infection-fighting powers and have pinpointed lapachol as being the bark's possible active ingredient. It can be taken in the form of capsules, extract, or tea.
Goldenseal is one of the most commonly used herbs for its immune-boosting properties, and it is also believed effective in stabilizing the overgrowth of fungus. It's often administered as a douche. (Women who are pregnant should not use this herb.)
The following herbs also offer promise in the treatment of yeast infection. They can be taken in the form of capsules, extracts, or teas, and some may be used in douches. They include:
- echinacea (purple coneflower)
- German chamomile
- tea tree
Homeopathy for Yeast Infection
Homeopathic medicine can stimulate the body to overpower the yeast infection. The therapy uses highly diluted doses of a natural substance that would produce the same infection symptoms if given in full strength to a healthy person. To tailor a remedy for yeast infection, a classical homeopath questions the patient on the symptoms and assesses the general state of physical and emotional health. Using these clues, the remedy is then individualized to the patient. Here are some yeast infection characteristics to consider:
- Is there any vaginal discharge?
- What is its color, consistency, and smell?
- Does walking or lying down increase the amount of discharge?
- Is there any discomfort around the vagina?
- Is urination difficult or uncomfortable?
Some typical remedies for yeast infections include:
- borax veneta
- calcarea carbonica
- mercurius solubilis
- pulsatilla nigricans
Combination remedies, available over the counter, are formulated for the most common yeast infection symptoms. Because of this lack of individualization, however, they are considered less effective.
Other Therapies for Yeast Infection
- Aromatherapy for Yeast Infection -- Douches of water and essential tea tree or marigold oils can eliminate excess fungus in the vagina.
- Ayurvedic Medicine for Yeast Infection -- Treatment, focusing on digestion and the immune system, often includes dietary changes and herbal therapy.
- Detoxification, Fasting, and Colon Therapy for Yeast Infection -- Colonic irrigation and enemas can cleanse the intestinal tract and contribute to a healthy balance of normal flora in the body.
- Hydrotherapy for Yeast Infection -- A hot sitz bath (perhaps spiked with calendula or thyme tea or vinegar) may relieve itching.
- Mind/Body Medicine for Yeast Infection -- Guided imagery, meditation, and other treatment forms can reduce stress and strengthen the body's immune function.
- Oxygen Therapy for Yeast Infection -- Hydrogen peroxide treatment is used to give the immune system a boost, to assist it in controlling the overgrowth of fungus.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for Yeast Infection -- Acupuncture, herbal therapy, and diet and lifestyle changes offer ways to correct energy imbalances and enhance the body's defenses.