Most women know the burning, itching signs of a yeast infection. The overgrowth of Candida Albicans (the yeast responsible) can go hand in hand with oral contraceptives, antibiotic use, and be problematic for diabetics, pregnant and menopausal women. If it’s your first yeast infection, head to your health practitioner to firm up the diagnosis, but if you’ve been around the yeast infection block before, you might try natural steps to combat the problem.
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“I think it’s more of an imbalance, not a disease, like a virus or flu,” says Madeleine Glick, MS, RD, a New York-based dietitian. “By eating the right foods and doing the right things to make your body healthier, you shouldn’t get a lot of yeast infections.”
These natural home remedies may help you get rid of yeast infections:
Garlic is a natural antifungal. (Photo: liz west/flickr)
Natural antifungal foods like garlic and onions may help combat yeast overgrowth. Sprinkle raw chopped garlic on salads or pasta. If you can handle it, munch the raw cloves. If not, take garlic tablets. Some women have tried making vaginal suppositories using a garlic clove wrapped in sterile gauze.
2. Pau d’arco
This South American herb is sometimes used to treat yeast infections, although there is no scientific evidence proving it works. If you can find it in liquid form, you can take it as a tincture that can be taken orally or applied topically, some homeopaths suggest. Typical dosage is a quarter teaspoon per day. Dosage can be increased when using Pau d’arco externally. You can try taking the supplement as a preventative measure at the first sign of yeast or as a potential treatment once a full-blown infection develops.
Calendula tincture may help with yeast infections. (Photo: Audrey/flickr)
You may have heard of calendula in facial products, but the plant taken internally can help with yeast overgrowth, says Sara Chana, an herbalist and homeopath in Brooklyn, N.Y. Also a liquid, Chana gives calendula tincture to new moms who often develop yeast infections in their breasts while breastfeeding because they were on antibiotics at delivery due a positive strep B test.
4. Boric acid
This crystalline chemical substance has mild antiseptic properties. Boric acid suppository capsules appear to be quite successful in treating yeast infections, according to several studies. Pregnant woman should not use boric acid vaginally. There are also tiny boric acid pellets to put under the tongue. You can also find borax capsules to use vaginally.
5. Palmarosa oil
Chana mixes palmarosa oil, an essential oil from the same tropical grass family as lemongrass, (4 drops) and tea tree oil (2 drops) into a commercial yeast infection cream to enhance efficacy. This cream is for the man in your life, too. “If a woman’s having chronic yeast infections, we need to treat that husband. Even if he’s not having symptoms, we have to treat him because he may be an asymptotic carrier,” says Chana.
6. Tea tree oil
The antifungal and antibacterial tea tree oil make it a natural to fight yeast infections. (Photo: www.BillionPhotos.com/Shutterstock)
Tea tree oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties. Some women have success by making a mixture of diluted tea tree oil and warm water and rubbing their vaginal area or soaking it, using a tampon. “I recommended using a tea tree suppository twice daily (morning and bedtime). I especially like Vitanica Yeast Arrest, which also contains borax, goldenseal, laera, neem, lactobacillus and vitamin E,” says Ivy Branin, ND, a New York City naturopath.
These friendly bacteria, may suppress the growth of yeast. The evidence from studies is inconsistent, but it can't hurt to add some good bacteria to your diet. “Especially for women with chronic infections, as it will colonize the vagina with beneficial bacteria and reduce recurrences,” says Branin. Take Lactobacillus species (rhamnosus, rheuteri) 1-5 billion, twice a day and Lactobacillus GG twice daily when the infection clears and continue for two to six months, she suggests. Or do it through diet, by adding yogurt.
8. Vitamins and supplements
A good vitamin and supplement practice won’t hurt and may help boost immunity to fight chronic infections. Grapefruit seed extract, an inexpensive supplement, is antifungal and may help long term. Goldenseal, vitamin C, zinc and beta carotene are also recommended by some nutritionists.
Popular as a treatment for urinary tract infections, cranberries may also help with yeast infections. (Photo: Pen Waggener/flickr)
Often used to help prevent and ease urinary tract infections, cranberries and cranberry juice may also help with yeast infections. Cranberries contain substances that prevent bacteria from adhering to the linings of the body.
10. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is rich in several ingredients that have antimicrobial and antifungal properties, reports Home Remedies for Life. These ingredients (lauric, capric and caprylic acid) may help target bad bacteria while leaving friendly bacteria alone. Try adding coconut oil to your diet or apply a thin paste of coconut oil to the vaginal area several times a day.
This herb is often used to fight infections, particularly the common cold and upper respiratory infections. Echinacea may also be helpful in treating yeast infections when it is used in combination with an antifungal cream (econazole). It reduces the chances that the infection will return to about 16 percent, compared to 60 percent when just the cream is used, reports WebMD.
“The biggest problem I have treating yeast is that people don’t realize it’s a 14-day treatment,” says Chana. Anything less and you’ll likely get a “repeat infection” since more likely the initial infection hasn’t been fully cured.
“It is important to also address risk factors to prevent recurrent candidal infections if they are avoidable. These include overuse of antibiotics, douching, feminine hygiene sprays, tight underwear,and poor diet,” says Branin.