Better known among women as a “yeast infection,” vaginitis is often caused by a yeast-like fungus called candida. When candida multiplies in the vaginal tract, it can cause an infection that is characterized by vaginal irritation, intense itchiness, burning, and a vaginal discharge. As many as three out of four women experience vaginitis at some point in their lives and there are several factors that can increase the chances of developing an infection. These include the use of antibiotics, the use of birth control pills, uncontrolled diabetes, and an impaired immune system. Simply being sexually active can also boost your risk. Enhancing overall good health and taking some simple precautions, however, can reduce the chances of developing this common and uncomfortable condition.
Oddly enough, what you eat can have a big effect on what happens in the vagina. Because candida “feeds” on simple sugars, avoiding refined carbohydrates and sugar may help thwart its spread. To boost the good bacteria in the vagina, eat unsweetened yogurt daily. Other probiotic rich foods include buttermilk, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and tempeh. Enhancing your overall immunity can also help keep vaginitis at bay. Opt for a whole foods diet that is high in vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, and small amounts of fruit.
When it comes to preventing vaginitis, hygiene matters. But eradicating all bacteria can be just as harmful as having too much of the wrong type of bacteria. Avoid douching since this can upset the delicate ecosystem in your vagina. Scented products like tampons, sanitary pads, bubble baths, or feminine hygiene sprays should also be avoided since they can irritate delicate tissue and foster candida. Other “don’ts” include hot tubs and very hot baths, as well as tightly fitting underwear, pantyhose, or jeans. Instead, opt for cotton underwear and loose fitting pants or skirts. It’s also important to keep the area dry since candida thrives in a moist environment. Change out of wet or damp swimsuits or workout attire as soon as possible.
Lactobacillus: is one type of probiotic shown to help restore the pH balance of the vagina and repopulate beneficial bacteria when taken for two months. Typical dosage: 5 billion CFU of a viable lactobacillus supplement.
Pau d’arco: is a potent South American herb that may help those suffering from vaginitis. Scientists have discovered that the herb contains two active chemicals lapachol and beta-lapachone with antifungal properties. The anti-microbial properties of many of Pau d Arco's active phytochemicals have also been demonstrated in several clinical studies. Typical dosage: 500 mg two to three times per day of a standardized supplement containing 2 to 4 percent lapachol. Because pau d'arco may affect the blood's ability to clot, do not take it if you are also taking blood thinning drugs like warfarin or aspirin.
Vitamin C: may be helpful for chronic non-specific vaginitis when taken daily. Preliminary human studies suggest that vitamin C enhances the body’s ability to fight off candida by boosting the immune system. Typical dosage: 1,000 mg daily.