Also indexed as: Candida Vaginitis, Candidiasis (Vaginal),
Thrush, Vaginitis (Candida)
Yeast infection means fungal overgrowth. Vaginal yeast infections
are one of the most common reasons women seek healthcare. According to research or other
evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful:
- Switch to cotton underwear
- Avoid the increased risks of yeast infection associated with nylon
underwear and tights
- Try beneficial bacteria
- To prevent the overgrowth of yeast organisms, eat yogurt
containing live acidophilus cultures daily, and use acidophilus topically as vaginal
suppositories or a douche
- Ask about problem medicines
- Discuss with your healthcare provider whether you can avoid taking
antibiotics, oral contraceptives, or other medicines that may lead to yeast infection
These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace
the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading the full yeast infection article for
more in-depth, fully-referenced information on medicines, vitamins, herbs, and dietary and
lifestyle changes that may be helpful.
About yeast infection
Yeast infections usually result from an overgrowth of a species of fungus called
Candida albicans. They can occur on the skin, under nails or mucous membranes of the
mouth, vagina, bronchi, and lungs.
Vaginal yeast infections are one of the most common reasons that women consult healthcare
Product ratings for a yeast
What are the symptoms?
Yeast infections are a type of vaginitis.
The hallmark symptom of a yeast infection is itching of the external and internal genitalia,
which is often associated with a white discharge that can be thick and/or curdy (like cottage
cheese). Severe infections lead to inflammation of the tissue and subsequent redness,
swelling, and even pinpoint bleeding.
Over the counter drugs available to treat yeast infection caused by candida include clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin®,
Mycelex®), miconazole (Monistat®),
and butoconazole (Femstat®).
Prescription drugs include oral fluconazole
(Diflucan®), nystatin (Mycostatin®)
vaginal tablets, terconazole (Terazol®)
vaginal cream, and butoconazole (Gynazole®) vaginal cream. The antifungal creams may also be applied topically to the
vulva (external genitalia) to help relieve itching.
Dietary changes that may be helpful
Some doctors believe that a well-balanced diet low in fats,
sugars, and refined foods is important for preventing vaginal infections caused by
Candida. In one preliminary trial, avoidance of sugar, dairy products, and artificial sweeteners resulted in a sharp reduction in
the incidence and severity of Candida vaginitis.1 Many doctors advise women who
have a yeast infection (or are predisposed to such infections), to limit their intake of
sugar, fruit juices, and refined
carbohydrates. For persistent or recurrent infections, some doctors recommend that fruit also be avoided.
Another trial found that dramatic increases in intake of several sugars in healthy people
partially increased stool sample levels of Candida, but only in 12 out of 28
Lifestyle changes that may be helpful
According to one study, yeast infections are three times more common in women who wear
nylon underwear or tights, than in those who wear cotton underwear.3 Additional
predisposing factors for Candida infection include the use of antibiotics, oral contraceptives, or adrenal corticosteroids (such as prednisone).
Underlying health conditions that may predispose someone to Candida overgrowth include pregnancy, diabetes, and HIV infection. Allergies have also been reported to promote the
development of recurrent yeast vaginitis. In a preliminary trial, when the allergens were
avoided and the allergies treated, the chronic recurrent yeast infections frequently
resolved.4 In most cases, sexual transmission does not play a role in yeast
infection. However, in persistent cases, sexual transmission should be considered, and the
sexual partner should be examined and treated.
Vitamins that may be helpful
Lactobacillus acidophilus is a
species of friendly bacteria that is an integral part of normal vaginal flora. Lactobacilli
help to maintain the vaginal ecosystem by preventing the overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria and
Candida. Lactobacilli produce lactic acid, which acts like a natural antibiotic.
Lactobacillus acidophilus can be taken orally in the form of acidophilus yogurt, or in capsules or powder. It can also be
administered vaginally. In a controlled trial, women who consumed 8 ounces of
Lactobacillus acidophilus-containing yogurt per day had a threefold decrease in the
incidence of vaginal yeast infections and a reduction in the frequency of Candida colonization
in the vagina.5 In another trial, women who were predisposed to vaginal Candida
infection because they were HIV-positive
received either Lactobacillus acidophilus vaginal suppositories, the antifungal drug, clotrimazole (e.g.,
Gyne-Lotrimin®), or placebo weekly for 21 months.6 Compared to those receiving
placebo, women receiving Lactobacillus acidophilus suppositories had only half the
risk of experiencing an episode of Candida vaginitis—a result almost as good as that
achieved with clotrimazole.
Many women find relief using an acidophilus-containing yogurt douche daily for a few days
or weeks, depending on the severity of the infection.7 Three capsules of
acidophilus or one-quarter teaspoon of powder can be taken orally one to three times daily.
Acidophilus can also be taken preventively during
antibiotic use to reduce the risk of Candida vaginitis.8 9
Boric acid capsules inserted in the vagina
have been used successfully as a treatment for vaginal yeast infections. One study
demonstrated that 85% of women who used boric acid vaginal suppositories were cured of chronic
recurring yeast vaginitis.10 These women had all previously failed to respond to
treatment with conventional antifungal medicines. The suppositories, which contained 600 mg of
boric acid, were inserted vaginally twice a day for two weeks, then continued for an
additional two weeks if necessary. Boric acid should never be swallowed.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual supplement for information about any side effects or interactions.
Herbs that may be helpful
A small, preliminary trial found that a mouthwash with diluted tea tree oil was effective in decreasing the growth of
Candida albicans and in improving symptoms in AIDS patients with oral Candida infections (thrush)
that had not responded to drug therapy.11 People in the study took 15 ml of the
oral solution (dilution of tea tree oil was not given) four times per day and were instructed
to swish it in their mouth for 30 to 60 seconds and then spit it out. For use of tea tree oil
as a mouthwash, one should not exceed a 5% dilution and should be extremely careful not to
swallow the solution.
In a preliminary study, topical application of an alcohol extract of Brazilian propolis resolved candidiasis in 12 of 12 people who
were experiencing oral candidiasis associated with the use of dentures. The extract, which was
prepared by mixing 2 grams of dried propolis in 25 ml of an 80:20 alcohol:water solution, was
applied to the lesions four times a day for seven days.12
Many doctors recommend that people with recurrent yeast infections take measures to support
their immune system. Echinacea, which has the capacity to enhance immune
function, is often used by people who suffer from recurrent infections. In one study, women who took echinacea
experienced a 43% decline in the recurrence rate of yeast infections.13
The essential oil of cinnamon contains
various chemicals that are believed to be responsible for cinnamon’s medicinal effects.
Important among these compounds are eugenol and cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamaldehyde and cinnamon
oil vapors exhibit extremely potent antifungal
properties in test tubes.14 In a preliminary study in people with AIDS, topical application of cinnamon oil was
effective against oral thrush.15
A test tube study demonstrated that oil of
oregano, and an extract in the oil called carvacrol in particular, inhibited the growth of
Candida albicans far more effectively than a commonly employed antifungal agent
called calcium magnesium caprylate.16 However, clinical studies are needed to
confirm these actions in humans.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual herb for information about any side effects or interactions.
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Cinnamomum zeylanicum against azole resistant and sensitive candida species and a pilot
study of cinnamon for oral candidiasis. Am J Chin Med 1996;24:103–9.
16. Stiles JC, Sparks W, Ronzio RA. The inhibition of Candida
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