NEWS FLASH! YEAST INFECTIONS ARE COMMON. You are not gross, they do not make you dirty, and, most importantly, it's going to be okay.
Did you know 75% of people with vaginas will experience at least one yeast infection in their lives. Half will have recurring infections, and once you get one yeast infection, you’re likely to get another. We know YAY but it's going to be fine because we've got the down low for your down below.
The technical term for this terribly uncomfortable yet incredibly common infection is vulvovaginal candidiasis or VVC for short. It occurs when a type of fungus known as Candida multiplies when there are changes in your vaginal environment that encourages its growth. Candida is not inherently bad (in fact, it’s found in the moist areas inside your body like the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina) but it becomes an issue when your vaginal chemistry gets thrown off balance and the yeast over-multiplies, leaving you itching and burning without much relief.
Other common symptoms of yeast infections include swelling around the vagina, pain and burning during sex or urination, whitish-gray and clumpy vaginal discharge, and redness or a rash around your genitals.
We understand that these physical symptoms affect your emotional well-being, and often make you feel uncomfortable, unwanted, and “dirty.” But we’re here to reiterate that yeast infections are temporary, and can be caused by a number of things. If you have recently taken antibiotics for an unrelated issue, this could have weakened your immune system because they decrease the amount of “good” bacteria in your vagina.
(Many of these symptoms are similar to those of bacterial vaginosis, which is an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria in your vagina. Learn more on BV here.)
Pregnancy, diabetes, poor eating habits, STIs, or medicines like steroids or chemotherapy, excessive stress, and lack of sleep...basically anything that we deal with on a regular basis that seems almost impossible to avoid (hello stress eating because you know you haven’t gotten enough sleep for your year-end review at work...).
To help prevent or treat yeast infections, we recommend wearing cotton underwear (and going sans underwear when sleeping to let your vulva get some air). Take a look at your diet to see if you might be feeding the bad bacteria with too much sugar—there’s growing evidence that your gut microbiome has an effect on literally every other bodily function. Basically, treat your body with the love and respect you’d give your partner(s), or want for your family and friends.
Yeast infections can clear up within a few days, or last up to a couple weeks. If you’re in need of immediate relief, take a warm bath with our soothing tonic. A few drops of this essential-oil packed relief-in-a-bottle has a soothing jojoba oil base while Cedar Wood, Sweet Orange, and Oregon Grape are natural antibacterials that stimulate blood flow to your pelvic region so your body can heal itself faster. You can also apply the tonic topically along with the salve, and if you’re in a rush, or need a relief in less than two seconds flat, spritz a bit of our Hydrosol for a no-mess solution. This water soluble toning spray is made from the same element you are and works with what you’ve got, rather than against it.
There’s so much more information (and misinformation) on yeast infections and treatment, so to try and unpack this confusing and pervasive little infection, we went to the ends of the internet to find you three super informative articles that can leave you feeling like you've finally got an understanding of what the f*^$ is going on with your vagina.
Published by the Department of Health and Human Service's own comprehensive overview of Vaginal Yeast Infections. They provide a straightforward explanation of yeast infections, how they affect your body, why they happen, and provide steps you can take to treat them (including answering questions you've probably googled in incognito mode). From: WomensHealth.gov, 2017
- At least 50% of women have multiple yeast infections in their life.
- Yeast infections are caused by the overgrowth of the fungus Candida.
Good news: there are many steps you can take to prevent VVC!
This is a very detailed technical paper may require a break (or three) to get through. That said, It's a very comprehensive explanation of the pathology of VVC, and we guarantee you’ll come out on the other side more informed. From: Clinical Microbiology Review, 2010.
- Among causes of vaginitis, VVC is the second most common cause of vaginal irritation after bacterial vaginosis (BV) and is diagnosed in up to 40% of women with vaginal complaints in the primary care setting.
- Recurring yeast infections (RVVC) are reported to have the greatest negative impact on work and social life.
- a 1995 study found that vaginal anti-fungal sales reached $174 million in the US alone.
CANDIDIASISThe University of Maryland's Complementary and Alternative Medicine guide discusses the effectiveness of number of "alternative" therapies including probiotic and herbal treatments in favor of over the counter antibiotics. From: University of Maryland, 2015
- Natural anti-fungals and probiotics improve the body's ability to keep Candida in check.
- Tea Tree has been shown to be a clinically effective anti-fungal.
- Women should avoid overuse of antibiotics that kill the friendly bacteria that keep Candida under control.
Not to be missed! This quick read seeks to answer your important (but perhaps embarrassing) questions. From Yeast Infections to Irritation from Sex, this article discusses the causes and pathology behind what might be ailing you. From: Teen Vogue, 2016 (updated 2019).
- Exercise, intercourse, and douching can disrupt the normal pH of the vagina, which, in turn, upsets the balance between the friendly and the unfriendly bacteria.
- Getting to know your own vagina, through education and exploration on your own will seriously help you understand what's going on down there.