Many people believe diet contributes to the risk of vaginal yeast infections, and so-called yeast infection diets have been proposed as a way to avoid this annoying condition.
Most women know that vaginal itching may signal a yeast infection, which can cause a host of other annoying symptoms, including a thick white discharge and a burning sensation while urinating.
Yeast is actually a type of fungus. The most common type of yeast found in the vagina and elsewhere on the body is called Candida albicans, usually referred to simply as Candida.
Normally, Candida exists in balance with the other microorganisms in and on the body and causes no problems. But some conditions promote Candida overgrowth, leading to yeast infections and vaginal itching.
Like other yeasts, Candida thrives in warm, moist environments, especially when plenty of sugar is available. For example, people with diabetes have a higher-than-average risk of experiencing Candida overgrowth in their armpits, groin, and sometimes even under the breasts. It’s thought that patients have high levels of sugar in their skin and in their sweat and other bodily secretions, which allows the yeast to thrive.
Yeast Infection Diet: Does Avoiding Certain Foods Help?
Yeast’s affinity for sweets has prompted some people to suggest that diet may be a risk factor for some women when it comes to developing yeast infections. In fact, some people follow a so-called yeast infection diet or Candida diet on the theory that eliminating certain foods may eliminate or at least greatly reduce the risk of yeast overgrowth. Proponents of these regimens claim that a yeast infection diet can help to cure or prevent yeast infections by eliminating:
- Foods containing simple sugars, including many fruits
- White flour and rice
- Anything fermented with yeast, such as alcoholic drinks
However, the evidence in support of this approach is scarce. This is not a widely useful diet. If you happen to have frequent yeast infections, it may be helpful to try for a few weeks or a month, but generally it is not applicable.
There’s better evidence that probiotics may be the secret behind a diet to prevent yeast infections. Probiotics are living microorganisms similar to the “good” bacteria that live in and on the body, and they may help to lower the risk of a yeast infection. Normally, certain bacteria live in the digestive tract, on the skin, and elsewhere on the body, where they help with digestion and other bodily functions.
Antibiotics that you might be taking for an illness can kill off those good bacteria, clearing the way for other organisms, including yeast, to proliferate and cause vaginal itching and other symptoms of a yeast infection. A good way to help restore the body’s normal bacterial balance is through the consumption of probiotics.
According to experts, the best sources of probiotics are:
- Organic yogurt with live bacterial cultures
- Supplements that contain bacteria — look for the words lactobacillus and/or acidophilus on the product.
The amount of probiotics in any of these products can vary widely, so she recommends reading labels carefully before you buy. Eeperts also recommends that you use antibiotics judiciously, and only as instructed by your doctor.
Preventing Yeast Infections and Vaginal Itching
Keeping in mind that in addition to sugar, yeast loves moisture and warmth, Eeperts also recommends these tried-and-true methods of avoiding yeast infections, which are generally far more effective than changing your diet:
- Dry your genital area well after every bath or shower.
- Wear breathable cotton underwear to allow evaporation of sweat.
- Sleep without underwear if possible.
- Avoid clothing made with synthetic fabrics.
- If you are diabetic, practice tight glucose control.
There are many different kinds of yeast and yeast infections: A woman who’s had two or three yeast infections within a year should be cultured [have a sample from the vagina tested in a lab] to see what kind it is, so it can be treated appropriately.