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March 20, 2018  |  Login
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

Vaginitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines the vagina. The symptoms usually include burning or itching and may extend to abnormal vaginal discharge, painful urination, and pain during sexual intercourse. The vast majority of women will experience vaginitis at some point during their lives, and the unpleasant symptoms usually send women to their doctors for treatment.

Vaginitis is commonly caused by an overgrowth of yeast (Candida albicans). Common symptoms may include vaginal itch and/or soreness, burning, a cottage cheese-like discharge, and pain during intercourse. A physician can make a diagnosis, after a microscopic examination and a culture of the vaginal secretion. Other common conditions can mimic vaginal yeast infections These include bacterial vaginosis (BV); the symptoms of this bacterial infection can include an abnormal grayish-white vaginal discharge and a foul-smelling vaginal odor. Another common cause is trichomonas vaginitis. This is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a one-celled microorganism called Trichomonas vaginalis. Symptoms include a foul-smelling, yellowish-green vaginal discharge and itching. Symptoms worsen during menstruation. This section focuses on yeast-related vaginitis. It is important to see your doctor to discover the cause of your vaginitis, because certain infections can be quite serious.

Women who experience chronic yeast infections often have a common history of being on repeated courses of antibiotics. While antibiotics may destroy harmful bacteria, they also have the potential to wipe out helpful normal flora in the vagina, as well as in the urinary and digestive tracts. Good bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, play an important role as part of the local immune system in the vaginal area. They function to prevent the overgrowth of yeast and other opportunistic organisms that can cause infection. In addition, these good acidophilus species help to maintain an acidic pH in the vagina, which makes it less likely that an overgrowth of yeast will occur. These good bacteria also produce hydrogen peroxide, which is a natural antimicrobial agent that kills bacteria and fungus.

Acidophilus supplements taken internally, as well as applied directly into the vagina (insert at night and cover with a pad), are an effective means to prevent and treat yeast infections. This remedy is best done under the supervision of a doctor. In addition, it's helpful to eat yogurt that is rich in friendly bacteria. A 1992 study found that women who consumed 8 ounces of yogurt daily had three times less incidence of vaginal yeast infections, as compared to women who did not eat the yogurt.

A key dietary factor that will help prevent reoccurring vaginal yeast infections is to reduce simple sugars in the diet. Yeast thrives on sugar, and too much of it has a suppressive effect on the immune system. Finally, be aware that food sensitivities can aggravate yeast infections for some women.

The immune system is constantly on the lookout for opportunistic organisms such as the yeast Candida albicans. When functioning optimally, it keeps unhealthful organisms in check. High stress, poor nutrition, and other factors can impair immune function, allowing for the overgrowth of candida. more

Next: What are the Symptoms of Vaginitis

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