Asking for a Friend: What’s Causing My Yeast Infection?
Experts on everything you need to know about candida.
Pee before and after sex. Wear cotton underwear. Apply yogurt ~down there~. If you suffer from frequent yeast infections, you’ve probably done some pretty crazy sh*t in the name of staving off future flare-ups. But before you go burning your skinny jeans, swallowing whole cloves of garlic, or adopting any other medically dubious advice, let’s talk about your diet—which, let’s be honest, is probably the last thing on your mind when you’re dealing with discharge and a burning labia. But, if you live off simple carbs like juices, cereals, and white breads, you might be putting yourself at risk for Candida overgrowth—a condition caused by an over-proliferation of yeast in the body, which can lead to G.I. issues like bloating and cramps, skin disorders (think: acne, redness, and eczema) and, yes, recurrent yeast infections.
To get a better idea of what Candida overgrowth is, how it could be affecting your health, and what we can do about it, we talked to dietitian Alissa Rumsey MS, RD, CSCS, and women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D., who shared their best tips for keeping yeast infections under control, and explained why a healthy diet is everything.
What is Candida?
“Candida albicans is a type of fungal yeast that lives in our G.I. tract and other areas throughout the body including the skin, mouth, and vagina.” —Alissa Rumsey
What is the connection between Candida and yeast infections?
“In healthy women, vaginal flora or healthy bacteria exists naturally in the vagina. These bacteria help keep other organisms (including Candida albicans) in check. When the delicate balance is thrown off, yeast can grow out of control and cause a yeast infection.” —Jennifer Wider
What are some lifestyle factors that put you at risk?
“Causes of Candida overgrowth can include antibiotic usage, menstruation, birth control pills, a change in hormone levels from pregnancy, an impaired immune system, and obesity.” —Wider
What does diet have to do with it?
“A diet high in processed foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates may cause Candida to thrive.” —Rumsey
How can the “Candida diet” help correct the problem?
“Certain studies have shown that a diet of non-starchy vegetables, healthy oils, fats, grass-fed meats, free-range chicken and eggs, and nuts and seeds can starve the Candida of the elements it needs to survive. By following this diet, it’s thought we can manipulate and restore the balance and rid the system of the excess Candida.” —Wider
Beyond diet, what can you do?
“A healthy immune system is the key to keeping your body’s microbiome in check. Not getting enough sleep, high stress, a poor diet, and excessive alcohol consumption can all hurt the immune system. I’d also recommend taking a probiotic on a regular basis, which research shows can lower rates of yeast infections in women.” —Rumsey
When should you see a doctor?
“If a woman has more than four yeast infections in a year—the point at which a yeast infection is thought to be recurrent—I’d advise her to go see a doctor. Everyone is different and the approach to chronic yeast infections may need to be tailored to suit your individual needs.” —Wider