Every woman should read this post, vaginal thrush or not.
By Amy Crawford
A post touching on a highly personal journey with vaginal thrush and urinary tract infections surely doesn’t get any more personal than this. If you, like me, have suffered from either ailment on an ongoing basis (or even if you haven't) these words may just change your life, or the lives of those you know.
I’ve thought long and hard about divulging these parts of my journey yet keep coming back to the same fundamental point: the very reason this blog was established was as a means of sharing my own health journey (a return to health from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome through holistic means); to inspire others to better health and happiness with the bits and pieces I have collected along the way.
Significantly though, I know women WANT to read this stuff, yet so few choose to talk about it. Why? Because it's taboo, a little icky?
A Google keyword search tells me that 550,000 people are searching "yeast infection" EVERY MONTH. To put things in perspective here, "easy chocolate cake recipe" is searched for 33,000 times.. and who doesn't love an easy chocolate cake recipe?
Very clearly, you and I both are in search of this information, because we are certainly searching far and wide to find it.
Personal or not, it would be remiss of me not to share a part of my health journey that has the capacity to create considerably positive outcomes for women around the world.
For it’s the final outcome of this journey, the finding of an altogether unexpected test result, which finally relieved me of these infections.
To the women in my life who have endured countless conversations about the ongoing health of my vagina and supported me through what became a declining sex life, this post is dedicated to you. You know who you are.
Recurring vaginal thrush and urinary tract infections.
One and a half years ago I decided that I was effectively developing an allergy to sex.
Let’s all just pause there for a moment. Could those of you who participate in this activity please take a moment to consider that thought.
Yep, I know. Dreadful stuff.
As the months went by, on a more and more frequent basis sex was closely followed by vaginal thrush and, just to create even more discomfort in my nether regions, one of the most painful of infections, the Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
For those of you who’ve not experienced a UTI, in one word, it’s hell. It had me up on the couch in the middle of the night in embryonic position, cradling my abdomen with a hot water bottle, drinking gallons of water, all but crying when I peed, becoming best friends with the Ethical Nutrients ‘Urinary Tract Support’ pill bottle. Oh thank God for that product.
On it all went until finally it became impossible to have sex without thrush, full stop. Again, dreadful stuff. Needless to say, I was fortunate to have an understanding boyfriend.
The point here is that I didn’t appear to pick up either infection unless I had sex, so you can’t blame me for jumping to such dramatic ‘allergy to sex’ conclusions.
And no, the simple answer here is NOT to give up sex..
Home remedies for vaginal thrush.
I hope you find this next section amusing because if you’ve a sense of humour about these things, it is.
Being the holistic health practitioner that I am, I am always determined to discover natural means to heal my body, first and foremost. So let me take you on what is a very private journey through each of the home remedies I’ve tried.
Perhaps it’s time to make a cuppa.
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV).
This is one of nature’s strongest antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals. You can read much more about its benefits here.
Not only does it help kill yeast fungus but it also helps restore pH levels within the body (and essentially, the vagina) whilst recolonising the intestines and vagina with good bacteria. The stuff deserves a gold star.
So here’s how I’ve used it to assist with aforementioned 'nether region' issue:
1. Drink it. Every morning, infection or not, I drink a large glass of warm water with a drizzle of warm ACV and the juice of ½-1 lemon.
2. Bathe in it. Pour a full cup of ACV in a very shallow warm bath. Sit in said shallow bath for at least 20 minutes and ponder your pH.
Yep, I said garlic suppository. Stop grinning.
Again, garlic is one of nature’s veritable powerhouses. It kills yeast, it kills bacteria, it boosts the immune system and it’s a powerful antioxidant. Of course it therefore deserves a place in the fight against thrush. Do a little research and you'll of course get conflicting reports as to its effectiveness - but it was desparate times for me. An article found on Midwifery Today explains in detail how it can be used, but I'll summarise my process for you.
I believe the trick here is to catch the infection early. You know the time, when the subtle itch starts and typically before the cottage cheese discharge rears its ugly head (did I just say that out loud?!).
If you’ve got the infection early, peel a clove of garlic and of an evening just prior to bed, insert it into your vagina. If you feel nervous about losing it or having difficulty retrieving it, grab a pin and thread a piece of cotton through it first. Leave it there overnight. In the morning, remove it and discard (I'm resisting the urge for culinary humour at this moment). One night may be enough for you, but if not, continue for 2-3 nights or until things have settled.
If the infection is more serious, that is you are experiencing discharge, peel the garlic clove, slice it in half and slice a few slits in its skin on the other side (this gives you a higher dose). Insert into the vagina as above. If your vagina is unhappy you won’t feel discomfort from the garlic. If it were healthy, you would most likely feel a sting.
An interesting and kind of fascinating point to note! Almost as soon as you insert the clove you will taste garlic in your mouth – yes, your mouth! It’s the oddest thing but a good reason to carry out this remedy of an evening.
Garlic and turmeric ‘pills’
Every morning and night I’d chop up a half garlic clove and a small slice of turmeric into the size of pills and drink them down with water (no chewing required). Medicine, just as nature intended it. Read more about the incredible powers of turmeric here.
Oh the things I’ve read about women’s need to scrub their nether regions clean!
Ladies, please leave them alone! Vaginas are self-cleaning wonders; they shouldn’t require soaps, douches and sprays to make you feel clean and smell pretty.
To be healthy your vagina needs to sit at a pH of 3.8 to 4.5 – soaps can wreak havoc with your pH. Acidic vaginas leave you more prone to infections, like thrush.
Please know this, if you are healthy ‘down there’, you shouldn’t ever smell ‘bad’, you should simply smell like a woman. Embrace it.
This section could become a post on it’s own so I’ll simply say this; I went nuts. I bought veggie caps and made my own oily capsules, taking them twice a day. Oregano, lemon, tea tree, frankincense, cinnamon.. you name it they went down (my mouth). It’s fiddly but it was worth it because there is a plethora of research about the merits of pure essential oils. But more on that another day.
Coconut oil and tea tree tampon suppository.
A coconut oil lover I am, and combined with tea tree oil it becomes quite the potent thrush fighter! Drop 3 or so drops into a little melted coconut oil and let a tampon soak the goodness right up. Insert (by now I shouldn’t need to tell you where).
Beware: don’t ever consider tea tree oil on it’s own in this region!
This one you’ve of course already heard about I’m sure. You’re looking for the active good bacteria in yoghurt, lactobacillus. So whether you’re devouring it by the spoonful or dipping a tampon in it, maybe it’s worth a whirl? Some now say it’s a medical myth.
The not-so home remedy remedies.
These included a powerful daily probiotic (which I still take) and yes, when times were particularly tough (or let's just say desperate), an over the counter thrush treatment cream. However, it's worth noting that repeated use of these creams will impact your ability to fight thrush on an ongoing basis. Whilst they may assist in killing off the bad bacteria they may also have a part to play in killing off the good bacteria over time.. it kinda becomes a vicious cycle.
The Candida diagnosis
So the journey continued, week after week, month after month. Other symptoms started to appear – brain fog, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, skin issues, bloating, cravings and a weird sense of anxiety that was new to me. Combined with the symptoms of thrush and UTI’s it was decided (in consultation with my nutritionist and tests) that I was indeed presenting as having a Candida overgrowth (a fungal overgrowth, common symptoms of which are thrush and UTIs).
Surely Shirley if we could get that under control we would finally get my thrush and UTI’s under control. Well you’d certainly bloody hope so wouldn’t you?
Here’s a quick and easy overview on Candida for those not in the know.
So what happened next?
I was put on a very strict diet to halt the yeast overgrowth, build the friendly bacteria and heal my gut. This involved moving to a very low carbohydrate diet, removing sweeteners of ANY kind, giving up alcohol, eliminating all fermented foods (bad bacteria feeds of these foods too), inhaling a bundle of supplements including Caprylic acid (which receives a lot of air time around yeasty matters) and then? Patience, and the crossing of fingers and toes, for 3-6 months.
I started feeling better. My fog lifted and my clarity came back, the bloating subsided, my skin started improving, l lost weight. We were onto something.
YET. I was STILL getting thrush.
Insert tears-streaming-down-face emoji.
Introducing Ureaplasma (the light at the end of a very dark *ahem* tunnel)
And this my friends, is where things get interesting, very very interesting.
Not far into the Candida diagnosis and treatment I was tested for a bacterial infection called ureaplasma. This was a vaginal swab similar to a pap smear carried out by my GP. Ureaplasma comes from the family of bacteria known as mycoplasma, the smallest of all free-living bacteria that are found in the reproductive tract of men and women. They differ from other bacteria in that they lack a cell wall, allowing them to take up easy residence on their host’s cells.
So I was tested and did I test positive? Yes. I. Did.
Interestingly, my research tells me that most of us are asymptomatic carriers and in this instance it is not necessarily harmful; we simply carry no symptoms. When overgrowth symptoms appear however, they may present as increased and painful urination, pelvic pain, fertility issues, discharge and in some instances recurring thrush. Personally I believe it may be easy to mistake ureaplasma for thrush and other infections in some instances.
Ureaplasma is not considered an STD but can be sexually transmitted.
I read that 15% of us are colonised with the bacteria, but as sexually active adults this rises to 40-80%. Significant.
My Doctor tells me that ureaplasma is garnering increased attention; in fact she was eager for me to share this (entire) message. Whilst you’ll find a whole host of conflicting articles online, many Doctors believe that there is a link between ureaplasma/mycoplasma and infertility and miscarriage. That link alone is highly significant for many, many women.
Upon hearing about these nasty little bacteria I was understandably concerned. My late night Dr Google research told me all I needed to know. It is a veritable bastard to clear without the use of antibiotics. (The LAST thing you want to put in the body of a Candida sufferer is an antibiotic, which in every experience of my adult years LEADS TO THRUSH!)
A word on antibiotics.
When all else fails; this is my perspective on antibiotics.
For a long, long time I have laboured over home remedies – they’ve been tried, tested and so very frustratingly, it became clear that they alone were not going to free me of this nastiness.
In the end I had no choice. It was time to merge Western and Eastern medicine and to hope for the very best. So it was that I was introduced to the antibiotic Doxylin and with a brave face I soldiered on.
Within 1-2 weeks of the first dose the thrush disappeared but there lingered slight pelvic pain and a slight itch. A second dose was had, and a third (again, a veritable bastard). With every dose the symptoms dissipated further until ultimately, they disappeared.
And there's more. Regardless of my heavy dosage, there was still no sign of thrush, even as a consequence of my hefty antibiotic intake.
Insert happy dancing lady in red dress emoji.
(It's worth mentioning too that I continued with a selection of my home remedies to support the antibiotic process.)
A final word.
Over the last few years I have proven to myself that a holistic approach to wellness can and does work. Diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and toxicity readings off The Richter Scale in 2011, my life was turned upside down. At 39 I moved in with my parents, unable to look after myself. I couldn't work, see friends, exercise, concentrate long enough to read. I was terribly, terribly sick.
In the end I was left with one sole focus - to detoxify my life and reclaim my health. This I did over a matter of years (in consultation with my integrative medicine Doctor) through the incorporation of a whole food diet, low tox living and a total change of mindset. Ultimately it was the life transformational 2 hour CTC Therapy I now provide that freed me of it forever. This very blog came about as part of this journey and touches on each and every aspect of my return to health.
Yet, I remain open minded enough to appreciate that sometimes we must carefully consider our alternatives, sometimes we have to consider the fact that a full recovery from whatever it is that limits us, may require a combination of Western and Eastern approaches to medicine.
If I could turn back the time in this 'nether region' journey, I would have come at this infection with guns blazing, just as I did with all of my home remedies. However, if I had known what I did now, if I had been tested for ureaplasma months earlier, I would simply have combined these remedies with antibiotics far sooner than I did.
Ladies, from my 'region' to yours, may great health be with you.
Have you had a similar journey? Perhaps you've other home remedies to share, or maybe you too had a ureaplasma diagnosis (was it difficult for you to combat too?). Either way, I'd love to hear from you. If there are any women in your life who you feel may benefit from reading this post please do deliver it to their inboxes.
This post contains the personal opinions and ideas of the author and is not created to replace advice provided to you by your healthcare professional. Should you have any concerns about trialing any remedies listed above, please consult your healthcare practitioner.