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Vaginal yeast infections happen when there’s a shift in vaginal pH. Several species of yeasts — such as Candida albicans — are responsible for yeast infections when this shift occurs.
Certain probiotic strains may help balance this pH to relieve the symptoms of a yeast infection.
We'll list a few product recommendations at the bottom of this page. First, let's learn the science so we understand which to choose.
Various Lactobacillus species found in the vagina help to protect against different infections such as Candida albicans (yeast) infection, bacterial vaginosis (BV), and STIs.
These species produce various antimicrobial compounds such as lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, biosurfactants, and bacteriocin-like substances.
Lactobacilli also adhere to the vaginal mucosa, forming a barrier that prevents colonization by pathogens or competition for epithelial cell receptors. (Boris et al., 2000)
Lactobacillus probiotics can be used both orally and vaginally to treat yeast infections.
Research has shown bifidobacterial strains of probiotics can improve the microflora of the urogenital tract in females, although they play a more minor role in prevention and treatment of yeast infections. (Korshunov et al., 1999)
Consider the following strains when searching for supplements:
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Bifidobacterium adolescentis
- Bifidobacterium longum
Though supplementation with oral probiotic supplements may combat or prevent a yeast infection, food is another option.
Studies show probiotics consumed orally through supplements or food sources eventually make their way down to the reproductive tract. These studies were conducted by tagging probiotic species — taken orally — then finding these tags in the microorganisms found within the vagina later on. (Morelli et al., 2004)
Consider adding the following foods to your diet:
- Yogurt — It contains Lactobacillus acidophilus cultures, which are powerful and beneficial bacteria. Yogurt may assist in ridding the body of a yeast overgrowth, including in the vagina. It can be taken orally or inserted into the vagina. The yogurt must be plain, whole fat, and organic.
- Kefir — A fermented milk drink made from cow or goat milk. It contains lactic acid bacteria, which can help the vagina maintain the right pH balance.
- Kimchi and sauerkraut — Made from fermented cabbage. Both contain strains of Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus reuteri. They are known to support gut health and may prevent yeast infections. Make sure the sauerkraut is unpasteurized.
- Miso and tempeh — Made from fermented soybeans. Both are full of essential minerals and contain many strains of probiotics such as Lactobacillus reuteri.
- Prebiotic foods — Garlic, onion, Jerusalem artichoke, green bananas, and tigernuts
- Polyphenol foods — Berries, red rice, black rice, black grapes, purple yams, and dark chocolate.
- Green tea — Inhibits the growth of Candida albicans and biofilms, encourages growth of lactobacilli and reduces pH.
There are many reasons yeast infections occur — most of which are in an individual’s control or can be addressed if need be.
You can try avoiding risk factors that make you more susceptible to yeast infections, including:
- Poor immune system
- Hormonal imbalance
- High blood sugar
- Changing sexual partners
- Tight fitting clothing
- Diet high in sugar and carbohydrates
- Washing vagina with non-pH balanced soaps
Not sure if you have a yeast infection? Some common signs include:
- White, thick or cottage cheese appearing vaginal discharge
- Pain while urinating
- Pain during intercourse
- Redness and swelling
- Light bleeding (may be from irritation)
- Extreme itchiness
If you decide supplements are right for you, these are appropriate to use for vaginal yeast infections:
Lactulose, available in some countries over the counter and in others by prescription, is a highly effective prebiotic for vaginal yeast infections. It encourages the growth of lactobacilli and can be used both orally and vaginally.
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