Vaginal thrush is a huge problem for many women. The itching and irritation associated with thrush is distracting at best, and at worst, can drive you up the wall! Less common names for thrush are candidiasis and monoliasis.
Thrush is technically an overgrowth of a species of yeast, usually (but not always) Candida albicans. While it is normal to have a certain amount of this yeast in our bodies, a thrush ‘’infection’’ means there is an overgrowth (and usually reduced amounts of the beneficial, protective species of micro-organisms in the vagina, the Lactobacilli).
Thrush is a sign that the ‘’ecology’’ of the vagina – that is, the internal environment – has been thrown out of balance. Common factors in this include:
- Antibiotics (which kill the ‘’good bacteria’’ in the vagina)
- Pregnancy (as high oestrogen increases glycogen or vaginal sugars that ‘’feed’’ the thrush)
- Diabetes (associated with high vaginal glycogen as above)
- The oral contraceptive Pill and IUD (reduce levels of vaginal ‘’good bacteria’’)
- Nutritional deficiencies (including zinc, calcium and magnesium)
While research is lacking, it may be that imbalance of vaginal flora and imbalance of gut flora are interconnected. Restoring the balance of good flora in the gut is a sensible step, especially if you have a history of antibiotic use or annoying gut symptoms such as abdominal bloating or constipation. Specific probiotics products may help, as can fermented foods containing live beneficial bacteria such as sauerkraut. Excellent fermented food supplement powders are available for purchase on-line if you don’t have time to make your own sauerkraut!
Vaginal itching is the key symptom of thrush – but remember, women can get vaginal itching for other reasons too, so it is important not to self-diagnose. Especially if you have had ongoing symptoms that are hard to get rid of, and no obvious precipitating factor such as the use of antibiotics, it is important to get a vaginal swab done to confirm that it is actually thrush. Many times, women self-diagnose and self-treat with over-the-counter thrush medications, when the problem is actually a bacterial infection of the vagina, dermatitis or even vulvodynia.
Another sign of thrush is a change in vaginal discharge. It is usually described as resembling cottage cheese – thick and whitish in colour. Knowing your patterns of vaginal mucus can help you identify when something is ‘’out-of-whack’’, and at Equilibria, we can help you learn these skills.
Recurrent or chronic thrush can be a real battle, You need to be equipped with as much accurate knowledge as possible to emerge the victor!