Vaginal Infections – Cause, Symptoms & Natural Treatment
Vaginal infections account for nearly 90% of vaginitis in women of reproductive age. Untreated vaginal infections may ascend into the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries and lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and/or infertility.
Causes of Vaginal Infections
- Vaginitis: mainly caused by vaginal infection or overgrowth of normal micro-organisms such as Candida albicans. May also be due to allergic or chemical irritation, or low estrogen (which also causes vaginal dryness).
- Vaginal infection: the most common organisms are Candida albicans (yeast), Trichomonas vaginalis (protozoa) or a bacteria (e.g. Gardnerella, Mycoplasma, Gonococci, etc). Bacterial infection is the most common cause.
- Vaginitis (non-infectious)
- Low estrogen e.g. post-menopause
- Allergic or chemical irritation e.g. toilet paper, douches or sprays, condoms, soap, dye in underwear
- Dysbiosis / leaky gut
- Diabetes mellitus
- Medications e.g. antibiotics, corticosteroid, OCP, immunosuppressive drugs
- High sugar intake
- Use of pantyhose, constrictive clothing, synthetic underwear
- Low estrogen
Signs and Symptoms of Vaginitis
- Genital itching and burning
- Vaginal odour
- Vaginal discharge
- Inflammation of the perineal area
- Discomfort or burning on urination
TREATMENT STRATEGY FOR VAGINAL INFECTIONS
- Provide anti-microbial herbal medicine
- Replenish normal flora
- Support immune function
- Identify underlying cause
- Reduce inflammation
- Support healing of vaginal tissue
- Support estrogen production (if low estrogen)
- Remove allergens or irritants
Diet plan guidelines for Vaginitis
- Fresh, whole food diet low in sugars, alcohol, refined carbohydrates and processed foods
- Garlic: crushed, raw garlic is a very effective anti-fungal. 1-2 cloves a day should be consumed (may be crushed and put into capsules for convenience)
- Coconut oil: a source of caprylic acid which has anti-fungal properties
- Yoghurt and other fermented foods: source of probiotics to reduce Candida growth. Yoghurt may also be used topically.
- In chronic Candida or bacterial overgrowth, systemic antimicrobial herbs should be used. Please contact our clinic for more details
Supplements that support Vaginal Infections
- Garlic supplement
- Biotin – inhibits yeast
- Caprylic – anti-fungal
- Other high strength broad spectrum combinations from practitioners
Replenish normal flora
- Saccharomyces boullardii and Lactobacillus rhamnosus are effective in fungal infections
- A broad-spectrum probiotic should also be considered to improve gut microflora generally.
- Probiotic pessaries may also be effective: mix 1 tsp probiotic powder with 2 tsp natural yoghurt and insert into vagina using a syringe or applicator.
- Systemic antimicrobial treatments are often required to stop the issue from recurring
Support immune function
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
Herbal Medicine Treatment that supports Vaginal Infections
- Antimicrobial – barberry, goldenseal, thyme, Pau d‘arco, calendula,
- Immune stimulant: echinacea, andrographis
- Anti-inflammatory: turmeric, ginger
- Vulnerary: aloe, calendula, comfrey (topically)
- Estrogen modulating: black cohosh, fennel, false unicorn root, wild yam, shatavari
- Garlic pessary: a clove of garlic wrapped in gauze, coated in olive oil and inserted into vagina. Replace morning and night
Lifestyle / Physical measures
- Keep vaginal area clean and dry
- Avoid allergenic and chemical irritants e.g. soap, deodorants, condoms, douches etc
- Avoid tight or synthetic fabrics
- Wear cotton underwear
- Avoid sexual activity until symptoms clear
- Use proper hygiene measures
- Add 3 cups of pure apple cider vinegar to bath water to treat vaginitis
FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE TREATMENT OF VIGINAL INFECTIONS
Vaginal infections can commonly occur in women that have underlying gut and systemic overgrowths of either bacterial of fungal organisms. Many patients often do not realise that they have gut dysbiosis, SIBO or other infestations.
Treating the whole body rather than just one area is usually required to prevent the condition returning. We commonly associate vaginal infections as a symptom with patients who have positive stool and SIBO tests. If you are having recurrent infections I would encourage you to investigate further and have your gut and small intestine tested.
At our Perth clinic of Advanced Functional Medicine we have experience with infections and bacterial, parasitic and fungal overgrowths.
If you of a family member are suffering from repeat infections we would love to hear from you. What remedies do you use to clear your infections? Have you treated your gut and found you no longer get vaginal infections? Please leave a comment below.