Are you having recurring yeast infections and wonder why? Are you tired of having to refill your ongoing anti-fungal medications? Your hormone imbalance could be a potential problem.
We all carry the fungal strain called Candida albicans in our bodies. If we have healthy immune and digestive systems, these strains are kept at bay and they don’t wreak havoc on our health. However, when the conditions are favorable, these opportunistic microorganisms like to party in big numbers, so any chance it gets, this hardy yeast will multiply and make us miserable!
Some signs of Candida include: constantly craving sugar or carbohydrates; bloating/flatulence; stomach cramps; acid reflux; hives; acne; bad breath; white coating on mouth cracks at the corners of the mouth; chronic fatigue/exhaustion; insomnia; brain fogginess; aches; dizziness; body odor; constant colds; sensitivity to smells such as chemicals and perfumes; erratic periods; recurring vaginal discharge; itching; stinging or thrush infections; recurring cystitis (bladder infections); or urinary infections.
This overgrowth can occur in areas like your skin, digestive tract, mouth and vagina. Candida can also help other unhealthy bacteria and parasites take hold and thrive in your body. This in turn can create systemic infections, endocrine disruption, and many other health issues.
Causes of Yeast Infections
There are many causes of yeast infections, including lifestyle issues like wearing tight underwear, overuse of feminine hygiene products such as douches; being overweight or having a diet high in sugar; diabetes; taking steroid drugs like cortisone, birth control pills or too many antibiotics; multiple pregnancies; stress/worry; or having a condition that suppresses the immune system.
One underlying cause of chronic yeast infection is hormonal imbalance. Over the past few years, researchers have consistently found an effect of estrogen on the growth of the yeast Candida.
A study published in 2000 by researchers from Iowa clearly showed that estrogen (specifically, 17-B-estradiol) increased the growth and survival of Candida. This is why many women notice increases in thrush and vaginal infections during pregnancy, before their periods, or around menopause. This is all due to changes in estrogen levels.
Pregnancy and birth control pills lead to a spike in the body’s estrogen levels and estrogen can help Candida grow. Research at Louisa State University Health Sciences Centers looked at the effects of both estrogen and progesterone on Candida and concluded:
“Estrogen is the dominant reproductive hor-mone that supports and sustains an experimental vaginal Candida albicans infection and reduces the inhibitory activity of epithelial cells against Candida. Progesterone, on the other hand, has no demonstrable effect on the vaginal infection or on systemic and/or local immune responsiveness as-sociated with the infection.”
These studies are wake-up calls for women, reminding us about the importance of hormonal balance. During the different phases of a woman’s life, particularly pregnancy, peri-menopause and menopause, women can develop estrogen dominance which can trigger many health issues including developing or worsening Candida episodes.
Furthermore, estrogen is responsible for glycogen (sugar) levels in the vagina and glycogen feeds yeast. Eating foods high in mold or yeast content (i.e.,bread, beer, brewer’s yeast, mushrooms), as well as diets high in refined or simple sugar carbohydrates (i.e., sweets, chips, pastas, sugar drinks) create an imbalance in our body, producing an environment that fosters yeast growth.
Taming Stress and Infections
Also, for women living in this high stress modern world, estrogen dominance can occur simply because women are so stressed that their immunity is constantly weakened and their progesterone levels drop. Progesterone is a calming hormone designed to help support our stress level. In fact, an article published in 2014 by scientists from Portugal and the UK studied the effect of progesterone on Candida and found that progesterone reduced the infective capacity of Candida. Progesterone achieves this effect by suppressing the genes of Candida needed for establishment of infection.
If vaginal yeast infections are becoming more of a regular problem, consider getting tested to see where your hormone levels are. Recurring yeast infections become hormone dependent in the vagina and feed on imbalances of hormones or the sugar produced by excess estrogen. Saliva testing for hormones is a viable testing option that can show which hormone levels are out of balance to help guide your solutions.
Other suggestions to help tame yeast infections include:
- Watch your diet-decrease sugar and carbohydrate intake
- Lose weight or maintain a healthy weight since weight loss or a healthy weight can normalize blood sugar
- Take care of your gut by taking probiotics to cultivate good gut flora for good immune health
- Beware of chronic use of antibiotics for infections; steroids for arthritis, or any chronic inflammatory conditions that warrant prolonged use of steroids; antidepressants; antacids, anti-inflammatory drugs; birth control pills; and hormone replacement (i.e., estradiol alone not balanced with other hormones)
- Reduce and manage stress! If you need help, adaptogenic herbs are available to help your body handle cortisol (stress hormone) fluctuations throughout the day.
Zoom Heaton is the owner of TLC Medical Centre Inc., an Independent Community Pharmacy and Medical Equipment facility located at 190 Crepe Myrtle Drive off Silver Bluff Road. A pharmacist, she is a graduate of the University of South Carolina. She is a Certi ed Diabetes Educator and is certi ed in Immunization; she is also the chief compounding pharmacist at Custom Prescription Compounders, LLC, inside TLC Medical Centre, Inc., specializing in Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy and Women’s Health. Call 803.648.7800 or visit nooneshoerx.com for more information.