Prevention and Treatment of Vaginal Infections
If there is a change in the discharge, irritation, burning, itching or inflammation, then you should see your physician.
Some women experience cyclical infections, often depending on their stress level or menstrual cycle. Other potential irritants are water, tampons, spermicides, latex and speculums, to name a few.
The frequency and severity of infections can be greatly reduced by education, examination, application of knowledge and observation. It is important to know your body, menstrual cycles and vagina, as well as your cultural, emotional and spiritual views about your sexuality. If there is someone you feel comfortable discussing this with, share your information.
The following are the most common organisms involved with vaginal infections: Candida albicans (yeast), Gardnerella (bacterial vaginosis), and Trichomonas. These organisms respond to different treatments and so it is important to see your doctor to identify which organism is causing the infection and treat it appropriately. The following are general guidelines to prevent and treat vaginal infections.
- Wear cotton underpants. Avoid nylon underwear since they retain moisture and heat which encourages the growth of bacterial and yeast.
- Don’t share washcloths, towels, or bathing suits with others and avoid use of wet or damp towels.
- After urination and bowel movements, wipe front to back to avoid anal-vaginal contamination.
- Avoid chemicals in your personal hygiene regimen (e.g., harsh soaps, perfumes, commercial douches, scented tampons, vaginal sprays, perfumed or colored toilet paper, bubble bath, etc.).
- Don’t douche, especially with commercial douches. Douching has been associated with an increased incidence of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
- After bathing, pat genital area dry and keep dry.
- Take showers instead of baths. Soaps can more easily get into the vagina with baths. The pH of soap and bubble baths are alkaline and the vaginal pH is normally acidic. If you take baths, add a cup of white or apple cider vinegar to the water to maintain the acidity.
- Use tampons only during your menses and avoid leaving tampons in the vagina for long periods of time. Tampons left in the vagina encourage the growth of bacteria and yeast and predispose to other serious conditions such as toxic shock syndrome. Change tampons frequently (4-6 times per day) or use a menstrual pad instead.
- Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and grains.
- Avoid sugar, sweets, and refined foods in your diet.
- Include ample amounts of vitamins A, B, C, and E in your diet.
- Include plain, nonfat yogurt and/or use an acidophilus product after taking antibiotics to maintain healthy GI tract bacteria.
- Avoid pants that are tight in the crotch. Expose your vagina to fresh air whenever possible such as during sleep.
- Make sure your sexual partner is clean or take a shower before and after lovemaking.
- Anal-genital intercourse is cautioned against by current public health agencies due to the increased risk of sexually transmitted disease. Vaginal penetration after anal intercourse without first changing the condom or washing of your partner’s genitals/hands can be a significant source of infection.
- Use condoms or dental dams during intercourse to avoid transmission of infection between you and your partner.
- Make sure you have adequate lubrication for intercourse. Poor lubrication can cause irritation and inflammation which can lead to the growth of bacteria which cause infection.
- Avoid vaginal irritants such as unclean diaphragms and cervical caps, aggressive intercourse, and examining instruments.
- Find ways to deal with emotional stress and get an adequate amount of sleep. This helps keep ones immune system working well to fight off infection.
Boric Acid and Acidophilus Capsules: Fill 5-7 “00” capsules with boric acid (available at any drug store). Insert one boric acid capsule and two acidophilus capsules into the vagina every night for 5-7 nights. Some women find the boric acid is irritating. Discontinue use of capsules should irritation develop. Do not use boric acid if you may be pregnant. Do not use boric acid capsules for more than seven nights in any month without first consulting a physician.
Yogurt: Apply two tablespoons of unsweetened nonfat yogurt with live lactobacillus cultures into your vagina each night for seven days. Consult your physician if you are pregnant before application of yogurt. Optional: Add 5-6 drops of Hydrastis(Goldenseal) tincture to two tablespoons of yogurt.
Diet: Eliminate foods with high yeast, mold, or fungus content during an infection, e.g. mushrooms, cheese, alcohol, sweets, and bread. Follow dietary guidelines as above.
Garlic: Wrap a un-nicked clove of garlic in cheesecloth or gauze and insert in the vagina for seven nights.
Bath: Prepare a bath using one cup of white vinegar and soak for 10-15 minutes to decrease vaginal pH.
Dryness: Keep genital area dry and expose to air often. You may use a blow dryer on cool setting to dry genital area during infection.
Menstrual pads: Use menstrual pads instead of tampons if you have your menses during an infection. If cloth pads use bleach with washing.
If symptoms persist for more than one week, consult your physician at the Natural Health Clinic.
1. Hudson, T. Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Keats Publishing, 1999.