Thrush: Can It Really Be Treated With Yoghurt?

There's easier options.
Please, keep yoghurt for your breakfast.
Please, keep yoghurt for your breakfast.

There are many joys that come along with warmer weather -- longer days, swims at the beach and icy cold beers -- though thrush is not one of them.

As the mercury rises so does the probability of getting thrush thanks to the warmer, humid environment.

"Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina," dietitian, nutritionist and BioCeuticals Education Manager Belinda Reynolds told The Huffington Post Australia.

"The yeast most commonly responsible for thrush infections is known as Candida albicans. This yeast isn't a problem when it exists in the vagina in small numbers, though the infection arises when a situation allows an overgrowth. There can be multiple causes of thrush, and these may include the use of antibiotics (which kill off some of the good bacteria responsible for keeping yeast numbers under control), low immunity, hormonal changes and the use of the oral contraceptive pill."

Don't suffer in (itchy) silence.
Don't suffer in (itchy) silence.

A quick Google search into natural ways to cure thrush and you'll be told to use garlic, apple cider vinegar and onions to treat symptoms. You might also find some sites directing you to apply yoghurt to the area. Please, don't do that.

It's thought that the belief that applying yoghurt topically (or with a tampon!) came from yoghurt's live bacteria properties, though it does not work. Yoghurt is best used as a general measure for good gut health, consumed orally.

"Yoghurt is considered a potential prevention or treatment for thrush due to it containing friendly bacteria and probiotics," Reynolds said.

"Eating or taking probiotics have been found to improve the balance between the good and bad bugs in the genitourinary tract, ultimately preventing the overgrowth of the candida yeast responsible for causing thrush, however, it isn't necessarily that simple."

Candida isn't generally harmful when its numbers are kept under control by the presence of friendly bacteria.

"Everyone is different, and there can be multiple factors contributing to your thrush development, plus, not all yogurts are created equal. If you are eating yoghurt that is very high in sugar, but that doesn't contain significant enough doses of probiotics, you could be doing more harm than good. In general, opt for natural yoghurt with no added sugar, and consider adding additional fermented and high-fibre foods to your diet, and keep sugar intake down."

Thrush can be caused by a number of factors and although generally harmless, the condition still needs to be treated.

"There can be a few things to consider when it comes to thrush. Have you just been on antibiotics, or are you taking the oral contraceptive pill? If so, it is likely that one of the key reasons for your thrush development is an imbalance of good and bad bugs in your vaginal area," Reynolds said.

"Candida isn't generally harmful when its numbers are kept under control by the presence of friendly bacteria -- they compete with candida for attachment to the mucosal lining, preventing over-colonisation of candida, plus the good bacteria also produce substances which deter candida overgrowth, and they have a beneficial local stimulatory effect on the immune system which helps to prevent an infection. This is why, when you take medicines that kill off the good guys, you create an environment perfect for the flourishing of candida, seeing infection develop."

Lounging around in wet swimmers all day can cause thrush.
Lounging around in wet swimmers all day can cause thrush.

If you find yourself with thrush this summer, take yourself to the chemist.

"Anti-fungal medications are of course a means of rapidly addressing a thrush infection. If you do use these treatments, it is also a good idea to consider complementary recommendations as a means of boosting your defence mechanisms against a recurrent infection," Reynolds said.

Reynolds is referring to the use of probiotics to help restore a balance of bacteria in the gut. As we're learning more and more, good gut health is linked to many aspects of our health.

"Using a source of good bacteria locally (e.g. through the use of a vaginal probiotic pessary) can be a great way to assist thrush treatment (and prevention if you know you're prone to these types of infections)."

"Taking a probiotic orally can also be useful, and so too can be the consumption of a high fibre, low sugar, vegetable-rich diet. It can also be worthwhile considering your nutritional status. A deficiency of certain nutrients ( for example, vitamin D), and also stress, is known to deplete your body's ability to fight infection," Reynolds said.

A healthy diet full of fresh veggies helps.
A healthy diet full of fresh veggies helps.

Lastly, look after the area to lessen the risk of thrush in the first place.

"Do not use harsh soaps, as these upset the delicate local balance that is designed to protect against infection. Wipe front to back, not vice versa, after using the bathroom, and be sure not to stay in sweaty lycra activewear for hours after the gym, as this creates an environment that yeasts love the flourish."

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