The symptoms of thrush are a thick white discharge which is sticky and can look like cottage cheese, soreness and irritation. There can be an unpleasant smell and thrush can cause pain during sex or when urinating. Millions of women suffer from thrush during their lives. Some women suffer from it a few times a year and others have monthly bouts of it. The outside of the vagina can become sore and swollen and sever itching can be felt on the outside of the vagina. Men can get thrush too and produces a discharge from the penis with can cause sore skin which becomes red.
This infection is caused by a yeast (fungus) overgrowing. This yeast (candida albicans) naturally lives in the skin, vagina and gut and is normally kept controlled by friendly bacteria.
Repetitive bouts of thrush can be very annoying and uncomfortable.
If you have thrush symptoms including a discharge but you are not absolutely sure it is thrush, then get your doctor to give you a diagnosis as there are other types of vaginal infections which produce a discharge too. Your doctor will take a swab sample of the discharge.
If you want to treat a bout of thrush naturally and also deter future bouts then you can use natural herbs and food supplements plus eat certain foods to encourage friendly bacteria to keep your hormones balanced and yeast levels under control.
Avoid foods that contain too much sugar as they will encourage yeast to grow. Too much fruit like grapes and bananas or over ripe food is no good. Stick to having one apple & one pear plus a kiwi fruit. You need to also cut out any fermented foods or foods that contain yeast so that means no bread and no wine.
It has been recommended through clinical trials that certain supplements can help combat an attack or repetitive attacks of thrush. It is advised to take the supplements for a period of three months after which point your condition should be assessed again to note any changes or improvements. Your diet and supplement programme can be amended accordingly depending on the new condition you are in.
- Multi Vitamins and Minerals: these form the foundation of your supplement programme to make sure you are getting a bit of everything you need. Then build on top with other supplements and foods which are especially good at combating thrush.
- EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids): whilst you are combating an attack of thrush it is important to take this supplement because they contain anti-viral, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties which are found naturally in oily fish and certain nuts and seeds. For reoccurring thrush then taking a linseed oil capsule every day for six months is a good idea to ensure you are getting enough essential fats in your diet.
- Garlic: contains antibacterial and anti-fungal properties which are great for the immune system. It is good to take during a bout of thrush and also as a preventative measure. In clinical studies, garlic has been shown to prevent the growth of candida. When you buy your supplement look for one with a high level of allicin as this is the active ingredient in garlic which prevents yeast from over-growing.
- Zinc: women who have repetitive attacks of thrush often have a zinc deficiency. Zinc is paramount for maintaining a healthy immune system. If you are susceptible to thrush then you need your immune system to firing on all cylinders so that it can stop an overgrowth of yeast.
- Beta-carotene: is a type of Vitamin A. It is often low in the vaginal cells of women who often have thrush. It is thought that this deficiency in the cells can allow or possibly encourage the yeast to overgrow.
- Probiotics: increase the levels of healthy bacteria called flora. By taking probiotics you are increasing the friendly bacteria which will help to control the yeast growth. Women eat live plain organic yoghurt as a preventative measure but for an attack of thrush it is best to take the supplement lactobacillus acidophilus, as it is concentrated enough to fight an infection. Make sure the one you buy has to be kept in the refrigerator, because these are viable cells that need to be kept at a low temperature.
Herbal treatment is aimed at treating an active attack of thrush and also working to prevent future attacks.
- Echinacea: is great for boosting your immune system and helps to make it function at its best. Echinacea is more effective if taken with short breaks so best to take if for four weeks on and then take one week off.
- Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia): has been shown to be an excellent anti-fungal and antibacterial agent herb for candida and other vaginal infections. This essential oil (also used in aromatherapy) is not taken orally, but used vaginally and is available to buy as tea tree oil pessary. You can add a few drops of tea tree essential oil to your bath when you have thrush and it can be used as a preventative measure too.
By Eirian Hallinan