Vaginal thrush is a common yeast infection that affects the vagina and surrounding areas. It is thought to affect most women at some point in their lives, but is most commonly seen in women in their twenties and thirties, and in women who are pregnant.
Yeasts from a group of fungi, known as Candida, are responsible for thrush.
The symptoms of vaginal thrush usually range in severity. Common symptoms include:
- A sharp stinging pain when peeing
- Vaginal discharge: usually thick and white in colour, but may be thin and watery, and it is normally odourless
- Pain during sex
- Itching and soreness around the entrance of the vagina
Other health conditions that can occur as a result of Candida include: bladder infections, itchiness, mouth infections, rashes, sore throat, inflammation, a depletion of energy, fatigue, food cravings, heartburn, hyperactivity, hay fever, insomnia, migraine and even thyroid problems.
The majority of us have a healthy amount of Candida in our body which assists our immune system, and many women have it in their vagina without any problems being caused.
In certain circumstances however, the natural balance of microorganisms in the vagina is disturbed, with Candida increasing in quantity. This can result in thrush. The species that is most prevalent in infections is Candida albicans, with the infection being known as candidiasis.
Risk factors for vaginal thrush include:
- Being pregnant
- Being in your twenties or thirties
- Having sex if you’re not fully aroused, as this can lead to vaginal dryness, triggering thrush
- Taking antibiotics
- Having little control over your diabetes
- Having a weakened immune system from HIV or Chemotherapy treatment
Once diagnosed with vaginal thrush, you will be given a course of anti-fungal drugs for treatment. In order to maximise the effectiveness of the drugs, an anti-Candida diet should be followed.
This diet can also be used instead of the drug treatment if you do not wish to deal with the side effects of antifungals. These may include stomach aches, nausea, sickness, diarrhoea, headaches, muscle and joint pain, rashes and skin inflammation.
A diet for Candida seeks to eliminate foods that ‘feed’ the yeast infestation. This is done by adhering to a ‘restricted foods list’, and usually the Candida diet lasts for approximately four weeks. Once the infection is gone, particular foods from the restricted list can be gradually reintroduced into your daily diet and incorporated back into daily eating.
Sugar and carbohydrates
Sugar feeds Candida, making it vital to reduce your carbohydrate intake. For the first three weeks, it is recommended that you restrict sugar and carb intake to 20-60 grams per day, depending on activity levels and age. Nuts should also be avoided as they contain mould and may exacerbate your Candida.
It is important to avoid the following foods:
- Sugar: sweets, chocolate, ice cream, soft drinks and fruit juice
- Grains and veg grown underground: pasta, bread, rice, potato, sweet potato, porridge, breakfast cereal, parsnip, chips and crisps
- Trans fats, vegetable oils and omega-6 fats: hydrogenated oils, sunflower, safflower, soybean, cottonseed and corn oils
- Processed meats: bacon, salami, luncheon meat and sausages
- Full-fat dairy: cheese, butter, cream and Greek yoghurt (apart from milk, as it contains sugar)
- Low-carb nuts: macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, pecans and walnuts (hazelnuts, almonds and peanuts in moderation)
Focus on eating foods that contain lots of healthy monounsaturated fats. Foods to eat include:
- Meat: poultry, beef, pork and game meat (grass fed and organic are best)
- Fish: salmon, mackerel, herring, cod and haddock (wild fish are best)
- Organic eggs
- Low-carb vegetables: parsley, spinach, bok choi, endive, lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, cucumber and cabbage (organic is best)