Most of us consider “bacteria” to be a dirty word. It makes us think of illness, infections, and germs. However, some bacteria are “good” for us, and we need them for our bodies to function well. Such is the case with the flora (also known as yeast or bacteria) that lives inside the vagina. The good bacteria in the vagina help to promote a healthy pH balance and keep the area clean and fresh. However, there are many ways that the bacteria in the vagina can become imbalanced, and when this happens, a yeast infection can occur.
A yeast infection results when there is an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina. We all have yeast inside our bodies and even on our skin, but too much can lead to an infection. An increase of yeast can occur for many reasons: Everything from pregnancy to birth control pills can increase your risk.
Antibiotic medication is perhaps one of the most common causes of yeast infections. Although antibiotics are an invaluable tool when it comes to treating certain illnesses and safeguarding our immune system, they have the potential to kill the good bacteria in our bodies that we need to be healthy along with the bad bacteria that make us sick. This is one reason yeast infections occur. The antibiotics kill off the good bacteria that keep the yeast in control; this leads to an overgrowth of yeast, which in turn leads to the uncomfortable itching and burning that we associate with yeast infections.
Of course, avoiding antibiotics isn’t the best answer since these medications are often a must, treating everything from minor infections to life-threatening illnesses. Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to minimize your risk of a yeast infection while taking antibiotics, such as:
Prevention is key. If you are prone to yeast infections or have experienced yeast infections in the past as a result of antibiotics, talk to your doctor about ways you can decrease your risk. Some doctors suggest taking preventive measures when taking antibiotics: Your health-care provider might tell you to use an over-the-counter yeast-infection remedy (like Monistat, or miconazole) before the symptoms even arise or give you a prescription for a stronger yeast-infection medication (also known as Diflucan, or fluconazole) to have at the ready if you need it.
Maintain a healthy diet. Add a cup of yogurt to your diet every day to help promote the growth of good bacteria. Not all yogurt is created equal, so look for ones that have probiotics (code for good bacteria), and look for terms like “lactobacillus” or “acidophilus” on the label. You can also take a garlic supplement or add fresh garlic to your diet, as it’s been shown to have an antifungal effect and can help decrease yeast infections.
Keep things as dry and comfortable as possible. Nix any douches or perfumed body washes. You don’t need to wash with harsh soaps or irritants. A little warm water is all you need to keep your labia clean, and you never need to clean inside your vagina. Avoid tight panties, thongs, and even pantyhose if possible. Also, make sure that you change out of sweaty gym clothes right away or take off your wet swimsuit as soon as possible when you get out of the pool. Keep that area dry, cool, and comfortable, and you can greatly reduce your risk of a yeast infection.
Remember to see your doctor and avoid intercourse for at least two days after it has cleared up.