Vaginal thrush (vaginal candidiasis) is an infection caused though an overgrowth (most commonly) of the yeast Candida albicans. This yeast lives naturally in the bowel and in small numbers in the vagina. Thrush can occur in many areas of the body, but is quite prevalent in the vagina, around the anus and in the mouth.
Symptoms can include:
- A thick, white, or creamy vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese, and can be yeasty in its odour
- Pain and/or discomfort during intercourse
- A burning sensation on urinating
- Redness or swelling of the vagina and/or vulva
- Vaginal discomfort, itching or burning
- The above symptoms can be worse prior to menstruation
- Splits in the genital skin
- Note that not all women can experience symptoms, and can be asymptomatic
This overgrowth may occur due to recent antibiotic use, oral contraceptive use, pregnancy, menstrual cycle changes, general illnesses like diabetes, iron deficiency and immune system disorders, being run down, and/or associated vulval skin conditions. Sometimes the reason can’t be identified.
Treatment can include topical anti-fungal creams, vaginal pessaries and/or oral medications.
Self-care and prevention practices can include:
- Avoiding wearing tight-fitting clothing, especially clothing made from synthetic materials. Loose-fitting, natural-fibre underwear is preferable.
- Avoiding washing underwear with biological washing powders or liquids and avoiding the use of fabric conditioners.
- Yoghurt containing probiotics, either eaten or applied to the vagina, may be helpful.
- Wipe from ‘front to back’ after going to the toilet.
- Avoid soaps, deodorants or talcum powder in the genital area.
- Avoid deodorised panty liners, bath foams or salts, or vaginal douches.
- Use a water-based lubricant during intercourse, or when inserting tampons if your vagina is dry.
- Avoid spermicidal condoms.
- Shower after exercise.
- Take probiotics after having a course of antibiotics.
Ayurvedic Approach to Thrush:
According to Ayurveda thrush stems from inappropriate diet and lifestyle habits, which then leads to a low digestive fire (Mandagni). This low digestive fire is what leads to the deficient and incomplete digestion of foods, and over time leads to the formation of toxins, or undigested food matter in the GI tract (known as Ama). Within the small and large intestine, this Ama will putrefy and ferment, and subsequently inhibit the growth of a healthy intestinal bacterial flora. Additionally, this Ama can also be absorbed into the bloodstream and is the carried to the moist and viscous tissues of the body (i.e. vagina, oral cavity, skin folds, etc.). In other extra-intestinal sites, it will disrupt tissue immunity, thus permitting candida overgrowth. If the condition is not treated, over time and with continuing causative factors, can lead to lack of vitality, poor immunity, and multiple system dysfunction.
Ayurveda sees that there are different aspects to thrush, depending on which dosha is involved.
Vata dominant thrush: Caused by an excess of pungent, bitter and astringent foods, too much cold food, excessive travel, the suppression of natural urges (e.g. passing stools, urination etc), excessive intercourse and irregular eating and sleeping habits.
Pitta dominant thrush: Can be caused by an excess of pungent, uncooked, burning, sour and alkaline foods.
Kapha dominant thrush: can be caused by the intake of foods that are too heavy, oily and cold. In addition, overeating, and sleeping during the day.
Tridoshic: Can be all of the above.
BENEFICIAL AYURVEDIC HERBS FOR THRUSH:
Vata Pitta Balancing: guduchi, triphala, lodhra
Vata Kapha Balancing: chitraka, trikatu, guduchi, triphala, ashwaganda, vidanga, moringa
Pitta Vata Balancing: guduchi, triphala, lodhra,
Pitta Kapha Balancing: kutki, musta, neem, guduchi, triphala
Kapha Vata Balancing: chitraka, trikatu, guduchi, triphala, ashwaganda, vidanga, moringa
Kapha Pitta Balancing: kutki, musta, neem, guduchi, triphala
Traditional Ayurvedic Treatment(s) for Thrush:
Ayurvedic treatment approach(es) for migraines are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual, the current imbalances, their age, strength, severity of the condition, and if other conditions are also present. Treatment approaches can include:
- Panchakarma detox treatments (when deemed appropriate)
- Cleansing (herbal decoction) vaginal douche therapies
- Avoid causative factors
- Balance Jataragni (digestive fire) and digestion
- Remove Ama (toxins within the digestive tract and body)
- Balance doshic imbalances through diet/lifestyle/herbs
- Intake of clean, wholefood, organic eating as much as possible
- Build up immunity
General Ayurvedic Nutritional Guidelines for Thrush:
Ayurvedic nutritional approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual. One should eat compatible foods, and in accordance to one's imbalances. Some additional general guidelines include:
NOTE: There are differences in Ayurvedic circles (practitioners and schools) as to what diet to eat with respect to thrush. As candida albicans are facultative anaerobes, they can utilize sugars via the alcoholic fermentation pathway to derive energy. Therefore, sugar—glucose, sucrose, fructose, maltose, dextrose—need to be avoided. This includes fruits. In addition, yeast-containing foods should be eliminated as well as fermented foods, cheese, mushrooms, and wheat. Ideally, a gluten-free diet is recommended. High starchy vegetables (potatoes, yams) and sugary vegetables (e.g. beets) also need to be avoided.
- One should eat the foods that one does not react to.
- One should eat according to the digestive capacity, keeping meals light, cooked, warm moist and easy to digest. As a guide, eat to fill the stomach 1/3 with solid food, 1/3 with liquid and leaving 1/3 empty to allow room for digestive secretions in the stomach.
- One should eat at regular times/intervals. Avoid skipping meals.
- One should eat wholegrains and non-processed foods.
- Foods to avoid: Cold foods, raw foods, leftover foods (24 hours), frozen foods, cold water, processed and packaged foods, soft drinks, high fat foods, greasy foods. Minimise the intake of hot chilli type foods and spices, carbonated drinks, pistachios and cashews, wheat, alcohol, and milk (small amounts of goat milk are OK).
- Chicken and egg whites are fine to eat.
- Ideally a gluten-free diet should be observed.
- One should avoid overeating. Allow 6 hours between meals and snack 3 hours after a meal and eat only if hungry. If digestion is poor, then 4 light meals per day is advisable in place of three regular meals.
- Breakfast should be easy to digest, lunch the main meal, and dinner should be lighter than lunch.
- A small amount of buttermilk consumed after meals is advisable.
- Eat home cooked meals, preferably made on the same day as being prepared.
- Water should be drunk warm in the cooler months and room temperature in the summer months. Avoid chilled water.
- Use all of the five senses at mealtimes. Savour the food that you are eating.
- Eat in a pleasant environment. Eat seated and try to avoid TV and electronic devices whilst eating.
- Eat slowly, eat with respect/reverence for what you are eating, chew thoroughly.
General Ayurvedic Lifestyle Guidelines for Thrush:
Ayurvedic lifestyle approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual. Some general guidelines include:
- Allow for sufficient rest and sleep. Go to bed at a regular time each day, and best before 10pm. Avoid also sleeping during the day.
- Keep to a routine as much as possible during the day.
- Get sufficient daily activity and exercise, without overdoing exercise. Balanced activity/exercise is healthy, but avoid over-exertion. Warm up prior to exercise.
- Avoid stress, anxiety, fear and tension. Look at counselling for self-care and working through any stress, anxiety, anger or any other mental health and/or emotional issues.
- Deep breathing for 10 minutes a day is very beneficial. Meditation, yoga and pranayama can also be highly beneficial.
- Make sure to be well rugged up in winter, especially when going outside.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol and minimise caffeine intake.
- One should avoid constipation and suppressing natural urges (passing stools, gas, burping etc).
- Wipe from front to back when going to the toilet.
- Avoid using soap to wash the genital area.
- Empty the bladder after intercourse.
- Avoid using chemical antiseptics, douches or perfumed sprays in the genital area, and use sanitary pads over tampons.
- Avoid using perfumed toilet papers and menstrual products. Also, use unperfumed and natural laundry products, and avoid chemical or perfumes feminine products.
- Wear loose fitting clothing of natural fibres that allow the area to breathe. This includes underwear.
- Diaphragms, or unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms, can contribute to bacterial growth.
- Avoid all allergens and immune weakening products.
- Take a warm water bath (if needed to reduce pain) with Epsom sales or baking soda.
If you have any concerns about your health please be sure to consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner or your local health physician. See our Ayurvedic Practitioner Services and Consultation Page for more information.