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How to outsmart candida and curb recurrent yeast infections

 Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of the Candida albicans yeast species. [iStockphoto]

Most women will probably get a yeast infection at some point. Globally, this has happened to at least 75 per cent of women in their lifetimes.

As a specialist in clinical health, health systems and women’s wellness, Dr Junior F Mukudi has frequently treated women struggling with the irritation of yeast infections.

“There are many yeast infections, with the most common being vaginal yeast infection. Vaginal yeast infection or candidiasis affects as many as three women out of four women at some point in their lives,” he says.

Dr Mukudi describes candidiasis as a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of the Candida albicans yeast species. While commonly affecting the vagina and vulva, it can manifest in various body areas, including the mouth, throat, skin, and nails.

“While commonly affecting the vagina and vulva, yeast infections can also develop in various body areas, including the mouth, throat, skin, and nails,” he says.

Yeast, he says, plays an important role in determining the health of your vagina but when it overgrows it leads to an infection that causes discomfort.

Dr Mukudi notes that a healthy vagina maintains a delicate balance of yeast and bacteria. However, certain factors often linked to certain habits can disrupt this balance, resulting in yeast overgrowth. The association between strong antibiotic use and pH imbalance prompts the need for probiotics to counteract overgrowth.

  Dr Junior F Mukudi. [Courtesy]

He further explains that hormonal changes in pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes, HIV/Aids, steroid use, douching, tight clothing, and high sugar and refined carbohydrates can disrupt this balance allowing Candida fungi to rapidly multiply, causing infection.  

He adds: “Itching, burning urination, pain during sex, and thick, white, odourless vaginal discharge resembling cottage cheese are common yeast infection symptoms. While women are most susceptible, both sexes can develop infections in various body areas.”

To confirm candida overgrowth, doctors often base diagnosis on patient-reported symptoms and physical examinations. In some cases, Dr Mukudi explains, microscopic testing or cultures of vaginal discharge samples is what is required.

Treatment plans depend on infection severity. Over-the-counter antifungal products like Monistat, Vagistat, and Lotrimin are effective for mild to moderate infections. Severe or recurrent cases may require prescription-strength antifungal medications in oral or vaginal forms.

If left untreated, he says, infections can lead to serious complications like tissue inflammation and thinning, yeast accumulation on skin surfaces, and systemic fungus dissemination throughout the body. This risk escalates among immunocompromised patients.

While not classified as sexually transmitted, yeast can spread through sexual contact. Recurrent infections likely result from an imbalance in vaginal environments rather than through reinfection from partners. Still, practising good genital hygiene and quickly treating infections helps prevent transmission.

To reduce recurrences, the doctor advises female patients to maintain proper vaginal pH levels through gentle perineal cleaning, wearing breathable cotton undergarments, wiping front-to-back after voiding, controlling blood sugar through dietary changes, and consuming probiotic yoghurt.

“Combining these self-care habits provides the best protection against repeat yeast overgrowth,” he says.

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