At some point in their lives, most women will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection. WomensHealth.gov estimates that 75 percent of women will have one at some point in their lives, and most will have two or more. For women who ride -- either bicycles or motorcycles -- this problem can become even peskier. Sweaty workout clothes and the lack of air circulation between the body and seat create the perfect breeding ground for a fungus called Candida.
According to “Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary,” a vaginal yeast infection happens when Candida multiplies and grows in the vagina and vulva. Most people know the condition by the uncomfortable itchy-burning feeling that comes with it, and the cottage-cheese-like discharge. Some people also have pain during sex. Although there are scads of home remedies out there, yeast infections usually require some kind of medical intervention.
Even the healthiest vagina has some amount of yeast peacefully existing and causing no trouble. The problem begins when the yeast multiplies out of control. “The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook” explains that these infections often result when we give the yeast a happy breeding ground — this includes a moist environment created by tight, non-absorbent underwear and clothing. Other contributing factors include stress, lack of sleep, hormones, poor diet, some medicines and certain contraceptives.
A 2003 Italian study published in the “European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology” showed that the most common factors associated with yeast infections were lifestyle traits, which included wearing synthetic underwear, biking and motorcycling.
When biking, many women wear tight, synthetic bike shorts with added padding in the seat. This combination creates an excellent environment for the yeast to thrive. Weather can make the situation worse — a hot, humid climate will allow a lot of sweat to accumulate in your seat.
Talk to your physician if you think you have a yeast infection; this is important because it is possible for a more serious condition to look like a yeast infection. Your doctor might have you take a course of antibiotics or use a cream until the infection goes away.
Some women experience repeated and frequent yeast infections. If you find yourself in this uncomfortable situation, make sure you are taking the best possible care of yourself and not creating a happy breeding ground for the yeast.
If you bike often and suffer from yeast infections, focus on staying dry. Change out of your bike shorts as soon as possible after you get off the bike. Shower with baby soap after your workout. Wear cotton underwear. When biking, try breathable cotton shorts instead of synthetic fibers. If your seat is uncomfortable without padded shorts, then it could be time to upgrade to a cushier saddle specifically designed for a woman. Some have anatomical cutouts to allow for better circulation in this critical area.
Everyone is different. Consult with your physician about your individual situation and risk factors.