Exercise brings a whole host of positive benefits to your health and well-being, such as improved sleep, reduced risk of disease and weight loss. It can also bring a few side effects, including yeast infections. We typically associate yeast infections with the vagina, but they can occur on most skin surfaces, and in both men and women. Perspiration from exercise creates the kinds of conditions yeast infections thrive in. There's also limited evidence that excessive exercises increases disease risk.
Causes Associated with Exercise
Yeast infections are caused by a strain of fungus called Candida albicans. Candida albicans lives all over your body, all of the time. When conditions are right, the fungi multiply at a high rate and cause an infection. Yeast microorganisms thrive in warm, moist places. Because exercise increases body temperature and perspiration, it can encourage naturally occurring yeast to grow to excess.
Types Associated with Exercise
There are two main types of yeast infections that affect people who regularly exercise: cutaneous, or skin yeast infections, and vaginal yeast infections. Both are caused by an overgrowth of Candida albicans, and both can be brought on or exacerbated by the increased moisture created during regular exercise, according to MedlinePlus. Athlete's foot is also a type of fungal infection, but it's caused by mold, not yeast microorganisms.
Cutaneous yeast infections look like red, irritated patches of skin. They usually occur in skin folds and places you sweat a lot, like under your arms or breasts, and cause intense itching, according to MedlinePlus. Vaginal yeast infections also cause itching and irritation and often result in a cottage cheese-like discharge. Both types of infections might give off a yeasty, bread-like smell.
Over-the-counter topical and vaginal anti-fungal creams should stop mild yeast infection symptoms and cure the infection, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. If they don't improve your symptoms within three to seven days, you may need a prescription-strength anti-fungal treatment from your doctor. See your doctor if your symptoms come with a fever or pain, especially pelvic pain.
The University of Maryland Medical Center points out that exercising 30 minutes per day, five days per week could help reduce yeast infection symptoms. Moderate exercise improves immune function and delivers nutrient and oxygen rich blood to your cells and tissues. However, a study published in the "Journal of Sports Sciences" in 2004 points out that too much exercise can negatively affect your immune system and make you more prone to infections. This suppressed immune function may be contributing to your yeast infections.
Take off your exercise clothes as soon as possible after you work out and wash them between each use to help prevent yeast infections, according to MedlinePlus. Wear clothing that wicks away moisture to help keep your skin clean and dry. Shower and dry off thoroughly after activities that cause you to sweat a lot. Don't wear a wet bathing suit for extended periods of time. Use a moisture-absorbing powder on skin areas that perspire the most.