Yeast infections are common in women, affecting 75 percent of them during their reproductive years. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of women will have recurrent episodes, and another 5 to 8 percent will experience chronic yeast infections. While there are anti-fungal drugs to cure most yeast infections, if the conditions which cause them are not corrected, they will recur. A variety of vitamins and other nutritional supplements are available for prevention and treatment.
Yeast infections are caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. It can show up in the mouth, vagina, skin, stomach and urinary tract. Depending on the location of the infection, symptoms may include vaginal itching and irritation accompanied by a white, cottage cheese-like discharge, white patches in the mouth or throat, painful cracks in the corner of the mouth or skin rashes or blisters in the groin, under the breasts and between the fingers and toes.
Normal colonies of Candida live in the mouth, digestive tract and vagina and do not cause problems. Symptoms occur when there is an overgrowth of Candida. Hot, humid weather can increase the likelihood of overgrowth, as can certain drugs, especially antibiotics. Birth control pills, corticosteroids, pregnancy, menopause, being overweight, diabetes or a weakened immune system can all upset the balance of flora.
Dr. William Crook, author of "The Yeast Connection," believes that systemic Candida may be responsible for a number of health conditions, including chronic fatigue, depression and digestive disorders. Crook has recommendations for vitamins to help combat yeast. In addition to a yeast and sugar-free multivitamin for general health, he strongly recommends vitamin C in buffered powdered form for the immune system. He recommends B vitamins for energy and the vitamins A and E and the minerals zinc and selenium for overall nutritional support.
According to Life Extension's "Disease Prevention and Treatment," studies support the addition of probiotics, including acidophilus and bifido bacteria, to the diet. Daily use of probiotics can dramatically increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract to fight Candida. Garlic, caprylic acid and biotin kill yeast in the intestine and fiber can help remove them. A supplement called Yeast Fighters by Twinlab contains all of these elements. The antifungal qualities of goldenseal, volatile oil from oregano, tea tree oil and shark liver oil can also be helpful, according to Life Extension.
What To Avoid
Serious cases of Candida will require a change in diet. Crook believes the main culprit is sugar, and it must be cut out entirely. People with Candida often have addictions to sugar, which feeds the yeast and helps them multiply. Cheeses have mold and must be avoided. Breads, pastries and any foods containing yeast cannot be eaten. Anything fermented such as alcoholic beverages and condiments containing vinegar must be eliminated. Packaged and processed foods often have hidden sugar and are not good choices. Edible fungi like mushrooms and all fruit juices except fresh must not be used. Crook recommends a diet for Candida that removes the offending foods for several weeks. Some restrictions can be lifted after a time if the person proves not to be allergic to the food.