How probiotics help treat yeast infections?
Yeast infections happen when there’s an overgrowth of fungus called Candida in your body. There are many different strains of Candida, but Candida albicans is the most common cause of vaginal yeast infections.
Your body is home to trillions of microorganisms, including fungi, bacteria, and viruses. These tiny organisms are harmless and live in colonies. They are known as the human microbiota.
Candida is part of your normal microbiota, but sometimes it grows a little too much which causing a yeast infection.
Probiotics are a collection of live microorganisms that have health benefits for your body. Some of the most common probiotics are called Lactobacillus.
The vaginal microbiota naturally contains Lactobacillus. It helps to prevent Candida and other bacteria from growing out of control.
Keep reading to learn more about the research behind probiotics as a treatment for yeast infections.
Do they actually work?
Women have been using yogurt, which often contains Lactobacillus, to treat yeast infections for a long time. Recent studies suggest that this might be more effective than experts originally thought.
A study in 2012 involving 129 pregnant women with yeast infections found that a mixing honey, which has antimicrobial properties, and yogurt had effects similar to traditional antifungal medications.
The yogurt and honey mixture was better at reducing symptoms, while the antifungal medication was more effective for eliminating fungi. In fact, a study in 2015 found the results in nonpregnant women.
This combination also reduced the chances of yeast infection to return. Probiotics might be very useful for women who get recurrent yeast infections at least four times a year.
Keep in mind that the existing studies regarding of the use probiotics to treat yeast infections are fairly small, so it is hard to draw a firm conclusion from them. Also these studies have not found any risks associated with using probiotics to treat a yeast infection.
If you regularly get yeast infections or experience side effects from traditional antifungal medications, probiotics may be especially useful.
How to try probiotics
Probiotics come in several forms that you can use in different ways. You can find them in the form of capsules or suppositories, which you insert into your vagina.
When choosing a capsule or suppository, look for one that includes a list of the bacteria it contains. Try to find one that lists Lactobacillus.
For a more cost-effective option, you can use yogurt. Just make sure you choose one that mentions live cultures and Lactobacillus.
However, avoid yogurts with added sugar or flavoring. Yeast feeds on sugars, so plain yogurt is best for a yeast infection.
To use the yogurt, remove a cotton tampon from its applicator and refill the applicator with yogurt.
Lay down while inserting the applicator and releasing all the yogurt into your vagina. Wait a few minutes before standing up to give it time to settle in.
Just like other creams for yeast infections, the yogurt will eventually start leaking out of your vagina.
You may want to consider applying it right before bed or when you won’t be standing for long periods of time. If you need to apply it during the day or before being active, you may want to use a pantyliner or a pad to protect your clothing and provide extra comfort.
You can also apply yogurt to your vulva, which is the outer part of your vagina, to relieve itching and burning.
How long do they take to work?
Studies involving the use of yogurt and honey in the vagina takes about a week to work.
Oral probiotics, on the other hand, can take anywhere from one to four weeks to alter the microbiota of your vagina.
If you choose to use oral probiotics, you can still apply yogurt to your vulva to help manage your symptoms while you wait for them to work.
When to see a doctor for a yeast infection
If you’ve never had a yeast infection before, it’s best to consult with your doctor to confirm you don’t have something else.
These can eventually cause fertility problems or pregnancy complications, so it is important to rule these out first.
If you don’t notice any improvement in your symptoms within 7 to 14 days, you should contact your doctor.
You may have a different type of infection or need a prescription antifungal medication, such as fluconazole.
There haven’t been many studies done that look at the effectiveness of probiotics for treating yeast infections. However, the limited research that exist has shown a promising result.
It doesn’t hurt to try probiotics, unless you have a weakened immune system. Also try using probiotic especially if you notice side effects when you use traditional yeast infection treatments.