It’s Bathing Suit Season – 6 Tips to Prevent Yeast Infections
Posted 6/25/2014 by UHBlog
The vagina naturally has a healthy balance of bacteria and yeast. But sometimes there is an overgrowth of yeast cells in the vagina or vulva that causes an infection. Yeast infections are common and rarely serious, but they can be very unpleasant. Women with yeast infections may experience itching, irritation, burning, soreness and a thick discharge. OB/GYN Roya Rezaee, MD, offers six helpful tips for preventing these symptoms.
1. Remove wet swimsuits
“Don’t sit around in a wet bathing suit,” says Dr. Rezaee. “Rinse off with water and change immediately.” She explains that wearing a wet suit leaves the residue of pool chemicals on your skin and promotes the imbalance of bacteria in the vagina and vulva. The same goes for exercise. Rather than walking around in your sweaty clothes post-workout, hop in the shower and put on a fresh outfit.
2. Skip strong cleansers
Douches, antibacterial soaps and feminine sprays and powders promise a squeaky clean body. But Dr. Rezaee warns that these chemical-based products can alter a woman’s bacterial balance and cause a chemical dermatitis. “I call it overzealous hygiene,” says Dr. Rezaee. “You end up washing away the good bacteria, too.” She recommends that women use paraben-free, dye-free hypoallergenic soaps or even gentle cleansers meant for babies.
3. Cut back on sugars
Diets high in sugar may be associated with a greater occurrence of yeast infections, according to Dr. Rezaee. Swap foods and drinks made with sugars, such as soda and pastries, for healthier summer treats, like unsweetened iced tea or fresh fruit salad.
4. Make yogurt part of your diet
And not just any yogurt: some are laden with sugar and extra calories. The best yogurts have live probiotic cultures and no added sugars. Dr. Rezaee explains that women who don’t have a healthy gastrointestinal (GI) tract may be vulnerable to yeast infections. “The ingestion of yogurt with its natural cultures helps promote GI tract health,” she says. A healthy GI tract means a stronger defense against yeast infections.
5. Don’t self-diagnose
Many women make the mistake of trying to self-diagnose – and self-treat – yeast infections, according to Dr. Rezaee. “Most women who think they have a yeast infection actually do not,” she says. These phantom infections may simply be skin discomfort due to a chemical irritant or a change in discharge before menstruation. Women who frequently purchase over-the-counter yeast infection treatment may actually be making themselves more vulnerable to true yeast infections. “This may cause an increasing rate of yeast that resists treatment,” says Dr. Rezaee. If you experience vaginal irritation, leave it up to your doctor to identify the source of your pain.
6. Pay attention to preexisting health conditions
Certain conditions may make you more prone to yeast infections. Women with diabetes, women with compromised immune systems and women who are pregnant are all at a greater risk for yeast infections. “Managing your medical issues may help in reducing your yeast infection risk,” says Dr. Rezaee.
Roya Rezaee, MD, is the Medical Director of the Women’s Health Center and the Co-Director of the Sexual Health and Vulvovaginal Disorders Program at University Hospitals MacDonald Women’s Hospital.