Vaginal yeast infection results from overgrowth of Candida albicans, a type of yeast normally present in small amounts in the digestive tract, vagina and mouth. Over the past twenty years, new, more toxic yeast strains have developed as a result of overuse of antibiotics, so these infections have become very common, spurring rapid commercial growth of over-the-counter suppositories found in all drug stores.
Symptoms include burning, itching, irritation and redness around the vaginal opening. Many patients also experience a thick cottage cheese-like discharge. Symptoms may vary, however, depending on the strain of yeast. Frequent vaginal yeast infections often signal the existence of an intestinal yeast problem that feeds the vaginal infections. For information on treating intestinal yeast infections, refer to our discussion on dysbiosis.
Hormonal changes, birth control pills, antibiotics, steroids, blood sugar imbalances, excessive douching, and physical irritation during sex can all trigger new infections or exacerbate existing vaginal yeast infections.
Good hygiene is extremely important for prevention and treatment. This should include daily washing of the vaginal area, including the folds in the vulva. Keep the area dry and avoiding excessive heat.
Nightly vaginal insertion of an acidophilus capsule for a few nights helps ensure the return of healthy flora. The same methods can be used to treat other forms of vaginitis.
TCM doctors treat vaginal yeast infections with a tea of phellodendron bark, kochia fruit (di fu zi/Kochia scoparia), and cnidium seed (she chuang zi/Cnidium monnieri). They soak cotton with the tea and insert it vaginally twice per day. My wife, Dr. Naixin Hu Tillotson, uses this frequently in our clinic, and it is very effective.
• A note of caution. If any infection continues unabated or worsens significantly after a few days, promptly see a physician.