Since I posted about my silly bladder and my recurrent thrush, I received so many messages and questions, so I’ve done a follow up article on thrush for you.
Just a warning: I’m about to get very candid about Candida, so if you’re eating your lunch you may want to come back a little later.
What is thrush?
Thrush is a yeast infection, typically in the vagina but it can affect any part linked to your gut and that includes your mouth. It’s caused by an overgrowth of Candida albicans yeast (which is naturally occurring and essential in our bowls).
What are the symptoms of thrush?
Redness, itchiness and burning accompanied by a thicker than usual white discharge are the typical symptoms. Sometimes the discharge is described as cottage cheese and it can have a sharp, yeast like smell.
What causes thrush?
Most commonly, a decrease in good bacteria (flora) causes the yeast to overgrow. This can happen when you have a bad tummy bug or are taking antibiotics.
Other times, it’s caused by a lack of ventilation. Yeast needs a warm, moist environment to thrive, so the use of pads, pantyliners and underwear that’s too tight or not breathable enough, will keep the area damp long enough for the yeast to have a field day.
If you have recurrent thrush, you may want to look at your diet and reduce your sugar intake. This includes natural sugars from fruit too. Sugar is food for yeast and since Candida albicans is found in the gut, your diet will affect it.
A word of caution
A yeast infection can look and feel like many other types of vaginal infections, so it’s important to make sure that what you are experiencing is actually from thrush and not something more serious. The easiest method is to use an over the counter kit that will tell you if you have thrush or Bacterial Vaginosis (BV).
How to treat thrush
There are many effective, over the counter treatments available such as creams, pessaries and oral tablets.
Apple cider vinegar
Having a bath with some apple cider vinegar added in does work if you have mild thrush. (I use half a cup of vinegar.)
Most internal creams contain clotrimazole in varying percentages.
In my experience, creams are the least effective and slowest method of treatment BUT are the safest whilst pregnant.
You do need to experiment with different brands though because some work better than others. I am not sure if it is a brand thing, or a formula issue, but Canesten’s clotrimazole cream has never worked for me. Medaspor, on the other hand, works every time, but it’s difficult to come by in the UK.
This is a tablet that is inserted into the vagina. It also contains clotrimazole but in a higher dosage.
I have had good success with this in the past, but I do recommend buying one with a gel coating instead of the dry, pressed tablet. The gel one is bit more expensive, but I promise the pain and discomfort that come with the cheaper option is not worth it AT ALL.
I have had the most success treating thrush with Fluconazole tablets.
Essentially, you will have the same results using a pessary as you will with oral tablets, but only if you are a woman, and do not have recurrent thrush. Men cannot take pessaries for obvious reasons.
If you have recurrent thrush, a pessary is not going to help you in the long run. As I mentioned, Candida albicans is found in the gut, so if you have a yeast infection inside your gut, it will spread to other areas of the body. It took me YEARS to figure out that it’s all related and once I take Fluconazole, I’m generally thrush free for about a year. As a long-time sufferer of recurrent thrush, twelve months feels like a life time.
How to prevent thrush
A few small changes can make a huge impact when trying to keep thrush at bay.
If you are taking antibiotics, pick up some probiotics too.
The trick is to take the probiotics about two hours after the antibiotics so that it isn’t killed off too quickly. Eat lots of plain yogurt too whilst on antibiotics. If neither of these are doing much to help you, then you could try probiotic pessaries which work really, really well in my experience.
Reducing your sugar intake and eating more yogurt at the start of a thrush infection will keep it from getting worse, but you still need to treat it.
If you wear underwear made from synthetic material, try switching to cotton and avoid stockings if you can (or opt for thigh high ones).
If you rely on pads and pantyliners, try alternatives like a Mooncup or Giggle Knickers.
Avoid irritants such as soaps, fragrances, and douches. You don’t need soap for your lady bits as it is self-cleaning, and water is enough to keep it clean externally.
You might also be sensitive to your laundry detergent and fabric softer so try switching those or rinsing your laundry a bit more.
Try latex and spermicide free condoms. I am allergic to latex and sensitive to things like silicone-based lube and even the spermicide lubricant used on most condoms. Switching to latex and spermicide free condoms, has helped me massively, as has using water-based lube. I’ve found that anything that irritates my skin in those parts usually causes mild thrush. I think it has to do with the fact that the chemicals kill some of the good bacteria but I’m not sure. All I know is, is that when I stopped using them, the thrush got better too.
I really hope this helps you and if you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.