Herbal Meds

Treating and preventing yeast infections with Acidophilus

At some point in life, most women will experience the unpleasant symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection.  If you are prone to these infections, you will be glad to know that there are natural supplements that can assist in treating and preventing these infections.

Candida albicans is the organism that is responsible for the majority of yeast infections and is normally present in your body in harmless amounts.  An overgrowth of this organism can however cause problems, one of them being a vaginal yeast infection.  Should something disturb the normal balance of yeast and bacteria or even the pH level in the vagina, yeast can multiply rapidly and grow uncontrolled.  

Vaginal yeast infections are not the only problems that
appear, diaper rash and thrush are also caused by an over-abundance of Candida albicans.  The word candidiasis is used to describe infections in various parts of the body caused by Candida albicans, the most common being the mouth, ears, nose, toenails and fingernails, gastrointestinal tract and the vagina.

A yeast infection is likely to develop when your immune system is weakened by stress, lack of sleep or an illness.  Certain antibiotics such as tetracycline can cause yeast infections because it destroys harmful bacteria as well as the "friendly" bacteria that keep yeast levels normal.  
Because all yeasts feed on sugar, a diet high in sugar can cause Candida albicans to thrive.  Chemotherapy is also a well known cause of candidiasis.  People who suffer from diabetes report an increase in yeast infections as well.

There is a wide array of symptoms associated with yeast infections and because of this, this disorder is easily misdiagnosed.  

Listed below are some of the main symptoms:

  • Recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Painful and frequent urination
  • Vaginal burning, itching and a white, curd like vaginal discharge with sometimes a strong odour
  • Unusual menstrual cramping
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • White patches in the mouth (thrush)
  • Skin irritation in the folds of the skin, especially in the groin area or under the breasts
  • Abdominal pain and bloating, indigestion and heartburn
  • Constipation or diarrhea
Both men and women can be affected by yeast infections, although the incidence is higher in women than men.  This is because of hormonal changes during pregnancy and the use of birth control pills.  Women who have a yeast infection when giving birth can transmit this disease to the newborn.  Yeast infections are rarely sexually transmitted, however care should be taken when either partner has candidiasis.

Acidophilus is what is commonly referred to as a "friendly" bacteria that inhabit your digestive tract.  There are some 500 species of these beneficial bacteria, but the most helpful is two strains of Lactobacillus bacteria:  acidophilus and bifidus.  Both these strains are probiotics, which means that they help maintain a proper balance of health-promoting intestinal bacteria.  

Taking an acidophilus supplement along with an immune-boosting herbal supplement such as echinacea, can restore the normal balance of healthy bacteria in both the gastrointestinal tract and the vagina.  Certain vitamins such as B12, K, thiamine and folic acid are also supplied by taking acidophilus supplements.  

Studies have shown that when an acidophilus suppository or douche is used, it can effectively treat and prevent vaginal yeast infections.  In fact,
if you are taking a course of antibiotics or using birth control pills, it is recommended that you take a probiotic supplement daily to ensure that a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria is maintained.  

For your colon to be healthy, it should contain at least 85 percent lactobacilli (acidophilus and bifidus) and 14 percent coliform bacteria (the healthy type of E.coli).  Acidophilus creates an inhospitable environment for harmful strains of
E.coli as well as for salmonella, streptococcus and many other dangerous and life-threatening bacteria.

Other benefits of acidophilus include reducing the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, which is a chronic inflammation of the intestines.  Diarrhea caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is also relieved because acidophilus supplements replenish the beneficial intestinal bacteria lost because of diarrhea.

What are the side effects of Acidophilus?

Please consult your medical practitioner prior to using any herbal medications should you be under their care.

Very few side effects have been reported, even with prolonged use of acidophilus supplements.  If acidophilus is ingested in large quantities, it may cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal complaints.

How do I take Acidophilus?

Make sure that when you purchase acidophilus supplements that they contain live cultures or active cultures.  Also check the expiry date to make sure that you do not buy a batch that will be ineffective.  Store your acidophilus supplement in a cool, dry place such as the refrigerator because heat can easily kill live cultures.

To promote intestinal health, take one or two capsules daily.  Check the label of the acidophilus supplement to make sure that it contains at least a billion live organisms.  When taking acidophilus orally, take it at least half an hour before meals.  If you are taking antibiotics, do not take the supplement at the same time as the antibiotics and continue taking the acidophilus even after completing the course of antibiotics.

To make a vaginal douche, mix two teaspoons of acidophilus powder in a liter of warm water.  Use twice daily for up to 10 days to restore the normal bacterial growth in the vagina.  Do not use the douche for prolonged periods as this can cause irritation.

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