This is what thrush really means for your vagina

Including the surprising reasons you keep getting it

When Amy Schumer opened her stand-up comedy with the line, ‘I made [a] New Year’s resolutions. [It] was to this year just once take off a pair of underwear and make it not look like I blew my nose in it,’ the audience may have gasped and laughed raucously – but women everywhere were nodding their heads, like, yeah, preach. (And, like, can we talk about thrush now?)

Because vaginal discharge is something we need to talk about. It’s more often than not just a perfectly normal result of self-cleansing which can change throughout your monthly cycle (because from everything we know about periods, our bodies are changing constantly).

But, it’s important to really know the normal cycle of your vagina because issues like thrush or bacterial vaginosis are not fun. In fact, thrush could be a reason you feel tired all the time.

Here’s what you need to know…

Linda Booth, founder of a natural digestive health and gut disorders clinic, Just For Tummies, gives us the lowdown.

What is thrush?

Vaginal thrush is a common yeast infection that affects most women at some point.  It’s caused by the yeast candida. Candida doesn’t normally cause a problem in the vagina but if there is an imbalance in the levels of bacteria in the vagina, candida can multiply and cause thrush.  Men can get it too.

Thrush symptoms

  • Itching and soreness around the entrance of the vagina (itchy labia)
  • A usually odourless discharge which may be thick and white or thin and watery.
  • Pain during sex (any pain during sexual intercourse needs investigating by a GP).
  • A stinging, burning sensation when peeing.
  • Sometimes the skin around the vagina can be red, swollen, cracked and painful. Occasionally there may also be sores on the skin, although this is more often a sign of genital herpes.

Thrush treatment

Garlic

Garlic is traditionally used for its immune system strengthening, antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, and it complements the action of the probiotics by reducing the “bad” bacteria and yeasts in the gut and urinary and vaginal tracts, which cause these female-specific infections. Made from garlic which has been aged for two years for extra potency.

Over-the-counter treatments

Antifungal medication can usually treat thrush in a week or so with brands like Canesten and Canesflor. Available at pharmacies, you can find creams, capsules and pessaries (a pill you insert into your vagina) to treat internally and creams to relieve any external issues.

Causes of thrush

Antibiotics

The use of broad-based antibiotics for say, a throat infection, chest infection, or skin infection can have a knock on effect to urinary and vaginal health because it eradicates the ‘friendly’ bacteria in the bladder and the vagina. Because broad-based antibiotics kill all bacteria, the bad and good, it’s then typical for a rebound yeast infection to develop due to the lack of this ‘friendly’ bacteria…  It’s not just important to take probiotics after antibiotic therapy to help re-populate the gut with ‘friendly’ strains, but crucial too to help prevent UTIs and thrush. It’s easy for the e-coli bacteria to find attachment points in the bladder and cause an infection if there is no healthy bacterial barrier coating the bladder and forming a defence wall. Taking a daily probiotic will ensure re-colonisation of ‘friendly’ strains of bacteria.

Sugar

A high sugar diet contributes to UTIs and thrush. The maximum daily sugar intake for a woman is 50g, but in a UTI/thrush sufferer this needs to be curtailed – sugar, especially the high-fructose sugars found in fruit/juice, impairs the body’s ability to fight infections. If prone to UTIs and thrush, reduce your intake of fruit/fruit juice and replace with more vegetables and plain water. Even when we’re trying to eat healthily we can inadvertently eat and drink way too many grams of sugar – 500mls of freshly squeezed orange juice is an eye watering 55g of sugar or the equivalent of 13 hobknobs, (have a glass of carrot juice instead at just 5g of sugar). A 125 ml glass of red wine or prosecco contains only a quarter of a teaspoon of sugar so only 2% of your daily intake, but drinks that we mix contain much higher levels of sugar – mix a vodka with coke and it takes it up to 55% of your daily sugar consumption. That healthy looking cereal bar you grabbed after the gym may actually contain as much as 20g of sugar, and this will continue the cycle of thrush and UTIs.

Is thrush contagious?

Vaginal thrush isn’t classed as a sexually transmitted disease, but it can be triggered by sex –particularly if you have trouble relaxing and your vagina is dry. It can be passed on to sexual partners, but this is rare and usually if a person has a weak, compromised immune system, allowing the thrush to multiply.

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