The majority of patients I see, around 75%, are women. Often they do not attend specifically for problems relating to vaginal thrush, instead they are concerned about digestive complaints or problems with their nervous system or sometimes reproduction issues.
Yet what many of these women often find they have in common is a vaginal yeast infection in addition to their other, more obvious, complaints and the indications are that this is no simple coincidence. Because a vaginal yeast infection is often something more established than a localized fungal overgrowth and is a symptom which provides us with a clue that something is amiss with the intestinal microflora. These microflora, which include yeasts, are in part responsible for ensuring that we digest nutrients from our food and clear toxins from the body. When an imbalance occurs, such as an overgrowth of yeasts, then it is of no surprise that many people find themselves suffering from other issues. Often these manifest as digestive problems because the food is not being degraded properly in their digestive tract or nervous system issues, because their cells are not absorbing the nutrients they need to function properly, and perhaps fertility issues, because the hormones necessary are often not being triggered for release.
Women with problems such as this are often surprised that my main focus then is on whether or not they have vaginal thrush. But this is one of the most obvious indicators that the source of their problem is something which is affecting the metabolism of their body – yeast overgrowth.
When it comes to a yeast infection the pH of the vaginal discharge can often give a clinical picture of whether the patient is experiencing this problem. The pH measures the acidity or alkalinity of a substance and the scale ranges from 1 through to 14. One is the most acidic and 14 is the most alkaline. Neutral pH is in the middle at 7. Vaginal discharge, of the healthy variety, is usually somewhere in between 3.8 – 4.5. When the pH goes up the scale to 4.5+ then that is an indication that a yeast infection is occurring.
Vaginal discharge is something which is perfectly normal. In fact it is part of the mechanism to keep the vagina clean and healthy without the need for any external interference. Although the amount and consistency of this discharge might change within the normal hormonal cycle, for instance more might be produced around the time of menstruation, there is nothing sinister about this. Provided there are no unpleasant odors, the discharge has not changed from clear or white to something more distinct, and there is no discomfort such as itching or soreness, then this is perfectly normal.
However if there is an unpleasant odor and vaginal itching or soreness, and the discharge has changed color to something which is usually less healthy looking, then there is, quite likely an infection occurring.
What this all adds up to is that the vagina should always have a very high ratio of healthy bacteria residing in the vagina – and they are there for a purpose. Part of that purpose is to provide a defense against pathogenic or bad bacteria getting a foothold and becoming dominant. When that happens when the acidity of the vagina decreases is that the pathogenic bacteria are in a position to cause problems.
When it comes to ridding yourself of this particular problem it can be clearly seen that treating the infection alone with antifungals simply will not resolve the issue permanently. And, as many women and their clinicians are only too aware, a lot of cases of vaginal thrush consistently recur and become all the more troublesome as time goes on. Often, a course of antibiotics is prescribed – which only serves to reinforce the strength of the pathogenic bacteria rather than resolving the issue.
What can clearly be seen is that when it comes to restoring a healthy microbial balance, it isn’t simply a matter of killing off the bad bacteria. What has to happen is that the cause of the initial imbalance needs to be identified wherever possible. The cause may stem from myriad different sources, which might range from a course of antibiotic treatment or from something as common as the oral contraceptive pill. Then you have to simultaneously restore the good bacteria while killing off the bad. Most often this involves changes in lifestyle and diet at the very least. Once you start to restore the microbial balance then the healthy bacteria begin to overwhelm the pathogenic and health problems, including those of vaginal thrush, go into remission. In the vagina itself, as the good yeasts and bacteria increase in numbers, the acidity of the location is restored and this repels further invasions from the pathogenic organisms.
Throughout the world it is estimated that around 75% of women suffer from some sort of vaginal thrush at some point in their lives and that often this is a recurring infection. If we take it that this condition itself is a reflection of other, more serious, health conditions, then it is obvious that some diseases, and mainly those of a chronic nature, could be caused by gut dysbiosis.
Many women worldwide seek a solution to this problem which is often seen as an inconvenience rather than an illness, yet a quick search of the internet using the terms which are most commonly used to describe this illness: Vulvovaginitis, vulvovaginal Candidiasis, moniliasis and vaginal yeast infection, often reveals that women suffering from this condition also have accompanying health problems which indicate gut dysfunction.