Both men and women are prone to discharges. Understanding normal discharge versus potential infections, including candida, are important to maintain a healthy body. Color, smell, and thickness will vary depending on hormones, and are not necessarily the sign of an infection.
Before I continue with this article, you should know I've recently compiled a list of science-backed ways to get rid of candida yeast infections. You can download my free Candida Report here if you haven't yet.
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In women, discharge is a normal process as the body removes bad bacteria and dead cells from the vaginal canals. This discharge appears thin in consistency and soft white to clear in color. Mood, ovulation, sexual arousal, birth control, and pregnancy are all factors that can affect the appearance and scent of discharge.
White flecks, stringy consistency, yellow or cloudy white colors can be normal. Excessive discharge is not typically a concern, either, as this can occur at any point during the month, after sex, or when pregnant.
In men, mucus-like fluid is normal in an erect penis or when sexually aroused. Uncircumcised men may collect smegma: a white curd-like substance produced by the small glands that collects under the foreskin. Other penile discharges tend to signify inflammation in the urethra, which can be caused by bacterial, yeast, and other infections.
While yeast infections, especially in women, are one of the most common causes for abnormal discharges, bacterial infections, parasites, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are other possibilities–especially in penile discharge. Antibiotics, poor diet and hygiene, and other factors can cause bacteria overgrowth in the gut and reproductive system. Even with safe sex practices, STDs/STIs may still be transmitted.
Discharge from infections may also occur by douching the vaginal area, which cleans out the good bacteria and other supportive organisms. Reactions to scented soaps, lotions, and bubble baths may be culprits for infections as well. Pelvic surgeries leave the area exposed for bacteria, especially if the area is not well cleaned during the healing process.
Sometimes, discharge may not represent an infection, but still signify a necessary change in lifestyle. Dehydration, stress, and pH balance can cause abnormal discharges in the body. For example, dehydration tends to make discharge thicker. Ongoing stress and imbalanced pH levels can lead to candida overgrowth.
Yeast Infection Signs
A thick, clumpy white discharge might signify a yeast infection. It may be odorless or have a yeasty smell like beer or bread. In women, itching, swelling, or painful sexual intercourse are additional signs. While most symptoms and discussion focus on women’s health, yeast infections in men are possible, but more difficult to recognize. Painful sexual intercourse, itching or swelling at the head of the penis, small red bumps that itch, and a lumpy white discharge under the foreskin are symptoms of yeast infections in men. Excessive antibiotic use, poor diet, diabetes, a lack of exercise, and other factors can lead to candida overgrowth.
Anyone undergoing a candida cleanse may experience discharge that is thick or yellow, however this is usually the body cleansing itself, and there will be no other symptoms.
Signs of Other Infections
While many people associate unusual discharge with a yeast infection, it can be a result of different diseases. Bacterial infection discharges may be white, but could be gray or yellow, and may cause burning, itching, redness and/or swelling in the pelvic area. A fishy odor is often present. In women, signs of a bacterial infection may represent a more serious condition, pelvic inflammatory disease, where the reproductive organs are affected.
STDs and STIs such as gonorrhea will show cloudy or yellow discharges, and cause bleeding between periods along with pelvic pain. Discharge from trichomoniasis can appear frothy yellow or green, and have a foul smell.
Female-specific discharges can be brown or with light blood, and include pelvic pain and abnormal bleeding. This usually signifies irregular menstrual cycles. If cycles have been regular, it may be a sign of endometrial or cervical cancer. Pink discharges may occur when the uterine lining sheds after childbirth.
Probiotics and Healthy Practices
Probiotics are good bacteria that suppress bad bacteria and candida from overgrowing. Probiotic creams are available to use externally, however research and accessibility to these creams is limited. Probiotic creams may be helpful for men, as the cream can be applied to the skin. Women should be cautious of using topical probiotic creams, as added ingredients may further irritate the vaginal area.
Another option is to take internal probiotics with enteric coating capsules, which will bypass stomach acidity and settle in the intestines where they can reduce bad bacteria and yeast overgrowth. Women may insert a probiotic capsule into their vaginal canal once a day for more direct contact. Some women experience further irritation with this method, and should stop application at once. We recommend Canxida Cream and Canxida Restore (probiotic formula).
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To help avoid irregular discharges, good hygiene can be maintained by wearing cotton underwear, loose clothing, and not shaving away pubic hair. Women should wipe from the front toward the back after using the restroom to prevent bacteria from entering the vagina. Avoid douching and perfumed menstrual products, and prevent scented soap from contacting the vaginal area.