At least for the purposes of this post, I’ll focus on vaginal yeast infections alone. I usually write about this topic in a broader scope, as both men and women get “yeast” infections, although to be more accurate, they are “fungal” infections. The medical field has done a great disservice by referring to vaginal infections, as yeast infections. Almost 72% of the time, they will be bacterial infections, with “yeast” being a co-infection at least 33% of the time in one study. When these fungal infections are present, Candida albicans is usually the responsible agent at least 80% of the time.
What’s most important to note in both types of vaginal infections, bacterial vaginosis and vulvovaginal candidiasis, is that an underlying imbalance in the bacterial flora, pH, and immune response are responsible for both. If you try to eliminate either type of infection, but don’t address those underlying issues, you won’t have much success. Since the underlying issues tend to be caused by systemic imbalances, you’ll need to address vaginal infections as both a systemic and a localized imbalance.
Let’s look at the fungal infections. Candida albicans is normally found in the body as a yeast. When conditions change within the tissues, candida will change from its normal yeast form to its problematic fungal form. Factors that can affect this change include antibiotics, pH, immune system weakness, temperature changes, and loss of the healthy bacterial colonies that are normally present. Antibiotics alone can cause all of these factors to be present at once, which is why antibiotic use in women frequently leads to vaginal infections. Once candida has set up in the tissues, it will prevent certain bacteria from re-establishing themselves in the vaginal tissues. The one most commonly noted is the Lactobacillus species of bacteria that woulds otherwise produce acids to help keep the vaginal pH in a healthy acidic zone. As long as the pH is more on the acid side of the pH range, candida will remain in its beneficial yeast form and problematic bacteria will have difficulty establishing themselves. Once the pH starts to change and approaches a more alkaline pH, candida mutates into its problematic fungal form and causes or contributes to imbalances in the vaginal tissues. This pH factor is important to note as some of the more popular approaches to correcting vaginal infections use acids in re-establihing a healthy pH.
Bacterial infections on the other hand don’t appear to have a typical make-up of bacteria that can be easily identified. Each women’s bacterial flora will be different from another’s. The Lactobacillus species is commonly found in all women, while other species will vary. What all women seem to have in common in regard to their vaginal tissues and a healthy bacterial flora is an acid pH. Once the pH becomes more alkaline, the problematic, pathogenic bacteria establish themselves and the beneficial ones become easily outnumbered. Restoring an acid pH is one of the most common ways to successfully treat vaginal infections.
The vaginal tissues present some unique challenges when infections are present. First of all, the first-line immune response that is the most effective at getting rid of fungal candida and many bacterial infections, is down-graded in the pelvic are of a woman’s body. If it wasn’t, a pregnancy would become very difficult to maintain, as this immune response would identify an implanted egg as a foreign body that needs to be eliminated. A secondary immune response has also been found to be lacking in some studies, which adds to the level of difficulty when trying to correct vaginal flora imbalances.
Next, a woman’s hormones can run interference for candida and some bacterial infections. Estrogen has been found to down-grade the body’s primary immune response to candida and some bacterial infections. Excess estrogen via birth control and hormone replacement therapies can make balancing these tissues a little more difficult. Hormonal imbalances created by blood sugar imbalances and even stress can factor into vaginal infections. Many toxins that are retained in the body can mimic the effect of estrogen in the body, adding another layer of difficulty.
Diet and inflammation can play a role. Candida is known to drive inflammation via several mechanisms within the body. Food allergies and blood sugar imbalances can play a role. Foods high in histamine can increase inflammation and promote allergic responses that affect vaginal tissues. Digestive system imbalances can affect the health of the vaginal flora. Antibiotics will destroy all the bacteria within the body, including the vaginal tissues. The vaginal and pelvic tissues in women are intimately connected to and affected by other parts of the body. Vaginal tissues can be affected by problematic bacteria from other areas of the body. Consider that bacteria from the mouth can migrate to the vaginal tissues and cause preterm delivery, or that nicotine levels have been detected in the cervical mucus in smokers and non-smokers alike. A vaginal imbalance is a systemic imbalance as well.
The good and bad news about symptoms of a vaginal infection is one that you have an infection, and two, that the symptoms you’re experiencing are probably due to your body’s immune system responding to the infection. Symptoms generally develop when white blood cells respond to the presence of fungal candida or an abnormal bacterial flora and infiltrate the tissues. While symptoms of a vaginal infection are bothersome, they at least demonstrate that the body’s immune system is creating a healthy response.
It’s possible to have a high “load”, or high amount, of candida present without any symptoms. If someone has a weakened or poor immune system response, a state of “pseudo-tolerance” can exist where there are no symptoms of any imbalance present within the tissues. While this is a more desirable response for many women, left unattended it can develop into worse conditions. Candida has the ability to alter the body’s immune response in ways that can make it seem like there isn’t a vaginal infection.
If you’re going to treat a vaginal infection, treat it systemically and locally at the same time. Realize that other imbalances throughout the body may be playing a role, as well. Take something to help with changing the pH. Boost the body’s immune system responses. Keep your blood sugar balanced to help balance hormones. Follow a candida diet protocol.
Start creating greater health with Dr. McCombs Candida Plan!
RELATED ARTICLES –
Vaginal Candida Infections – (HERE)
Vaginal Yeast Infections, Sinuses, and Systemic Candida – (HERE)