Whether you’re certain you have recurring yeast infections or you think you might have bacterial vaginosis, vaginal health issues can be really troubling and uncomfortable to manage day to day. Even though they are common, they are definitely not normal!
Tending to your vaginal and vulva health is essential for remaining rooted in pleasure, feeling safe and secure in your body and maintaining hormonal resilience. Infections, not just BV (bacterial vaginosis) or yeast, can have a big impact not only on how you feel in your body but also fertility, menstrual health, urinary bladder health and general inflammation in the pelvis.
An infection is often a symptom or sign of a deeper imbalance. However, I also want to be clear that some illness is expected in this life and an infection can be a path towards detoxification and clearing, as long as the body is well supported in its process.
In this article, you can expect to learn some skills for self-assessment and differentiating which type of infection you might have, understand a few potential root causes and gain some tools to work with healing vaginal infections naturally. The practices I recommend below can be applicable for other infections, like HPV and cervical dysplasia or a herpes outbreak. However, the focus here is on yeast and BV.
Of course, here comes the disclaimer: This isn’t medical advice. Womb Medicine promotes informed choice and personal authority. That does not exclude working with a practitioner or mean you have to do it all on your own. Discern what’s best for you!
Let’s get started!
I think I have an infection, now what?!
As you probably know there are some differences in how BV or yeast infections show up. Let’s be sure that’s clear before moving forward.
|Bacterial overgrowth or dysbiosis||Fungal infection|
|Fishy odor or no abnormal odor||No change in odor|
|Grayish, thin discharge||White, thick discharge|
Both will often cause vaginitis or inflammation and irritation of the vagina and vulva. This can cause burning, pain, itching, redness or swelling. While this can happen with either infection, I would say it’s more common with a yeast infection. On the other hand, you can have BV with minimal or even no symptoms at all!
It’s good to be able to differentiate if you have a yeast infection or BV even though how you address it might look very similar. I’ll also mention that there are a variety of other sexually transmitted infections that I won’t go into in this article, which could look like one of these infections. When in doubt, you can always opt to get tested.
Getting to the root cause
Here I want to provide you both a biomedicine and physiology point of view and the understanding from the lens of East Asian Medicine. Of course understanding where your body might need support or what is the likely underlying issue will help you take the right next steps for healing.
With any vaginal infection, there is an element of Dampness according to East Asian Medicine. Dampness is heavy and while may be produced in the gut it often sinks downward and lands in the pelvis. Dampness can combine with cold, which you would more likely see with yeast, or heat, which you would more likely see with BV. Either way, it creates stagnation and can cause pain or lead to an infection.
In the realm of physiology, your gut microbiome and health plays a big role in your vaginal microbiome and infection resilience. The food you eat, along with genetics, childhood experiences and environment, shape your very bio-individual microbiome. Fortunately, there is a lot of agency to be had when it comes to microbiome resilience!
Here is what I see as the most common root causes of an infection:
- Too much stress or overwork causes your immune system to be low and gives a pathogen the right opportunity to proliferate. Sometimes an infection or vaginal health issues is really a way for the body to communicate its need for rest.
- A diet with too much sugar (or other inflammatory foods) disrupts blood sugar regulation and the microbiome, which creates Dampness. This can lead to an infection. This is definitely a reminder to return to gut healing!
- Washing your vulva or vagina with harsh soaps or using other toxic products (some lubricants for example). Again, this disrupts the vaginal microbiome, creates Dampness and potential irritation (heat) which leads to problems!
- A hormonal imbalance affects the vaginal microbiome and the immune system, which often leads to cyclical infections. Here you need to address both the recurring infections and the underlying hormone issues.
- Boundary violations or emotional stagnation create a “dampening down” effect and the body expresses this by creating the boundary for you, which is the discomfort associated with the infection.
Do you notice where you might be in these patterns? It’s common to have a few that resonate but usually there will be one that you know intuitively you need to further explore. Let’s see what healing naturally looks like so you can discern next steps for yourself.
Healing BV or yeast infections naturally
When healing vaginal health issues, it’s essential to look towards gut health and microbiome support, detoxification pathways, immune support and nervous system regulation, which can support clearing emotional stagnation and feeling more grounded in your sense of agency.
- Cut out sugar and possibly reduce other carbs (like bread or gluten grains). I also recommend cutting out fruit for a short period of time until your issue starts to resolve. The gut microbiome most definitely influences the vaginal microbiome. So supporting gut health and making dietary changes can address this at the root level.
- Consider using a vaginal probiotic. I really like Pro-Flora Women’s Probiotic by Integrative Therapeutics for this, which you can find here. You can insert one capsule vaginally before bed. It’s more effective than plain yogurt but if you prefer the sensation of yogurt you can empty the capsule into plain yogurt and then apply. If inserting the probiotic causes more irritation, it could be from a die-off reaction. Take a few days break from it and try again. You can also take this probiotic orally for additional support!
- Consider using Yin Care herbal wash. This is one of my favorite products for topical application (not just vaginal health). It’s a concentrated formula so you dilute it with water (10 parts water : 1 part yin care) and you can insert it vaginally as a wash. You may be thinking that’s like douching right? Yeah it is; however, it’s not with toxic ingredients but instead herbal medicine that can support a healthy vaginal pH and microbiome. You can do this daily when you’re having symptoms but I don’t recommend using it long term or with active bleeding. Otherwise, this stuff is magic.
- Use only toxic free products on your vulva or in your vagina (sex toys, lubricant, pads, tampons, underwear, menstrual cups, condoms etc). Look for breathable organic cotton underwear, especially during an active infection. Be sure your pads or tampons are not treated with chlorine and are also organic cotton or use reusable cloth pads or period undies. Find an organic lubricant, which could be aloe based, oil based or water based depending on your needs and preferences! Your vaginal microbiome will thank you.
- Support your immune system! This could be as simple as making a big pot of chicken soup and prioritizing rest. You could also consider some supplementation for a short period of time, like taking additional vitamin C, D and zinc. I also like this turkey tail mushroom tincture for immune support.
- Consider the deeper layers of meaning here and get support if needed! Those deeper layers could be a hormone imbalance, emotional stress, trauma, sexual boundary violations, birth history and so much more. This is where it can really help to have someone walk through this process with you and provide nervous system support. I like Somatic Experiencing for this piece.
If you work with some of the above and you still feel like you’re having frequent vaginal infections, it may be time to get some one on one support. There are additional herbal formulas and dietary changes that can offer targeted relief! Tending to your nervous system and stress levels in a co-regulatory environment (with a practitioner) can really make a difference.
Your vaginal health and body experience day to day matters so much! You really don’t have to keep living with recurrent, chronic or lingering infections. You can reach out to me for one on one support here.