Thrush – how to cope

Some 80 per cent of women are said to suffer from vaginal thrush at some time in their lives. A fungal infection caused by excess yeast known as Candida albicans, the symptoms are vaginal discharge, itchiness and soreness which can make intercourse painful.Some women get thrush when they are feeling run down or after taking broad-spectrum antibiotics, which might be prescribed for chest or urinary infections. These antibiotics wipe out the healthy bacteria in the gut as well as the organisms they are targeting, allowing space for candida to take a hold and multiply.  See also: Could it be candida?

CHINESE HERBAL MEDICINE

Dr Cheng Hao Zhou, is a Chinese doctor at the Northern College of Acupuncture in York, 01904 343305, www.chinesemedicine.co.uk 

‘Initially I ask the patient a lot of questions, such as how long they’ve had it, what triggers it – is it food, environmental, emotional or change of temperature, or a disease such as diabetes? I also ask about sleep patterns, appetite, periods, family medical history and whether or not they are taking any medication.

In Chinese medicine there are three pulses on each wrist which represent the organs of the body so we are not just checking the heart rate. We put three fingers on each pulse, one for each organ, and check to see if the flow is smooth and strong and if the energy is balanced. In Chinese medicine we treat the whole body, as well as the thrush.

Candida infection which causes thrush indicates dampness inside the system – this is an accumulation of waste which builds up over time and is normally eliminated by the body through sweat, urine and stools. If part of the system is weak dampness accumulates and people often feel bloated, gain weight and have heavy legs as well.

Thrush is stubborn but Chinese herbs are very effective in fighting it. The patient takes home a mixture of herbs which they boil up into a tea twice a day. It tastes rather unusual but after a couple of days they get used to it! After one week I see them again to find out how they have responded, and then they come back fortnightly until they are better.

HOMEOPATHY

Nigel Summerley is a homeopath from London. When someone gets thrush it is a sign that things are out of balance in the body. The homeopathic approach looks at the whole person and what else has been happening in their health and life, as well as the thrush.

I take a full medical history and ask questions about diet, exercise, sleep, work, lifestyle, relationships, periods, emotional make-up and family medical history. Homeopathy works on the basis of curing like with like, giving a microscopic dose of a substance which, if given in a large dose, would cause the symptoms we’re trying to remove.

Stress or emotional upset can play a part in creating imbalance in the body, leading to physical symptoms such as thrush. I try to find a remedy which matches each individual case taking any emotional factors into account.

There are a variety of remedies for treating thrush. Staphisagria is for a victim personality who is badly affected by anger or grief and finds sex painful; Platina suits an egotistical and highly sexual person, who has very itchy thrush and is plagued by fears that the relationship will end; Sepia patients tend to be irritable, spiteful, depressed and indifferent to loved ones, and the thrush feels better in the evening but is worse before a period; for weepy people Pulsatilla is a suitable remedy particularly if they are not thirsty, don’t fancy warm food and symptoms are worse in the evening.

For an unhappy person who cannot cope with stress and whose thrush is worse before a period, Calc Phos is suitable; Nat Mur is for someone whose thrush is worse for heat, who is rather closed off, emotionally vulnerable and doesn’t like being consoled; while Nat Phos suits someone who doesn’t want to be consoled but is stressed out and unhappy with fears that something awful will happen. .

I usually give the homeopathic remedy in liquid form and ask them to take one dose daily for five to six weeks at which point I like to see them again. It may take a couple of months before they are well enough to stop taking the remedy.

In addition I suggest that they drink plenty of water, avoid sweet foods such as sugar, fruit juice, pastries, chocolate and also alcohol. Live yoghurt applied locally can reduce the itching, and it can be placed on a tampon but not left in too long.

Thrush can be a long-term problem and seeing a professional homeopath is preferable to self-treatment.

NATUROPATHY

Jonathan Shore practises at Goldings Hill Clinic, Loughton, Essex, 020 8518 5581, www.goldingshillclinic.com

Naturopathy looks at all aspects of a person’s life including their diet, relationships and lifestyle. Thrush reflects a weak immune system, often due to the knocking out of healthy bacteria by broad spectrum antibiotics. It can hang around for quite a long time and antifungal pessaries do not always succeed in killing it off.

Daily douching is helpful to improve the quality of tissues to the area, boost circulation and improve drainage of blood. I suggest running a warm, not hot, bath to hip height, and maybe adding a teaspoonful of salt, or a couple of drops of either lavender or tea tree essential oils. Strong soaps and gels should not be used as they upset the delicate balance of the mucus lining of the vagina. After five or ten minutes wash with cool water and get out.

A healthy but light diet is important to get rid of thrush with plenty of Vitamin A, from carrot or pumpkin soup, and Vitamin C from fresh fruit, and raw garlic which can be crushed into soups or on to vegetables. Organic produce is preferable but if it is unavailable wash fruit with apple cider vinegar to cleanse it of pesticides. Avoid too much protein and cut out red meat, tea, coffee and alcohol. Yeast loves sugar, so don’t eat any sweet things.

Yoghourts are probiotic (as opposed to antibiotic) and an organic natural live yoghourt should be eaten every day as it helps to put the healthy bacteria back in the gut and keep yeast at bay. The same effect can be achieved by taking acidophilus capsules, which are available in health food stores.

Good local hygiene is essential and cotton underwear should be worn rather than nylon. Ensure good circulation of air around the vagina by avoiding tight pants or trousers.

The Society of Homeopaths can give details of homeopaths in your area: 01604 621400
The British Homeopathic Association supplies a free booklet entitled How to Get Homeopathic Treatment on the NHS, and a list of medically qualified practitioners: 0207 566 7800.

A list of Chinese herbal practitioners can be obtained from the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, 01603 623994,  www.rchm.co.uk
The General Council and Register of Naturopaths is on 01458 840072,  www.naturopathy.org.uk

Pao d’Arco is a herbal antifungal which is very powerful so initial detox may induce headaches, pain in the abdomen and diarrhoea, but it is very effective!

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Natural sanitary protection

Even a woman who has no problems might like to think about using natural sanitary products not only to protect her own body against chemicals but also to protect the environment.

Many of the niggling problems women experience could be put down to wearing tampons – toxic shock syndrome is the worst scenario, but itching and discomfort may well be caused by the chemicals used in manufacture.  TSS (toxic shock syndrome) symptoms include sudden high fever, nausea or vomiting, diarrhoea and rashes and can be fatal – read the leaflet in a box of tampons to find out more. TSS is now less common since some manufacturers removed synthetic fibres like rayon, but there are still tampons made from these – read the box. Research has shown that tampons made from 100 per cent cotton pose a much less serious risk.

In another reseach study by gynaecologists it was found that up to a third of women with symptoms of vaginal itching, soreness and/or discharge may well be experiencing Allergic Feminine Irritation. Apparently as many as 60 per cent of women who visited UK gynaecologists found that this was all that was wrong with them.

Some tampons are made from chlorine bleached rayon or a combination of cotton and rayon and during the bleaching process the TSS toxin which comes from the bacteria Staphyloccoccus aureus is produced, a substance that has been linked to cancer, endometriosis, low sperm counts in partners, and suppression of the immune system. This area is far too delicate to be subject to all these chemicals.

There are several ranges of sanitary products including organic cotton tampons which are oxygen bleached.  They are designed to absorb well with minimum shedding of fibre.  Their pads are made using non-chlorine bleached fibres.

PMS can be prevented

Change your diet and feel the benefits quickly – says Ian Marber, a renowned nutrition therapist, broadcaster and author of health books. He is the founder of the Food Doctor, a brand that is becoming more and more known for its healthy cereals, nuts and seeds, and snack bars.

According to Ian,  PMS affects over 40 per cent of women of childbearing age (13-54 years) between ovulation and the onset of a period each month. There are 200 known symptoms.  Also see PMS solutions.

Some of the most common symptoms are:

• Feeling bloated
• Feeling irritable
• Wanting to cry
• Nervous tension
• Weight gain
• Confusion
• Fatigue
• Sore breasts
• Fluid retention

‘We gauge symptoms on a 1 to 10 basis which gives us something to measure the severity by, using the established groupings of symptoms. For instance PMT A which is experienced by 66 per cent of women with PMT incorporates: anxiety, irritability, nervous tension, self-destructive behaviour and mood swings. While PMT B
Includes abdominal bloating, sore breasts, swollen breasts, weight gain, fluid retention and swelling of extremities (fingers and toes).

‘There are many other factors that may be affecting how you feel during the pre-menstrual days such as stress, weight gain or obesity, blood sugar imbalance, magnesium deficiency, poor diet, prostaglandins and essential fatty acid imbalance and an imbalance of hormones.

Feeling uncomfortable:

‘Inflammation and discomfort are often linked to prostaglandins, indicating that there is not enough intake of essential fats. Evening primrose oil gives you the essential fats in the right form and as you need all the Omegas – 3, 6, 7 and 9, eating plenty of oily fish, nuts and seeds helps to prevent PMS – better than trying to cure it.

Blood sugar levels:

‘Often with teenagers there is a correlation between the way they eat and the way they feel, and frequently their blood sugar levels are going up and down because of their diet. When they see how quickly they benefit by giving up sugar for a couple of weeks before a period they are quite happy to comply.

‘Irritability is also linked to blood sugar levels. When these aren’t balanced more insulin and testosterone are released into the body which results in aggressive behaviour.

Effects of insufficient magnesium:

‘Low levels of magnesium are connected to cramping in PMS. Sugar and alcohol can knock out magnesium levels and need to be reduced. If you have enough magnesium muscles contract and relax in the right sequence. I sometimes suggest 200mg of magnesium initially, but also recommend getting it from dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.

‘PMS is debilitating and can have an adverse effect on personal relationships, social activities, job performance and attendance. As many as 60 per cent of women who get PMS have a peak of symptoms in their 20s. But everyone can make a difference with diet which is an easy change to make. You don’t have to wait long to feel the benefits.’

Foods to avoid:

• Carbohydrates – refined sugar, sweets, chocolate, cakes, biscuits and even potatoes, rice and bread that are high in fast-releasing sugars.
• Fats – saturated fats in red meat, dairy foods, fried foods, processed foods as they cause weight gain and hormonal imbalance.
• Stimulants – coffee, tea, colas, which all contain caffeine and affect blood sugar levels.

Foods to increase:

Essential fats – from nuts, seeds, cold pressed oils, oily fish to help restore insulin sensitivity and restore prostaglandin metabolism.
Complex carbohydrates that are slow-releasing – including whole grains, legumes, brown rice, wholemeal flour, highly coloured fresh vegetables and fruits like carrots, red, yellow and orange peppers, berries, apricots, which are high in antioxidants and prevent damage to cells from free radicals.
Protein – from turkey, chicken, tofu, lentils, brown rice, fish, sugar-free natural yoghurt which encourages ‘friendly’ bacteria.
Fibre – fresh, raw fruit and vegetables, wholegrains (preferably avoiding wheat), oat and rice bran, pulses and lentils. Dietary fibre helps to stabilise blood sugar response and supports probiotic intestinal bacteria, which also play a key role in hormonal balance and metabolism.
Fluid – Drink two litres of water daily — taken away from meals and sipped slowly to avoid stress on the kidneys. For variety drink diluted fruit juices, organic vegetables juices and herbal teas.

Stress has such a damaging effect on the body and makes symptoms worse, so Ian also recommends joining a relaxation or yoga class and going to counseling or life coaching; doing a regular exercise programme; and maintaining a nutrient rich diet.

See also: How Not to Get Fat with Ian Marber. To find out more about PMS and other health issues visit The Food Doctor website

See PMS Solutions