Help for recurring yeast infections
I’m 57. In the past year, I’ve had three yeast infections on top of vaginal dryness. My doctor prescribed estrogen suppositories but I don’t like them—they’re messy, and I’d prefer a natural fix. What can I do?
You’re not alone with this problem: An estimated 60 percent of menopausal women suffer from recurrent yeast infections. The reason? Estrogen is needed to keep vaginal cells elastic and maintain a healthy pH environment in the vagina, so as levels flag in menopause, vaginal tissue becomes dry and irritated, making the vaginal tract more hospitable to infectious bugs. Low-dose estrogen suppositories can help, but like you, many women dislike the sticky texture. (Estrogen therapy can also sometimes cause nausea and irregular bleeding.)
I can suggest a few natural remedies to ward off yeast infections. One smart move: shoring up levels of “good” vaginal bugs by taking a lactobacillus probiotic daily, either orally or inserted vaginally (which shouldn’t leave any messy residue). In a recent Italian study, women with chronic yeast infections who inserted a probiotic tablet into their vagina (nightly for a week, then twice a week for three weeks) had 87 percent fewer returning infections. One to try: Natrol Probiotic High Potency, $25 for 30 tablets, Natrol.com. You can also apply a lightweight moisturizing cream containing probiotics to the area daily to prevent dryness and infections. One to try: PrevaLeaf Soothe Cream, $30 for 30 applications, PrevaLeaf.com). Finally, I suggest limiting your intake of carbohydrates and sugar, which feed yeast.
But if you experience any symptoms of a yeast infection (like burning, irritation and clumpy white discharge), see your doctor for an antifungal prescription. She may also suggest other ways to ward off these infections. The soreness you’re experiencing is likely due to hormonal flux that occurs in menopause. Changes in estrogen levels can trigger an increase in prolactin, a hormone that regulates the mammary glands. When prolactin gets too high, nipples can become sensitive and sore.
To relieve the pain, try taking 1,000 mg of evening primrose oil (like Nordic Naturals Omega Woman Evening Primrose Oil Blend, $22 for 120 softgels, iHerb.com) daily; it contains compounds that ease inflammation. You can also try visualization, which strengthens your ability to manage pain. A technique proven to help: Imagine a ball of healing energy forming in your chest and expanding through your body as you breathe.
If these remedies don’t help, or if the pain lasts more than 4 weeks, see your doctor to rule out other causes.