Yeast is a single-cell organism found in many areas of your body, from your mouth to your skin. Under normal circumstances, yeast is a healthy part of your microbiome, but when something disrupts the delicate balance of microbes in your body, it can lead to an overgrowth of yeast.
Many things can cause this imbalance, but one of the most common is stress. When stressed, your body produces cortisol, a stress hormone that can throw off the delicate balance of microbes in your gut. In addition, stress can also weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections.
In this article, we’ll explore how increased stress correlates with yeast infections and what you can do to solve this problem.
What is a Yeast Infection?
A yeast infection is the overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. This can lead to itching, burning, and redness in the vaginal area. Yeast infections are usually caused by an imbalance in the vagina’s pH levels.
pH is a measure of how acidic or basic something is. The normal pH level of the vagina is between 3.8 to 5 on the pH meter. The most common yeast infection symptom is intense itching in the vaginal area. Other symptoms can include:
- Discharge that resembles cottage cheese
A mild yeast infection may go away in as few as three days. A moderate to severe infection may take one to two weeks to clear.
What Causes an Imbalance in Vaginal pH?
Many things can cause an imbalance in vaginal pH, but one of the most common is stress.
When stressed, your body produces cortisol, a stress hormone that can throw off the delicate balance of microbes in your gut. In addition, stress can also weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections.
How Does Stress Cause a Yeast Infection?
While more research is underway on the subject, stress is thought to contribute to yeast infections in a few ways. First, as we mentioned before, stress can cause an imbalance in vaginal pH levels. This can create an environment that’s conducive to the overgrowth of yeast.
In addition, stress can also weaken your immune system. This makes it harder for your body to fight off infection-causing microbes like yeast.
Finally, stress may also play a role in altering the way the vagina produces glycogen. Glycogen is a sugar molecule used by yeast as an energy source. When there’s less glycogen available, yeast has a more challenging time growing and multiplying.
Can Stress Cause Repeated Yeast Infections?
Stress may be to blame if you find that you’re getting yeast infections more often than usual. When stress weakens your immune system, it is harder for your body to fight off infection-causing microbes. This can lead to a cycle of recurrent yeast infections.
In addition, if stress is causing an imbalance in vaginal pH levels, this can also make you more susceptible to yeast infections.
What Medications are Used to Treat Stress Yeast Infections?
Many different medications can be used to treat stress yeast infections. The most common are antifungal creams and suppositories applied directly to the vagina. These medications can help to relieve symptoms like itching and burning.
Oral antifungal medications may also be prescribed in some cases. These drugs are taken by mouth and can help to clear a more severe infection. If you’re struggling with stress yeast infections, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They will be able to prescribe the best course of treatment for you.
How to Reduce the Chances of Stress Yeast Infections
In addition to taking your prescribed medications, there are more ways to ensure a stress-induced yeast infection doesn’t happen. Here is what you can do to make this possible:
Keep Your Sweet Tooth in Check
Eating too many sugary foods can create an environment conducive to yeast growth. To prevent this, try to limit your intake of sweets.
Wear Cotton Underwear
Wearing breathable cotton underwear can help to keep the area around your vagina dry and free of moisture. This can make it harder for yeast to grow.
Avoid Hot Tubs and Spas
Hot tubs and spas can increase your body temperature, making you more susceptible to yeast infections. If you soak in a hot tub, be sure to take a cool shower afterward to rebalance your pH level.
Watch the Clothes You Wear
Tight-fitting clothing can trap moisture and heat around your body, making you more susceptible to yeast infections. If you must wear tight clothing, choose breathable fabrics like cotton.
Get Regular Sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for a strong immune system. If you’re not getting enough rest, your body may have a harder time fighting off infection-causing microbes.
Exercise can help to reduce stress levels and promote a healthy lifestyle. Both of these things can help to prevent yeast infections.
Stay Away from Feminine Sprays
Feminine sprays can alter the pH balance in your vagina, making you more susceptible to yeast infections. If you must use one, be sure to choose a product that’s pH-balanced.
When Should You Speak to an OBGYN?
If you find that stress yeast infections are becoming a regular occurrence, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They will be able to help you identify the underlying cause and provide treatment options.
Yeast infections can be annoying and uncomfortable. But by making some lifestyle changes, you can help to prevent them. If you’re struggling with stress yeast infections, talk to your doctor. They will be able to prescribe the best course of treatment for you.
Book an Appointment with Dr. Susan Fox
If you’re struggling with stress yeast infections, talk to a qualified doctor who cares. Dr. Susan Fox will help you identify the underlying cause and provide treatment options.
Book an appointment with Dr. Susan Fox a board-certified OBGYN who has provided care for women in the greater Miami area for over 25 years. She offers a wide range of services, including annual exams, birth control counseling, and treatment for stress yeast infections.