Q. I have chronic vaginal infections. Can natural medicine help me?
A. Yes. I’ve helped many women treat and prevent vaginitis with natural medicine and lifestyle changes.
Vaginitis is one of the most common complaints among my female patients. It is often accompanied by pain and itching not only at the vagina, but also at the vulva. The most frequent causes of vaginitis include overgrowth of yeast and abnormal bacteria.
To treat vaginal infections, it’s important to diagnose the condition. See your physician for a thorough history, clinical examination and specimen collection.
If you have chronic vaginitis due to yeast or abnormal bacteria, I recommend that you treat the ecosystem of your entire body, not just your vagina.
To eradicate vaginitis, many physicians prescribe medications for women to use for a few days.
However, infection often reoccurs because this doesn’t treat the underlying cause of their condition. For example, if you have chronic vaginitis due to yeast, you should eat a diet low in sugar, refined carbohydrates and alcohol. You need to make lifestyle changes such as removing a wet bathing suit soon after swimming, and avoid tight-fitting clothing.
A study published in the Journal of Family Practice found that women who wore stockings were three times more likely to experience vaginitis than women who didn’t.
If you suffer from bacterial vaginitis, it’s critical that your vaginal flora be restored with the use of “friendly” bacteria, or lactobacillus acidophilus.
A healthy vagina is populated by several species of lactobacillus that keep the pH of the vagina in a more acidic range, preventing the growth of abnormal bacteria. Over-the-counter vaginal acidophilus is available; I recommend a product called Gynatren.
Some women experience itching and discomfort in their vaginal and vulva areas at menopause. These tissues are estrogen-dependent, and low levels of estrogen at menopause often result in thinning or atrophy; this can make women more prone to vaginitis due to yeast or bacteria. Many of these women find relief by using an estriol vaginal cream. Estriol, the primary estrogen that supports the vagina and vulva, is one-fourth the strength of estradiol, the strongest estrogen.
Estriol cream, which is available by prescription only, is applied to the vagina and vulva two to three times a week.
Laurie Steelsmith is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist in Honolulu, and author of the best-selling book “Natural Choices for Women’s Health,” published by Random House. Reach her and read her past columns at www.drlauriesteelsmith.com. This column is for information only. Consult your health provider for medical advice.
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com