Thrush is a pain in the bajingo! Worse, it’s really common – about three out of four women will get thrush at least once in their lifetime. But that doesn’t make it any easier to put up with! Thrush is generally pretty annoying. Itching, discharge, odour, and sometimes quite painful, too. Thrush can strike at almost any time during your life, but the risk increases if you’re stressed, run-down, or if your immune system isn’t at its best.
But one of the biggest causes of thrush is antibiotics.
Thrush and antibiotics
Now, antibiotics are a tricky topic. When you have a bacterial infection, a course of antibiotics may be very necessary to kill off the harmful bacteria causing the infection. Unfortunately, these medications kill off all the bacteria in your body – the good and the bad.
Why is this a problem?
Well, it’s the good bacteria that keep your ladybits and your immune system healthy. In fact, your whole body is home to a range of bacteria and yeasts that work together in a special system called the microbiome. Most of these bacteria live in your gut, where they have the big job of breaking down the food you eat and absorbing nutrients (among many other things).
Your vagina has its own special mix of microbes, most of which are from the Lactobacillus species. It’s their responsibility to keep the vagina at a pH that’s just acidic enough to prevent harmful bacteria and yeast from growing.
But when antibiotics join the party, they wipe out everybody: the bad guys and the good! And when Lactobacillus are out of action, the pH of your vagina changes, allowing yeasts to grow. Then it’s hello to thrush!
A recent survey Usage and Attitudes of Vaginal Thrush Sufferers* involving 819 women revealed that most believed their thrush was a result of taking antibiotics. The majority of the women also felt that their thrush episodes were worse after taking antibiotics.
Types of antibiotics that cause thrush
Broad-spectrum antibiotics are the worst offenders when it comes to triggering a yeast infection because they kill off a wider range of bacteria. These types of antibiotics include:
● Carbapenems (e.g., Imipenem)
● Quinolones (e.g., Ciprofloxacin)
How to avoid thrush when taking antibiotics
Although thrush is common after antibiotics, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of developing an infection.
1. Avoid yeasty situations
Yeast loves warmth and moisture, so steer clear of clothes that don’t allow healthy airflow. Tight-fitting underwear, pants, or any clothing made of synthetic fabrics are bad news.
Change out of sweaty workout gear or wet swimsuits as soon as you can, as these can encourage optimal yeast-breeding conditions. Stick to loose, flowing clothing for your lower half, and choose natural fibres like cotton.
2. Practice good hygiene
Change your pad or tampon as regularly as possible to avoid a buildup of moisture and bacteria. Try to use sanitary products made from pure cotton.
Always wipe from front to back – never the other way around! The bacteria in and around your anal region can cause all sorts of havoc if it gets into your urinary tract or vagina.
3. Go natural
Avoid douches or vaginal care products that contain fragrances or chemicals, as these can upset the natural bacterial balance even further. Your ladybits deserve gentle, soothing care, not harsh chemicals.
If you feel the need to freshen things up, use a pH-balanced vaginal care product. Look for vaginal washes or creams made with well-studied herbs, such as New Zealand’s horopito.
4. Support your immune system
A huge proportion of your immune system lives in your gut – up to 70 percent, in fact! – so it’s absolutely vital to look after your gut as well as your vagina. You can do this by topping up your gut flora with a probiotic supplement. Look for a probiotic that can be used while you’re taking antibiotics (this will be mentioned on the label) and contains a variety of strains, including Lactobacillus. It’s also important that the probiotic has a guaranteed number of live bacteria.
Remember to separate your probiotic dose from your antibiotics by at least two hours, and continue taking the probiotics daily for at least two weeks after completing your course of antibiotics.
5. Eat well and exercise
Try to go easy on sugar and alcohol. Excess sugar can ‘feed’ harmful yeasts and give them a head start on out-growing the good guys.
Instead, eat plenty of antioxidant-rich foods to help keep inflammation at bay. Unsweetened acidophilus yoghurt is also helpful, as it contains the strain of bacteria that lives naturally in your vagina. Exercising regularly is also great for your immune system, along with getting plenty of good shut-eye at night.
How long after antibiotics does thrush go away?
This all depends on how well you look after your precious parts! The one good thing about thrush is that it’s both treatable and preventable. If you follow the advice above and take care of the “good bugs” in your gut and vagina, you’ll reduce your risk of thrush. You’ll also be able to beat it more quickly if thrush does develop.
*Usage and Attitudes Study of Vaginal Thrush Sufferers: by Focus Insights was commissioned by Kolorex in June 2021