Anyone who has experienced thrush knows how maddening the symptoms can be. Itching, redness, discomfort and a white discharge – the hallmarks of Thrush are not a fun experience. But, did you know that microflora could be at the heart of it?
What is thrush?
Vaginal thrush, also known as Candida, happens due to an overgrowth of Candida albicans yeast. This yeast normally lives in the vagina, it’s there all the time and usually fairly tame. You could think of it like an opportunistic weed, if given a chance it will grow wildly out of control – causing thrush.
Something lots of us don’t realize is – recurrent thrush might be a sign of microflora imbalance in the vagina.
Our bodies are covered (inside and out) with a layer of bacteria and yeasts. These microorganisms make us their home – they live happily inside our gut, on the skin, the mouth and the vagina. It’s a symbiotic relationship – meaning we all benefit. This community lives in harmony (usually) and keeps us healthy. Scientists call them our ‘normal microflora’. Candida is one of many species that form the microflora community. A small group of Candida is fine, no problem at all. But if too many get together and start partying, it can really get out of hand – leading to thrush.
What causes microflora imbalance?
Keeping harmony within the microflora community is a delicate balancing act. Plenty of factors can throw it off:
• Immune function
• Hormonal changes
Even minor irritation from using soap on the vagina or tight underwear made of synthetic materials can tip the balance.
Thrush is common
Thrush is commonplace -75% of women encounter vaginal thrush at least once in their lives. Basically, it’s an imbalance in the microflora of the vagina – so nothing to be embarrassed about. It happens to the best of us. It’s also important not to suffer in silence. If we understand the factors at play it’s easier to manage. Fortunately, there are many ways to be proactive to keep things harmonious.
If thrush keeps happening
If you get thrush four or more times within one year it qualifies as ‘recurrent thrush’. Firstly, it’s important to be checked out by your doctor. They’ll want to rule out other more serious conditions that can be mistaken for thrush or be causing it to recur.
So, we know that vaginal microflora influences thrush. But scientists have also found links between recurrent thrush and microflora in our gut too. This means that a happy microflora community in both the vagina and the gut are both key for maintaining vaginal yeast balance.
Candida & diet
Studies show that Candida yeast has an affinity with sugar. It grows rapidly when sugar is introduced to it. A high sugar diet helps Candida flourish where we don’t want it. So, it makes sense to cut sugar out. We need Candida to be at normal, low levels so it doesn’t start causing issues. Avoiding all refined sugar helps keep things manageable. Dietary change will help over time, but if the imbalance is leading to recurrent thrush you may need extra support.
The human body has some very impressive abilities. It can use natural plant compounds to balance itself. Scientists at the University of Milan have shown that NZ’s own native Horopito (Pseudowintera colorata) is used by the human body to maintain healthy microflora and yeast balance in the vagina. Even better, Horopito supports balance in the gut microflora too – it offers comprehensive and far reaching support. Our bodies can utilise a special compound found in Horopito called polygodial. The Horopito plant makes polygodial as a way of guarding itself against pests that attack its leaves if given a chance.
Luckily, we have plants like Horopito to help maintain balanced microflora. This is fantastic news for those of us who find Candida growing wildly where it’s not welcome.