About 75 percent of women will suffer with a yeast infection at some point in their life and 5 to 8 percent will suffer with a whopping four or more yeast infections every year (see reference 1). The usual method of treatment for yeast infections is antifungal creams, tablets and/or suppositories. However, the prevalence of reoccurring infections combined with the fact that many women are becoming resistant to these medications makes finding alternative solutions more important than ever and probiotics such as lactobacillus acidophilus may hold the answer (see reference 1).
Conventional Yeast Infection Treatment
Due to the fact that yeast infection symptoms such as itchiness, irritation and abnormal discharge, can often mimic other conditions, many woman are being falsely diagnosed with a yeast infection (or self-diagnosing incorrectly) (see reference 2). This is a problem because yeast infection medications kill-off the healthy bacterial flora that are needed to prevent yeast infections (see reference 2). Thus, whether you actually have a yeast infection or not, using the medication will put you at an increased risk for developing another (or a new) yeast infection in the future. Cue probiotics.
Probiotics and Yeast Infections
Probiotics, such as lactobacillus acidophilus work by repopulating the body (including the vagina) with healthy bacteria that keep yeast in check. This makes them beneficial not only for the prevention of yeast infections but also as an adjunctive therapy. When taken along with traditional medications, probiotics may help to replenish the healthy microorganisms killed-off by the medication and thereby reduce the likelihood of a yeast infection reoccurrence (see reference 1 and 2). Probiotics also help to boost the immune system, which is beneficial because yeast infections are more common amongst people with lowered immune systems (see reference 1).
Lactobacillus for Yeast Infection Prevention
A yearlong study conducted by The Annuls of Internal Medicine journal, 1992, examined the effects of consuming Lactobacillus acidophilus on yeast infection occurrence. The female study participants consumed Lactobacillus acidophilus (in the form of yoghurt) daily for six months and then switched to a yoghurt free diet for 6 months. Consuming the lactobacillus acidophilus yoghurt resulted in a significant reduction in candida organisms and infections (see reference 4). Although the study is outdated, subsequent research has supported these results (see reference 5). Since most yoghurt’s won’t contain a clinically effective amount of lactobacillus bacteria, if you suffer from reoccurring yeast infections, talk to your doctor about taking a probiotic pill. For optimum results choose one that contains Lactobacillus acidophilus in addition to a variety of other lactobacillus bacteria (see reference 2).
Lactobacillus for Yeast Infection Treatment
Some people report successfully treating a yeast infection by consuming lactobacillus acidophilus pills, but the clinical evidence as to whether or not doing so is effective, is mixed (see reference 1 and 2). However, using lactobacillus acidophilus as a suppository and inserting it into the vagina does impact the vaginal microflora and preliminary research suggests that doing so does help to fight yeast infections (see reference 2). If you decide to go this route, have your healthcare practitioner guide you when choosing the pill, because some additional ingredients in probiotic pills can agitate the vagina further. Finally, yeast infections are a serious matter, and you should never attempt to self-medicate and probiotics should not be used as a stand-alone treatment.
- WomensHealth.gov: Vaginal Yeast Infections Fact Sheet
- Postgrad Medical Journal: Urogenital Infections in Women: Can Probiotics Help?
- Univeristy of Maryland Medical Center: Lactobacillus Acidophilus
- Annals of Internal Medicine: Ingestion of Yogurt Containing Lactobacillus Acidophilus as Prophylaxis For Candida Vaginitis
- Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy: Probiotics for Prevention of Recurrent Vulvovaginal Candidiasis: A Review
Shannon Hyland-Tassava has more than 16 years experience as a clinical health psychologist, wellness coach and writer. She is a health columnist for the "Northfield (Minn.) News" and has also contributed to "Motherwords," "Macalester Today" and two essay anthologies, among other publications. Hyland-Tassava holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Illinois.