6 Tips That Can Help You Avoid a Yeast Infection

Yeast infections are common and rarely serious, but they can be very unpleasant.

The vagina usually has a healthy balance of bacteria and yeast. When there is an overabundance of yeast cells in the vagina or vulva, a yeast infection is the result. Women with yeast infections may experience itching, irritation, burning, soreness and a thick discharge.

Here, courtesy of OB/GYN Roya Rezaee, MD, are six tips to prevent a yeast infection.

1. Remove wet swimsuits

Wearing a wet suit leaves a residue of pool chemicals on your skin and promotes the imbalance of bacteria in the vagina and vulva, Dr. Rezaee says.

“Don’t sit around in a wet bathing suit,” she says. “Rinse off with water and change immediately.”

The same goes for exercise. Rather than walking around in your sweaty clothes post-workout, hop in the shower and put on fresh clothes.

2. Skip strong cleansers

Douches, antibacterial soaps and feminine sprays and powders promise a squeaky clean body. But Dr. Rezaee warns that these chemical-based products can alter a woman’s bacterial balance and cause a chemical dermatitis.

“I call it overzealous hygiene,” Dr. Rezaee says. “You end up washing away the good bacteria, too.”

She recommends that women use paraben-free, dye-free hypoallergenic soaps or even gentle cleansers meant for babies.

3. Cut back on sugars

Diets high in sugar may be associated with a greater occurrence of yeast infections, Dr. Rezaee says. Swap foods and drinks made with sugars, such as soda and pastries, for healthier treats, like unsweetened iced tea or fresh fruit salad.

4. Make yogurt part of your diet

Be careful with yogurt: Some are laden with sugar and extra calories. The best yogurts have live probiotic cultures and no added sugars.

Women who don’t have a healthy gastrointestinal (GI) tract may be vulnerable to yeast infections, Dr. Rezaee says.

“The ingestion of yogurt with its natural cultures helps promote GI tract health,” she says. A healthy GI tract means a stronger defense against yeast infections.

5. Don’t self-diagnose

Many women make the mistake of trying to self-diagnose – and self-treat – yeast infections, Dr. Rezaee says.

“Most women who think they have a yeast infection actually do not,” she says.

These phantom infections may simply be skin discomfort due to a chemical irritant or a change in discharge before menstruation. Women who frequently purchase over-the-counter yeast infection treatment may actually be making themselves more vulnerable to true yeast infections.

“This may cause an increasing rate of yeast that resists treatment,” Dr. Rezaee says. If you experience vaginal irritation, leave it up to your doctor to identify the source of your pain.

6. Pay attention to preexisting health conditions

Certain conditions may make you more prone to yeast infections. Women with diabetes, women with compromised immune systems and women who are pregnant are all at a greater risk for yeast infections.

“Managing your medical issues may help in reducing your yeast infection risk,” Dr. Rezaee says.

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