We’ve all been there… we think, “Okay, I have PCOS, so there really can’t be anything else that can happen.” Unfortunately, if we’re not intentional, we can get other complications outside of PCOS. We can experience symptoms that lead to other symptoms. So today we’re going to answer the question: how are PCOS and yeast infections related?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) stems from problems with the endocrine system. It affects millions of women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS experience a variety of symptoms, including irregular periods, acne, weight gain, excessive hair growth, infertility, mood swings, and more. The list of symptoms seems never-ending for some women with PCOS, and when you experience a chronic problem, it makes you wonder if it could be tied to your PCOS too.
One issue women with PCOS often experience is frequent yeast infections. Research shows that PCOS does correlate with more yeast infections, but they’re not certain why. Today, I’m dedicating my post to what medical professionals believe the relationship is between yeast infections and PCOS so that you can prevent this fungal infection and treat it well when it happens. Let’s get into it:
How Are PCOS And Yeast Infections Related?
Yeast is a type of fungus that naturally exists in the vagina in small amounts. However, when there’s an imbalance in the vaginal microbiome, it can cause yeast overgrowth and result in a vaginal yeast infection (AKA vaginal candidiasis). Symptoms of yeast infections aren’t fun either. Women with the infection experience some of the following:
- Itching and irritation in and around the vagina
- Burning during sex or while urinating
- Swelling and redness of the vulva
- Pain in the vagina
- Thick, white cottage-cheese-like discharge
- Watery discharge
Yeast infections are painful and uncomfortable and can make it difficult to go about your day-to-day life. Getting yeast infections frequently isn’t something I’d wish on anyone. Unfortunately, though, Cysters like us seem to be more prone to yeast infections.
Why is this? Well, yeast infections start due to an imbalance in the vaginal microbiome. And, we know that any imbalance in the body can have a domino effect that causes other things to go off kilter too. The running theory is that these imbalances are likely the cause of recurrent yeast infections!
Here are some of the problems that may be prompting yeast infections:
Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which means their body does not properly process glucose (AKA sugar). This raises your blood sugar levels, which can cause fatigue, weight gain, and put you at risk of diabetes. What it can also do is increase your chances of fungal infections! That’s because fungi like yeast feed on sugar, so too much sugar can easily turn into a yeast infection.
If you’re unsure if you have insulin resistance, it’s a good idea to learn the different types of PCOS and figure out which one fits your symptoms.
Birth Control or Other Medications
Among other ways hormonal birth control may negatively affect your body, the changes in estrogen and progesterone can contribute to yeast overgrowth and later yeast infections.
Other medications may do this too, so talk to your doctor if you feel there may be a correlation between your hormonal medication and your yeast infections.
Stress is a difficult beast to manage, and Cysters tend to have difficulting bringing stress hormones back down. Chronic stress from inflammatory foods, insulin resistance, and endocrine disruptors can do a number on your cortisol hormone over time, leaving you feeling fatigued and anxious. When you’re stressed, your blood sugar also go up. Remember, yeast loves sugar, so as your blood sugar increases, so can your risk of yeast infections.
Sugar is food for yeast, and estrogen is like yeast’s nagging mother-in-law encouraging it to multiply. As estrogen levels rise beyond normal levels, this relationship between yeast and estrogen can cause yeast overgrowth. Then, comes the infection. This is significant to a woman with PCOS because many of us have estrogen dominance. That imbalance can potentially lead to regular yeast infections.
Natural Remedies For Yeast Infections In Women With PCOS
Coconut oil has been shown to have antifungal properties that can help treat some mild yeast infections. To treat with coconut oil, use only pure, organic coconut oil and apply it directly to the affected area.
Tea Tree Essential Oil
Like coconut oil, research suggests tea tree oil has antifungal properties. However, you can’t just apply essential oils directly to your skin like you can with coconut oil, which is a carrier oil. To use tea tree oil, mix a few drops with coconut oil and then apply externally only. You can read more about the safe use of essential oils HERE.
Apple Cider Vinegar Baths
Studies show half a cup of apple cider vinegar in a warm bath can also help with yeast infections! Just soak in the tub for 20 minutes and the acidic properties of the vinegar may help kill yeast and other harmful microorganisms.
Vitamin E suppositories can also support the treatment of yeast infections, research suggests. It may reduce inflammation and prevent the thinning of the uterine wall. Both of these symptoms can worsen yeast infections and increase your risk of getting them, so getting these conditions under control may help treat and prevent yeast infections. You can buy vitamin E suppositories over the counter, but consult with your doctor before using them.
Natural Ways to Prevent Yeast Infections For Women with PCOS
Probiotics are all about balancing your bacteria, both in your gut and in your vagina. Taking a regular oral lactobacillus acidophilus probiotic has several benefits, including yeast infection prevention. You can learn more about probiotics HERE.
Vitamin C Supplements
Vitamin C helps build a strong immune system, and a strong immune system helps your body regulate and balance bacteria in the body. Additionally, vitamin C has an antimicrobial quality. So it helps prevent yeast infections in two ways! Consider taking a vitamin C supplement and check out this post for more vitamins you should add to your routine.
Get More Sleep
Your sleep is closely associated with your stress levels. And, if you remember from earlier, stress can be a cause of yeast infections. Prioritizing good sleep hygiene can help you lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and maintain a more balanced vagina microbiome. Read this post for ways of bettering your sleep with PCOS!
Sleeping better is a great way of reducing stress, but there are other ways of lowering cortisol levels too. Try reducing known stressors in your life, practicing self-care, and limiting the amount of caffeine you drink. This can help lower cortisol, which will help keep blood sugar low, thus preventing yeast infections!
Since yeast feeds on sugar, eating an anti-inflammatory diet that’s low in sugar can help reduce your risk of yeast infections! First, determine your carb tolerance, then consider a gluten- and dairy-free anti-inflammatory diet that suits that carb tolerance.
Healthy food and lower sugar intake should help keep your body balanced! Not only can it prevent yeast infections, but it can help with other symptoms of PCOS as well. Learn more about a PCOS anti-inflammatory diet and what it could do for you HERE. And, join the Cysterhood which includes tons of great recipes to keep you on track!
Women with PCOS are prone to yeast infections, but with these tips, you can prevent and treat a yeast infection naturally!
A yeast infection can be miserable. It’s uncomfortable, painful, and just plain gross. As a woman living with PCOS, you have enough to deal with! Try preventing PCOS with these tips and consider these natural treatment methods if you happen to get one. For more ways to reverse PCOS and relieve symptoms, head to my blog and listen to our podcast.