Everything About Women's Health
What Are The Causes For Vaginal Infections?
Ahh, vaginal infections. Sounds scary to the outside observer and dreaded to all women who experience it. Abnormal discharge, itchiness, abnormal odors, redness and soreness, inflammation, general discomfort, social stigma and self-imposed isolation. All these are the symptoms, both direct, indirect and in different combinations. Vaginal infections are either sexually transmitted or a result of internal floral imbalance and can affect women of all ages and social groups. There are four main groups of "evil" biological units that affect human and all other life forms' health. These are: Viruses, bacteria, protozoa and fungi.
The most common ones that cause vaginal infections are bacteria and fungi, that naturally reside in your body and can sprout out of control under the influence of both internal and external factors. The complete list of reasons that lead to vaginal infections is still under research in medical science and the reasons for some recurring conditions are yet unknown, like recurring bacterial vaginal infections. The main reason, though, is weak immune system.
Let's take a closer look at those pesky creatures from biological point of view, because in order to adequately treat them, you have to know them, their strengths and weaknesses.
Definition: 2nd smallest living things can be seen by electron microscope, have the simplest structure, and have the largest number among the five groups of microbes.
Size: Consists only one cell (about 0.5 to 10 micrometer)
Nutrition: Some bacteria have chlorophyll, so they can make their own food by
photosynthesis process. Some of bacteria don’t have chlorophyll, so they have to be:
a)Saprophytes - get food from decaying matters
b)Parasites - get food from other living organisms
Respiration: Some bacteria carry out aerobic respiration, and some of them carry out
a) By binary fission
Habitat: Bacteria live in any damp places.
Definition: Animals which are made up of only one cell. They are unicellular. Example: amoeba, paramecium and etc.
Size: Consists only one cell (about 5 to 250 micrometer)
Shape: Have various shapes, but mostly they have irregular shape (no fixed shape)
Nutrition: Some of protozoa live as parasites. E.g: plasmodium. Some of them obtain food from their surroundings. E.g: amoeba and paramecium. Some of protozoa make their own food.
Respiration: All protozoa carry out aerobic respiration.
a) By binary fission
b) By asexual reproduction (spore formation)
c) By sexual reproduction (conjugation)
Habitat: Protozoa live independently in any ponds, river, damp soils or in other organisms, and they live in colonies
Definition: Plants which do not have chlorophyll. They include mushrooms, moulds and yeast. They do not have root, stems or leaves.
Size: Some of them are large (i.e mushroom), and some of them are tiny (i.e moulds and yeast)
Nutrition: Most of fungi live as parasites (i.e moulds) or saprophytes (i.e mucor) .
Respiration: Most of fungi carry out aerobic respiration.
a) By spores
Fungi such a mushrooms form spores within their caps. Mucor form sporangium (containing spores). When it ripe, it bursts open and disperses the spore.
b) By budding
Habitat: Fungi live in damp dark habitats.
Example: Mucor grows on damp stale bread placed in the dark. (That is why dried bread out on the sun does not get mold).
Viruses are another topic to discuss in another post, since they are the very serious matter and they always come as infections from outside, usually sexually transmitted. That is why safe sex must be the highest priority of every modern human, as well as good hygiene, of course. At best, you should stick to monogamy and take your shower in the morning, as well as in the evening.
So, we established that the peskies need moist and dark places to proliferate. Obviously, your vagina is the perfect habitat.
There are 5 main factors that affect the growth of microorganism:
1. Nutrients: Microorganisms need nutrient to live, and they get it by being:
a) autotrophic b) saprophytic c) parasitic
2. Humidity: Microorganisms need living place with high level of humidity. That means, they need moisture or water to live, and they will die if they do not get water for a period of time. However, some bacteria can live in a place without water’s presence by forming spores. For amoeba, they form cyst (spore with outer ring).
3. Light: Most of virus, fungi and protozoa, as well as some bacteria prefer dim or dark habitat, while algae and few of bacteria tend to live in bright place since they have chlorophyll to carry out photosynthesis process.
4. Temperature: Most suitable temperature for the microorganism’s growth and life is about 37ºC (human’s body temperature).
In the next post, let's tackle the possible approaches in battling the bugs, having familiarized ourselves with the basics of their biology, habitual and environmental needs.
How To Battle Vaginal Infections
Infections within your body, whether bacterial or protozoan are prescribed with antibiotics. While fungal infections are treated with anti-fungal treatments and not pharmaceutical antibiotics. Moreover, vaginal yeast infections are extremely common side effect of antibiotic treatments in women. The reason for this is that the synthetic antibiotics do not work with your immune system, but rather they just go on a killing spree inside of you eliminating all bacteria on the way, no matter if it is good or bad. Thus, after a course of antibiotics your body is left deprived of its natural defense aids, like good bacteria that work in cooperation with your immune system.
That is why, it is best to use herbal remedies and boost your natural defenses by healthy nutritional means. Or you can undergo up to a week-long course of antibiotics, if the problem is really urgent, alongside herbal diet and two or three days after you finish the antibiotics course you must re-supplement your body with probiotics, otherwise your immune system will remain depleted and vulnerable to recurrences.
Here are a few links to websites with very useful information on the causes of vaginal infections, the contributing factors, the different kinds of infections and their symptoms. Excellent starting points for research and self-education:
Ok, so you have any of the symptoms in the second post of this series above, you just can't get rid of them, your social life is suffering the side effects and your self-esteem is needlessly lowered due to these ridiculous things that have nothing to do with yourself and your levels of hygiene. Yes, but most probably it has to do with your nutrition then, most likely. Or it also may be due to inappropriate hygiene habits, like excessive douching, using heavy scented soaps and shower gels to wash your genital area. Also, if you have the habit of wearing synthetic panties.
Though, all the reasons are not yet determined really. However, food has its effects on the body and often on its odors as well. Since pheromones and other volatile chemical products of your organism can be influenced and altered by your nutrition, as well as by environmental factors, like washing detergents, hygiene products, house hold cleaning detergents, other chemicals in general, whether synthetic or natural alkaloids. These chemicals that interfere with your biochemistry are generally known as endocrine disruptors, but your vaginal infection is most probably not a result of any such interactions, so don't worry. Still, mind the products you are using for your intimate hygiene.
Your best defense is always your immune system, so what you need to maintain in the long term is its vitality and strength. Also, high levels of stress are linked to weakening of the immune system and thus vaginal infections, like recurring Yeast infections. So, you need to learn to manage your stress levels and find good ways to chill out and relax, the ways that work best for you. Don't get overstressed for nothing, input less emotional charge and more thought in your problem solving.
Smoking and caffeine consumption, among others, are also linked to the depletion of vital vitamins in your body, which in turn weakens your immune system's defensive strength. You should make vitamins, herbs and vegetables a constant part of your diet, if you want to enjoy a strong health. Also probiotics are very important for your overall health and specifically your intestinal and genital floral balance. A regular supply of fibers and fructooligosaccharides, among others, are also very important, since these provide good nutrition for your good bacteria, you want your good bacteria well fed and happy, so that they do their job at their best.
Every organism is more or less different in its biochemical balance, so that is why the same recipe cannot apply for all. What works for me, may not work for you as well. You have to know your body and find what works best for you. Of course, it may be just a matter of dosing and time for the supplement to take effect. On the whole, you must be careful with experimentation, remember that while vitamins may not have serious or even none overdose side effects, many herbs do. So, before you try anything, always research first.
There is also something very important. When you have vaginal infections, DO NOT douche. I did and it was a dreadful mistake, worsening my symptoms for a week ahead. Also, do not drink coffee. It took me a while until I figured this out, but for some reason, when having bacterial or fungal infection, coffee worsens your symptoms within an hour or two after you drink it and long after. Energy drinks do not seem to have this effect though, despite their caffeine content. Maybe it is because they also contain B vitamins and other supplements as well.
Using tampons or pantie liners while having infection is also not a good idea. Get yourself a mild, unscented soap for washing your genital area, on the outside. Never wash your vagina with anything inside, it has its natural means of doing it.
Now, let's see
- WHAT YOU CAN DO WHEN HAVING AN INFECTION
- Garlic - Garlic is nature's antibiotic. And when taken in large amounts over a period of time it can clear bacterial, protozoan and fungal infections just as synthetic antibiotic, but without leaving your immune system vulnerable after its effect. Even though it can't really be considered a selective antibiotic or at least there isn't enough evidence in this regard, Garlic's chemical content kills microorganisms and has a beneficial influence to the immune system in many ways as well. It is a powerful medicine that has been used for thousands of years. Research about Garlic and its health benefits more on your own. What you have to know is that its beneficial compounds are generally not absorbed in your stomach, but in your mouth, while chewing it. It can be really hard to eat raw garlic, with food of course, but it is working. Do yourself a week-long (or more) of excessive garlic consumption and you will see excellent results. Though, the side effect may be, like in my case, that you actually start smelling like garlic. And this smell can be quite weird too, at times resembling burned wires. But when you get to this stage, then you can reduce the consumption to a few cloves a day and gradually clear up the odor. You can aid yourself with consuming more citrus fruits as well. Also, when overconsuming garlic, your blood gets "thin" and you can see that if you accidentally cut yourself, quite a lot more than usual blood will come out, so be careful. If you have heavy menstruation periods, I think it will be a good idea to stop eating garlic about a week before your menstruation is due. You can also use a Garlic clove as a suppository, it also works this way.
- Probiotics - Get yourself probiotic supplements. This is also essential. You can't really overdose, but excessive consumption has some side effects. One day I was taking two caps (1 billion bacteria) every hour or so, in all I took about 16 in one day. On the next day when I got up my face was slightly puffed and later on in the afternoon I took a half an hour speed-walk and I noticed that my fingers got slightly puffed, so I kind of intuitively connected this to the Acidophilus shock-dose the day before as well. Fun experiments, lol. However, I concluded that there is no effect in taking such large doses of Acidophilus, because the body does not absorb it somehow, so for the best results stick to your dosing, say 2 in the morning an hour or so before food and say another two in the evening. Consume them with chilled yogurt or, say, Cranberry juice. Should be something cold. Also, since stomach acid, which is about 2 - 3 PH, quite acidic, kills off bacteria before they enter your intestines, you should use stomach acid neutralizer, bananas have this effect. So, what I do is eat a banana in the morning, after a few minutes or so intake the acidophilus with yogurt, water or cranberry juice. If you don't have bananas, you can just drink a glass of water to dilute your gastric acid a bit.
- Oregano oil - Oil of oregano is a very potent herb with a wide scope of health benefits and a powerful medicine. Get yourself a supply of these, whether in liquid form or capsules and put yourself into a 2-3 month course of there. You can also use the content of the liquid capsules as vaginal suppository/cream, I punch the capsule and squeeze it inside, then snatch the capsule out.
- Cranberry juice and Ginger tea - among other natural goodies, have positive effects on your urinary tract, also Ginger tea is good for raising your body temperature. You see, your body temperature is ideal for microorganisms to flourish. So, if you find a way to increase your body temperature in a controlled way of course, you will solve your infection problems very quickly. Unfortunately, your body just refuses to respond to your wish to increase its temperature, if only there was a switch to do that, it would have been great. You can probably try with really hot chilli peppers as well. Also, when you are sick and your temperature goes up, do not hurry to lower it artificially, after all, this response is your immune system's defensive reaction against infection in your body and it actually deals with it in this way. So, unless your temperature is raising to dangerous levels you should bare with it for a day or two. Otherwise, you interfere with your own immune system, even though raising its temperature is a double-edged blade, because it really is kind of a self-destructive mechanism as well as a defensive one. Yeah, your body does has a self-destruct command, in case of an emergency, lol.
- Lower your PH levels - microorganisms favor alkaline conditions and that is why, when having a vaginal infection, the bad bacterial or/and fungal activity inside increases your alkalinity, which is must be the main reason for vaginal odor. That is why, you need to lower your PH levels. You can do this, for instance, by using Cider Vinegar in a 50/50 solution in water, soak a tampon in and insert it into your vagina. Mind that you should not keep it there more than 3-4 hours at best. Acidophilus strains also lower your PH levels, so you can use a tablet as a suppository. Use capsules for this, as they dissolve better. You can also drink Cider Vinegar, with lemon and honey. Be careful with your proportions not to burn your throat, it is an acid after all. The normal PH levels of the vagina are 3.8 - 4.5, the PH of vinegar is in these same ranges.
- Vitamin C - 500mg or 1000mg. Take up to 4-6 tablets a day, while the infection lasts. Vitamin C works closely with your immune system and boosts it up. You should intake vit. C everyday even if you are healthy, especially if you happen to be a smoker. Mind that vitamin C in large amounts seriously delays your period.
- Diet - you can try dieting, while you have infection symptoms. Reducing on your calorie intake can actually starve the little %$^^#@, try to eliminate sweets and sugars as much as you can. Eat yogurt, refrain from heavy, fatty meals. You can eat bananas and yogurt in the morning, then eat more yogurt in the afternoon, have a wheat or corn snacks and have a light meal in the evening. You can also try seriously fasting and not eat anything full day long, apart from drinking a lot of water, and like this for a week or more with only a lite dinner at the end of the day. But, I wouldn't recommend this if you are a smoker, fasting on cigarettes is not a good idea. While fasting, don't forget to take your multivitamins and probiotic supplements.
- Eat a lot of green salad - it has positive effects when having Bacterial Vaginosis and the best thing is that They don't get nutrients from salad. So, it feeds only you and not your unwelcome occupants.
There is plenty of info around the web on what to eat and what no to eat when having different bacterial and fungal infections. You should research and find your recipe. I have read many positive testimonials on Tea tree oil and Neem, though I haven't tried these myself. There are a lot of natural remedies you can use, just read, research and apply. You will find a way out of this, just don't ignore the problem, seek solutions. Of course, don't just home treat yourself without visiting your gynecologist at all. Home treatments are generally for those recurring conditions that don't have a definite medical cause (as of yet). Always pay your regular gynecological visits, once every 4-6 months normally.
In all, self-education is the best education there is!
Candida Albicans or Yeast Infection
Every 1 out of 4 women suffers from some type of vaginal infection once in her lifetime. And many of us way lots more. If you are one of those unfortunate women, don't get despaired. Resilient vaginal infections can be very depressing, nerve wrecking and psychologically wearing. But it is important to keep your spirit up and cheerful, because continuous negative emotional state can greatly contribute to the worsening of your health. I know it's hard to be cheerful after years of battling vaginal infections, but you must try to look at the bright side of life and just try to forget about the trivial downturns. After all, don't forget - YOU ARE NOT ALONE. So, relax. All will be alright and will get better.
Now, there are many symptoms of vaginal infections as discussed above. The ones that are most widely spread and most disturbing are discharge, itching and funky odor. Remember, if you have any bumps or blisters on your outer intimate lips, then it is STD and you must consult a gynecologist. Consulting a gynecologist is always a good idea, however, there are cases when they prove to be useless. As in the cases with Unspecific Vaginitis also known as Bacterial Vaginosis/vaginitis and Yeast Infections. While BV is conventionally treated with antibiotics, which can have horrible side-effects by upsetting your natural floral balance and giving you a hard to get rid off subsequent Yeast infection. Oh well, I guess one has to go through all of these until finally gets rid off pesky microorganisms for good. So anyway, the best way to treat both BV and Candida is via Probiotic intake, not for month or two, for much much longer, everyday, even long after all your symptoms eventually disappear. Also, you should combine the Probiotics with other herbal antiseptics.
There is a great percentage of women suffering from these conditions that find no relief whatsoever in the conventional anti-mycotic and fluconazole-containing medications (for Candida infections). These can be quite expensive and their prolonged use puts a great deal of load on the liver. So, if they don't have any lasting effect with the smaller doses, say a week on Difflucan 150mg orally combined with another anti-mycotic for vaginal use, just forget about these medications and go herbal.
In case you are wondering what is your "infection" (it is not necessarily coming from outside) and you haven't made a microbial culture test to determine whether you have anaerobic microbial activity or candida overgrowth, there are a few symptoms that can surely tell you.
- White, frothy discharge and all sorts of weird vaginal odors, from sweet, to food-like, burned wire-like and bad breath-like, all these are produced by Candida Albicans.
- If your discharge is yellowish and smells very distinctly like the way the ocean does, that is, if you get a fishy odor, then it is Bacterial Vaginosis.
Women suffering from these conditions have to endure the common ignorance of society and feel awkward and ashamed, but there is nothing to be ashamed of. This is not a personality flaw, but merely an immunity flaw that is completely treatable, even if it may take a longer time. These odors are caused by microorganismic activity and are not a result of bad hygiene, neither they can be removed by washing. Warning: Do not overwash and brush yourself like crazy, in this manner, this doesn't help, only may make things worse. Do not douche. Douching is for healthy vaginas and it is not recommended on a daily basis. Not more than once or twice a month, say after your period. Now, you will have to mind your diet, especially if you are having a Candida overgrowth. That is you must seriously reduce all sweets and sugars, heavy meats and fats, no alcohol, no milk. Yogurt is ok. Increase green salads presence in your daily eating habits and also add garlic, a few cloves at dinner should become regular on your table.
You should supply yourself a herbal antiseptic like tea tree oil, oil of oregano or grapefruit seed extract oil or a combination. See what works best for you. I recommend the oils, not the capsules, because the capsules, I have found, have less active content. The oils must be combined with the garlic on a daily basis, this is a very effective combination. Use the oils as instructed on their labels, always dilute them with water (they are oils) and for the best effect begin with a smaller dose and gradually increase it. I have found that taking huge doses does not produce a greater effect, but on the contrary, only makes your body resist more.
Gradually introduce the herbs to your body and when you reach a desired dosage keep it this way for a few months, then gradually decrease it again and keep it for a few months more. It is important to continue intake of the oils, the garlic and probiotics on a daily basis at least a few months after your symptoms vanish or else you risk to get them again soon after and start all over. Do not discontinue straight after your symptoms are gone. Sexual abstinence is recommended for some time, if you think your partner may leave you just because of this, then your relationship is superficial and you will find another, don't worry. If you want to ever get rid off your vaginal inconvenience. Clitoral masturbation is ok, but not more than twice a week or so. You should try to keep your intimate area dry. Change your panties more often, say once in the morning and once in the evening.
So, that's about all of the essential know-how on common vaginal infections. Keep your spirit up and be perseverant. You will laugh at your suffering and the funny ways it altered your behavior, one day in the future. ;]
Psychoneuroimmunology and The Importance of Stress Management for Your Health
Continuous stress has been linked to degrading health ever since the Arabian scientist Avicenna. Managing stress is an extremely important element to your overall well being.
"The immune system and the brain talk to each other through signaling pathways. The brain and the immune system are the two major adaptive systems of the body. Two major pathways are involved in this cross-talk: the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The activation of SNS during an immune response might be aimed to localize the inflammatory response.
The body's primary stress management system is the HPA axis. The HPA axis responds to physical and mental challenge to maintain homeostasis in part by controlling the body's cortisol level. Dysregulation of the HPA axis is implicated in numerous stress-related diseases. HPA axis activity and cytokines are intrinsically intertwined: inflammatory cytokines stimulate adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol secretion, while, in turn, glucocorticoids suppress the synthesis of proinflammatory cytokines.
Molecules called pro-inflammatory cytokines, which include interleukin-1 (IL-1), Interleukin-2 (IL-2), interleukin-6 (IL-6), Interleukin-12 (IL-12), Interferon-gamma (IFN-Gamma) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) can affect brain growth as well as neuronal function. Circulating immune cells such as macrophages, as well as glial cells (microglia and astrocytes) secrete these molecules. Cytokine regulation of hypothalamic function is an active area of research for the treatment of anxiety-related disorders.
Cytokines mediate and control immune and inflammatory responses. Complex interactions exist between cytokines, inflammation and the adaptive responses in maintaining homeostasis. Like the stress response, the inflammatory reaction is crucial for survival."
You have the power to consciously adjust your mind on how it responds to stress and thus how it communicates these stress signals to your CNS and immune system. Here is a very accurate graphic chart on what you should do in order to reduce your stress levels and learn to manage it.
Overwhelming stress levels are linked to chronic infections and auto-immune conditions such as allergies and similar skin conditions. Stress may be at the core of these continuous Anaerobic and/or Candida infections as well. After all, it is true that healing begins first in your mind.
Once your immune system and subsequently your natural intestinal floral balance has been compromised, it may prove extremely hard to bring it back in healthy harmony. So, there are some very important food supplements that are essential along with your Probiotic intake in order to detoxify your organism and brake the recurrence chain. These are oligosaccharides, fructo-oligosaccharides and inulin.
"When oligosaccharides are consumed, the undigested portion serves as food for the intestinal microflora. Depending on the type of oligosaccharide, different bacterial groups are stimulated or suppressed.
Clinical studies have shown that administering FOS, GOS, or inulin can increase the number of these friendly bacteria in the colon while simultaneously reducing the population of harmful bacteria."
There is an interesting link between your blood type and immunity strength as well. So that is why, if you are blood type 0, like me, you may find it even harder to get rid off recurring infections once they have onset in your body and bring your good bacteria balance back on track.
"Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), which are found in many vegetables, consist of short chains of fructose molecules. (Inulin has a much higher degree of polymerization than FOS and is a polysaccharide.) Galactooligosaccharides (GOS), which also occur naturally, consist of short chains of galactose molecules. These compounds can be only partially digested by humans.
Oligosaccharides are often found as a component of glycoproteins or glycolipids and as such are often used as chemical markers, often for cell recognition. An example is ABO blood type specificity. A and B blood types have two different oligosaccharide glycolipids embedded in the cell membranes of the red blood cells, AB-type blood has both, while O blood type has neither."
So, this makes it even more essential for you to supply yourself with a food supplement that contains these elements to aid your probiotics re-colonization. Research the available products in your area and choose the one that suits you best. Here are a few suggestions to give you initial guidance.
Take care, and always research, read and mind your diet and your mindset! You are what you eat, you are what you think a.k.a your mindset reflects on the whole of you