Thrush is a yeast infection of the mucous membranes (the soft, pink coloured skin) of the vagina or penis.
In a healthy bowel and genital area many bacteria and small
numbers of yeast cells (vaginal flora) usually exist. Yeast
infections occur when there is a change in the normal balance of
these organisms. This imbalance can be caused by many things,
including medications or certain medical conditions. The most
common healthy bacteria found in the genitals are Lactobacillus
acidophilus. These bacteria may help prevent other organisms, such
as yeast, from growing in excess and causing a vaginal infection.
More than 85 percent of yeast infections are caused by a strain of
yeast called Candida albicans.
Genital Candidiasis infections are very common in women, causing a
condition that is commonly referred to as 'Thrush'. Genital
Candidiasis is usually not considered a 'sexually transmitted
disease', as it is generally caused by overgrowth of the Candida
albicans fungi that normally inhabit a person's skin. Under certain
circumstances, this fungus can divide excessively and the large
numbers of fungal cells can produce the signs and symptoms of a
Genital Candidiasis infection. Circumstances that may allow Candida
cells to grow excessively include: diabetes mellitus, antibiotic
use, corticosteroid drugs, HIV infection, low immunity, pregnancy
(particularly in the third trimester) and use of oral
Signs and Symptoms
Women may experience:
- Irritation of the vulva (the entrance to the vagina and the
surrounding area) and discharge from the vagina that may be a
thick, whitish-coloured fluid.
- inflammation of the vulva.
Men who have a Genital Candidiasis
infection may not experience any symptoms, but some may
- Irritation and soreness of the glans and prepuce (head of the
- Inflammation of the glans and prepuce.
- White, cheesy material, pits or small, circular elevations on the
Always consult your Doctor for the diagnosis and treatment of
Genital Candidiasis. Your Doctor will advise you on the latest
treatments available for the treatment of this condition and also
provide information on how to avoid re-infection. Genital
Candidiasis in women (Thrush) is treated using topical antifungal
creams (i.e. applied directly to the vagina). If the Thrush
infection does not improve, then oral antifungal medications may be
required. Genital Candidiasis in men is treated by washing the
penis and surrounding skin with soap and water, drying with a clean
towel and applying topical antifungal creams for 7 to 10 days.
Vaginitis, Trichomoniasis and Thrush are difficult to distinguish
on the basis of symptoms alone so it is important for a woman with
vaginal symptoms to see her physician for an accurate
Certain dietary measures can be taken to minimise the growth of
yeast in the bowel which, in turn, reduces the likelihood of
- Try to avoid foods high in simple carbohydrate such as refined
sugars as Thrush thrives on sugar. These foods include fruit
juices, sucrose, biscuits, cakes made from white flour and sugar,
honey, white breads and pastries etc.
- Eat plain yoghurt which contains live cultures of acidophilus.
This yoghurt can also be applied directly to the vagina to relieve
- Try to include foods high in fibre such as wholegrain cereals,
fruits and vegetables, psyllium and oat bran.
- Try to limit (but not completely eliminate) foods high in
carbohydrates such as potatoes, and fruits such as oranges, kiwi
fruit, pineapple, lemons and limes, grapefruit, tomatoes.
Re-introduce these foods slowly after about 1 month of
- Garlic is a natural antibiotic and can be included in the diet
every day. It is best to have garlic at a separate time to
acidophilus as the antibiotic activity of garlic may interfere with
the acidophilus organism.
- Acidophilus bifidus supplementation may help as it feeds and
promotes the growth of good bacteria.
- Garlic in cooking or capsule form, may be of benefit due to its
anti-microbial and anti-fungal effect. Garlic is particularly
effective against Candida albicans.
- Vitamin C and bioflavonoids promote the body's immunity and help
protect the body against damaging toxins released from
- Pau d'arco herb is thought to be an anti-bacterial and
- Golden Seal herb may soothe and decrease inflammation of the mucous membranes. It also has an anti-bacterial action and is thought to help the immune system. Golden seal is also thought to help support the liver and digestive system.
It is important to remember that thrush rarely occurs in
post-menopausal women unless they are on hormone replacement
therapy (HRT). This is because the candida species thrives in the
presence of oestrogen. Post-menopausal women with vaginal
irritation should immediately consult their medical
Ask your Naturopath for advice.
- Follow the Diet Hints - Your
Naturopath will suggest a solution which may be used in a douche.
Some examples are: diluted apple cider vinegar, pau
d'Arco, golden seal and tea tree oil.
using too much soap.
- Wear loose cotton clothing and underwear to
keep the genitals cool and well ventilated. Change underwear daily.
Women prone to Thrush should avoid wearing pantyhose.
- After using
the toilet always wipe from the vaginal area towards the anus. The
Thrush organisms live outside the anus and are easily transferred
to the vagina. - Do not use tampons.
- Make sure your partner has
been examined for Thrush to avoid re-infection.
- Consider some
supplements if the diet is inadequate. Acidophilus will help
promote the bacteria which normally keep the Thrush organism under
control, and B group vitamins and vitamin C to help
the natural immune system of the body may all be suggested.
Zinc is also used for any infection. A special cream
containing tea tree oil may also be introduced to the vagina on a
tampon and left overnight.
Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
- Follow the Diet Hints
- There are several antifungal vaginal
creams available. These may be suggested by your Pharmacist
to relieve Thrush. Ask advice on the use of these creams.
- Avoid bathing too often and using perfumed
soap as this can aggravate the condition and increase the
risk of Thrush. Ask your Pharmacist about appropriate soaps and
- Wear loose cotton clothing and
underwear to keep the genitals cool and well ventilated. Women
prone to Thrush should avoid wearing pantyhose. Stockings are a
better choice as these allow air circulation.
- Increasing the acidity of the vagina
may help to prevent Thrush. Washing with a preparation of water and
vinegar may help to achieve this. Ask your Pharmacist about a
gel which can be applied to the area as a
preventative measure against Thrush.
- After using the toilet always wipe from the vaginal area towards
the anus. The Thrush organisms which live outside the anus are
easily transferred to the vagina.
- Make sure your sexual partner has been examined for Thrush to
- Ensure that you rinse your mouth out and
gargle with water after using an asthma puffer, look after
your dentures properly and avoid smoking. (See the Thrush - Oral
topic for further information).
- If the dietary intake is inadequate, consider the nutritional
supplements recommended in this topic.