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Preventing Those Dreaded Yeast Infections

While we were working on our IC book I spoke to a well-known researcher who found bacterial DNA in the bladder wall of IC patients. When he asked me if I had suffered with bladder infections before I was diagnosed with IC, I told him "no I hadn't, but I seemed to have had a lot of yeast infections." He then suggested the possibility that chronic yeast infections might travel into the bladder tissue, and cause an infection in the bladder wall. Although yeast is a problem for me, I don't know if I believe that it could be the cause of my IC. However, I do know from experience that even a small amount of yeast overgrowth can provoke IC symptoms.

Over the years, I've heard many conditions and symptoms blamed on yeast, especially when I worked in alternative health care clinics. Even though I feel that some of these claims went overboard, I have no doubt that yeast is a big problem for women with chronic conditions, such as fibromyalgia (FMS), and/or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), vulvodynia, IC, and Sjogren's syndrome (a chronic condition that causes excessive dryness in the secretory glands throughout the body). Many women with these conditions, especially those with FMS and IC, also suffer with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS is a condition that causes spasms of the smooth muscle of the colon (large intestine). These spasms create bouts of constipation and diarrhea. Because yeast flourishes in the large intestine during constipation, a follow-up bout of diarrhea can result in a yeast infection. Even when IBS symptoms aren't severe, yeast overgrowth may occur.

Hormonal Changes

Women with IBS often experience an increase in symptoms with hormonal changes, particularly as they approach perimenopause. When estrogen levels decline, constipation can become problem. This problem can intensify during the second half of the menstrual cycle, when progesterone levels rise. The high progesterone levels (associated with PMS) slow down colon activity, which can result in constipation.

Women may also be more vulnerable to yeast infections during perimenopause, because the decline of estrogen causes a decrease of blood flow and lubrication in the urethral, bladder and vaginal tissue. The tissue becomes thinner, drier and less resilient, making it more susceptible to yeast and inflammation.

More Than the Basic Steps

Yeast prevention is a tough challenge for many IC patients. Yeast can inflame the vaginal lining, and travel into the urethra and bladder.

Although most of us follow the basic steps to prevent the dreaded yeast infection, we sometimes need to do more:

  • Wear 100% cotton underwear. Change them if they become damp or moist.
  • Wear skirts (with no underwear while at home).
  • Wear Mid-thigh panties for less contact with the vaginal area. These cotton-combed panties are available at the Vermont Country Store (
  • Always wash and double-rinse underwear in hot water. Avoid line drying. Use the dryer.
  • Use scent and dye-free detergent.
  • Avoid fabric softeners.
  • Cleanse the vaginal area morning and night.
  • Always use unscented white soap to cleanse.
  • Rinse off with a squirt bottle after urination. Use filtered water.
  • Change towels daily.
  • Avoid tampons
  • Use tampons and sanitary pads made from natural materials or use washable Glad Rags (available at most health food stores).
  • Use an ice pack to sit on while traveling in a hot car. Remove it as soon as it starts to melt.
  • Avoid tight pants and synthetic leggings.
  • Keep sugar and milk intake moderate.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, etc.)
  • Avoid leftovers that that are kept more than one day.
  • Eat a small amount of plain yogurt daily to prevent intestinal imbalance (if tolerated).
  • Take a milk-free acidophilus (if tolerated). Check the ingredients to make sure that there is no added aspartame.
  • Try a yeast-free diet. There are several books on yeast prevention.

When yeast infections cause IC symptoms, the muscles of the pelvic floor can spasm and cause the hips, low back and legs to tighten-up. Use the following exercises daily to encourage length in these areas.

About The Authors:
Gaye is an author and IC patient & support group leader who has been involved in IC work for years. In 1990 she published "Stretch Into a Better Shape" and produced a stretching and exercise video for IC patients in 1993. She is a specialist in Aston-Patterning movement and muscle re-education.

Andrew has over ten years of clinical and health care management position. He is currently the Administrator of Maison Hospitaliere, located in New Orleans. Andrew holds a Ph.D. in Special Education, a M.A. of Health Adminstration, M.A. of Clinical Psychology.

They welcome your comments and feedback on their articles at: The Sandlers

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