Well, hello! Fancy meeting you here on the interwebs, clicking on an article about vaginas feeling off.
I would like to start by proclaiming - I am not a doctor. I also strongly suggest that you see a doctor whenever possible, because the problem with a lot of these pesky vagina things is that they can seem like one thing but be another. I also suggest that actual medical professionals correct me on anything that is wrong!
What I am is someone that has dealt with and tried just about every cure and home cure for vaginitis that there is - with vaginitis being a sort of catch all term for anything that makes your hoohaa feel funky, including things like yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis. Symptoms usually include inflammation, itching, burning, pain and discharge.
Everyone is different - so this is not meant to be a universal recommendation at all, and different things will work better for different people, but for anyone that is curious about random stuff they've heard on the internet and would like to hear from some who is slightly less random about their personal experience. I dealt with recurring yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis for about 2 years before kicking it . It was a really great time in my life, you guys. Just magical. I'd like to feel like it had some benefit at all if I can share my first hand experiences.
First, let's talk about the vagina itself - it's a wild, wonderful world in there. There should be an entire episode of Cosmos where NdGT explores the delicate balance of microorganisms and creatures that live within in it. For our purposes, we want to think about a few things - pH level, yeast, and bacteria.
Yeast and bacteria are like the yin and yang of your vagina. Both yeast and bacteria on their own are fine, but it's a balance between them that is what is important. Too much or too little of each one is going to cause you problems - and pretty much everyone knows this. But pH level is also really important, and not discussed very often. Your vagina is naturally slightly acidic (around 3.5-4.5). If your pH level is lower than that, it can promote yeast growth. If your pH level is higher than that, it promote bad bacteria growth. If you're doing anything that can affect your pH level of your vagina - whether it's sex with a partner with super acidic sperm or douching or using a new brand of tampon - it can help create an imbalance. Understanding your pH levels and how they impact it can help you figure out what may be happening and the best way to attack it.
*Protip: For our at home scientists, I am all for testing your pH level. If you want to test it though, don't buy one of the damn 15 dollar "yeast infection testing" kits. Buy a pack of 100 pH testing strips for about 10 dollars, and you can use those (I do it with a q-tip!) which are precisely the same damn thing.
Again, I seriously have to stress even with things like testing your pH level, you should have a doctor check you out because symptoms are so similar, and if you mis-treat you can absolutely make it worse. Many of the symptoms are also similar to STDs (even herpes can present similarly to vaginitis) or can be indicators of more dangerous medical conditions (for instance, frequent yeast infections can actually be a sign of diabetes or anemia).
But let's face it - most of these cures will not harm most people or cause lasting damage, and if you're a lady who has had the condition before and recognizes and can't get into your damn gyno for three weeks, and your vagina is BURNING have a go.
I'm going to start today by talking about Yeast Infections, and follow up with a post on Bacterial Vaginosis, as they're the two most common.
A yeast infection is caused by too much yeast in your system. The main symptom that sets yeast infections apart is the discharge - it can be a thick, white, possibly clumpy discharge that often smells yeasty. There are tons of common causes - eating very sugary foods or a lot of alcohol, taking antibiotics, wearing items that cause your vagina to be warmer and damper than usual (tight, non cotton underpants or a wet swimsuit, for instance), douching. Don't go anal to vaginal, ladies. Yeast is a fungus, and can come in several strains.
Cures! They fall into three different categories - those that try to kill the yeast (antifungals), those that try to restore bacteria to create balance (probiotics) and those that try to alter the pH level (acid party!)
These are probably my least favorite category over all. The problem with the antifungals is that they often just go in and blow out all the yeast, when what you're trying to do is create a balance. For me, this has often lead to either only temporary relief with the yeast infection coming back shortly after treatment, or even worse - killing too many yeast and allowing bacteria to be overgrown and giving me bacterial vaginosis.
Diflucan - Diflucan is a prescription strength antifungal. It's the only one I've ever been prescribed. Y'all, I hate it. It worked fast and it worked great and got rid of my yeast infection... for about 2 days. After which it was back and bigger than ever. It's also no joke as a drug - you can't use it more than once if you're pregnant, it interferes with a lot of other meds, and it INTERFERES WITH EFFECTIVENESS OF BIRTH CONTROL. No one needs a baby they name Candida after the reason they got knocked up. It also - like antibiotics - needs to be taken fully otherwise you will breed yeast resistant to it, and it's only designed to really target the most common strain of yeast. If you have a less common strain, it's not great.
Monistat - It is usually a capsule containing anti fungal medication that you insert into your vagina, broken out over 1, 3, or 7 days. The longer time periods are recommended, so that you gradually change your balance back rather than blast it once, which is supposed to be more effective. I've taken Monistat a few times - it worked okay for a mild yeast infection, but it's pretty darn messy and I notice a high recurrence rate. It's also expensive as all get out, and the ingredients themselves can actually cause irritation.
Garlic - garlic is a natural antifungal, so believe it or not, shoving a peeled clove of garlic up your cootch can actually help kill the yeast there and get you straightened out. I have friends who swear by it, especially if you use it right as soon as you're suspicious you might be getting one at all. Pros are - it's natural and super cheap and easy. Cons - it doesn't work for strong yeast infections, and dude, it can burn the shit out of you. If the clove gets nicked or if you cut it in half in order so that more of the juice can come into contact with you and be more effective, garlic juice seriously can hurt like hell. Wrapping it in cheesecloth is recommended, but even doing that it still burned for me. And while insertion may be easy, digging around your hooha for a clove of garlic is no fun (I recommend if you try, taking a needle and thread and stringing it through the garlic, creating a natural string you can use to pull it out later.)
The idea here is simple; if the yeast is overgrown, re-create the balance by adding back in bacteria (the good kind!) to the vagina. I'm somewhat a fan of anything that attempts to re-create balance.
Yogurt - Yogurt was my go-to for the few mild to medium YI I had before I started having issues with recurring yeast infections that had the strength of 1000 suns. It worked for me. The biggest con is simply that it's somewhat messy, and can be hard to apply. It takes a few days to work fully, although you see relief after about a day. For a long time I did the tampon dipped in yogurt method, until I heard what is one of the best tips I have ever gotten off the interwebs: Take the yogurt and dollop out small amounts and freeze it. (People suggest everything from using the fingers of latex gloves to partially filled ice cube trays; I honestly take a cookie sheet with saran wrap and make little capsule shaped dollops and freeze). Then insert a frozen piece of yogurt in your vagina, and it will work as it melts. This is way less messy and has the added benefit of being remarkably soothing since it's so cold. Use plain yogurt (fat v non fat doesn't matter), but not flavored. If I take antibiotics I normally use a little yogurt at night as a preventive measure to balance them out proactively.
(Note: I've never used any probiotic vaginal supplements - I've always just gone natural because those damn things are expensive and the yogurt worked, but I'd be interested to share if anyone else has!)
Science! The idea here is that yeast grow in lower acidity environments, so if you can raise your pH level back up, you'll make it so the yeast can't grow. The problem with this is that if you make it TOO acidic, you start making it an environment that encourages bacterial overgrowth, and overcorrection can be pretty easy to do.
Nature's Cure: Your Period. Your period acts a sort of natural refresh to your vagina - blood usually has a pH level of over 7, so bamn, acid! Pros: It has worked every time for me. Cons: It's this far down on the list not because it's not effective, but because depending on when you get your YI holding out for your period to hit is more or less torturous. Still, if I would get YI symptoms in the week before my period, I'd just let nature take it's course, and you can't really overcorrect since it's natural
Apple Cider Vinegar (or any vinegar/acid cure) - there are a few different ways you can use, but the general idea is again to bump up the acidity of your vagina so the yeast can't live. Douching is suggested, but DO NOT DOUCHE WITH IT. Don't douche ever, guys, okay? You can also put a cup or two of it in a bathtub and soak. This was okay for very mild temporary relief, but it didn't cure anything and you basically run into the same problem as with garlic - if you use enough to actually do anything, you run the risk of burning the shit out of your lady parts, in this case, especially your labia since you're in a bath
Boric Acid - I cannot express to you my love for boric acid. I'd seen reference to it as a cure but it took me a long time to try it, because it SOUNDS terrifying. Boric acid is poisonous if swallowed; it's the same stuff they use in cockroach poison. Sticking it in my vagina just didn't seem like a good idea. But it works hands down better than anything else I have ever tried - and it is one of the few home cures that actually has scientific research behind it, recommending it especially for long term recurrent yeast infections. The idea again is about addressing pH level; boric acid is a mild acid which happens to be at just about the same natural acidity level as the vagina, so it makes it a hostile environment for yeast to overgrow. But because it's not a strong acid and you're matching what the ideal acidity is, you aren't running the risk of overcorrecting.
In order to use it, you have to buy the ingredients separately and make the pills yourself - boric acid powder, and size 00 gelatin capsules. You can get both for under $20, and they last forever. Then you make the pills (wear gloves when you do, because the boric acid will burn you after a minute) and insert in your vagina (seriously, it's okay despite what I said about your hands burning a second ago). Once a day at night for milder infections, and twice a day for stronger ones.
I notice relief almost immediately - nothing works faster. I use while I have symptoms and normally for a day or so after. You can end up with a watery discharge - like, very watery and more than you'd think - and normally this is my clue that it's getting towards the end of doing what it needs to do.
The boric acid doesn't burn internally, although I do notice sometimes if I've had to use more than a few days I will get a little irritation from the discharge (I usually just put vaseline on my labia to protect it from happening.)
So there you have it! What have you tried, and what has worked for you? Don't be shy - 75% of women have a yeast infection at least once in their life!