Monday, September 24, 2012

Guide to Treating Yeast Infections Naturally

(Men, I will include a section on male yeast infections in here as well)

Vaginal yeast infections can be identified by severe itching, opaque white vaginal discharge, a funky smell, moist and hot conditions, and redness and swelling in the vaginal area. Note that you can have bacterial vaginosis OR a fungal yeast infection, which have slight differences in the way they are treated. If you have recurring infections, and you have good health insurance; consider getting a swab test to see exactly what you're dealing with. The guide here is for treating fungal infections, NOT bacterial infections (though some treatments are the same).

People who have taken a lot of antibiotics or pharmaceutical medications, have a lowered immunity due to stress or environmental factors and eat a lot of sugar will have the highest risk of yeast infections.

From my experience, the weird pharmaceutical medications that they have for yeast infections are overly intense, too expensive and only effective temporarily. Thus, I think this is a topic worthy of some specific attention. I will outline some immediate treatments, and then talk about overall prevention/ treatment.

Immediate Treatment

1. Air it out
This can stop a yeast infection in its first stages, when a slight itch appears. Don't wear underwear to bed, especially in the summer when you can lie above the covers and have lots of air reach it. This is an often overlooked remedy, though it has been my go-to remedy lately, and I have been incredibly surprised by the results.

2. Boric Acid powder in vegetable capsules, inserted as a suppository (up there)
This is the best single immediate treatment for an advanced yeast infection that I have encountered. It has been effective with me and most people that I've talked to who have tried it. Fill up the large vegetable capsules (available at your local health food store, or online in a place like Mountain Rose Herbs) with boric acid powder (found at a pharmacy like Rite Aid, or on the internet). Make several and keep them around for later. Push 1-2 all the way up your vagina with your finger before bed. Wear thick underwear, as it will all leak out overnight. Use this treatment up to 3 night in a row. If this treatment doesn't work or makes it worse, you may have Bacterial Vaginosis, in which case you should cease this treatment at once. You can get a swab test at the doctor's office if you suspect you may have bacterial vaginosis.

3. Apple cider vinegar or organic white vinegar, dabbed on externally.
This is the best treatment for itching symptoms that I have personally used. You can dilute it with some water and put it on a wash cloth. Dab it on the red and itchy areas to reduce itching. This can be combined with an antifungal tea, such as goldenseal. You can do this as often as you need to.

4. Black walnut hulls, encapsulated powder or tincture, taken orally (2 capsules 3x/day or 2 droppersful 3x/day for 10 days.
This treatment is good to support your entire body in ridding itself of yeast. Sometimes yeast overgrowth in your vagina is a sign of yeast overgrowth all over. If you're getting cloudy and craving sugar, this can be a good idea. You can also find herbal formulas for yeast infections.

5. Coconut oil, topical
Coconut oil is antifungal and can reduce itching. This is especially effective if it is a dry and hot infection. Get a spoonful and apply with finger. It will melt on contact with the skin.

6. Probiotics, encapsulated, taken orally or as a suppository (50-200 billion organisms/day)
Renew Life has a probiotic specifically for vaginal support that I highly recommend. If they are NOT enteric coated (see bottle), you can use it as a suppository, otherwise take it orally. Whatever you take, pay attention to the number of organisms; 5 billion/capsule is considered a low dose, 50 billion/capsule is on the higher end. If I had a serious yeast infection, I would take at least 2 per day of the 50 billion capsules, even though it says to take only one per day on the bottle. Through my own experimentation, I have found high dose probiotics to be one of the quickest things you can do to put your body on track. I highly recommend doing a course of probiotics (go through the whole bottle taking a high dose each day until its gone) periodically, even if you don't have yeast infections. I do it 3-4 times a year.

6. Air it out
This can stop a yeast infection in its first stages, when a slight itch appears. Don't wear underwear to bed, especially in the summer when you can lie above the covers and have lots of air reach it. This is an often overlooked remedy, though it has been my go-to remedy lately, and I have been incredibly surprised by the results.

An Anti-Yeast Lifestyle
1. Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet.
Sugar feeds yeast. It's as simple as that. Even fruit counts here. Most of the time when you have a yeast infection, the yeast will actually facilitate sugar cravings in you, so it may be even more difficult to avoid sugar when you've got an overgrowth. However, I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. Eat foods with lots of garlic and spices. Eat yogurt and saurkraut. Eat lots of greens.

2.  Reduce intercourse when symptoms are bad.
Intercourse can cause yeast infections, and make them worse. Friction on the walls of the vagina can expose dormant yeast cells and trigger overgrowth. Be aware that men can get penile yeast infections from having unprotected sex with women who have vaginal yeast infections. See the herbal recipe below for a treatment for that.

3. Get sunlight and fresh air.
This applies to the vaginal area too. Yeast doesn't like sun or fresh air, but your healthy bacteria do.

Anti-Yeast "cocktail"
     for male or female yeast infections
(inspired by Rosemary Gladstar's recipe)
1 quart water
1/2 tsp part goldenseal or oregon grape
1/2 tsp part Pao d'arco bark
1/2 tsp part marshmallow root
2 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup yogurt (optional)
1 tiny drop of tea tree oil or diluted oregano oil

Bring herbs to a boil in cold water. Turn off heat when it begins to bubble and let sit for one hour, covered. Add ACV just prior to use. Making a double recipe of tea might save you time if you needed to do it again.

For a penis soak: Put mixture into a glass or bowl and dangle penis and testicles into the bowl for 5-10 minutes. Repeat this daily until symptoms disappear. Give it air.

As a vaginal douche: Fill the douche bag with the tea. Lay in the bathtub with your pelvis elevated and let the tea in. Let it sit inside for a while, and then release it. Repeat once or twice a day, depending on the severity of the situation.

COMMENTS: I do not accept comments for the post. Because of the subject material, I received a high volume of spam comments, and thus decided to selectively disallow comments on this particular post. I'd love to hear your comments on any other post here!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Roadblocks on the Way to Better Eating

People know that they should "eat better" to be healthy. We may be arguing over the particulars of what is "healthy" until we all become enlightened breathairians, but the basics are obvious. Michael Pollan says it well: "Eat food (real food). Not too much. Mostly plants." If so many people know this, why aren't they doing it? Having spent years after my plant-eating-enlightenment bothered by this question (and secretly enjoying observing people's behavior like an anthropologist), I have some findings to report.

1. Most people don't understand the extent to which diet effects your health.
Folks... It's a big deal. Mainstream society has managed to create a brainwashed stupor, ignorantly denying that food has anything to do with rising rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Truth is, diet can make a huge difference, and it makes a bigger difference when you start thinking about it BEFORE your first heart attack or you've got diabetes.

2. Most people are surrounded by other people who are eating unhealthy foods, and thus it's antisocial to make alternative food choices.
Everyone LOVES to drag you down to their level of consciousness and project their own shame onto you. They must corrupt you, who has so evilly decided to do something good for yourself, by ostracizing you for your new choices or trying to coax you back to the dark side you by waving donuts in your face. It's amazing how things can revert to elementary school in such short order.

3. Most people don't care about themselves or their lives enough to want to be healthy.
They may appear to love themselves, but most of us are self-conscious wrecks, unsure of who we are or what we're doing here. At a certain point, people become disillusioned and may not want to live anymore at all. If you subconsciously don't want to live, you're not going to go out of your way to live longer.

4. Most people are addicted to the foods they eat, and thus changing their diet is more like breaking an addiction than a casual walk in the park.
Dr. Neal Bernard is an MD famous for his research on the addictive qualities of certain foods based on the neurochemical cocktail they serve in your brain. He found that sugar, chocolate, meat, gluten and dairy all produce an opiate or opiate-like effect in the human brain. Dairy, for example, actually contains morphine (a highly addictive opiate)  (50). Apparently it is made in the cows liver and provides incentive for calves to keep calm and keep drinking. On the topic of meat, Dr. Bernard mentions something that shell-shocked me in his book "Breaking the Food Seduction", : "An April 2000 survey of 1,244 adults revealed that about one in four Americans wouldn't give up meat for a week even if they were paid a thousand dollars to do it." (62) In other words, there are chemical addictions at play that can make it super hard to quit eating those things. The process is no easier than quitting cigarettes. Over-consumption of sugar, meat, gluten and dairy is the biggest contributor to the major chronic diseases of our time.

5. Most people think they don't have the money, time or energy to eat healthy food.
Many people may not consider the healthcare bills they have as a food cost, but in a way they are. Preventative health is cheaper, and sometimes that means spending a little extra on better food. However, there is a lack of education and empowerment among people with less wealth around health issues. It is the impoverished population in America that has the worst health problems. Diabetes is a big issue among that demographic, which can be prevented, improved and sometimes cured by the right diet choices.

6. Most people think "healthy" food tastes bad.
According to Dr. Neal Bernard, our taste buds have a three-week memory. In other words, the first three weeks in which you are eating things that are decidedly different from your normal diet (ie. not heavy in fat, sugar, dairy, gluten and salt), it's probably going to taste like crap. You won't feel satiated. You'll have the kitchen wanders (ie. open fridge door, close fridge door, walk in other room. Repeat.). That's why it's important to give yourself at least three weeks to try it out. Once your tastebuds are retrained, vegetables seem like the best thing in the world. You might think I'm off my rocker for this, but the last few days the only thing that's sounded good to me is straight up raw greens. I had a green smoothie for lunch and dinner today (1/2 banana, some cucumber, ginger, kale, parsley, cilantro, apple, spirulina and stevia) because I WANTED it. On top of that, I gave up sweeteners for stevia in the last month, and now even the thought of maple syrup is repulsive to me. Of course at first, I felt like I could punch someone for some chocolate cake.

7. Most people don't know what it feels like to be really healthy, and thus don't know how much better life is when you are.
As you are exposed to more years of the Standard American Diet (SAD), you gradually fall into unhealth and get used to its debilitating side effects--less energy, less mobility, lower mental clarity--and forget what it feels like to he healthy. From personal experience, when I eat healthy food I feel like a superhero-ninja-warrior who could kick a villain in the head and put him out cold, and hug 300 people in a half an hour. When I don't eat healthy food, I'm in the same boring and irritable rut as everyone else.

8. Most people (especially Americans) feel entitled to do whatever they want.
 Food is part of this. If someone tells them not to eat a hamburger, that is a personal assault on their individual freedom. Rather than seeing the love or care in a friend or loved one encouraging better diet choices, they get angry and swirl into a fit of egoistic self-righteousness and go scarf a Crap-In-The-Box hamburger.

9. Most people that want or need to make a diet change are ashamed of what they are eating, which brings up trauma every time they are faced with the idea.
When humans are experiencing trauma, the typical response is fight (argue that it's not true/ defend our choices) or flight (change the subject). Having gone through various stages of being "the crazy girl who eats funny," I have had a lot of conversations with people about food and health. When people discover that I eat a healthy diet, it is as if I have personally insulted their eating choices. "Well, I could never do that..." or "I seem to be doing just fine with what I'm eating..." or "But isn't that hard? It's not really realistic for the rest of us." or "I had a cousin who was vegetarian, and he didn't do too well." If people were feeling secure about what they are eating, they wouldn't feel so offended by my choices. People are just trying to justify what they know isn't working for them, and they don't have the strength to change.

The point of this post is not to discourage you, but to make you aware of the complexity. Rather than getting mad and frustrated when you try and fail, better to take the attitude of "good on you for trying" (says the guy from the movie 'Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead' who cured his Urticaria and obesity by fasting on fresh fruit and veggie juice for 60 days). Remember that life is precious, there is love and beauty all around us, and making the whole food switch could change your whole life for the better.