Few health issues are as irritating (figuratively and literally) as yeast infections. However, they are extremely common—nearly 75 percent of women experience at least one in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control. While yeast infections most often affect the vaginal area, they can also develop in other areas of the body, such as the throat, mouth, or gut (where the Candida fungus that causes such infections naturally occurs).
What Is a Yeast Infection?
A fungal infection that can cause soreness, discomfort, and itchiness. While it can occur in the throat, mouth, or gut, it’s most often found in the vagina where it is accompanied by white vaginal discharge.
"Yeast infection is caused by an organism called Candida, and the most common species is albicans," explains Adeeti Gupta, MD, founder of Walk In GYN Care. "There are other species also, such as Candida glabrata." A yeast infection can trigger a range of symptoms, including itchiness, soreness, inflammation, and general discomfort. To get your health back on track, we've rounded up eight of the most effective home remedies to soothe yeast infections—including ingredients you can add to a bath or some you can add to your diet.
Meet the Expert
• Eden Fromberg, DO, is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and the founder and director of Holistic Gynecology New York.
• Adeeti Gupta, MD, is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist practicing in New York. She is an expert in incontinence, pelvic prolapse, and laparoscopic gynecological surgeries.
Below, we speak to Gupta and osteopathic physician Eden Fromberg, of Holistic Gynecology New York, for their at-home yeast infection remedies.
Eat Fewer Carbs
Frequent yeast infections could be a sign of a poor diet, says Fromberg. "Yeast infections are caused by disruptions in the vaginal microbiome (mix of normal and pathogenic microorganisms)." As she explains, these disruptions could be attributed to a high-sugar diet or one "low in vegetables and fiber, which contain oligosaccharides that feed healthy flora and discourage yeast."
"The best natural remedy is to help promote and maintain vaginal health by keeping an optimal pH, which can be done best by consuming good probiotics and antioxidants, having a low-sugar and low-carb diet and maintaining a healthy vagina regimen," says Gupta.
Eat Yogurt for the Good Bacteria
Plain, unsweetened, and unflavored yogurt can work wonders when it comes to addressing yeast infections. Yogurt contains a bacterial strain called lactobacillus acidophilus, which helps curb the infection. As noted above, doctors don't recommend applying directly to the affected area, but you might consider adding yogurt to your diet, as it can help regulate the body internally via probiotics. "Oral probiotics may help to positively influence the gut and therefore vaginal microbiomes," says Fromberg.
Add Apple Cider Vinegar to Your Daily Routine
When it comes to boosting health, apple cider vinegar is borderline miraculous. While Gupta says, "We don't recommend any vinegar or products in the vagina," ACV can be used internally, as a dietary addition.
Under doctor supervision, vinegar may be turned to as a topical treatment as well. "A vinegar douche often works alone or as an adjunct treatment but I caution that: In the case of an STD or bacterial infection, it may spread the infection," says Fromberg. "A diagnosis by culture and/or wet mount is key."
Consume More Garlic
Though garlic is "anti" many things (it's an antibacterial, antibiotic, and antifungal ingredient), it's nothing but positive when it comes to treating yeast infections. Consuming garlic is always beneficial, as it can work as an anti-inflammatory and also boost the body's immunity. A number of scientific studies have found that the organosulfur compounds found in garlic exert antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and even anti-cancer properties.
Balance Your pH
"Yeast infection is caused when there is a disruption in the vaginal protective mechanisms due to various factors, such as depressed immune function, altered pH, or some other factors altering the vaginal health such as antibiotics," says Gupta.
One way to balance your body's pH levels and ward against infections is with a probiotic-rich diet. Fromberg advises eating fermented foods, such as "sauerkraut, kimchi, and live-culture yogurt." Alternately, boric acid vaginal suppositories can help alter the acid in the body. "A 600 mg dose, one to two times per day, lowers the vaginal pH to an acidic range in which yeast cannot survive," says Fromberg.
Cranberries are one of the most common (and most effective) home remedies for yeast and urinary tract infections. Both antibacterial and antifungal, this powerful fruit can be consumed as a juice (organic and unsweetened is best) or via cranberry tablets. While the evidence is largely anecdotal, some studies have found that cranberry appears to impact the adhesion of certain types of yeast in the body.
Try Bone Broth
While it's certainly trendy in the wellness space, bone broth actually does have significant health benefits, particularly when it comes to yeast infections. "Bone broth is high in glycosaminoglycans, which can help support vaginal glycosaminoglycans, important for vaginal immune function," says Fromberg.
Bone broth is also rich in collagen, which works to rebuild the gut lining and can, therefore, starve fungal overgrowth. There are several ways to consume bone broth, from sipping a mug of it throughout the day to trying a protein powder or supplements made from broth.
"Antibiotics would cause, not treat, yeast," says Fromberg. Those who turn to antibiotics to control acne or urinary tract infections, for instance, may see an uptick in yeast infections. Fromberg advises avoiding antibiotics, "unless there's a true medical need."
Anti-fungal drugs can also backfire, as they come with several side effects. "Acidifying the vaginal environment and improving the microbiome are low-risk strategies with higher potential long-term effectiveness, although many women who have experienced effectiveness without side effects using anti-fungal drugs may prefer them," adds Fromberg. "It's great that we have options."
While the natural remedies here can alleviate symptoms, they shouldn't be considered cure-alls. Always consult a doctor for the best solutions based on your health needs and note that a yeast infection could be indicative of a larger problem. It's also important, notes Fromberg, to ensure you and your partner get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and use protection, as exposure to semen and friction during sex can also lead to yeast infections.