THRUSH is a really, really common issue.
And the best way to treat it tends to be applying a bit of Canesten down there.
But for some reason, not everyone wants a simple solution…with some women opting to stick garlic cloves up their vaginas instead.
And far from being an innocent (if not slightly bonkers) home remedy, gynaecologist Dr Jennifer Gunter has warned that garlic has no place in a vagina.
According to an old wives' tale, putting a clove in there for three days can clear things up.
But the gynaecologist warned her Twitter followers that the vagina is the "perfect" environment for botulism bacteria to grow.
Botulism is an incredibly serious condition which can leave people paralysed and at worst, is fatal.
While lab tests may have shown that garlic contains antifungal properties, Dr Gunter stressed that scientists haven't even tested whether that translates into mice – let alone humans.
The myth may advise women sticking whole cloves in their vagina but in order for garlic to release allicin – the antifungal stuff – you have to crush or gut the garlic.
But imagine how painful it'd be rubbing cut garlic on your soft, delicate vaginal skin!
Even before worrying about dissecting the cloves, garlic can have bacteria from the soil.
"Bacteria from the soil can be pathogenic – bad for the body. That's why we clean wounds. If you actually happen to have an inflamed yeasty vagina, that soil bacteria would be more likely to infect," Dr Gunter said.
She also said that garlic is known to leave biofilms (collections of microorganisms) on braces – so it's possible that it'd leave the sane in your vagina.
"Biofilms are bad. You do not want them to form, especially when you have yeast."
But the most alarming thing about this bizarre "treatment" is the possibility of botulism.
Because the vagina is an airlocked space, any outside bacteria that gets in there has a good opportunity to grow.
It's dark and damp in there – exactly what bacteria likes.
"You know why you refrigerate homemade garlic vinaigrette? So any clostridium bacteria lying around on the garlic doesn't produce botulinum toxin. Right. The vagina is an anaerobic environment, so perfect for clostridium."
Symptoms of a yeast infection
Research has shown that around 34 per cent of women who believe they have a yeast infection actually don't.
We’re not great at spotting what’s going on, so if you’re concerned, your best bet is chatting to your doctor or gynaecologist before you go forth and get treatment.
That being said, here are the main signs that you may have a yeast infection:
- Itching and soreness around the labia and the opening of the vagina
- More vaginal discharge than usual – either thick and white or thin and watery
- Pain during sex
- A stinging sensation when urinating
- Red skin around the vulva
Other foods to avoid
Bloggers, vloggers and a number of alternative health therapists have encouraged women to "cleanse" their vaginas with cucumber – but ONLY after peeling it (a thinly veiled attempt at safety advice, perhaps).
They claimed that it can "help sanitise and maintain a pleasant odor", as well as potentially warding off STIs.
Dr Gunter warned that "if you have a vagina you should definitely not do this".
She said attempts at cleaning your vagina in this way can actually cause more harm than good.
"This idea that some kind of vaginal cleansing is required, be it a peeled cucumber or the 'feminine washes' sold at drugstores, is misogyny dressed up as health care and I am having none of it," she wrote on her blog.
"Vaginas are not dirty.
"Study after study after study tells us that douches, cleanses, steams, vinegar, pH balancing products, aloe, colloidal silver, garlic or whatever else passing as the vaginal snake oil du jour at best do nothing but have real potential for harming good bacteria or disrupting the mucosal surface.
"By damaging lactobacilli and the mucosa, attempts at vaginal cleaning increase a woman’s risk of contracting gonorrhoea or HIV if she is exposed.
"Paradoxically, it will also cause odour."
How to prevent yeast infections
If you do think that you have a yeast infection, the best thing to do is go to your pharmacist or a GUM clinic.
They can help work out if you really do have something like thrush and which medications might work most effectively.
You'll often need antifungal medicine to get rid of thrush.
This can be a tablet you take, a tablet you insert into your vagina or a cream to relieve the irritation.
It should clear up within a week or after you've finished your course of meds.
It's harder to get rid of an infection once you have it but there are various things you can do to prevent one in the first place:
- Only have sex when you're aroused. Having intercourse when your vagina is dry can cause irritation and in turn, trigger an infection
- Never douche or use "feminine hygiene" products – your vagina cleans itself
- Avoid strong soaps and body washes
- Avoid tight and synthetic underwear
- Try sleeping in the buff to give your vagina a little breathing space
Last year, Marie Claire encouraged women to stick a sprig of parsley up there in order to induce a period.
Aside from the total lack of evidence, herbal inserts can be really dangerous.
“It’s a bad idea to insert anything not prescribed by a practitioner inside your vagina. Your vagina has a natural healthy balance which can be upset by the introduction of foreign objects," Karin O’Sullivan, Clinical Lead at FPA Charity told The Sun.
“When it comes to plants, hygiene can be an issue, with the introduction of new bacteria. Herbal inserts have not been medically tested and cannot be considered safe. As they’re untested, there’s also no guarantee of any health benefits. There is no evidence to suggest that taking parsley orally, or vaginally, will help to induce a period.
“More importantly, there is a risk that introducing foreign objects to the vagina can cause infections and even lead to toxic shock syndrome if left inside, which can be deadly."
In fact, a pregnant woman died last year after inserting parsley stems into her vagina in a botched bid to induce a miscarriage.
You can kind of see how people might think that yoghurt will help with yeast. After all, it contains lots of good bacteria which in theory could help fight off fungus.
But it's honestly a rubbish idea.
Multiple studies have shown that putting the creamy stuff in your vagina doesn't do anything beneficial.
Soaking a tampon in yoghurt and putting it into your vagina is nothing more than a waste of a perfectly good yoghurt.
And eating a load of yog won't make any difference either.
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