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Yeast infections before your period are typically caused by increased amounts of sugar in the vaginal tissue, or a lower pH. Estrogen levels were previously higher right up until ovulation begins. Estrogen causes the cells in your vaginal wall to start enriching themselves with glycogen (a type of sugar). Thus, if yeast cells have invaded the inner lining of your vagina through growing tendrils (hyphae), they will be able to find more sugar to feed upon.
Before you have your period your body is secreting higher levels of the hormone progesterone. This hormone signals your body to start shedding some of the vaginal lining. It is possible that some amounts of tissue are shed before you experience your period, due to the high amount of progesterone that is in the body. This tissue shed would also be rich in sugar and provide a mechanism for Candida to develop further.
Vaginal pH also plays a role in helping a yeast infection to occur before your period. Estrogen levels drop shortly after the very beginning of ovulation and right before you menstruate. Estrogen levels are inversely related to vaginal pH (the more estrogen you have the lower pH your vagina will be at). According to a study published in Endocrinology [2005 Feb; 146(2): 816–824], estrogen causes the cells in your vagina to have acidic secretions.
Thus it is likely that your yeast infections before a period are due to a higher vaginal pH and the greater availability of sugar in the vagina. If you have had recurrent vaginal Candidiasis before your period, it is possible that the yeast have grown into your vaginal tissue. Because the yeast’s hyphae go into the vaginal lining, they are better able to feed on the sugar estrogen has caused the cells to take on. Thus, each time your cells acquire more sugar before menstruation, yeast overgrows and you get an infection.
To better understand your hormone levels during the menstrual cycle, the chart below is provided as a visual illustration.
Progesterone and the Immune System
Elevated glycogen and higher pH may not be the only reason you are experiencing yeast infections before periods. As the above graph explains, progesterone is significantly elevated in the days prior to your period. Progesterone’s effects on the immune system was documented by a study published in Microbiology and Immunology (Volume 39, Issue 6, pages 405–409, June 1995). The study examined the reaction of white blood cells to progesterone; specifically their ability to fight Candida. The study found that progesterone seemed to significantly hinder the ability of white blood cells to fight Candida in rats that also had been pretreated with estrogen.
If you are currently taking an estrogen birth control pill, this may play a critical role in your development of vaginal Candidiasis. The rats in the study were pretreated with estrogen and given doses of progesterone. Similarly, your progesterone levels are elevated before your period--at the same time estrogen levels are naturally lower. If you have an elevated level of estrogen due to birth control pills, you are in a similar state the pretreated rats were in: a state of high estrogen and high progesterone. Consequently, the ability of your white blood cells to fight Candida could be significantly weakened.
To prevent the weakening of your immune system, you may want to try taking a non-estrogen birth control pill; or if you're taking a high estrogen dose pill, change to a low estrogen dose pill. The study found that rats who did not have high levels of estrogen had stronger immune response to Candida.
Additionally, elevated levels of estrogen in the body may also cause the vaginal lining to be over enriched with sugar.
Lower Levels of Progesterone
A drop in both estrogen and progesterone signals the body to shed the vaginal lining. If your body drops these levels too low before your period, you may have more sugar rich cells shed into the vagina. This may even be unoticable as you do not have any vaginal discharge. Thus, yeast infections would be more likely.
One study postulated that there was a link between lower levels of progesterone and increased vaginal Candidiasis. The study was published in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology (Volume 131, Issue 2, April 2007, Pages 198–202). The study looked at women after ovulation and before their menstruation; i.e. the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. There were 50 women who participated in the study and 84 luteal phases of menstruation were analyzed. According to the study:
Significantly lower progesterone levels in the RVVC [recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis] patients as compared to the healthy controls suggest a link between an altered hormonal status and one of possible causes of RVVC in these women.
How Estrogen Relates to Candidiasis
Vaginal Candidiasis usually revolves around the changing levels of estrogen in the body. The primary reason estrogen correlates so strongly with vaginal Candidiasis, is that this sex hormone directly causes vaginal cells to synthesize the sugar glycogen. As estrogen levels rise, these cells create more and more sugar. This sugar is a wonderful food for Candida to start devouring; and, the do. The result is rapid progression towards infection. The majority of women who see menstrual phase occurrences of yeast infections report that their symptoms get worse after they ovulate. Right before ovulation, estrogen peaks sharply. This short time of accelerated glycogen synthesis can be the initiation of Candida overgrowth. As time progress and a woman enters the luteal phase of her menstrual cycle, estrogen climbs again and remains steady. Thus, the yeast, that got a foothold before ovulation, begins to multiply and sustain its growth. Thus the week right before your period, you may notice the worst yeast infection symptoms as this is the height of Candida’s development.
A study discussing this correlation between estrogen and yeast infections before a period was published in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology [53.4 (2012): 247-254]. The study stated that most women have the worst symptoms after ovulation--particularly the week right before menstruation. The study states that after estrogen levels drop during menstruation, many clinical signs of a yeast infection can disappear; often being totally gone up to a few days after menstruation.
The study also cited research that shows women rarely get vaginal yeast infections after menopause. The exception is that such infections occur almost completely in women who are on some type of estrogen replacement therapy. This study demonstrated the importance of estrogen in the causation of vaginal candidiasis. The research study also seemed to speculate that because women who get vaginal yeast infection rarely develop oral infections, this could be a result of estrogen hindering the vaginal immune system. Possibly due to the abundance of estrogen receptors in the vaginal tissue.
Another study, published in Clinical and Experimental Immunology [33.1 (1978): 79], also looked at the effects of progesterone and estrogen (estradiol) on Candida albicans prevalence. The study used women with normal hormonal patterns, males, women on a oral contraceptive, and women who had gonadal dysgenesis (a dysfunction of the gonads that results in much less or no sex hormone production). The study found that Candida albicans was much more prevalent in women in the luteal phase than women in the follicular phase. Women with gonadal dysgenesis had Candida levels comparable to males; but, they were much lower than women in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. Those women who took the estrogen containing birth control pill had more Candida overgrowth.
How to Naturally Treat a Yeast Infection
If you have yeast infections before periods you could have a more aggravated, invasive form of infection known as mycelial Candida, which is a chronic yeast infection. A mycelial form of fungi is one where thin threadlike growths appear. In Candida, these threadlike, hyphal growths can burrow somewhat into the skin and cause recurrent yeast infections.
One woman also had a serious amount of yeast tendrils burrowed into her skin and suffered from aggravated, recurrent yeast infections. Her name is Sarah Summer. And, as her website relates, she had a arduous struggle with recurrent yeast infections.
Summer found that doctor’s prescription drugs could not treat her condition. Scientific research has proven that when Candida forms a biofilm to protect itself, it becomes about 1024 times more resistant to prescription drugs. The study you can look at that relates this information was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (Volume 140, Issue 2, 27 March 2012, Pages 416–423). Consequently, it is likely that Summer had Candida with preformed biofilms and was far less responsive to classic antifungal drugs.
Natural medicine can clear up even chronic yeast infections and can rapidly destroy Candida biofilms; as the Journal of Ethnopharmacology relates as well. So, after much research and study (Summer spent excessive hours in medical research), she was able to develop an efficacious natural treatment that finally stopped her yeast infections. After finding such a powerful cure, Summer published a book that shows others exactly how to stop even the worst yeast related problems.
Sarah Summer’s book is published by a subsidiary of Keynetics Incorporated. Summer wants to help fellow victims of Candida, and so offers a 8 week 100% money back guarantee on her publication. She is also available to discuss her book and provides her contact information at the bottom of her website. I’ve personally written Summer before and she is a great help!
In addition to killing of the yeast with natural remedies, you would do well to start taking a probiotic to help keep yeast away. It is a great idea to take a probiotic supplement orally, and to insert it into the vagina as well. This will help your gut maintain a good health inducing microbiota; and, your vagina will be much more resistant to future outbreaks of Candida.
- http://dx.doi.org/10.1210%2Fen.2004-1153 -- Estrogen Acidifies Vaginal pH by Up-Regulation of Proton Secretion via the Apical Membrane of Vaginal-Ectocervical Epithelial Cells. Endocrinology [2005 Feb; 146(2): 816–824]
- http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1348-0421.1995.tb02220.x -- Suppression of Anti-Candida Activity of Murine Neutrophils by Progesterone In Vitro: A Possible Mechanism in Pregnant Women's Vulnerability to Vaginal Candidiasis. Microbiology and Immunology (Volume 39, Issue 6, pages 405–409, June 1995). PDF Available here
- http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejogrb.2006.03.009 -- Clinical aspects and luteal phase assessment in patients with recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology (Volume 131, Issue 2, April 2007, Pages 198–202)
- http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2012.01.045 -- Biofilm inhibition by Cymbopogon citratus and Syzygium aromaticum essential oils in the strains of Candida albicans. Journal of Ethnopharmacology (Volume 140, Issue 2, 27 March 2012, Pages 416–423)
- http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-0960.2011.00860.x -- Fischer, Gayle. "Chronic vulvovaginal candidiasis: what we know and what we have yet to learn." Australasian Journal of Dermatology 53.4 (2012): 247-254. PubMed
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1537510/ -- Mathur, S., et al. "Sex steroid hormones and antibodies to Candida albicans." Clinical and experimental immunology 33.1 (1978): 79. PubMed PDF
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