Yeast infections can happen at any time, but for some women, they find that their period marks when they are likely to develop vaginal Candidiasis. It has long been known that the hormones which regulate the menstrual cycle also relate to the incidence of vaginal yeast infections. These hormones do two primary things that help to stimulate yeast overgrowth: increase the amount of sugar in the vagina, and raise the pH of the vagina. To understand why your yeast infections occur at a specific time, we have articles dedicated to yeast infections that happen before, during, and after your period. We also have an article on yeast infections that occur during ovulation and a solid explanation for why your period may be late or missed due to Candida. We will talk about each of these sections in this article. If you have some time, you may want to check out the specific section that pertains to your specific situation!
Sugar, is of course, the food for yeast. Without food, the yeast couldn’t grow in the first place. And, when you provide yeast with food they will grow as quickly and as fast as they can. In some ways they are a bit like gremlins. Consequently, your period really is associated with yeast infections primarily because there are elevated levels of sugar in the vagina right before and right after it.
Vaginal pH is also related to Candida overgrowth because these chemicals alter vaginal pH. Estrogen is inversely correlated with vaginal pH; i.e., the higher estrogen levels are, the lower pH will become. Follicle stimulating hormone however, is directly correlated to pH levels; i.e. a higher level of follicle stimulating hormone will cause a higher pH. And, if you do not know, a low pH is acidic and a higher pH is alkaline.
Vaginal pH ideally needs to be acidic to keep Candida yeast from growing well (a higher pH is alkaline, lower is acidic; and, water is neutral with a pH of 7). If your pH is too alkaline in your vagina, this is an ideal environment for yeast to multiply in. A healthy vagina has a pH close to about 4. Consequently, you want a acidic vagina at all times--especially if you have a history of yeast infections. Using a tampon can greatly increase the pH of the vagina; as blood has a pH of about 7.35. So, when you use a tampon during your menstrual flow, you trap the fluid in the vagina and this “waters down” the vagina and raises the pH. When the pH becomes ideal of Candida growth, it can overgrow and start causing symptoms; thus, you seem to get a yeast infection during or after your period.
The chart below will show you a good approximation of the levels of these hormones in the various sections of the menstrual cycle. Please note that estradiol in the chart is a main type of estrogen; hence, think of the estradiol level simply as the estrogen level in the chart. There is also a video that details the female reproductive cycle and should also help you get acquainted with the hormones related to your period. We will then discuss what this then means given this information.
Candidiasis & Menstruation Research
A study, published in Infection and Immunity [68.2 (2000): 651-657], found that estrogen, not progesterone, played a key role in allowing Candida to cause vaginal infection. The study was done on murine animals and various animals were giving different hormones. The study found that estrogen given before inoculation and after inoculation of Candida caused the mice to get yeast infections. The study found that by inducing pseudo-estrus (giving mice hormones to simulate estrus; i.e., the period in mammals where they are sexually fertile) by administering estrogen, the Candida infections persisted much better. When estrogen levels were allowed to go back to normal, yeast infections had a hard time persisting. Increasing the estrogen levels beyond levels at estrus did not cause more Candida development. So, normal physiological maximums of estrogen appeared to be the most estrogen could influence Candida development. To speculate why this may be, the researchers also showed that vaginal outer (epithelial) cells also were less able to fight of Candida in the presence of estrogen; causing their to be an immune system correlation with estrogen levels.
The way estrogen seemed to influence Candida development and then peak at normal physiological maximum levels is likely due to the vagina’s glycogen (a sugar) synthesis mechanism. The vagina can only take on so much glycogen and this process is regulated by estrogen. Thus, when estrogen is given above levels the body can make, the cells in the vagina are simply at their maximum capacity to synthesize glycogen; so, more estrogen cannot cause cells to become more “sugary.” Bitman, et al. (1965) found this maximum capacity for glycogen synthesis in rats and the rate of sugar creation could not be increased by adding estrogen beyond normal physiological peaks. Since glycogen is a prime food for Candida, the presence of this sugar is likely why Candida can thrive and start an infection. Also, as stated, a atrophied ability of vaginal epithelial cells to fight off Candida no doubt also contributes to infection. The authors of the Infection and Immunity [68.2 (2000): 651-657] study, speculated that the peak of estrogen levels right before ovulation usually instigated a Candida infection; and, the higher steady levels of estrogen during the luteal phase took the initial infection and allowed it to develop and become symptomatic. The study had this to say relating to such a hypothesis:
Based on these data in animals, estrogen is predicted to be the primary factor in the susceptibility to vaginitis during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, despite higher concentrations of progesterone than estrogen during that time. This is also consistent with the lack of prevalence of Candida vaginitis in women taking progesterone contraceptives. On the other hand, one may speculate that it is the peak levels of estrogen during the short ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle that precipitate the vaginal infection and that the symptomatic infection does not fully present itself until the luteal phase.
Another research study, published in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology [53.4 (2012): 247-254], focused on chronic vaginal yeast infections and what medical science has learned up to that point. According to the study, vaginal yeast infections are often characterised by happening at a routine interval in the menstrual cycle. This is all due to the oscillating levels of estrogen in the body due to a woman’s reproductive cycle. The majority of women report that their yeast infection symptoms are the worst after ovulation. This would be in line with what we just discussed (Candida gets a foothold right before ovulation and then is sustained after ovulation before menses; again, all due to glycogen synthesis). The peak of women’s reported symptom severity happens in the premenstrual week and rapidly gets better during menstruation. Clinical symptoms often appear nonexistent after menstruation for a few days.
The study also stated that young girls, who have not had their period, and older postmenopausal women rarely develop vaginal yeast infections. Candida is also rarely found in a postmenopausal woman's vagina. This all changes when an older woman, past menopause, engages in estrogen hormone replacement therapy. Research was cited that postmenopausal women not on estrogen therapy had a rate of vaginal Candidiasis of 4%. Conversely, women on estrogen drugs had a vaginal Candidiasis rate of 26%. Again, the study speculated the correlation of estrogen levels with yeast infections was due to glycogen synthesis in the vagina stimulated by this sex hormone.
What will Help?
Well to help reduce the recurrent yeast infections that seem to happen after ovulation, you can stop taking estrogen containing drugs; such as birth control pills. Some women may not make enough estrogen to max out their vagina’s glycogen synthesis, so normally the sugar content of the vagina is lower. When estrogen is added to the body, there is plenty of capability of the cells to generate sugar, and the extra estrogen starts triggering the cells to make the most sugar they can. Thus, by reducing estrogen, you will also lower the amount of sugar in the vagina and thus give yeast a harder time growing and causing symptoms to occur.
Another thing you can do is make sure your vaginal probiotic bacteria are thriving. The primary genus of bacteria in the female vagina is Lactobacillus. A healthy female’s vaginal fluid will have around 95% of the microorganisms comprised of Lactobacillus bacteria (Anukam, 2006). Many of the Lactobacillus bacteria will eat up sugar and also some can create lactic acid--which will help to keep the vagina acidic and unconducive to Candida development. By adding a probiotic pill containing live cultures of bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus to the vagina for a few weeks, you will help to ensure there is less food, and the vagina stays in a healthy, acidic state.
Yeast Infections Before Periods
Do you seem to get a yeast infection before your period? If you look at the menstrual cycle picture showing hormone levels, you will see that progesterone is at a high level right before your menstrual bleeding begins. Estrogen causes the cells in the vagina to start taking on glycogen (a type of sugar). Thus, right before your period, elevated levels of estrogen have caused the cells in your vagina to be rich in sugar.
You may have an aggravated form of Candida living in your vagina that has sent tendrils (known as hyphae) into your vaginal tissue. One study, published in Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences (October 1997, Volume 53, Issue 9, pp 744-749), determined that mycelial growth (tendril forming growth) of three Candida albicans species was profoundly augmented by the presence of estrogen. Another study, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases (Volume 181, Issue 4, Pp. 1441-1446), found that all three tested strains of Candida albicans grew more aggressively in the presence of estrogen. Thus the long duration of slightly high estrogen levels before your period will cause the yeast to grow aggressively; possibly sending tendrils into your vaginal tissue.
It is logical to assume that the yeast is indeed growing into your tissue because significant amounts of your vaginal tissue have not been shed; as it is before your period. Thus, you may very well get a yeast infection before menstruation and not after it because the yeast is present deeper in your vaginal tissue--which is rich in sugar. Sarah Summer also had an extreme form of this; Candida had grown tendrils deep into her vagina and become a mold. Fortunately, she was able to develop a cure--more on that story later.
Candida Hub has a full article detailing the causes of a yeast infection before a period, and several resources to start treating your condition naturally. Whatever type of infection you may have, you will probably be able to get a solution at Candida Hub. If you would like to learn more about this topic, you can always check this article out: Yeast Infection Before Period.
Yeast Infections After Periods
If you get a yeast infection right after your period, this is probably due to the excess sugars that are floating around your vagina and a lack of vaginal acidity. Remember, lower levels of estrogen raise the pH of the vagina; making it more conducive to yeast overgrowth. Progesterone is released to trigger the shedding of sugar rich vaginal cells--thus you have your menstrual flow. These cells may not fully be removed from the vagina after your period; providing extra food for yeast. And, as mentioned, a less acidic environment is probable as estrogen levels are low after your period.
Consequently, it is likely that you could benefit from reducing the amount of sugar in your vagina and reducing the pH. Probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus can do both of these things; and it may be that you could be greatly helped by enriching your vaginal microbiota (environment of microorganisms) with probiotics. If you’d like to learn more about probiotics, you can check this article out: Probiotic Yeast Infection Pill.
If you would like more information on Candida’s appearance after your period, you may find this article informative: Yeast Infection After Period.
Yeast Infection During Your Period
Do you seem to get yeast infections at the same time you have your period? As you recall, estrogen elevates the level of sugar in the vaginal cells before they are shed. Once progesterone triggers your menstrual flow, these cells begin to break away and fill the vagina. Thus there is more available food for Candida to consume. To stop your yeast infections you need to use a natural remedy to eliminate Candida from the vagina and use a good probiotic to help keep it gone. Standard protocol for yeast infection treatment.
We have a whole article discussing why you get a yeast infection during your period. If this sounds like something you’d like to know more about, you can peruse this article here: Yeast Infection During Period.
Yeast Infection During Ovulation
Do you tend to get yeast infections at the same time you are ovulating? This may very well be because your vaginal pH is not properly balanced. The presence of estrogen helps to lower vaginal pH; and, at the time of ovulation, the estrogen level amount dips dramatically. Additionally, one study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (07/1997; 176(6):1270-5), proved that follicle stimulating hormone is directly correlated with pH; i.e. this hormone’s presence raises pH. At the start of ovulation follicle stimulating hormone spikes and estrogen levels fall. Thus pH begins to rise during ovulation.
Because pH becomes much more conducive to Candida during ovulation, and this is when you seem to get infected, it is reasonable to conclude your problem is primarily pH related.
To effectively keep yourself from getting another yeast infection, you should look into using a probiotic packed with lactic acid producing bacteria. These bacteria will help to acidify your vagina and keep it from being a pH haven for Candida. Again, we have a whole article devoted to this discussion. If you would like to learn a bit more about this topic, you may want to peruse this article: Yeast Infection During Ovulation.
12 Hour Yeast Infection Cure
Natural medicinal therapies can prove themselves a powerful ally in the fight against Candida vaginosis. One woman, a former severe recurrent yeast infection victim, found her answer to seemingly incurable Candida in natural medicine. Her name is Sarah Summer, and for a terribly long time she suffered from Candida attacking her body. She sought the council of doctors and medical professionals and they were never able to solve her problem. Even though she would get a bit better after taking a drug they prescribed, a short while later she would be again faced with a yeast infection.
Fortunately Summer was able to develop an effective cure that has consistently gotten rid of yeast infections in 12 hours. This was a breakthrough for her, but it did take a considerable amount of medical research to arrive at her solution. Summer has written an ebook which documents exactly how to naturally and safely be free from your infection in just 12 hours. Her book is guaranteed to be effective--there is an 8 week 100% money back guarantee provided by Summer.
If you’d like to know more about Sarah Summer, you can check out her website here. Her publisher is a large media giant owned by the U.S. based company Keynetics Incorporated. Summer’s book is offered as a digital download and you can get it immediately if you are interested.
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