Q. I have infrequent vaginal yeast infections, but I prefer not to use creams like Monistat. They were once prescribed by doctors and now are available over the counter, but I prefer a more natural approach.

I heard about douching with plain yogurt. I was a little squeamish at first, but have tried it and it works fairly effectively.

Is this a legitimate natural remedy? How does the medical community see it? Should I worry about recurrences?

A. Vaginal yeast infections (candidiasis) cause a great deal of discomfort and disruption. The primary symptom is an intense, almost unbearable itch. The yeast Candida is a normal occupant of the vaginal vault. Frequently, however, when women are given antibiotics, they will develop a vaginal Candida infection. The antibiotics have no effect on Candida, but they do seem to wipe out other occupants, and yeast cells rush to fill the vacancies. Oral contraceptives can have the same effect on some women.

There are lots of cures available, all of them likely to work at least temporarily. Monistat (miconazole), either as a cream or a vaginal suppository, usually gets the nod. Alternatives include other antifungals such as clotrimazole, butoconazole or ketoconazole. Cure rates are supposed to range from 80 to 90 percent, but recurrences are not uncommon.

Many women like you have been looking for more natural approaches. They have been douching with yogurt to treat yeast infections for decades. There are a number of websites that promote this practice and provide detailed instructions. That said, we have been hard put to find substantive studies to support this approach. One group of researchers at Sohag University in Egypt published the following article: “Bee-honey and yogurt: a novel mixture for treating patients with vulvovaginal candidiasis during pregnancy” in the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics (online, Feb. 8, 2012). The conclusions:

“To the best of our knowledge, a mixture containing both Bee-honey and yogurt was used for the first time in the present study. The mixture produced a relatively high clinical cure rate which was even higher than that produced with the use of anti-fungal therapy (87.8 vs. 72.3%, respectively). On the contrary, the anti-fungal therapy produced a significantly higher definitive mycological cure rate. This paradoxical effect may seem astonishing and even illogic. However, the higher clinical than the mycological cure rate can be attributed to the inhibiting effect of the mixture on other organisms rather than the Candida albicans alone. The mixture produced a relatively high therapeutic efficacy against Staphylococci and Streptococci. Moreover, the anti-inflammatory properties of the honey may alleviate the problems of itching and redness thus improving some of the symptoms and signs of vaginal candidiasis.”

Unfortunately, this study was not randomized or placebo-controlled. The number of subjects was modest. We have been unable to find large-scale studies using yogurt as a douche.

Earlier studies have looked at whether women could reduce their risk of vaginal yeast infections by eating yogurt with live cultures. One old study (Annals of Internal Medicine, March 1, 1992) found that women eating Colombo brand yogurt with live Lactobacillus acidophilus cultures were three times less likely to develop a recurring infection.

A review of research concluded that although some studies have had promising results with probiotics such as Lactobacillus, the quality of the trials leaves a lot to be desired and more research is needed (Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, Aug. 2006).

One randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind study found that two Lactobacillus strains administered orally improved the vaginal flora in postmenopausal women (European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, Nov., 2008). Although the women in this study were given capsules, the probiotics used are commonly found in live-culture yogurt.

BOTTOM LINE:

Douching with yogurt is messy. Although it might be helpful for some women, the data are sparse. Eating yogurt with live cultures might be helpful and probably won’t hurt.

Share your own experience below. What has worked for you and what has failed? Others may benefit from your story.

 

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  1. Hannah
    Australia
    Reply

    I put Meredith sheep’s yogurt with l. acidophilus and Bifido probiotics into a plastic baby syringe and insert it that way. Instantly clears up infection and no mess at all, plus what’s wrong with mess if it gets the job done?

    Maybe no one has funded an RCT based on women putting yoghurt up there vag yet but that certainly does not prove that it isn’t the most effective and least harmful remedy I have tried for recurrent Candida.

    Very important to use yogurt with no added sugar! As we all know, Candida feeds on sugar and this will be counterproductive.

    Using tea tree oil can be very harsh and cause bleeding, try yogurt instead.

  2. ts
    Reply

    A small plastic medical syringe full of plain yogurts (with active cultures) for a couple of days (done at night) clears mine up ASAP. I don’t douche with it, and it is not messy at all (especially compared to monistat).
    I take daily probiotics, but once on an antibiotic, or a few days working out in the hot Texas sun and I quickly get a yeast infection. This is the only non painful and non messy cure I have found, that works fast!

  3. this girl
    Reply

    Plain Yogurt directly inside relieves my itching and keeps it away for a few days. Vinegar and water clears up, but leaves me dry. Garlic prevents it.

  4. shay
    Reply

    I recently got married, I have been with one man only and I had three yeast infections in the 4 months we were married. I went to the doctor for the first one she prescribed me with triconazole I believe it was called and it worked but, it came back so I knew what is was and used the monistsat 3 day. It then came back again so I went to the doctor again and he diagnosed me with bacterial vaginosis he then put me on a 7 day antibiotic and as soon as I finished those I got another yeast infection I decided I was done with doctors and decided to do some research on natural cures.
    They are great!!! I did a garlic candida detox along with probiotics and I applied yogurt directly to my vagina when I did that it was instantly feeling better of course I had to continue with that and I had the best results. I also took a apple cider vinegar bath. I filled it up enough to cover my crotch and belly, sat with my knees pulled in and I haven’t felt better. I suggest everyone to do it naturally no side effects and I have not gotten a yeast infection nor a bv in a month. I am finally enjoying sex with my husband.

  5. Loren
    Reply

    First thing I’d do is to see your GYN. Make sure that there isn’t a serious issue there first. If everything checks out, I’d look into some natural ways of dealing with this problem.
    For me I started looking into fruits and vegetables that help. Grapefruit and pineapples help a lot. There are also vitamins that help but none really showed any type of change for me.
    Then after spending a few hours on the net I came across this natural supplement for women’s needs and care on amazon called balance complex for women.
    I’ve been let down before by supplements promising the world. This type of issue is especially embarrassing and I’m just thrilled this has been working so far.
    Would tell any lady to not hesitate and give this a try, will change your life.

  6. J.S
    Reply

    There are many things which may internal and external cause vaginal itching. One who thinks they are getting frequent yeast infections should be check by a doctor before any type of treatment. The symptoms may not necessarily be yeast. If one is diagnosed with frequent yeast infections, it may be a sign of high blood sugar or auto-immune disorder. Secondly, there are different strains of yeast, and not all respond to the same treatment.
    Trying all these natural and otc treatments, without checking with a doctor, can lead to more serious problems, such as skin and nerve sensitivity or changing the Vagina’s PH level. Or one could be allergic to OTC treatments.
    The only natural item I use is prescription boric acid suppositories. These alone may not be enough to kill yeast, but are effective against all yeast strains.
    I have learned all this the hard way. Now, I try to go in to the doctors or get a self- culture done before taking/using meds. I have been fooled thinking I did have an infections and not actually having one and the opposite, thinking it was just irritation, but ended up having yeast. Symptoms are not always textbook. Please be careful when using anything in the vaginal area.

  7. vrgnia
    Reply

    I have chronic yeast infections. I am a yeast host and have symptoms all over including athletes foot, vaginal, pimples on arms and breasts, etc. My gyn prescribed fluconazole (2 tablets 3 days apart) every year with multiple refills. Gradually these pills stopped working, probably because my yeast adapted.
    Over the years I have been taking probiotics, multiple kinds/multiple times per day, in attempting to solve my problem, but never completely successful. I never thought I would like yogurt, but in desperation recently I decided to try Yoplait regular yogurt with live cultures. I was quite surprised to find that this works. I EAT it. No mess. It may seem counter-intuitive that vaginal symptoms can be alleviated by eating yogurt but it sure works for me. If I skip for 2 days the symptoms will come back.

  8. Jackie
    Reply

    I used to get yeast infections when I was pregnant in my 20’s,and then never again until now at age 69 (occasionally). I have found putting a little
    coconut oil in my vagina stops the itching (Dr. Oz suggested coconut oil as a personal lubricant, too). 3 drops of oil of oregano in a glass of water stops the yeast infection in 1 or 2 days for me.

    • Naomi
      Reply

      So you used 3 drops of oil of oregano in a glass of water? Did you take this once a day or more?

  9. MM
    Reply

    What would you think about inserting a couple of good probiotic capsules high in the vaginal vault? It could be done preventatively, or several times daily for treatment of candidiasis. The capsules should easily dissolve, I would think, since I’ve seen hospice nurses use pain caps as a suppository for patients needing pain relief (who can’t take the meds by mouth).

  10. JFR
    Reply

    How awful it must have been to have had this infection over and over for so many years. I do hope you find a cure. My Osteopath physician suggested the supplement, Caprylic Acid capsules, for me. It really does help, but has not stopped them completely. I am now trying another supplement, Enzymedica candidase. It certainly comes well recommended by people who have taken it. It is quite expensive but, if it is successful, it will be well worth it.

  11. AP
    Reply

    I have been plagued by recurrent yeast infections since my teens- now past menopause! No MD has ever been able to determine the cause.
    I did try the yogurt douche, and besides being messy, it didn’t really work.
    Neither did garlic inserted into the vagina.
    Monistat was ineffective.
    The simple white vinegar douche did help.
    The most effective remedy that I used was a douche with infusion of dried rosemary- and the tub smells sooo nice afterwards. I found using it for 1-3 days in a row worked best. For me, no remedy lasted a long time, but the rosemary took care of it for the longest duration.

  12. Carole
    Reply

    After having chronic sinusitis for years and being treated with many rounds of antibiotics, I had chronic yeast infections. I used so many rounds of OTC anti-fungal creams I can’t even count. I also had 3 rounds of antifungal prescription meds. Finally I totally stopped eating all sweet foods and white carbs for 2 weeks.
    This included fruits, sweet vegies like carrots and peas, wine, beer, and anything with sugar or white flour. I gradually added the fruits and vegies back into my but still each only occasional sweets and white flour. I no longer have yeast infections at all. I tried douching with yogurt but that did not help me. I do, however, eat yogurt regularly (plain or with fruit in a smoothie).

  13. AZ
    Reply

    I use 2 tbp of unfiltered, unprocessed Bragg apple cider vinegar in a douche bottle that has been emptied. (Who knows what’s really in a store bought douche). I also just recently had a YI that would not go away so I added a dropper of GSE (grapefruit seed extract) and a dropper of olive leaf extract and within a few days my symptoms were gone. Just to safeguard I use this once every week or week and a half. Good luck!

  14. AA
    Reply

    I’m interested to hear what others experiences have been.

  15. Bgp
    Reply

    Will drinking kefir have similar results to eating yoghurt with live cultures?
    People’s Pharmacy response: We would expect it might. We have not seen research proving this.

  16. JudyNovember
    Reply

    I have had recurring yeast infections for years and my doctor persuaded me to use vinegar douches instead of monist at, and I’m very glad he did. This is my solution every time I feel a yeast infection starting, and it always works. The commercial douches that are simply vinegar and water work just fine, but I also make a solution of 5% white vinegar in water, and that works just as well.

  17. Betty France
    Reply

    I have heard that undiagnosed diabetes and yeast infections frequently go together. Is this possibly true?

  18. Kim H.
    Reply

    In 1982 I was traveling in Sweden and acquired a yeast infection. My Swedish female friends told me to smear a glob of yogurt up in side my vagina and around my vulva area then put on a sanitary napkin to protect my clothes. In very short order I was good as gold.
    Many years later a friend complained of a reoccurring yeast infection and had sought medical treatment repeatedly as well as prescription drugs. I asked if her husband maybe needed to be treated as perhaps he was harboring the bacteria and reinfecting her. They had ruled that out……zero sexual relations. So I suggested inserting 2-3 probiotic capsules into her vagina daily and the heat of her body would melt the gelatin capsule and release the contents and she could re-seed her insides.
    About a week later I saw her and she was as happy as a lark. Symptom free and healthy ever since. Don’t you just love a simple solution and a happy ending!

  19. vp
    Reply

    I was in my mid 20’s and had frequent vaginal yeast infections. I was constantly having to use Monistat and I would be fine, for about 2 days, and then it would come back. This went on for about six months. I just could not get rid of the infection. I was miserable, and the prescribed solution didn’t really work, and it was very expensive. I tried many natural remedies in desperation and finally tried yoghurt when it was recommended in a magazine article.
    I used a turkey baster (!) to inject live culture yoghurt in my vagina and also freely coated, slathered really, the outside of my vagina, top to bottom. Then I laid down and read for about an hour (why an hour?, not sure, but I just made sure I was reading something interesting), I then took a shower and was careful not to rub too hard and didn’t worry about any yoghurt that had not drained out.
    I wore a pad but it only took another hour for me not to need that. I did that once a day for three days. The next time I had a yeast infection was about 8 years later. I now get very infrequent vaginal yeast infections (once every 5 years or so) and I use monistat because it’s convenient but if I had a repeat I would go back to the old standby.

  20. Barbara
    Reply

    Would eating fermented kim Chi be effective? What about making fermented vegetables at home for probiotics? I saw a recipe today for making your own probiotics that was to fill a clean Mason jar with thinly sliced vegetables such as cabbage and carrots, add a little sea salt (no iodized salt as it slows fermentation) and add some whey.
    Don’t fill the jar too full as it will bubble up when fermented. Seal the jar and let it sit on the kitchen counter for three days. Then open it and it will be bubbly and ready to rest in the refrigerator for two weeks before eating.
    I don’t have yeast infections, so I don’t know if this cures or prevents such infections. But I hope it is an adequate way to get probiotics into the body. I was thinking that instead of adding whey to the jar, one could open a couple of live probiotic capsules that contain the kind of bacteria preferred and that would assure the right probiotics were growing in the jar. I always add some purified water to the jar also.
    There is a lot of information online for making kim chi and other fermented vegetables. I eat fermented vegetables every day in salads at lunch and dinner. To the Napa or Chinese cabbage I add garlic, fresh grated ginger and green onions to make kim chi.

  21. JRC
    Reply

    Cutting down drastically on sugar and carbs has been helpful to me.

  22. Kristen
    Reply

    re: capsule – a gel cap would probably work better than a pressed pill.

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