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Can Stress Cause a Yeast Infection? 4 Tips to Help You Manage It
Mental Health

Can Stress Cause a Yeast Infection? 4 Tips to Help You Manage It

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Written by Brenda Peralta, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on December 13, 2022
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5 min

When there is too much stress in the body, there is a reduction in the immune system, leading to an increase in yeast infections. This article discusses the link between stress and yeast infections and how to manage them.

Can stress cause yeast infection
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At least once in a lifetime, a woman is going to get a yeast infection. And, let us assure you, it is not a fun thing to have. 

We all have yeast in the skin, mouth, intestines, and vagina is no exception. However, the problem arises when there is yeast overgrowth. This can lead to symptoms like itchiness and unusual vaginal discharge. 

You might have tried everything in your health arsenal, from managing blood glucose levels to switching to a mild soap. Nonetheless, you might still be having recurrent yeast infections. This means that there must be an underlying problem. 

There is a link between chronic stress and vaginal yeast infections. However, not a lot of people talk about it. In this article, our experts discuss the relationship between yeast infections and stress and share 4 tips to help manage it. 

Can Stress Cause a Yeast Infection?

Yes, stress can cause a yeast infection. Research shows that chronic stress can have a possible connection to the immune system. It can create alterations in the number of immune cells your body has. So, not only can it put you at risk for vaginal yeast infection, but it can also increase the risk of the common cold or any other pathogen.

Let’s think of the immune system as your internal army. Having a strong immune system means that you have more than 1,000 soldiers ready to fight for your body. 

However, when there is too much stress, it leads to a weakened immune system. This means that instead of having 1,000 soldiers, you have 800. Putting you at risk for any foreign invasion. 

As mentioned before, you have natural sources of yeast in your body. However, when there are not many cells to fight off the yeast, it overgrows up to the point that the body cannot control it. 

There are several reasons why there might be a yeast infection. Some of the most common factors are unhealthy lifestyle habits (creating irregular blood sugar levels), taking oral contraceptives, and sexual intercourse. 

What Is a Yeast Infection?

A yeast infection, also known as candida overgrowth, is a common condition in women. Inside the vagina, there are several bacteria and yeast. When they are in balance, there are no symptoms. 

However, an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria or yeast leads to an increased risk of health issues like itching or swelling. 

A yeast infection is not commonly known as a sexually transmitted infection (STI). While sexual intercourse can spread it, women who are not sexually active can still get a yeast infection due to changes in hormone levels, using antibiotics, or improper cleaning. 

If you feel you have a vaginal yeast infection, make sure to go to the doctor for the right treatment for your case. It usually takes a couple of days or weeks to relieve all the symptoms. 

What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?

The symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection can range from mild to moderate. In some cases, you might not realize you have one until you have a regular check-up. 

Here are some of the most common symptoms:

  • Itching and irritation 
  • Burning sensation when you urinate or during intercourse 
  • Vaginal pain
  • Swelling or redness in the vulva 
  • Vaginal rash
  • Thick, white, odorless discharge (it resembles cottage cheese) 
  • Watery vaginal discharge

How to Prevent Stress-Caused Yeast Infections?

Over 60% of Americans seem to have had more stress since the pandemic. This has brought negative repercussions, like unhealthy eating habits, weight gain, and more immune-related conditions. 

Research shows that 3 out of 4 women can have a candida overgrowth at least once in their lifetime. 

With the increase in stress, there might be a possibility of more recurrent yeast infections. 

Below are some tips to help manage yeast infections. 

#1 Control what you eat

There is a link between what you eat and yeast infections

When you consume too much sugar or simple carbs (pastries, cookies, and white bread), it can also increase blood sugar. 

The body tries to compensate for this sugar excess by getting rid of it. One way is to get rid of it through urine. The yeast and bacteria can take this sugar and use it as an energy source, leading to overgrowth. 

Besides increasing yeast overgrowth, sugar, like stress, can also decrease immune function. So, the combination of more yeast forming and a lower immune function leads to yeast infections. 

For this reason, if you are prone to yeast infections, make sure you have a low sugar intake. No more than 5–10% of your calories should come from sugar. You can start with 10%, but if you still have symptoms drop it down to 5%.  

Go for whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. 

#2 Take a probiotic supplement

Probiotic supplements are packed with healthy bacteria. They can help both your gut health and your vaginal health. 

Research shows that taking a probiotic supplement can decrease the symptoms of vaginal yeast infection or prevent it from happening. 

Make sure the supplement contains Lactobacillus, one of the probiotic families that can help promote good vaginal health. Additionally, it can help boost immune function, which can counteract the negative effects of stress and help you fight the infection. 

#3 Wear cotton underwear

Natural fabrics like cotton tend to be better for preventing any infections. While synthetic fibers could look great, they might cause more irritation to your vagina. They can also trap heat and moisture, ideal conditions for yeast overgrowth. 

On the other hand, cotton tends to be more breathable, softer on the skin, and more absorbent, all traits that can help prevent infections. 

Also, make sure to change your underwear after working out. Wet underwear can lead to an increased risk of infection. 

#4 Take care of your emotions 

Finally, to prevent stress from affecting your vaginal health, make sure you take care of your emotions. 

While we would love to tell you that you can eliminate stress in the world we live in nowadays, the best you can do is find ways to help cope with stress. 

There are several ways for you to help reduce your stress levels. You can try meditation, yoga, art therapy, journaling, or going for a walk. 

Sensa app uses cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to help keep track of your mood. Additionally you get your personal mental health assistant, and activities to help you understand the process you are going through.  

With their 84-day plan, you are getting daily tasks and activities to perform that can help you evaluate your situation and find the ideal solution for your case. 

For example, one of their activities focuses on breathing techniques. While this sounds simple, it might be even more challenging than you realize. 

A Word From a Nutritionist

Stress can harm the body by reducing immune function, leading to yeast infections.

However, stress is not the only factor that can cause the infection. For example, intercourse, improper cleaning habits, your diet, and oral contraceptives can also increase the risk of a yeast infection.

Taking a probiotic daily can help promote good gut health, which boosts your immune system. Also, it can provide healthy bacteria to colonize your vagina, which reduces the impact of negative bacteria or yeast.

If you are unable to take a probiotic supplement, you can always add natural probiotic sources like kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha. Make sure these have less than 5g of sugar per serving or none at all.

Conclusion

For women, vaginal health can affect their quality of life. While a yeast infection might not have a very serious impact, it can lead to more itching and unwanted symptoms that can affect your everyday life. 

Several factors can cause an infection. Stress is not often discussed. For that reason, make sure you are looking for mechanisms that can help you manage stress, as it might also be the cause of hemorrhoids, shingles, vertigo, and much more.

HR_author_photo_Brenda
Written by
Brenda Peralta, RD, is a registered dietitian advisor for Health Reporter. She has several certifications in sports nutrition, health coaching, and women’s health hormones. She presents herself as a fertility advisor and gut specialist.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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