Back in 2011 Amy Crawford was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. After a slow decline in health she was forced to shut a successful recruitment business after an 18 year corporate career, and move to Tasmania to live with her parents. Her focus was to detox her life from every angle. Fully recovered, Amy returned to Melbourne and is now the founder of the popular online wellness hub, The Holistic Ingredient.
Here she confronts her nightmarish 1.5 year journey with vaginal thrush and ureaplasma.
One and a half years ago I decided that I was effectively developing an allergy to sex.
Let’s all just pause there for a moment. Could those of you who participate in this activity please take a moment to consider that thought.
Yep, I know. Dreadful stuff.
As the months went by, on a more and more frequent basis sex was closely followed by vaginal thrush and, just to create even more discomfort in my nether regions, one of the most painful of infections, the Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
For those of you who’ve not experienced a UTI, in one word, it’s hell. It had me up on the couch in the middle of the night in embryonic position, cradling my abdomen with a hot water bottle, drinking gallons of water, all but crying when I peed, becoming best friends with the Ethical Nutrients ‘Urinary Tract Support’ pill bottle. Oh thank God for that product. (Watch: The Mamamia staff celebrate their lady gardens. Post continues after video)
On it all went until finally it became impossible to have sex without thrush, full stop. Again, dreadful stuff. Needless to say, I was fortunate to have an understanding boyfriend.
The point here is that I didn’t appear to pick up either infection unless I had sex, so you can’t blame me for jumping to such dramatic ‘allergy to sex’ conclusions.
And no, the simple answer here is NOT to give up sex.
Being the holistic health practitioner that I am, I am always determined to discover natural means to heal my body, first and foremost. So let me take you on what is a very private journey through each of the home remedies I’ve tried.
Perhaps it’s time to make a cuppa.
1. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV).
This is one of nature’s strongest antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals. You can read much more about its benefits here.
Not only does it help kill yeast fungus but it also helps restore pH levels within the body (and essentially, the vagina) whilst recolonising the intestines and vagina with good bacteria. The stuff deserves a gold star.
So here’s how I’ve used it to assist with aforementioned 'nether region' issue:
- Drink it.Every morning, infection or not, I drink a large glass of warm water with a drizzle of warm ACV and the juice of ½-1 lemon.
- Bathe in it.Pour a full cup of ACV in a very shallow warm bath. Sit in said shallow bath for at least 20 minutes and ponder your pH.
2. Garlic Suppository
Yep, I said garlic suppository. Stop grinning.
Garlic is one of nature’s veritable powerhouses. It kills yeast, it kills bacteria, it boosts the immune system and it’s a powerful antioxidant. Of course it therefore deserves a place in the fight against thrush. Do a little research and you'll of course get conflicting reports as to its effectiveness - but it was desperate times for me. An article found on Midwifery Today explains in detail how it can be used, but I'll summarise my process for you.
I believe the trick here is to catch the infection early. You know the time, when the subtle itch starts and typically before the cottage cheese discharge rears its ugly head (did I just say that out loud?!).
If you’ve got the infection early, peel a clove of garlic and of an evening just prior to bed, insert it into your vagina. If you feel nervous about losing it or having difficulty retrieving it, grab a pin and thread a piece of cotton through it first. Leave it there overnight. In the morning, remove it and discard (I'm resisting the urge for culinary humour at this moment).
An interesting and kind of fascinating point to note! Almost as soon as you insert the clove you will taste garlic in your mouth – yes, your mouth! It’s the oddest thing but a good reason to carry out this remedy of an evening.
3. Garlic and turmeric ‘pills’
Every morning and night I’d chop up a half garlic clove and a small slice of turmeric into the size of pills and drink them down with water (no chewing required). Medicine, just as nature intended it. Read more about the incredible powers of turmeric here.
4. Avoid soap!
Oh the things I’ve read about women’s need to scrub their nether regions clean!
Ladies, please leave them alone! Vaginas are self-cleaning wonders; they shouldn’t require soaps, douches and sprays to make you feel clean and smell pretty.
To be healthy your vagina needs to sit at a pH of 3.8 to 4.5 – soaps can wreak havoc with your pH. Acidic vaginas leave you more prone to infections, like thrush.
Please know this, if you are healthy ‘down there’, you shouldn’t ever smell ‘bad’, you should simply smell like a woman. Embrace it.
5. Essential oils.
This section could become a post on it’s own so I’ll simply say this; I went nuts. I bought veggie caps and made my own oily capsules, taking them twice a day. Oregano, lemon, tea tree, frankincense, cinnamon.. you name it they went down (my mouth). It’s fiddly but it was worth it because there is a plethora of research about the merits of pure essential oils. But more on that another day.
6. Coconut oil and tea tree tampon suppository.
A coconut oil lover I am, and combined with tea tree oil it becomes quite the potent thrush fighter! Drop 3 or so drops into a little melted coconut oil and let a tampon soak the goodness right up. Insert (by now I shouldn’t need to tell you where).
Beware: don’t ever consider tea tree oil on it’s own in this region!
7. Yoghurt suppository
This one you’ve of course already heard about I’m sure. You’re looking for the active good bacteria in yoghurt, lactobacillus. So whether you’re devouring it by the spoonful or dipping a tampon in it, maybe it’s worth a whirl? Some now say it’s a medical myth.
8. The not-so home remedy remedies.
These included a powerful daily probiotic (which I still take) and yes, when times were particularly tough (or let's just say desperate), an over the counter thrush treatment cream.
The Candida diagnosis
So the journey continued, week after week, month after month. Other symptoms started to appear – brain fog, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, skin issues, bloating, cravings and a weird sense of anxiety that was new to me. Combined with the symptoms of thrush and UTIs it was decided (in consultation with my nutritionist and tests) that I was indeed presenting as having a Candida overgrowth (a fungal overgrowth, common symptoms of which are thrush and UTIs).
Surely Shirley if we could get that under control we would finally get my thrush and UTIs under control. Well you’d certainly bloody hope so wouldn’t you?
Here’s a quick and easy overview on Candida for those not in the know.
So what happened next?
I was put on a very strict diet to halt the yeast overgrowth, build the friendly bacteria and heal my gut. This involved moving to a very low carbohydrate diet, removing sweeteners of ANY kind, giving up alcohol, eliminating all fermented foods (bad bacteria feeds on these foods too), inhaling a bundle of supplements including Caprylic acid (which receives a lot of air time around yeasty matters) and then? Patience, and the crossing of fingers and toes, for 3-6 months.
I started feeling better. My fog lifted and my clarity came back, the bloating subsided, my skin started improving, l lost weight. We were onto something.
YET. I was STILL getting thrush.
Insert tears-streaming-down-face emoji.
Introducing Ureaplasma (the light at the end of a very dark *ahem* tunnel)
And this my friends, is where things get interesting, very very interesting.
Not far into the Candida diagnosis and treatment I was tested for a bacterial infection called ureaplasma. This was a vaginal swab similar to a pap smear carried out by my GP.
Ureaplasma comes from the family of bacteria known as mycoplasma, the smallest of all free-living bacteria that are found in the reproductive tract of men and women. They differ from other bacteria in that they lack a cell wall, allowing them to take up easy residence on their host’s cells.
So I was tested and did I test positive? Yes. I. Did.
Interestingly, my research tells me that most of us are asymptomatic carriers and in this instance it is not necessarily harmful; we simply carry no symptoms. When overgrowth symptoms appear however, they may present as increased and painful urination, pelvic pain, fertility issues, discharge and in some instances recurring thrush. Personally I believe it may be easy to mistake ureaplasma for thrush and other infections in some instances.
Watch Mamamia staff reveal what their 'lady gardens' look like (post continues after video).
Ureaplasma is not considered an STD but can be sexually transmitted.
I read that 15% of us are colonised with the bacteria, but as sexually active adults this rises to 40-80%. Significant.
My doctor tells me that ureaplasma is garnering increased attention; in fact she was eager for me to share this (entire) message. Whilst you’ll find a whole host of conflicting articles online, many doctors believe that there is a link between ureaplasma/mycoplasma and infertility and miscarriage. That link alone is highly significant for many, many women. (Post continues after gallery)
A word on antibiotics.
Upon hearing about these nasty little bacteria I was understandably concerned. My late night Dr Google research told me all I needed to know. It is a veritable bastard to clear without the use of antibiotics.
In the end I had no choice. It was time to merge Western and Eastern medicine and to hope for the very best. So it was that I was introduced to the antibiotic Doxylin and with a brave face I soldiered on.
Within 1-2 weeks of the first dose the thrush disappeared but there lingered slight pelvic pain and a slight itch. A second dose was had, and a third (again, a veritable bastard). With every dose the symptoms dissipated further until ultimately, they disappeared.
And there's more. Regardless of my heavy dosage, there was still no sign of thrush, even as a consequence of my hefty antibiotic intake.
Insert happy dancing lady in red dress emoji.
(It's worth mentioning too that I continued with a selection of my home remedies to support the antibiotic process.)
A final word.
If I could turn back the time in this 'nether region' journey, I would have come at this infection with guns blazing, just as I did with all of my home remedies. However, if I had known what I did now, if I had been tested for ureaplasma months earlier, I would simply have combined these remedies with antibiotics far sooner than I did.
Ladies, from my 'region' to yours, may great health be with you.
This post contains the personal opinions and ideas of the author and is not created to replace advice provided to you by your healthcare professional. Should you have any concerns about trialling any remedies listed above, please consult your healthcare practitioner.