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A Dietitian's Recommendations to
Prevent Yeast Infections

By Brandy Winfree, MBA, RDN, CSR, LDN
April 25, 2024

Vaginal yeast infections are very common—up to 75% of women report having at least one in their life. But, due to the very personal nature of symptoms of a yeast infection. We may not feel comfortable talking about how to prevent them, if we talk about them at all.

Candida albicans is the yeast responsible for these symptoms and it lives in the mucosal lining of the vagina and vulva. A yeast infection occurs when the naturally occuring yeast over grow in response to a variety of factors, from hormonal birth control and pregnancy, to certain medications or tight, non-breathable underwear. This overgrowth may cause redness, inflammation, itching, burning, and a whitish discharge resembling curdled milk.

There are creams, suppositories, and prescription medications that can treat a yeast infection once you have symptoms (and you can always get convenient treatment from home with Wisp!). But, what can you do to keep the symptoms from developing in the first place and keep pesky yeast at bay?

Diet can be a great way to prevent yeast infections. But, there is so much information online, it’s easy to fall down the nutrition rabbit hole. I’m going to address some of the more common thoughts on nutrition and yeast infections so that you know exactly what to do to keep those miserable yeast infections in the past.

Limiting Carbohydrates

Some believe that intake of a high carbohydrate diet can cause vaginal yeast infections, likely due to the increased incidence of such infections in people with uncontrolled diabetes. While a diet high in carbohydrates is not often advised for general health, though it's not a bad idea if you’re an athlete, most studies that correlate high carbohydrate intake and increased development of Candida albicans utilize cells from the inside of the cheek or intestines, not the vagina. The problem is that the mouth and the intestines are completely different environments than the vagina.

Currently very little research exists on the effect of carbohydrate intake on the development of candidiasis and even less on the development of vaginal candidiasis. So, while it’s not a bad idea to limit excessive intake of added sugars for general health, carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains provide the body with energy. All of this is to say: there is not currently adequate research on the topic to recommend such a restriction, but if you think that it may help, I would recommend limiting sodas, candy, and other foods with added sugars long before I would recommend limiting things like fruit and potatoes.

Taking a Probiotic

Lactobacillus spp. are the predominant microbes of the vaginal mucosa. This “good” bacteria lives in the vagina and uses glucose produced by other cells of the female reproductive system to create lactic acid. This constant influx of lactic acid keeps the vagina highly acidic and hostile to other microbes—like Candida albicans. Vaginas with a high presence of Lactobacillus are less likely to experience yeast infections.

Lactobacillus creates lactic acid that gives fermented foods a tang. Some studies suggest eating a serving of probiotic foods up to 3 times a day for health, though some suggest only 2 ounces daily. So, as long as you're getting at least 1 serving of Lactobacillus-containing food in daily, you’re on your way to having a healthy microbiota!

Foods high in Lactobacillus include

  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Tempeh
  • Kombucha, and
  • Miso

Of course, there’s also the option to take an oral probiotic. Researchers found that women who took an oral probiotic with Lactobacillus crispatus had significantly improved vaginal microflora. A similar study tested 14 strains of Lactobacillus suspected to inhibit Candida albicans and found that all tested strains were effective at inhibiting the development of yeast, while Lactobacillus rhamnosus was most effective as it produced the lowest pH of all strains tested.

Avoiding Gluten

As more research on gluten and its response in the body is made available, many turn to gluten-free diets to a wide range of inflammatory conditions. From acne to endometriosis to yeast infections, a gluten-free diet is touted to address just about anything. But, is the science there to back it up?

Maybe. One study notes increased rates of recurrent vaginitis in people living with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but did not note any actual intake of gluten. We know that gluten intake in those who are sensitive to it has been shown to cause inflammation. This could, in theory, promote more infections in general. However, the body doesn’t need gluten. So, while current research does not indicate that eating gluten could promote vaginal yeast infections in those who are not sensitive to it, it won’t hurt most people to trial a gluten-free diet. It is important to make sure that you’re getting other carbohydrates though, so fruits, vegetables, beans, and gluten-free grains are great choices.

Diets to Prevent Inflammation

If you’re looking for a hard set of rules for a diet to prevent yeast infections, there really isn’t one that’s backed by sufficient research yet. But, there are a few that promote a healthy diet with limited carbs, lean protein, healthy fats, and probiotics.

Whole food, plant-based diets like the Mediterranean, Atlantic, flexitarian, and vegetarian diets are linked to an increase in good bacteria in the gut and a decrease in overall inflammation. So, these diets may be a good choice for the prevention of recurrent yeast infections.

And if you’re struggling with an existing yeast infection, it’s not a bad idea to make sure that you get plenty of fluids and lean protein. Protein needs are higher when we’re sick or inflamed. So, make sure to load up on the beans, nuts, seeds, fish, and probiotic-rich yogurt while your yeast infection treatment gets to work.. Remember: you should see your doctor if your infection gets worse with treatment or if you’re having recurrent infections.

There are lots of causes for yeast infections. Diet can play a role, but it’s important to remember that things like tight, non-breathable underwear or antibiotics can cause yeast infections. Yeast infections are nothing to be ashamed of and they happen to most of us. So, don’t be afraid to get the help that you need today!

Brandy is a Registered Dietitian and nutrition writer who became a loyal Wisp customer when a lapse in insurance coverage at work led her to our platform. She believes in Wisp's mission to make reproductive and sexual healthcare inclusive, cost-effective, and accessible and believes that the key to healthy living is science-backed health education. Brandy runs a private practice where she provides nutrition counseling and blogs on nutrition for kidney health at brandywinfreerdn.com. When she's not working, Brandy loves to travel, hike, and spend lazy afternoons with a good book.

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