Yeast infection: That inconvenient, uncomfortable little secret you are forced to carry around in your pants for two to three days. It leaves you feeling itchy, irritated, self-conscious and totally unsexy. Nearly all of us have been subjected to this fungal incursion, and there is no shortage of information on the symptoms, treatment options and messy details of this all too common condition.
We are often informed that yeast infections, a build up of the Candida fungus, can be caused by almost anything: sex, soap, sugar, our own period, pregnancy and antibiotics, to name a few. But rarely do we hear about yeast’s correlation with stress.
It is common knowledge that mental and emotional stress can compromise our immune system. We expect to ache at the end of an emotionally draining day, we expect the sniffles during finals week and we are well trained to recognize that a lack of sleep and haphazard diet, which often go hand in hand with stress, are not components of a healthy lifestyle. Somehow, however, we forget to apply these household health truths to our vaginas.
When your body is under stress for prolonged periods of time or at an abnormal intensity, its systems change to accommodate for extra adrenaline pumped into your system. One of these changes is the increased level of glucose produced and stored by your body to ensure the presence of a fuel source in case of emergency. This craving for glucose often manifests itself in a taste for carbohydrates and sweet things, which in turn elevate blood sugar levels. A diet high in sugary foods is often correlated with yeast infections.
Furthermore, if you are under stress, you have less time to care for your body in general. Perhaps this means you are unable to enjoy physical activity on a daily basis, a practice that helps to reduce stress over time (and burns some of that glucose build-up). Perhaps it means you cannot sleep well, forgoing time for you body to refresh and recharge. Perhaps it means you cannot take the time necessary to carefully wash yourself, not simply a hygienic process, but a chance to check in with each function and limb, to listen to the messages your body is sending you.