Thrush & the Hormone Cycle
For some of us, the repeated occurrence of our thrush is cyclical and is linked to our menstrual cycles. If this sounds like you, then this post has been written with you in mind. However, if at first you don't think this is relevant, read on because you might, just might, have some aha! moments…
When I consult wth a lady suffering with thrush we always investigate to see whether there is a pattern to her thrush. What are the triggers..?.. It might just occur between ovulation and menstruation.
But why is this?
Well thrush is most prevalent in women between the menarche and the menopause, ie during the fertile years, and yes this is because it can be totally linked to your vaginal secretions which are dependant on your hormones. Now every vagina and cervix secretes mucous - and assuming no infection is present this is totally normal and healthy* (please see some of the times this is not, below). This mucous can have a slightly sweet or musky smell, and its nature and consistency changes throughout your cycle. This is due to your progesterone and oestrogen working in harmony as you progress through the month.
Now as you come up to ovulation, which happens mid cycle, oestrogen is in charge as your egg ripens and is released from an ovary. Oestrogen peaks around this time, making your cervical mucous more of an egg-white consistency, and this can aid conception. Oestrogen is also responsible for depositing glycogen, which is a type of sugar molecule, in the cells of your vaginal mucosa. This is perfectly normal and all done to encourage the passage of sperm, if present, and improve the chance of a pregnancy (nature loves you baby!!). However, if you have a sensitivity to this and a tendency towards thrush, or you have a hormonal imbalance which causes excess oestrogen then this is not such brilliant news for your vaginal flora. Vagina thrush, most commonly caused by the fungus Candida albicans, LOVES sugar - it feeds on sugars - and its ready to have a party!
Now the friendly bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus normally inhabits your vagina and helps to keep the level of vaginal sugars at bay by turning them into lactic acid, which in turn keeps the pH of your vagina at the happy number (about 4 or 4.5 - yes, its acidic!). Its a great ecosystem! Sweet!
So there are two factors which could be at play which are making your re-occurrence of thrush prevalent between ovulation and menstruation - a hormone imbalance and/or a lack of the correct friendly bacteria in the right places.
Now only you know what is normal for you, and getting thrush as the only symptom at this time does not mean your hormones are out of balance or that you don't have enough friendly vaginal bacteria. There will be other symptoms and indicators too, and seeing a qualified practitioner can help identify this with you.
Some questions you could ask yourself in addition to seeing when you get your thrush flare ups are:
- Have I taken antibiotics in the last few months?
- Do I suffer with swollen or painful breasts, bloating or water retention, fatigue, mood swings, spots or clotting during my period?
If you have taken antibiotics in the last few months it would be worth taking some probiotics. There are so many brands out there to choose from, that it can be confusing. Its best to look for ones that contain Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus and have a bacterial count of at least 2 million. Some good brands you can easily find on the High Street are BioKult and Optibac, but others also exist. You can take up to 6 a day (2 with each meal) at the height of a flare up. Initially take for up to a month. If there is no improvement the following month, it would be worth booking in to see a herbalist.
If you are suffering with swollen or painful breasts, bloating or water retention, fatigue, mood swings, spots or clotting in addition to getting thrush after ovulation then I think it would be beneficial to booking an appointment to get to the bottom of what is happening for you.
*As I promised here are some indications of when vaginal discharge is not normal and healthy - please go straight to your GP if you experience any of these or are unsure: grey or grey/green, frothy, musty or fishy smelling, watery and unusually profuse, or yeasty and cottage cheese-like.
Each woman who has thrush will have a unique set of triggers and circumstances that can cause a flare up. Next month I should have something easy that you can do at home to calm and cool the symptoms while you’re in the middle of a flare up.