Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Yogurt and Bee Honey in the Vagina Can Help Yeast Infections?

You’re saying: What? Why would anyone do that, and does it help?

We know that the vagina contains many bacteria to begin with, and are necessary to maintain its health. Many women find that after taking antibiotics for some other reason, they develop a yeast infection. Why? The antibiotics you may take for a UTI or strep throat, will also kill the “good bacteria” in the vagina, allowing overgrowth of Candida (yeast), which then has to be treated itself. Over 250 species of bacteria have been identified.  The most common and important are species of Lactobacilli that produce chemicals that lowers the pH of the vagina (making it more acidic) and not a good place for other unwanted microbes to grow. Several good examples are Candida, yeast, that is normally present in and around the vaginal/anal area, but can overgrow and leading to symptoms such as white discharge, redness, swelling, and odor, and BV (bacterial vaginosis), which can also lead to discharge, odor and irritation. Both need to be treated to restore the normal balance of “good vs bad” in the vagina.

BV is a common infection among reproductive age women and has been associated with increased risk of PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) and STD transmission. Candida can occur when estrogen levels are higher such as during pregnancy. Diabetes, immune suppression, and oral contraceptives can also predispose for Candida.

Oral anti-fungals are the most common remedy for yeast, such as fluconazole, and topical medications can also be used in the vagina, especially during pregnancy, where oral drugs for this should be avoided.

Interestingly, bee honey has been shown in several studies to have antimicrobial effects, against yeast and in wounds. It was reported to be “prescribed” as a liquid broth or as vaginal tablets for treating yeast. It has a high acidity and levels of hydrogen peroxide may account for its effect.

Yogurt is rich in Lactobacilli which has been demonstrated to inhibit growth of Candida yeast when inserted into the vagina during active yeast. Given all this, some researchers in Egypt decided to create a mixture of bee honey and yogurt believing that together their anti-fungal properties would enhance the killing and treatment of Candida infections in pregnant women who develop Candidal infections, in order to avoid oral meds. These food products were readily available and inexpensive to the researchers and patients. The admixture contained a small third part of distilled water to lessen the thickness and stickiness of the paste.

Two groups of women were then recruited, all pregnant, both with vaginal Candida, however one group was treated with vaginal anti-fungal meds, while the other was given this bee honey/yogurt mixture. Cultures were taken before and after. The average age of the women in both groups was about 35 years old. Symptoms of yeast infection were similar between the two groups.  So what were the results?

Both groups tolerated their treatments well. The bee honey/yogurt group experienced less vaginal irritation compared to the vaginal medicine group. Both groups had high cure rates, but the bee honey/yogurt group reported an 88% clinical cure rate, while the conventional group reported a 72% clinical cure rate. However, after treatment, the vaginal medicine group showed a better negative culture rate than the bee honey/yogurt group. Soiling of clothes was higher in the bee honey/yogurt group: 17% vs 11%, as one may expect.

The bee honey/yogurt group was shown to also have an effect on other pathologic bacteria that were present, such as Staph and Strep. In addition, it may have lowered the itching and other symptoms better due to some anti-inflammatory properties.
This study was a simple and novel trial in a group of women with positive results. It adds to our knowledge for those interested in complimentary medicine, but should not be taken as a substitute for conventional treatment. Perhaps both types of remedies can be used together to maximize the intended treatment against yeast, while the mixture can be used as a supplement to sooth local symptoms.