What Causes Yeast Infections?

The most common cause of fungal infections in humans is from candida, which is typically found in small amounts in the intestines, mouth and on the skin, according to an article published by Healthline.com. When this fungus starts to overproduce it may lead to a variety of health problems, including vaginal yeast infections in women. A vaginal yeast infection causes an itchiness and discharge in the vagina and vulva and affects up to three out of four women at some point in their lifetimes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of a yeast infection can be mild to moderate and may include; itching in and around the vagina; pain and tenderness in the vagina; a thick, odor-free discharge; and a burning sensation, particularly when urinating or during sex. While the symptoms of yeast infections particularly affect women’s feminine hygiene, fungal infections caused by candida can also cause other various side-effects to your body including: fatigue; sinus infections; nail and skin fungal infections, among others. In order to reduce your risk of vaginal yeast infections, experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend women wear cotton underwear and avoid tight-fitting underwear or pantyhose. They also advise changing out of wet clothes right away, such as swimsuits or workout attire. There are a variety of factors that can lead to an increase in candida in your body including; taking antibiotics, high levels of stress, high levels of alcohol intake, a weakened immune system, taking oral birth control, diabetes and a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar. Yeast infections are easy to diagnose through a visit to the doctor’s office. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and then do a pelvic exam. Most times, doctors prescribe medicine to get rid of the fungal infection. However, if you’re looking for a holistic option to help with the additional side effects of candida such as, fatigue, joint pain and sinus infections, regular sauna sits may be an option for you.

Sauna Use to Help Yeast Infection Side-Effects

There are several different types of saunas including electrically heated, wood burning, a steam room and a far-infrared sauna. In Infrared saunas, special lamps use light waves to heat a person’s body instead of the entire room. Infrared saunas are one of the few mediums that provide infrared heat in a controlled environment. Infrared heat is an invisible electromagnetic wave with a wavelength longer than that of visible light that helps improve blood flow. In an article published by Livestrong, it was reported that infrared heat releases nitric oxide, which improves circulation and increases the amount of nutrients and oxygen that flows to an injured area, which ultimately helps the body in its healing process. One of the most common symptoms associated with a yeast infection is fatigue. According to the book “Sauna Therapy for Detoxification and Healing,” written by Dr. Lawrence Wilson, researchers in Finland found that sauna use aids in deeper, more restful sleep. Two patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) saw improvements in their symptoms including pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbance following treatment with thermal therapy, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. The study done by doctors at the Respiratory and Stress Care Center at the Kagoshima University Hospital in Kagoshima, Japan subjected the two patients to far-infrared ray dry saunas. Each person received treatment once a day for a total of 35 sessions. After 15 to 25 sauna sessions, patients reported dramatic improvement in their CFS symptoms. After discharge, the two patients continued therapy approximately once or twice a week for about one year. According to the study, neither of the subjects showed relapse or inflammation of symptoms during their first year after discharge. Experts say the study’s results suggest that thermal therapy may be a promising alternative method for the treatment of CFS.

Don’t Stress Over Yeast Infections

Stress is one of the factors that can lead to the overgrowth of candida in the body, which can lead to a vaginal yeast infection. The average stress levels in the United States rose from 4.9 to 5.1 on a scale from 1 to 10, according to an annual stress survey performed by the American Psychological Association in 2015. Studies have found that regular sauna sits can help decrease the amount of stress in the body. Symptoms of stress include muscle tension, headaches and high blood pressure. Studies have found that regular sauna use can lower the risk of high blood pressure. A 2015 study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, found an association between regular sauna use and a lower risk of fatal heart disease. The study involved more than 2,300 middle-aged men in Finland and found that the more often a man took a sauna the lower his risk was to fatal heart disease and death. The researchers for that study also found a connection between regular sauna use and a lower risk of dementia, high blood pressure and other benefits. In Finland where saunas are very prevalent in the culture, it was hard to find subjects who did not use them at all, so the study of men was done by those who used them more or less frequently. While researchers did note that it is not exactly known why men who took more frequents saunas had greater longevity, whether it is the relaxation time spent, leisure time, or the effects of heat in the room.

How To Start Regular Sauna Sits

Although alternative therapy options for vaginal yeast infections remain undefined according to a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of health, there are a multiple, various studies that have shown the positive benefits sauna sits have on some of the side effects caused by the fungal infection candida. Therefore, sauna sits may provide relief to women experiencing other side-effects that may linger following a yeast infection. If you are new to sauna sits, it is recommended that first-time users spend no more between five and 10 minutes. As you get more and more used to the heat, you can slowly increase the time you spend in the infrared sauna to up to about 20 minutes.

Resources: Kayla McDonell, RD, “7 Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth (Plus How to Get Rid Of It),” Healthline.com, August 24, 2017; Mayo Clinic Staff, “Yeast Infection (Vaginal), Mayo Clinic, Aaron Matthew, “Benefits of Infrared Heat,” Livestrong.com, August, 14, 2017; “Sauna Therapy for Detoxification and Healing,” by Dr. Lawrence Wilson; Science Daily, “Mayo Clinic Study Implicates Fungus As Cause of Chronic Sinusitis,” Mayo Clinic, September 10, 1999; American Psychological Association; Laukkanen  T, Khan  H, Zaccardi  F, Laukkanen  JA.  Association between sauna bathing and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events [published online February 23, 2015].  JAMA Intern Med. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8187