A reader asks about what to do about vaginal yeast infections and dryness that seems to be worse when blood sugar levels are out of control. Of course, it's best to control blood sugar levels, but it's also helpful to deal with the yeast infection.
Vaginal dryness after menopause is caused by a lack of estrogen. Estrogen stimulates the growth of epithelial cells that protect the vagina, and in the absence of estrogen, they simply do not grow fast enough to completely cover the vagina before they die, dry off, and flake.
And in women who consume a relatively high-protein diet, especially if they eat lots of red meat, smoked fish, and aged cheese, the pH of the vagina can increase as well. When the pH of the vagina rises, cells in the lining of the vagina are less able to store energy in the form of glycogen, and they "lose their grip" on the protective yeasts such as Lactobacillus that defend against the detrimental yeasts such as Candida.
The simplest and most straightforward natural solution to drying of the vagina after menopause is to replace the missing Lactobacilli. The beneficial bacteria have to be replaced directly by placement in the vagina. They can come from live yogurt cultures or a vaginal suppository, used once or twice a day for at least two weeks.
Once Lactobacilli are reestablished in the vagina, they produce lactic acid, peroxides, and other antibacterial agents that get rid of the harmful microbes. They use glucose and deprive infectious yeasts of nutrients. At least one clinical study found that Lactobacilli were as infective as prescription antifungals in controlling postmenopausal yeast infections.
What else establishes health in the vagina? Regular consumption of small amounts of fermented soy products, such as miso and tempeh, also helps. You don't have to go all out with soy. About half an ounce a day provides all the soy isoflavones your body can actually use to stimulate cell growth in the lining of the vagina. And it's also helpful to remember:
Douches increase rather than decrease risk of infection after menopause.
Cotton panties encourage air circulation and encourage growth of helpful Lactobacillus while retarding growth of harmful Trichomonas.
Progesterone plus dioscorea relieves inflammation, but be forewarned, the progesterone content of natural products can vary widely.