By: Jayne O’Dwyer
It’s official: a good gut is downright sexy. The gut - both its health and its issues was once a topic relegated to closed doors and doctor’s offices. Now, a good gut is touted as both a beauty edge and a must-have for overall wellness. A good gut also plays a role in reproductive health as well.
An imbalance in the gut microbiome- the collection of microorganisms and bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract - can lead to what is called “Candida Overgrowth.” Candida is a fungus that lives in different parts of the body, including our mouths, our digestive tract, the gut, and yes, the vagina. Candida itself is not the culprit - this yeast actually works in tandem with other bacteria to help digest food and absorb nutrients. Yeast, however, likes to feed, particularly on sugar, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates. A diet high in these, plus anything from antibiotics to oral contraceptives to stress, can throw the microbiome balance off kilter. This imbalance can lead to too much Candida, and a systemic, prolonged overgrowth of Candida can lead to a vaginal yeast infection that just won’t quit.
Candida Overgrowth isn’t the only sexually-frustrating byproduct of an imbalanced gut: recurrent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) can be linked to an off microbiome as well. Most UTIs are caused by an overgrowth of E.Coli that has managed to migrate from the gut to the urinary tract. This migration can happen when E.Coli present in feces spreads to the urinary tract. The imbalance of bacteria in the gut then continues to take over and feed the disease-causing bacteria, which keeps the UTI alive and kicking. Other bacteria can further exacerbate this vicious cycle: Gardnerella vaginalis, a bacterium that is commonly found in the vagina, causes E.Coli to grow again, which can cause a new infection. Thus, once the balance of your body has been thrown off, it can be quite the ordeal to finally eradicate the infection.
If you experience symptoms of a UTI or yeast infection, first and foremost, consult your trusted physician. After you have worked with a professional, assess your diet and how your body has been feeling given your current eating habits. Have you been eating a lot of processed foods and sugar? Have UTIs or yeast infections plagued you for months? Consider then trying an elimination diet like Whole30 that removes yeast-breeding culprits such as wheat, gluten, dairy, and sugar from your food consumption for a period of 2-3 weeks. The elimination and subsequent reintroduction of foods could help you get a better handle on your overall well-being.