OTHER GYNECOLOGICAL CONCERNS
Chronic yeast infections
Many women suffer from chronic yeast infections. Yeast infections are most commonly due to an overgrowth of the species Candida albicans. Yeast infections are often a symptom of a systemic candida problem, low immune system or damaged intestinal tract and dysbiosis. Yeast infections are also common in women who have a history of antibiotic use, nutrient deficiencies and birth control pill use. Yeast infections are characterized by:
- Discharge which may be cottage cheese-like or may be watery
- Vaginal and vulvar irritation, swelling and inflammation
- Painful intercourse
- Urinary discomfort.
In order for treatment to be effective, women must address the root cause or yeast infections will return. This is why women who experience yeast infections often have them recur. Over the counter antifungals may alleviate the symptoms, however they do not address what is causing the symptoms, and therefore do nothing to prevent recurrence.
Natural and holistic treatment of yeast infections should be focused on:
- Eradicating the yeast overgrowth
- Addressing the root cause
- Repopulating the vagina and, if necessary the intestines with "good" bacteria.
By identifying and treating the root cause through a holistic, comprehensive and individualized treatment plan, it is possible to eliminate recurrence of yeast infections.
Treatment for yeast infections varies between individualized because several different factors may be causing them. Nutritional and dietary changes are generally necessary to effectively treat and prevent recurrent yeast infections. Dietary changes generally include decreased sugar intake, eliminating dairy, eliminating yeast-containing foods and identifying and eliminating food allergens. In addition, natural methods for acutely eradicating the yeast should be addressed to relieve symptoms and discomfort.
Cervical dysplasia is the development of "abnormal cells" in the cervix (lower end of the uterus). It is often regarded as a "precancerous" state, which means that if left untreated may develop into cancer. Women are tested for cervical dysplasia through the Pap smear, or more recently the alternative thin prep test. If abnormalities are present, there is a grading system which indicates the degree and seriousness of abnormality.
Who is at risk?
Risk factors for women include:
- History of multiple sexual partners
- Age of first intercourse < 18 years old
- History of Human papillomavirus (HPV) or herpes simplex II (HSV-II)
- Cigarette smoking
- Oral contraceptive use
- Nutritional deficiencies
Treatment of cervical dysplasia depends on the underlying cause and the grade or stage of the abnormalities. Conventional treatment of cervical dysplasia includes: cryotherapy, laser therapy, excision, cone biopsy or hysterectomy. If the changes are mild, then physicians may recommend repeat diagnostic tests to monitor the changes. Holistic treatment includes addressing nutritional deficiencies and dietary factor, improving the immune system, and addressing any lifestyle habits that may be increasing your risk (ie smoking).
Endometriosis is the development of endometrial deposits outside of the uterine cavity. There is a typical set of three symptoms called the "triad" which include:
- Dysmenorrheal (pain with menses)
- Dysparunia (painful intercourse)
There are several causes that have been theorized about the development of endometriosis, including immunological causes, environmental triggers, hereditary, hormonal imbalance and IUD use.
How is it diagnosed and treated?
Typically endometriosis is diagnosed by signs and symptoms, as well as ultrasound, bimanual examination and laparoscopy. Conventional treatment depends on the severity of disease and includes surgery and pharmaceuticals including the birth control pill and other hormonal drugs. Unfortunately there is a high recurrence among women undergoing surgery.
Holistic treatment aims to optimize estrogen metabolism, support the liver, enhance immunity and provide pain relief. These goals are accomplished with dietary manipulation, nutritional supplementation, botanical medicine and Chinese medicine. Therapies such as hydrotherapy and homeopathy are helpful as well.
Uterine fibroids are quite common and generally a benign abnormal growth of uterine tissue. They are believed to be estrogen-dependent, meaning that their growth is stimulated by estrogen. Groups most likely to develop fibroids are women in their child-bearing years, African American women, obese or overweight women and nulliparous (never had children) women.
Signs of uterine fibroids range from none to more severe and include: heavy bleeding, bleeding between periods, high frequency of urination, painful intercourse and infertility.
Treatment for uterine fibroids includes dietary and nutritional supplementation. Ensuring optimal liver function in order to maintain estrogen metabolism is crucial. In addition, avoiding exogenous estrogens such as the birth control pill and HRT is important. Women who want to prevent uterine fibroids should ensure they have regular menses and ovulation. If you are concerned with an irregular cycle, you can contact a naturopathic doctor. Naturopathic doctors are able to offer supportive therapy such as Chinese medicine, botanical medicines and dietary advice to assist with regulating your menstrual cycle.