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Yeast Infections and Taking Oral Contraceptives

written by: Suzanne Florin • edited by: BStone • updated: 5/9/2011

Can taking birth control pills cause yeast infections? How do the components that make up birth control pills affect the production and overgrowth of yeast in different parts of the body? Find out more about the link between oral contraceptives and yeast infections.

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    Overview

    Yeast infections, or candidiasis, are overgrowths of yeast in different parts of the body. Candida albicans are the most common type of fungi among the 20 species of candida. They live on surfaces of the body and multiply in moist and warm areas, such as the underarms and the mouth. There are different types of infections such as vaginal yeast infections, thrush (infections in the mouth and oral cavity), diaper rash and nailbed infections. Yeast infections can also be a sign of certain medical conditions such as leukemia, diabetes and AIDS.

    There are several causes of yeast infections. Among these are the use of urinal catheters, IV ports, and other devices implanted on the skin. Thrush is usually caused by antibiotics, corticosteroids and birth control pills.

    Although birth control pills are effective in treating illnesses related to menstruation and in preventing pregnancy, they are likely to cause yeast infections in some women. That is why doctors prescribe alternative means for contraception if a patient is suffering from yeast infection that is caused by birth control pills.

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    Oral Contraceptives and Yeast Infections

    Birth control pills work effectively in preventing pregnancy by stopping ovulation, altering the quality of cervical mucus, and changing the endometrium in a manner that makes it less likely to support a fertilized egg. They also treat irregular menstrual cycles and heavy bleeding. Although there are side effects in taking the medications, they are generally mild and tolerable.

    The hormones found in birth control pills may offer several benefits; however, these hormones can cause hormonal imbalance. An excess in the amount of estrogen in the body can increase blood sugar levels, which yeast feeds on. As a result, an overgrowth of yeast occurs.

    In 1999, Paul L. Fidel Jr., Jessica Cutright, and Chad Steele of Louisiana State University launched a study to prove the link between excess estrogen and yeast infection. The conclusion of the study, published in the American Society of Microbiology, stated that progesterone did not cause vaginal candida in mice, but an excess in estrogen promoted the growth of yeast.

    They also concluded that the skin cells' ability to prevent colonization of yeast in the vaginal walls is reduced because of the excess estrogen. Another observation was made on how yeast feeds on glycogen; and the glycogen levels in the vagina rises when there is an oversupply of estrogen in the body. Thus, vaginal candida is likely to develop because of such condition.

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    Treating Yeast Infections

    There are several treatment options for yeast infections that result from birth control use. Doctors recommend patients to discontinue the use of birth control pills, and replace them with other forms of contraception such as condoms, cervical cap, IUD (Intrauterine Device), contraceptive sponge, and tubal ligation (for females).

    Eating foods rich in DIM (diindolylmethane), a phytonutrient that changes the way estrogen is metabolized, can also reduce the overgrowth of yeast in the body. DIM are found in foods such as brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Other foods that can help treat candidiasis are raw apple cider vinegar, garlic, grapefruit seed extract.

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    Resources

    Candidiasis (Yeast Infection) Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, From

    http://www.emedicinehealth.com/candidiasis_yeast_infection/article_em.htm

    Candidas: Alternative Health Group, From

    http://www.alternative-health-group.org/candidas.html

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