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Embracing Motherhood Wellness Formula is the BEST Way to Beat a Cold!

Wellness Formula is the BEST Way to Keep Sickness at Bay!

Being a mother of four little ones, I cannot afford to get sick. That’s why at the mere hint of a cold, I start to take my Wellness Formula capsules. In doing so, I have been able to avoid all illnesses for the past 3 years (when I discovered Wellness Formula).

Unfortunately, this time around, I ran out of my magic pills right when I needed them most. I really didn’t think too much of it at first. The fact that I have not been sick in so long has given me a sense of over confidence about my immune system. I put off ordering more and instead went to work on my usual sick routine of making some bone broth soup, eating lots of fresh garlic and ginger, and supplementing with vitamin C and vitamin D-3. I even had some bee propolis around that I took as well.

Well flash forward to the day after I stopped taking my pills, and I felt MISERABLE! My head was pounding, my head was stuffy and clouded, there was so much pressure and pain in my ears, my nose was runny, I had a horrible cough, and because I hadn’t been sick in so long, it just hit me really really hard.

Since it was going to be two more days until my fresh shipment of pills from Amazon arrived, so my mother brought me over some of her Wellness Formula Tablets. I took some right away, and they stopped the progression of the cold in right its tracks. Unfortunately, these magic pills aren’t so good about reversing the progression. When taken at the first hint of an illness, they give your immune system the strength to stop things before they get started, but once a cold has settled in, it’s a bit harder to get rid of.

I made a solemn vow to myself to never ever again take for granted the magic that is in these pills. Even though I had just ordered a bottle, I went online and ordered another one and then every other product they made..my back up stash. After seeing most of my children sick with this terrible cold, I thought, “Boy, I wish they made a kids version!” And lo and behold when I typed in “wellness formula” and “kids”, I found out that they do!

Here are all of the products they make, where to get them, prices, quantities, recommended dosages, and my notes about each one of them.

Where to Get It

  • Wellness Formula Capsules 
    Wellness Formula Capsules

    Wellness Formula Capsules

    • Recommended Dosage: 2-4 capsules per day for wellness maintenance and 6 capsules twice a day at first signs of illness
    • Notes: If you’re not sure what to get, get these. The capsules are about the size of Tylenol, and it’s the best value. When I take these and the illness is particularly strong or advanced, I’ll take 6 capsules every three hours until I can feel my symptoms subside. As my symptoms stop progressing, I’ll scale it back to the recommended 6 tablets twice a day.
  • Wellness Formula Tablets 
    Wellness Formula Tablets

    Wellness Formula Tablets

    • Recommended Dosage: 1-2 tablets per day for wellness maintenance and 3 tablets twice a day at first signs of illness
    • Notes: These tablets are bigger and more potent, so you need fewer of them, but they are HUGE! I cannot swallow pills this huge, so I have to crush them up, mix them with water, and try not to puke as I swallow it because it tastes gross! But lately, I even have trouble swallowing the capsules (darn esophageal spasms) so these tablets have become my preferred source of Wellness Formula. Sometimes with the capsules, I can burp up the taste much later, but crushing these tablets gets them into my bloodstream much quicker and I can feel them taking effect right away!
  • Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers 
    Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers

    Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers

    • Recommended Dosage: 2 wafers four times daily for adults, for children 14 and up 1 wafer four times daily, for children 9-13 1 wafer three times daily, for children 4-8 1 wafer two times daily, and for children 3 and under, it says to consult your physician.
    • Notes: This is great for kids (and/or adults who don’t like swallowing pills). I didn’t even know these existed until now, and I am very excited to start giving them to our 5 and 6 year old the next time they start getting sick. We just opened our package and so far so good! They taste great and the kids love them.  *I will update this post to report how they work! These would also be great to keep in your purse or car to take whenever you start to feel a little under the weather. There are far less ingredients in these wafers than there are in the capsules and tablets however. The vitamin A is also significantly lower (from 5,000 IU to 500 IU). The ingredients in these wafers are exactly the same as the product called Children’s Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers.
  • Wellness Formula Liquid
    • Recommended Dosage: 1/2 teaspoon three times a day at first signs of illness (or one time a day for maintenance)
    • Notes: I have never purchased this, but I think it would be a nice thing to keep in my purse so that I can take some on the go no matter where I am if I start to feel ill. There are far less ingredients in this compared to the capsules and tablets, however, so I’m not sure how effective it would be.
  • Children’s Wellness Formula Liquid 
    Children's Wellness Formula Liquid

    Children’s Wellness Formula Liquid

    • Recommended Dosage: 1/2 teaspoon three times a day at first signs of illness (or one time a day for maintenance)
    • Notes: This is not recommended for children under one (probably because of the honey and risks of botulism), but I ordered this for my 1 and 2 year old who I know won’t eat the chewable wafers. It tastes about as unpleasant as Zarbee’s Cough Medicine (which is a great natural product to treat the symptoms of a cold), so I know that my little ones won’t be too thrilled about it, but I know I can get them to take it if I have to. I just baked some of my healthy oatmeal cookies and added a few drops into the batter for six of them, and I feel like this is the easiest way to get them to take it of all!

Why It Works

Instead of dealing with the symptoms you get AFTER getting a cold, this Wellness Formula gives your immune system the boost it needs to deal with the illness BEFORE it even begins. Watch this really cool animation to see how the flu virus invades your body.

Basically, a virus will hijack normal healthy cells, unlock them with little “keys”, and trick the cells into replicating more viruses. Only one virus needs to enter a cell to make millions more viruses. But humans have a 100 trillion cells, and when your immune system sees the virus, it will attack and kill it. It’s just about keeping that perfect balance in harmony and keeping your immune system as strong as possible.

Things like getting plenty of rest and sunshine, keeping stress levels to a minimum, drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy diet void of processed foods and rich in nutrient dense foods like bone broth soup are all things that will do wonders for your immune system. But when any of these factors are lacking (like when you’re not getting any sleep because you’re up in the night with sick kids), then this boost of over 30 powerful ingredients including antioxidants, herbal extracts, vitamins, and minerals will give your immune system the support it needs to fight the incoming virus! Check out more about how it works here.

List of Ingredients

Click here to see the package label from Source Natural. I’ve copied the list here so that you can see at a glance all of the goodness that’s going on. To the right of each ingredient is the amount found in 6 capsules and in parentheses is the percent of how this rates with what you need daily.

  • Vitamin A (as palmitate 4,000 IU & beta-carotene 1,000 IU) –  5,000 IU (100%)
  • Vitamin C (from ascorbic acid and zinc ascorbate) – 1,300 mg (2,167%)
  • Vitamin D-3 (as cholecalciferol) – 400 IU (100%)
  • Calcium – 40 mg (4%)
  • Zinc (as zinc citrate and ascorbate) – 23 mg (153%)
  • Selenium (as sodium selenite) – 60 mcg (86%)
  • Copper (as copper citrate) – 150 mcg (8%)
  • Sodium – 10 mg (<1%)
  • Garlic Bulb – 360 mg
  • Propolis Extract – 295 mg
  • Echinacea purpurea Root Extract – 270 mg
  • Elderberry Fruit Extract – 240 mg
  • Aromatic Solomon’s Seal Rhizome – 120 mg
  • Horehound Aerial Parts Extract – 100 mg
  • Olive Leaf Extract (10% oleuropein) – 100 mg
  • Andrographis Aerial Parts Extract (10% andrographolides) – 100 mg
  • Isatis Root Extract – 75 mg
  • Eleuthero Root Extract – 75 mg
  • Elecampane Root – 70 mg
  • Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex – 60 mg
  • Boneset Aerial Parts Extract – 60 mg
  • Boneset Aerial Parts – 300 mg
  • Goldenseal Root Extract – 45 mg
  • Angelica Root Extract – 45 mg
  • Astragalus Root Extract – 45 mg
  • Isatis Leaf Extract – 40 mg
  • Elecampane Root Extract – 30 mg
  • Mullein Leaf Extract – 30 mg
  • Pau D’Arco Bark Extract – 30 mg
  • Cayenne Fruit – 30 mg
  • Ginger Root Extract – 30 mg
  • Grape Seed Extract (Proanthodyn™) – 10 mg

Other Info

  • If you read through the reviews on Amazon, you’ll notice that in 2013 and 2014, there are a lot of people complaining about the formula changing. Basically, it looks like a lot of the expensive ingredients were scaled back. A lot of people say that this is why it doesn’t work as well, but I still think it works great. This is also why I think that if it’s just not working, take a little more.
  • Don’t stop taking Wellness Formula the second you start feeling better after a brush with illness. I like to at least take half of the recommended dosage until I’m a day or two past it.
  • Unfortunately, it is not recommended for women who are pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant, or breastfeeding. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but some herbs like olive leaf extract could reduce milk supply and andrographis aerial parts extract may cause miscarriage. I have taken it while breastfeeding and had no problems with my milk supply, but I would encourage you to share any questions you have with your midwife or doctor and let me know what you find out!

In Conclusion

Being sick is no fun. Now that I’m currently sick after years and years of keeping illnesses at bay, I can definitely attest to that! I have since ordered every Wellness Formula product and hope to not let illness strike me (or my family) again. Back in the day when I was a teacher, I used to swear by Airborne, which is still okay in a pinch, but no where NEAR as effective as this Wellness Formula. This is hands down the best thing you can do (after sleeping, getting sunshine, yada, yada) to prevent illness from taking you down. So many people swear by this product. Just take a minute to read the plethora of positive reviews on Amazon. I’m sure once you try this, you’ll be a believer too.

* I also have a few other favorite wellness supplements that you might enjoy learning more about!

How to Get Rid of a Yeast Infection While Pregnant

10 Tips for Getting Rid of a Yeast Infection While Pregnant

If you are pregnant and have a yeast infection, put down the cake! I repeat, PUT DOWN THE CAKE! If you want to learn how too much sugar (and a lack of probiotics) creates a breeding ground for yeast infections during pregnancy, check out my blog Why Pregnant Women are More Prone to Yeast Infections. But if you’re just “itching” for a cure, read on.

After five pregnancies and plenty of yeast infections, I think I’ve finally figured out how to get rid of yeast infections while pregnant. Getting a yeast infection while pregnant is the worst because it can be painful, bothersome, and really hard to get rid of. In addition, it can lead to thrush in both you and your new baby after birth, and dealing with thrush makes having a yeast infection while pregnant seem like a walk in the park. So you really really really want to make sure your yeast infection is gone by the time you give birth.

28 weeks pregnant at a midwife appointment

28 Weeks Pregnant with Ophelia

How to Know if You Have a Yeast Infection

It’s recommended that the first time you have a yeast infection, you go to the doctor to have it properly diagnosed, but once you’ve gotten them a few times, you’ll just know. Here are the things to look for.

  • Itching
  • Soreness
  • Pain or burning during urination or sex
  • Redness
  • Swollen
  • Possibly a thick, clumpy, white discharge that has no odor and looks like cottage cheese

Bacterial vaginosis (and some sexually transmitted diseases) can have many of the same symptoms, but the bacterial vaginosis discharge will have a “fishy” odor to it. They say you’ll need antibiotics to cure it, but if you take antibiotics, it will wipe out all of your bacteria (both good and bad), and it will make your chances of getting a yeast infection EVEN WORSE. I can only imagine that going from bacterial vaginosis to a yeast infection would be no fun!

When to Try Natural Remedies

Whenever I’m pregnant, I can feel my body changing in many ways, and with each subsequent pregnancy (currently rocking #5 as I update this blog), I can feel my candida issues flare up again. I know this is because of the way my body processes sugar and other things (read more about WHY pregnant women are more prone to yeast infections here), and it’s never any fun to deal with.

I always start with all of the natural remedies first when I feel the faintest itch of a yeast infection tingling, and by doing so, I am often able to keep things at bay…but once my symptoms turn into a full blown yeast infection, then the natural remedies actually seem to make things worse.

When you think about how candida albicans works, you have to understand that first of all it is a natural part of our digestive system living in our colon helping us ferment our undigested food (i.e. prebiotics…read more about the fascinating world of digestion here), and second of all, during pregnancy it can very easily grow out of control. It is a living organism and will fight to survive, hence the reason why it grows stronger and more resilient when you start to battle it. But stay strong sister, and you can win this war!

1. Over the Counter Anti-Fungal Medication

So, if I’ve tried all of the natural preventative measures and things still progress to a full blown yeast infection, I’ll run out to the drug store and shell out the $15 for the cheapest 3 or 7-day anti-fungal treatment. Now, don’t make the same mistake that I did with my first pregnancy and get the one day treatment. You are too sensitive while pregnant to handle such intensity, and it will burn like the dickens!

Most over the counter brands will list clotrimazole or miconazole as the active ingredient. The miconazole is more specifically designed to kill fungus in the vagina and the clotrimazole is typically used for skin fungus, so I would go with that miconazole first. (This is my favorite 3-day treatment.) Then, insert the capsules/cream every day for the full amount of recommended time. Even if your symptoms go away, keep going the full three or seven days or else the fungus will come back even stronger!

Now, it’s important to note that this remedy only treats the symptoms, not the cause. So, if you were to use ONLY this treatment, it is very likely that the underlying reasons that caused the yeast infection to appear in the first place will still be in place and cause yet another yeast infection.

2. Chamomile

I recently attended a nutrition class for pregnant women and learned that chamomile is actually very good at killing candida overgrowth! It is also super safe for pregnant women and has a calming effect as well. You can drink chamomile tea or even take chamomile supplements. You might want to start here before using the over the counter medication as well.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

This is what I did during my fourth pregnancy that helped me to FINALLY get rid of my chronic and ongoing yeast infection! All of the other tips certainly help as well, but this was truly the nail in the coffin. Apple cider vinegar is an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral miracle worker. It acts like a sponge and draws out germs and toxins from the surrounding tissue. It also stimulates acetolysis in which toxic wastes (like candida) are broken down and rendered harmless.

To make an apple cider vinegar rinse, take a peri bottle and fill it with about 2 T. of apple cider vinegar and the rest filtered water (chlorine free), and put it near your toilet. After you wipe (always front to back), squirt the solution on the outside of your vagina and let it air dry. (Stand in front of a fan for extra relief!) I would also do this after getting out of the shower. I continued to do this for at least a week or two after my symptoms were gone to make sure the infection was really eliminated, and this was REALLY helpful!

You can actually squirt it inside the vagina or douche with it if you want, but I would wait until the irritation is gone, however, or else it will really burn. You can also make the solution a little stronger if you’re brave enough, but if it’s too strong, it will burn even if you’re not irritated at the time.

4. Garlic

Garlic is one of nature’s greatest infection fighters. Not only does it help to stimulate the immune system, but it destroys candida (among other pathogens) and inhibits its growth.

At the first signs of a yeast infection, you can take a peeled clove of garlic and insert it into your vagina, usually at night, and then take it out the next morning. If the yeast infection is in the early stages, you might be able to kill it off this way after one or two nights. I have heard stories of this working for others, but it has just never worked very well for me…plus I don’t like how it makes my entire body smell like garlic.

I prefer instead to take these garlic supplements instead. They provide all of the benefits of garlic without giving you garlic breath! Whenever you use any natural method, you want to mix things up a bit so that the yeast doesn’t become resistant to your treatments, so I’ll typically take these garlic supplements for a few days (in the morning, 20 minutes or so after eating some food), give it a break for a few more days while using something else, and then use them again until my symptoms are gone.

5. Eat Fermented Foods

Fermented foods such as anything like sourdough, kombucha, yogurt, keifer, and sauerkraut are full of healthy probiotics (such as lactobacilli) that help to crowd out the yeast and keep it from growing out of control. I always try to eat as many of these foods as I can anyways, but especially so when I’m pregnant. I always have a jar of sourdough starter on my counter, and when I feel the mere tinglings of a yeast infection, or just as a preventative measure, I like to eat a small spoonful of the starter first thing in the morning (after a bit of food would probably be better, but I never remember that!). Recently, I had a friend make me some lacto-fermented sauerkraut, and I’ve really been enjoying that as well.

When you’re trying to get rid of a yeast infection, it’s really a balanced approach between killing the fungus and then crowding it out with good bacteria. Fermented foods are an excellent way to populate your vagina (along with your gastrointestinal tract) with good bacteria.

If you have good gut health, it’s also important to include plenty of prebiotic foods so that the probiotics will have something to feed on. Prebiotics are different kinds of fiber that we can’t digest, but that encourage beneficial species of gut flora to grow. They include dandelion greens, garlic and onions, asparagus, and chicory (found in teccino, a wonderful coffee substitute). If you have poor gut health, however, these prebiotic foods may cause stomach pains, gas, and bloating.

6. Probiotic Supplements

While fermented foods are great, sometimes you just need an extra boost, especially if you’ve recently taken a course of antibiotics that have wiped out not only the bad bacteria, but the good as well, and you need to repopulate your gut.

I have taken many different types of probiotic treatments, and these two have been my favorite. Bio Kult Candea is specifically designed to deal with candida. It has a garlic component that makes it have a bit of an odor, but it really works. Custom Probiotics come very highly recommended and work very well for eliminating yeast infections. When I have felt a yeast infection coming on, I like to alternate between these two brands and take two every morning after eating a bit of food. I have tried other probiotic supplements (such as the ones you’ll find in the grocery store) in the past and didn’t really notice much of a difference, but with these brands (and by following these other steps), my yeast infection would go away and not keep reoccurring.

*Note: With my fifth pregnancy, I added a probiotic to daily vitamin routine, and it was really helpful with preventing yeast infections.

7. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has capric acid, caprylic acid, and lauric acid that are all medium chain fatty acids that have great anti-fungal propertiesDr. Bruce Fife, a naturopathic physician and certified nutritionist and president of the Coconut Research Center in Colorado Springs, CO, explains that,

“Medium chain fatty acids penetrate cell membranes….when they’re absorbed by an organism that is not beneficial, they penetrate the cell membrane and weaken the cell, so it just disintegrates. Then white blood cells go in and gobble up the waste material.”

I love using as much coconut oil in my cooking as possible to help prevent and treat yeast infections, but you could also put a spoonful in your tea every morning, just batten down the hatches and eat a spoonful straight up, or you can take a caprylic acid capsule. Whenever I feel a yeast infection starting, I pop a few of these every morning.

8. Eliminate Sugar

Ok, so I’m hiding this one towards the end, because it sucks, but it is really THE most important step. If you are pregnant, past your 23rd week, and battling a yeast infection, you absolutely have to give up sugar (which is basically in all processed foods) to help get rid of your yeast infection for good. You can read my blog: The Real Reason Why Pregnant Women Get Yeast Infections to learn more about the science of why this is, but basically, your hormones are causing your blood sugar to sky rocket which creates an optimal breeding ground for candida. In order to really get rid of the candida, you have to reduce its food source…sugar.

Now, I’m not talking about complex carbohydrates here…you need those to fuel your body and your growing baby. I’m talking about pure sugar…Little Debbies, Laffy Taffy, Oreos, white bread, etc.

I think it’s best to eliminate sugar cold turkey. You might feel miserable at first because as the candida dies, it tries to fight it and you get these nasty die off symptoms (head aches, brain fog, fatigue), but they’ll go away after a short time, and then you will feel better than ever. When I’ve gone on a candida cleanse, this website has been really helpful in providing dietary guidelines.

Just beware that if you ever cut out ALL carbohydrates to try to completely starve the candida, it will turn into its most virulent form that can reek even more havoc on your body. You’re not trying to completely eliminate the yeast, just keep it under control. 

9. Take Care of Yourself

If you’re like me, the first trimester tiredness is just brutal, and as you enter the 2nd trimester, you might take for granted how good you feel and start to get a bit lax on the sleep. But by taking care of your body by first of all getting PLENTY of rest, your body’s immune system can work in its optimal state to help you fend off pathogens like candida. Next, it’s important to fill yourself with nutrient dense food and avoid commercial processed crap as much as you can. You are growing a human being and you need to eat…and eat well! Don’t wait until you’re starving and eat an entire box of Oreos! Plan out those meals in advance (check out my favorite recipes here), and feed yourself…and your growing baby some good food!

If you’re feeling a bit under the weather, these Pure Radiance 100% natural vitamin C capsules are AMAZING! I also like taking this Organic Liquid Prenatal Formula (I hate swallowing big bulky prenatal pills!) and this Fermented Cod Liver Oil (or this if our budget is a little tight). 

10. Let Your Vagina Breathe

Candida thrives in warm wet areas where there is no oxygen, and so in order to prevent candida from growing out of control, you want to let your vagina breathe. You can do this by wearing cotton panties like these, which are very comfortable while you’re pregnant anyways!

A big mistake I made while pregnant was wearing panty liners every day for any accidents (Watch yourself when you sneeze, you will pee a little bit!) and/or leakage, but I really think this contributed to my yeast infection problem. A better option would have been something like this or just changing my underwear more often. You’ll also want to avoid wearing super tight skinny jeans, and instead opt for something more comfortable like these. And of course, don’t sit around all day with a wet bathing suit on.

Other Remedies

  • Gentian Violet: When I was researching Gentian Violet for my oral thrush article, I came across a comment from a verified purchase on Amazon where the woman soaked tampons in Gentian Violet and inserted them for seven days and totally healed her chronic yeast infections. Gentian Violet worked wonders getting rid of my baby’s oral thrush, so I would have to say that this sounds like a pretty good idea if you’re desperate for a cure.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: I have heard a lot of positive information lately about using a hydrogen peroxide rinse to get rid of yeast infections. This makes sense since when the lactobacilli in a healthy vagina “feed” on glycogen, one of their byproducts is actually hydrogen peroxide. But when I’ve tried this remedy, I’ve found that it has no effect.

Remedies to Avoid While Pregnant

  • *Grapefruit Seed Extract: Grapefruit seed extract can be taken orally or applied topically, and in addition to killing yeast, it has vitamin A, E, and bioflavanoids. But it’s not technically recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women because it can be toxic if taken at 4,000 times the suggested dose (so I think it’s okay to use at the recommended dosage). I tried it when I was battling thrush with my little newborn baby, it only sort of worked, and it seemed to bother her, so I’m not sure about this one.
  • *Boric Acid: The link above also mentions putting some boric acid into a hydrogen peroxide douche, and while boric acid is good at treating persistent and recurring yeast infections where you may be battling a different strain of candida, it is not recommended for pregnant women.
  • *Oregano Capsules: Oregano oil is really great at preventing and treating yeast infections because it contains two very effective antimicrobial agents called carvacrol and thymol that react with the water in your bloodstream to dehydrate and kill the Candida yeast cells. Unfortunately, it increases the blood flow to the uterus which weakens the lining around the fetus, so you don’t want to take it while you’re pregnant.
  • *Oral Fluconazole: Fluconazole (or the brand name Diflucan) are both oral antifungal medications. They are processed by the liver and enter the bloodstream where they attack the fungus. but this is very hard on your liver, and if you’re pregnant, it can harm the fetus. Also, if you are taking oral birth control, it can make it less effective. (But geez louise, I hope you’re not taking birth control when you’re pregnant!) The oral medications are recommended for women that have been battling an ongoing yeast infection for a year or more.

In Conclusion

Treating any type of candida overgrowth is really a three step process.

  1. Kill the Fungus/Control the Overgrowth – You can never completely get rid of it because it’s a part of the digestive process, but you can control the overgrowth.
  2. Probiotics – Candida and probiotics both feed on the same thing…sugar, so make sure your probiotics in your gut rather than candida.
  3. Diet – Eliminate processed foods and sugar and instead opt for as much nutrient dense food as you can.

Treating a yeast infection while pregnant can be a very stressful and frustrating thing when you feel like no matter what you do, you can’t really get rid of it. It’s not something to be taken lightly, however, because if a baby is born vaginally when the mother has a yeast infection, it can pass the candida on to the baby, which may turn into thrush. Thrush can make breastfeeding both difficult and painful, and it is even harder to get rid of than a yeast infection during pregnancy. Read by blog: How to Identify and Deal with Oral Thrush in Babies for more information about this topic.

So, do whatever you can to completely eliminate your yeast infection during pregnancy by following the steps that make sense to you and your situation. Good Luck!

Why Pregnant Women are More Prone to Yeast Infections

Why Pregnant Women are More Prone to Yeast Infections and Gestational Diabetes

The real reason why pregnant women get yeast infections (or any woman for that matter) isn’t really talked about or widely known in laymen’s terms. The same reasons are what also contributes to pregnant women getting gestational diabetes. When I’ve asked the Internet to tell me about this topic, every single blog, website, and article seems to regurgitate the same simplistic information, but I am sick of treating the symptoms of yeast infections during pregnancy without really knowing WHY, and so I set out to find the root cause, and this is what I found.

Eating Ice Cream While Pregnant

Eating Ice Cream While Pregnant

The real reason why pregnant women get yeast infections has to do with these two main factors:

  1. The increase in estrogen while pregnant (which also occurs during menstruation, from oral contraceptives, and through hormone replacement therapy) leads to an increase in glycogen, which is supposed to “feed” the lactobacilli that reside in a healthy vagina, but if no lactobacilli are present (thanks to antibiotics for one or just poor gut flora for another) and candida is present, the candida will grow unchecked until there is an overgrowth, hence creating a yeast infection.
  2. Human Placental Lactogen hormone (hPL), which is produced by the placenta in increasing amounts until the 23rd week when it plateaus, shuttles incoming glucose to the baby, meanwhile leaving the mother hungry so she reaches for more and more “glucose” which creates higher and higher blood sugar that can lead to insulin resistance and gestational diabetes at an accelerated rate, and this high blood sugar paves the way for candida growth and yeast infections.

So basically, when pregnant women have poor gut flora and continue to eat large amounts of sugar, it sets up an environment that is the “perfect storm” for yeast infections. If you’d like to explore these concepts further, come and learn with me, but if you’re just “itchin'” for a cure, check out my blog: How to Get Rid of a Yeast Infection While Pregnant.

The Role of Glycogen in the Vagina

The vaginal walls are made up of vaginal squamous epithelial cells that store glycogen. Glycogen is how the body stores small amounts of carbohydrates which are later broken down into glucose and used by the cells for energy.

Vaginal Squamous Epithelial Cells (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Fæ, 2013)

Vaginal Squamous Epithelial Cells (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Fæ, 2013)

In the vagina, glycogen acts as a prebiotic that feeds lactobacilli bacteria (commonly known as a probiotic, or good bacteria). So basically, the lactobacilli bacteria feeds on the glycogen.

Lactobacillus Organisms and Vaginal Squamous Epithelial Cell (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Rasbak, 2006)

Lactobacillus Organisms and Vaginal Squamous Epithelial Cell (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Rasbak, 2006)

During this process of feeding on the glycogen, lactobacilli produce two byproducts. The first byproduct is lactic acid, which helps to further reduce the pH of the vagina. The second byproduct is hydrogen peroxide, which is also acidic and repels unfriendly vaginal flora, such as candida albicans, escherichia coli, and gardnerella vaginalis (this is why there are natural remedies to cure yeast infections that call for the use of hydrogen perioxide). So basically, the role of glycogen (how the body stores carbohydrates, i.e. sugar) is to feed lactobacilli bacteria, which helps to keep the vagina in its optimal acidic state.

How Estrogen Effects Glycogen

When estrogen levels are high (specifically estridol), it encourages more glycogen to be released. Estrogen levels are high during menstruation, from the use of oral contraceptives, through hormone replacement therapy, and they are especially through the roof high during pregnancy. So when estrogen levels are high, the lactobacilli bacteria should have more to feed on due to the increase in glycogen. This is the body’s way of ensuring extra protection against microbial pathogens during a special time when the body is preparing to grow life.

How Glycogen Feeds Candida

Now, let’s say that more glycogen is being released due to an increase in estrogen, but there aren’t enough lactobacilli bacteria (maybe because a dose of antibiotics wiped them all out or there were just never many to begin with due to poor gut flora) to consume them. What then? Well, what we would have then is a vagina ripe with glycogen, which will be released into the vagina as glucose. So there will be a nice sugary vagina. And let’s see, what likes sugar?

Candida!

Candida albicans is a fungus, or a yeast, that lives in everyone’s gastrointestinal tract as one of the microbes that aid in digestion.

Candida Albicans (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Y tambe, 2005)

Candida Albicans (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Y tambe, 2005)

It also makes it’s way into most women’s vaginas via the anus and lives there benignly until it’s given an opportunity to feed voraciously. (Don’t wipe back to front!) When someone takes antibiotics to wipe out a bacterial infection, it also wipes out all of the good bacteria (lactobacilli) too. Poor gut flora can also happen over time due to a diet rich in sugar and carbohydrates.

So without the competition of lactobacilli, candida can feed on the increased glycogen uninhibited, and it can lead to an overgrowth of candida. This overgrowth of candida is what is commonly referred to as a yeast infection. (If you want to learn more about how Candida transforms from a benign unicellular yeast to a destructive multicellular fungus, this is a great article.)

Human Placental Lactogen (hPL)

So estrogen is why menstruating women, women on birth control, and women on hormone replacement therapy are more prone to yeast infections, but human placental lactogen (hPL) is why pregnant women (who have more estrogen coursing through their veins than ever before) are even more prone to getting really serious yeast infections that are very hard to get rid of.

hPL is produced by the placenta in a greater amount than any other hormone during pregnancy. Its primary function is to prepare the breasts for lactation by stimulating breast growth and the secretion of colostrum, but it also affects the way that the mother uses food for energy. It does this by decreasing the mother’s use of amino acids (protein) and glucose (carbohydrates) so that it can instead shuttle them over to the growing fetus. It also stimulates the breakdown of maternal fats (lipolysis) which is usually done by Hormone Sensitive Lipase (HSL) when the mother is not pregnant. The mother then uses these fatty acids for energy and saves the glucose for the baby.

hPL Leads to Insulin Resistance

Insulin is what allows the cells to use glucose for energy. I like to think of insulin like a parent and glucose as a lost child. Glucose enters the body, but can’t figure out where to go. Insulin comes along, holds glucose’s hand, and leads it into the cells where it can be converted into energy via cellular respiration or stored for later use as glycogen or in fat cells. When too much glucose is in the blood stream over a long period of time, however, cells can start to become resistant to it, and so the body releases more insulin to combat the increasing blood sugar, but over time, the insulin isn’t as effective, and this is what is known as insulin resistance.

hPL makes a pregnant women rapidly become insulin resistant, and the research that I’ve seen is a little foggy on why this occurs. But by the 23rd week of pregnancy, hPL has reached its peak with a 30-fold increase. This increase in hPL can cause an increasing resistance in the mother’s tissue to insulin that can make her blood sugar start to go through the roof.

I feel like the logical explanation is that diet is at least partially to blame for this insulin resistance. If a woman isn’t fat adapted leading up to pregnancy, meaning that she’s not able to easily use fat (including stored fat) for energy, and is instead a sugar burner who can only use the fleeting resources of glucose for energy, then when hPL shuttles the incoming glucose to the baby and induces lipolysis that breaks down fat to be used for energy that she’s not able to use, she feels absolutely STARVING. And then, rather than cook some wholesome bone broth soup, or make some grass fed beef burgers, or even take the time to cook an organic baked potato loaded with butter, cheese, and sour cream, she instead reaches for a bag of chips or treats herself to a milkshake because, “Hey, I’m eating for two, for once in my life I don’t have to worry about gaining weight, and back off because…I’M STARVING!”.

And THEN, the poor hPL surging, insulin resistant, and constantly hungry mother takes her glucose screening test between 24-28 weeks, and if she finds out that her blood sugar is too high, she will have to practically eliminate all sugar so that she won’t get gestational diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

When the mother has high blood sugar that leads to gestational diabetes, her excess sugar enters the baby’s blood stream and forces its pancreas to make extra insulin. Because the baby is getting more energy than it needs, the extra energy is stored as fat, which is known scientifically as “fat” baby or macrosomia. This can cause damage to the babies’ shoulders at birth and lead to an increased risk of c-sections.

Because of the extra insulin produced, newborns may have low blood glucose levels at birth and are at higher risk for breathing problems. (Not to mention that they’ll want to give your baby formula or sugar water at birth which could affect your breastfeeding relationship.) It also makes them more at risk for insulin resistance, obesity, and type 2 diabetes as adults. Gestational diabetes affects up to 9.2% of pregnancies

How hSL Contributes to Candida

Just as an increase in estrogen leads to the increased production of glycogen that leads to a more “sugary vagina”, the hormone hSL does the same thing by leading to insulin resistance which creates higher blood sugar, and once again, a more “sugary vagina” that gives the candida more to feed on. In a vagina that has been stripped of lactobacilli that typically feed on the increased sugar during pregnancy, the candida have no competition and can multiply unchecked until they create an overgrowth known as a yeast infection.

How to Prevent a Yeast Infection

When you get pregnant, just know that you are going to be super susceptible to getting yeast infections and take every precautionary measure that you can to prevent one from starting.

  • Don’t take antibiotics, and if you do, follow up with a good probiotic like this or this.
  • Don’t eat too much sugar (or foods that break down easily into sugar, i.e. all refined carbohydrates). Eat a balanced diet that includes lots of healthy saturated fats.
  • Eat lots of lacto-fermented foods (sourdough, kombucha, sauerkraut, keifer, yogurt) to help build a colony of lactobacilli.
  • Avoid douching and keep your vagina clean using mild, unscented soap and water.
  • Wipe from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria and yeast from your anus to your vagina.
  • Wear good cotton underwear like these. And don’t wear pantyliners every day because of “leaking”. Just change your panties! Your vagina needs to breathe.
  • Avoid tight fitting pants. Instead, get comfortable in something like this.
  • Change out of a wet swimsuit right away. This just creates an optimal breeding ground for candida.

In Conclusion

In a nutshell, the real reason that we get more yeast infections while pregnant has to do with our changing hormones, namely the increase of estrogen and the presence and increase of hPL and how they both lead to a “sugary vagina” that becomes an optimal breeding ground for candida, especially when there aren’t any good lactobacilli bacteria to consume the extra sugar.

If you’re pregnant and not experiencing any signs of a yeast infection, just be careful and take preventative measures to assure that you don’t get one, but if it’s too late for prevention, and you already have a yeast infection while pregnant (or think you might), you’ll want to check out my blog: How to Get Rid of a Yeast Infection While Pregnant. Having a yeast infection while pregnant can lead to both you and your baby dealing with thrush, and that is just nasty business. Read my blog: How to Identify and Deal with Oral Thrush in Babies to learn more about this topic.