Yeasts can go from being a normal part of your body to becoming an uncomfortable vaginal guest, causing a yeast infection or thrush. Yeast infections and thrush are very common, particularly after antibiotics, when your good bacteria are having a rough time.

Symptoms of a yeast infection or thrush

  • Vulvovaginal itching
  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Rawness
  • Redness
  • Discharge – thick, white, sometimes cottage cheese-like
  • Yeast infections do not smell bad
  • Yeast infections often occur after taking antibiotics

If you have a vaginal yeast infection or thrush, your intestines are probably also overgrown with yeast too, which matters when it comes to treatment. This yeast bloom causes these uncomfortable, sometimes painful, vulvovaginal symptoms.

Why do some people call a yeast infection ‘thrush’?

The UK, Australia and New Zealand all call a yeast infection ‘thrush’, while North Americans will call it a ‘yeast infection’. They both mean the same thing.

Treating a yeast infection and thrush

There are two ways to approach yeast infections and thrush, which will be largely based on if you hardly ever get yeast infections or thrush, or if they are a common feature of your life.

If your yeast infection or thrush is a rare occasion, you can probably get away with just doing vaginal treatments or taking some probiotics, depending on the severity.

If you get recurrent yeast infections or thrush, you will need to treat both the vagina and the gut. You likely need to dissolve yeast biofilms in your intestines using special biofilm-busting enzymes.

There are plenty of treatments for a yeast infection, whether this is your first time or your fiftieth.

Quick vaginal yeast infection/thrush treatment overview

  • Cut out carbs for a few days
  • Live yoghurt
  • Probiotics vaginally and orally (Saccharomyces boulardii in particular)
  • Gentian violet
  • Potassium sorbate
  • Povidone-iodine
  • Antifungal treatment from the pharmacy or your doctor (only after a test – can cause drug resistance if overused)

More information on treating yeast infections

Types of yeast that cause vulvovaginal yeast infections and thrush

There are several types of yeast, with the most common cause of yeast infections and thrush being Candida albicans. Candida albicans tends to result in the cottage-cheesey discharge – it can be copious and chunky, though it doesn’t smell bad. (If your discharge smells bad, you may have bacterial vaginosis or another bacterial infection. See your doctor for a test.)

The yeast with fewer symptoms like this next in line is Candida glabrata. Less common yeasts that can cause vulvovaginal symptoms are Candida tropicalis, Candida parapsilosis, and Candida krusei.

There are some even less common yeasts that can cause yeast infections and thrush, including Saccharomyces cerevisiae, with some strains used as a probiotic. Confusing, huh!

Test before treating – always

You should be sure it is a yeast infection or thrush by getting an accurate test from your doctor. Each strain of yeast is a little bit different, with previously minor, harmless strains, now becoming drug resistant and becoming emerging pathogens.

Antifungals can be just as bad as antibiotics when it comes to resistance of the yeasts to the drug. The yeasts become immune, developing stronger defence systems. This means using non-drug treatments is preferable when treating your yeast infections and thrush.

If you aren’t sure if you have yeast or something else, do our yeast and BV symptom checker to point you in the right direction.

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
Read more about Jessica and My Vagina's origin story.