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Running and Yeast Infection Question Answered by Real Doctor

DrSugar Answers: Running and Yeast Infections

DrSugar is in the house! And she's answering your health-related questions.

Dear DrSugar,
I am training for my first marathon and have slowly been increasing my mileage and am experiencing an unexpected side effect: yeast infections. Not too sexy I know, but a painful problem. I know in my non-running life to wear loose cotton clothing to help prevent getting a yeast infection, but when logging miles that is just not an option due to chafing issues. I am hoping you can give me some preventative advice. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks!
— A Runner

First of all, congratulations on training for your first marathon! What an accomplishment and I wish you all the best on your fitness goals! I will quickly review causes of yeast infections, then answer your excellent question, so keep reading.

A vaginal yeast infection is most commonly due to the fungus Candida albicans. According to Medline Plus, most women will have a yeast infection at some time in their lives. Candida and the many other microorganisms that normally live in the vagina keep each other in balance; however under certain circumstances the amount of Candida increases leading to a yeast infection. For instance, taking antibiotics to treat other types of infections decreases the number of protective bacteria in the vagina leading to an overgrowth of Candida. Other conditions like being pregnant, having diabetes, or being overweight also create conditions that allow yeast to grow more easily. The Mayo Clinic reports that bubble baths, female contraceptives, damp or tight-fitting clothing, and feminine hygiene products do not cause yeast infections but may increase your susceptibility to infection.

Being that damp or tight-fitting clothing increases your chance of developing a yeast infection, as you’ve stated in your original question, an important preventative measure is to make sure your clothing "breathes." Avoid tight garments and fabrics containing a high percentage of synthetic fiber (cotton is your friend!) when not running. These types of clothes can trap heat and moisture, creating an environment in which yeast can thrive. Also, if you remain in wet clothing (i.e. tight-fitting, sweat-soaked running pants), you may be more susceptible to a yeast infection. Therefore it is generally recommended that you remove them as soon as possible to reduce the risk of a yeast infection.

Athletic women may be prone to yeast infections because of the hours they spend training in workout clothes that retain moisture and don’t allow the pubic area to dry out. According to SportsDoctor.com, you can take several precautions to reduce the chances of getting a yeast infection. Wearing specialized workout clothes that "breathe" and wick away moisture is recommended. There are many breathable synthetic fabrics that "wick" the sweat away from your skin. According to EverydayHealth.com, clothing made out of fabrics containing polypropylene or fabrics such as COOLMAX and SUPPLEX are a good choice for exercise. I did read on multiple websites that running shorts are better than running tights/leggings, because air can circulate in them. But, if this is not an option for you due to chafing issues, I would recommend using clothing that is made out of the fabrics mentioned above. I would also recommend investing in a couple of pair of wicking undies to wear under your wicking running tights.

There are other steps that can be taken to try and reduce the chances of yeast infections that do not involve clothing choices. You can eat yogurt, which has the double benefit of being healthy and full of healthy bacteria that can help keep the bacterial environment stable in your body. You can also maintain good body hygiene by wiping from front to back when using the toilet. Generally, douching is not recommended and may actually introduce infection. It is also very important to maintain a healthy diet that is not too high in sugar. There is also research that shows that eating carrots or foods high in beta-carotene may offer protection against yeast infections.

If you continue to have recurrent yeast infections after trying the preventative steps, I advise you to seek consultation with your physician to make sure that there is no other underlying medical condition that could be causing the recurrent infections. There are also other infections that can cause similar symptoms as a yeast infection that would need to be ruled out if simple over-the-counter treatments do not resolve the symptoms. Hopefully these tips will help you as you train for your marathon! Good luck!

Have a question for DrSugar? You can send it to me via private message here, and I will forward it to the good doctor.

DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

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GirlOverboard GirlOverboard 6 years
Yup - I can handle yogurt better than, say, ice cream... but depending on how much I eat it can still have some pretty adverse affects and my intolerance is less severe than some people I know.
lilxmissxmolly lilxmissxmolly 6 years
While yogurt MAY be somewhat easier to digest, it is definitely not "completely fine" for all lactose intolerants.
GirlOverboard GirlOverboard 6 years
A couple of additional tips: If you can't do yogurt (whether it's because of a lactose intolerance or just outright not liking it or not having the time for it) try taking acidophilus bifidus pills. Though, like when making any other kind of change to your diet/vitamins/supplements, it's always best to check with your doctor, but for me it's a great alternative since I can't eat too much yogurt. Also, after showering, do *not* use your towel to dry off below the waist. The rubbing of the towel can irritate things but leaving things damper than usual can make the situation worse. Use a blowdryer with a cool setting to dry off or at least make sure you've finished air drying before putting on your underpants. Additionally, if you don't have any over the counter stuff (or if you're like me and are allergic to the over the counter internal medications) a little bit of cortizone will do. Just make sure to *only* use it externally and do so sparingly. A little bit of neosporin can be good, too, if you've broken any skin... but again, use sparingly and *only* externally. If you're still having recurring problems, I'm also with Dr. Sugar on going to your doc - especially if you haven't recently been tested to verify that what you have is actually a yeast infection. Bacterial Vaginosis has somewhat similar symptoms and is often mistaken for a yeast infection, but unlike a yeast infection, BV is, well... bacterial... and thus usually requires an antibiotic, if I recall correctly. However, your doctor will be way more informed than I, of course. :)
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