Can Stress Cause a Yeast Infection?

Published: 14th July 2008
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A number of studies have shown that stress can weaken the body's immune system, thereby increasing the chance of a yeast infection. Many women, often balancing their home, personal and professional life are under constant stress whether it is physical, emotional or psychological. It is no surprise that up to 75% of all women, at some point in their life, will have Candidiasis. Let us examine the effect stress has on the body's natural defense mechanism.

In the summer of 2004, Psychologists Suzanne Segerstrom, Ph.D., and Gregory Miller, Ph.D. concluded: Stress has a powerful effect on the immune system. The two psychologists came to their conclusion after examining data collected from over 290 studies in the previous 30 years. Their conclusion came as a result of noting three key ideas:

  • Short term stress can boost the immune system - Short term stress can be as simple as a loud noise or an unexpected ride down rocky terrain. The body's "fight or flight" reflex signals to the immune system to prepare itself for infection due to a bite, scrape or puncture. The effect of short term stress can be compared to a fire drill. Unexpected and quick, short term stress prepares the body to fight back.
  • Long term stress weakens the immune system - As described earlier, the body's "fight or flight" reflex prepared the body for infection. Long-term, chronic stress has the opposite effect. Longer stress caused the immune system negative changes. At first, these changes are at the cellular level. Later, the changes affected the immune function. Stress that is beyond a person's control was seen as having the most suppression on the immune system. When immune function levels were tested, they were significantly lower when the body was under chronic-type stress.
  • Sick or elderly persons will experience greater immune system changes, when stressed - As bodies age, the central nervous system is less sensitive and the immune system simply becomes less efficient. This translates to the body not reacting to infection as quickly as possible. When it does finally react, it is with less fighting power. Similarly, when injured, the body's immune system is strained and also becomes less effective.

A yeast infection occurs when Candida fungus is allowed to multiply and grow beyond control. Studies have shown that Candida fungus can be present in healthy individuals. These individuals' immune system is strong enough to counteract the fungus, and keeps it in check. The infection occurs when the balance of power between the immune system and Candida fungus is disrupted and favors the yeast. The body, unable to fight back, becomes infected. One of the most common causes of a yeast infection, therefore, is a weakened immune system. When it comes to women's health, there are a number of stresses that, over time, can weaken the immune system. Some of the most common stresses in women are as a result of: menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, juggling family, work and personal life and illness. It is easy to see why yeast infections affect women more often than men. As a result, it is important to remove as much stress as possible.

As stated earlier, up to 75% of all women will experience a yeast infection at some point in their life. The key is to educate about the causes that are not as obvious as others, for example stress.

Elizabeth Tyton maintains an online yeast infection resource. For 100% accurate diagnosis, common questions and treatment of yeast infections, visit Natural Yeast Infection Treatments.

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