More than 75 percent of women will acquire at least one yeast infection in their lives, according to Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Harvard Medical School Joan Bengtson, M.D. There are many causes, but the main reason for a yeast infection is the vaginal environment becoming upset, causing a disruption in the pH and an overgrowth of the normally present yeast. One of the common culprits in causing this disruption is sugar, and recently experts have linked glycerin, a general additive in processed foods, beverages and cosmetics, to posing problems in women already prone to yeast infections.
Yeast infections are an overgrowth of yeast, a fungus called Candida albicans, in the vagina. It is normally present in small amounts, but with a disruption of the pH the yeast rapidly produces, causing the varying symptoms of a red, itchy, burning, painful vaginal area with a heavy discharge. There are many reasons for getting a yeast infection including antibiotics, birth control pills, pregnancy, stress, lack of sleep, normal hormonal shifts in the menstrual cycle and eating too many sugary foods. Yeast infections can be cured by over-the-counter medications or prescribed one-time pills, and in addition, many women believe in various home remedies.
Glycerin is used to provide preservation and sweetness to many processed foods, including low-fat commercially baked foods, candy and fudge. It is also used in cosmetics and personal lubricants to provide preservation and for its humectant qualities, used to draw moisture to the skin. It is derived from the chemical element glycerol, an alcohol, and glycerin is the byproduct of either animal or plant sources. (In the 1800s when candles were made of animal fat, glycerin was a byproduct of candle-making.)
Avoid Glycerin in Foods
To help avert yeast infections, many gynecologists advise staying away from a diet rich in refined sugar. Yeast in the vagina feed off of sugar, so any access to excess sugar provides a possible food source for the already present yeast. Not only is too much sugar a risk for yeast infections, but it is also hard for the body to digest and can lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Sugar can be found in more places than people think; all-purpose enriched wheat flour is one of the most common ingredients in commercially processed foods. The “wheat” in this ingredient is only part of the actual grain, the part that breaks down in the body exactly as raw sugar. Whole-wheat flour and products are best for avoiding yeast infections and for overall health.
Avoid Glycerin in Lubricants
Many gynecologists warn if women are already susceptible to recurring yeast infections, they should steer clear of personal lubricants containing glycerin. Since it is processed exactly as sugar in the body, and applied directly to the vagina, it is assumed vaginal yeast benefits from its addition. If women do not get frequent yeast infections experts say using lubricants with glycerin is okay; KY Jelly, the No. 1 brand in America, is full of glycerin. Some people may be more sensitive to glycerin’s effects than others. Glycerin is found in most water-based lubricants, but there are some water-based brands free of glycerin. The other choice, silicone-based lubricants, do not contain glycerin, but many complain about the bad taste and dislike their resistance to water for cleaning.
Although the popular brand KY contains glycerin, other big brands like Astroglide make a glycerin-free version. Simply check the ingredients listed on the back of water-based lubricants for glycerin.Natural lubricants that have stood the test of time are extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil.