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vaginal discharge, woo, yeast

Will I get a yeast infection if I eat too much sugar?

You’ve just finished (or are perhaps still involved) with the consumption of calorie laden holiday treats and are now wishing that you didn’t eat that second third slice of pecan pie, never mind God knows how many Christmas cookies. While some might pause to reflect on waistlines or thighs, your main concern is your vagina. Is this sugar binge going to lead to a yeast infection?

As a specialist in vulvovaginal disorders, I hear concerns about diet and yeast infections all the time. The specific concern being sugar consumption will cause yeast to over grow and then, voila, there is a post-holiday tempest in the vagina to wrangle.

On the surface the idea sounds plausible. After all, sugar is a food source for yeast and bacteria, like fertilizer. So, too much of a good thing and the secret garden could be over run in no time with all manner of yeastie beasties.

Except that’s not how it works.

The sugar consumption-yeast connection is an urban myth, perpetuated it seems both by many well-meaning, but ill-informed, health care professionals as well as purveyors of snake oil (you know the ones who want to sell you the cleanses, diets, and books designed to help you rid your body of yeast).

First of all, yeast is normally found in the vagina. At some point in a given year 70% of  women with no vaginal symptoms will have yeast in their vagina.(1) It is the over-growth of the normally present yeast that produces symptoms and what we call a yeast infection. Typically, yeast  over grows when the vaginal ecosystem is somehow upset and lactobacilli, the good bacteria that keep yeast and bad bacteria in check, somehow get depleted.

Second of all, eating a lot of sugar does not increase the colonization of the bowel with yeast (and it is normal to have yeast in the bowel), which is how the yeast actually gets into the vagina (2). So if you challenge you bowel with a binge of pie, cake, and candy canes, while you may get some indigestion and gas, your bowel will not be run amok with yeast. As a corollary, the fact that diet doesn’t change yeast colonization in the bowel clearly means that cleanses are of no value in the prevention of yeast infections.

And finally, having a lot of sugar does not change the level of sugar in the vagina (yes, some one studied this, see reference 3#). The researchers gave women with and without a history of vaginal yeast infections a drink with a lot of sugar (glucose) and measured their blood and vaginal sugar before and after the drink. The sugar levels in the vaginal secretions did not change for either groups, women with a history and those without a history of yeast infections. Basically, if you are not a diabetic, your body can handle its sugar.

So enjoy a little holiday cheer. Don’t go nuts re-arranging your diet if you think you have chronic yeast (although get a correct diagnosis as almost 70% of women who have been told they have chronic yeast have actually been misdiagnosed) and steer clear of any providers and web sites selling or promoting dietary therapies and cleanses for yeast.

References:

1) Beigi et al. Obstet Gynecol 2004;104:926-30.

2) Weig M et al. Am J Clin Nutr 1999.

3) Ehrström S et al. Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Dec;108(6):1432-7.

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Discussion

38 thoughts on “Will I get a yeast infection if I eat too much sugar?

  1. Asking for clarification:

    if you think you have chronic yeast (although get a correct diagnosis as almost 70% of women who have been told they have chronic yeast have actually been misdiagnosed)

    1. By “chronic yeast” do you mean a chronic condition of having excess yeast organisms in the vagina, or something else?

    2. Citation for “almost 70%”?

    Posted by Liz Ditz | December 26, 2011, 2:56 pm
  2. Thank you for the article. The fact is, for me, ie suffered from yeast infections regularly since having my kids in the last 6 years. In May 2011 I cut out sugar completely for 3 weeks — every last bit. After those 3 weeks I reintroduced it little by little, and 7 months later I eat about 20% of what I used to, found basically in yogurt and in snacks like muffins. I haven’t had a yeast infection since. I know this doesn’t follow your content here, but for me, cutting way back on sugar has been the ONLY cure for my regular yeast infection problems. No reference for evidence based medicine in this case, simply the truth from my experience. I’ll be keeping it up because of my results.

    Posted by Allison | December 26, 2011, 4:23 pm
    • The main article here is extremely generic and fails to point out that there are many circumstances that will not fit neatly into this box. My situation is that I do take medication (not antibiotics) that destroy the useful bacteria and keep me balanced on a very fine edge between having Oral Thrush and not having it. In my case just a little sugar upsets the balance and causes a significant yeast bloom. In my situation sugar definitely becomes thr trigger and/or the culprit.

      Posted by Dave Laird | April 29, 2013, 5:02 am
  3. Thank you for writing this. I have had chronic yeast infections, and just got done with a nurse practitioner that refused to culture, and kept advising diet, flax seed oil, morning primrose, and orgasms. It was stupid, and being a science minded person, I kept asking for better information. She fired me as a patient, which was great, because the OB GYN that saw me next cultured me, and immediately found it was yeast. Five months of agony wiped out with one OTC treatment for yeast.

    I would love to see more myth debunking on this issue because it seems when things go wrong with a woman’s vulva/vaginal area, there are even medical professionals that push bad advice.

    Posted by That gal with a vagina | December 26, 2011, 5:13 pm
  4. This myth might have come about because of warnings for diabetics (just guessing – I have no evidence ;) ). MedlinePlus is a great resource for non-medical people who want to look for medical information. It is put together by the National Library of Medicine which is part of the National Institutes of Health in the US. Here is the link for vaginal thush: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001511.htm

    Posted by Catherine Voutier | January 2, 2012, 6:34 pm
  5. My lifesaver from chronic yeast infections, LADY SOMA CANDIDA Pills. A couple of months ago I began to take them based on a recommendation from my gynecologist and have not seen a yeast infection since.

    I have been going to doctors for 15 yrs about my chronic infection and nothing ever solved this problem for me. I tried diets, dye-free panties and toilet paper, yogurt, garlic, boric acid, prescription creams… nothing helped. I recently read a new study about how this Lady Soma Candida pills creates an environment in your intestines that is anti-yeast. Your intestines is actually where the yeast spores form and then cross from the rectum over into the vagina when conditions and hormones are right.

    Try it, I hope it helps you. It has been a miracle for me and the only thing that ever helped.

    Posted by BritneyS | January 25, 2012, 7:49 pm
  6. my stomach was aching mind head was pounding i had psosrisis on my scalp and corners of my mouth plus i had itchy anus. i stop,eating sugar for 1 day and these symptoms were dramatically decreased plus i had a elevated energy level. i totally disagree with your article and from other web pages who arenot trying to sell me something you are in the minority.

    Posted by jsamc@sbcglobal.net | January 31, 2012, 8:08 am
    • Stop eating for sugar for one day and you were cured? Glad you feel better but studies do not support your claims.

      Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | January 31, 2012, 11:38 pm
      • The studies you are finding are flawed to say the least. I know that yeast feeds on sugar and multiply. Put sugar into baking yeast and see what happens. This is common since which I see most people are lacking. I had a yeast infection for many years without realizing what I had. Medical doctor did not know what I had. This was 25 years ago. I walked into a health food store and the lady that was in charge told me to go to a doctor and tell him that I have a yeast infection and test you for it. I did and they found just that. The doctor started me on antibiotics and the condition just got worse. I went back to the health food store and she told me to stay away from anything that has sugar in it natural or not natural. Plus I changed my diet to a raw food diet. Did probiotics and enzymes. The infection took about a year to leave completely. Took a year because I was not strick at first with the diet. You can not cheat or the infection will not go away. So please don’t tell people that sugar has nothing to do with growing a yeast infection. You are doing an injustice to mankind in doing this.

        Posted by Tom Majors | July 21, 2012, 5:22 pm
      • The studies are not flawed and you clearly did not understand the post. There is no increase in vaginal glucose levels with sugar consumption. In a non diabetic patient diet has not been shown to contribute to yeast infections. In diabetic patients with poorly managed blood sugars there can be an increased incidence of yeast infections.

        Also, a little suspect that you were given antibiotics for a yeast infection and as yeast is not that hard to treat if diagnosed correctly, I am also suspect of your claims to have had a yeast infection for a year.

        And by the way, I am serving womankind, not mankind!

        Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | July 24, 2012, 8:06 am
      • Oh no, what can I say but this is good info for any mankind that reads it. We are all human the last time I looked. Womankind or mankind. The yeast infection I had will over a year in the gut and the brain. I wish it on no one.

        Posted by Tom | July 24, 2012, 3:13 pm
  7. I have been going to Obgyns for the last two and a half years trying to figure out why I’m getting yeast infections 1-2 times a month. I’ve taken over 14 diflucans in one year alone. I have have several of these infections cultured, the came up as Candida A. I have been tested 3 times for std’s, once for HIV and came very close to getting a vular biopsy. I was also tested for diabetes and was neg. If not sugar then what could be causing this? Hormones? Cortisol from stress? I’ve done everything I can think to prevent them except get a sex change. (Joke) But…where do go next if not sugar? My the way I do notice I get them after eating large amounts of sugar or drinking wine.
    Any ideas?

    Posted by Hannah | May 10, 2012, 7:46 pm
  8. i have a problem when i am having sex alot of water comes from inside of me and it makes it difficult for both me and my partners to enjoy sex what causes this the bed wil be filled with wetness like water

    Posted by byoren | May 24, 2012, 3:28 am
    • I think that’s female ejaculation. You may just have to learn to live with it. I personally think its a turn on. I’m sorry your partner has problems with it. Most would consider you to be lucky.

      Posted by jordan erickson | August 10, 2012, 4:12 pm
  9. I would have to disagree with the article. Everytime I eat sweets, my vaginal discharge goes in overload. Even feeling sluggish and craving more sweets the next day. I lowered my sweet intakes and I notice a difference. I also take Probiotics, which kills the yeast in your body. I had a baby almost two years ago and they had to do a csection. I was taking antiotics which kills the good bacteria as well as bad. Then I continued having yeast infections. Probiotic has help me so much! I’m still taking them and notice less infections, even with my sinus problems( because duh, less yeast) Hope this helps anyone with the same problem.

    Posted by Laura | June 3, 2012, 9:36 pm
    • While that may be your experience there is not medical evidence to support there is causation. If you are not a diabetic your blood sugars are unaffected by the sugar you consume.

      Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | June 4, 2012, 7:12 am
    • I must say that this so called doctor needs to experience a systmic yeast infection herself before she tells others what to do. Seems to me all she is doing is reading medical papers and then telling you what she has read. There is nothing like experiencing things yourself and curing it yourself but with the help of someone that has been there.

      Posted by Tom | August 12, 2012, 2:51 pm
    • I have suffered from chronic yeast infections for the last 6 years. Until recently, I had to live with the associated discharge. I tried many OTC and home remedies, as well as Diflucan and the infection would always come back. After much research, I decided my high sugar diet could be the culprit. It has been one week since I started my sugar free diet and I now have zero symptoms. Relief after 6 years.

      I do not wish to discount the information you have provided as misguided. However, due to my experience, I am led to believe that there is a connection between sugar intake and yeast infections.

      Posted by Elaine | August 18, 2012, 11:17 pm
  10. One of my OB-GYNs told me that alcohol consumption can trigger yeast episodes. Is that doubtful as well?

    Posted by AbrashTX | June 17, 2012, 9:19 am
  11. Well Dr Jen Gunter. I am a male and I have a yeast infection. Obviously I have no vagina. How would you say anything that you wrote would agree with my dilemma.

    Posted by jordan erickson | August 10, 2012, 4:15 pm
    • I am a gynecologist and this post is for women.

      Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | August 12, 2012, 10:59 am
      • I completely agree with your post Doctor. If anyone eats tons of sugar it’s me. I’ve had two yeast infections in my life. The second being right now at this very moment. My GYN also told me that I should not eat too much sugar and that I should consume some unsweetened yogurt. I do t know about the yogurt because I am in too much pain to even come out if my home with out looking like a hunched old woman. I’m twenty by the way. So I found this “sugar” thing fishy. I did a test for myself using that thig used to price your finger to check your level of sugar in the blood. I spent a whole day eating no sugar at all. I felt drained and I literally cried in pain. When I went to take a shower at the end of the day, whatever it was that was coming out of my vagina looked like I stuffed myself with ricotta cheese…it was disgusting and terrifying for my partner to see. After two days of agonizing pain and no sugar I went all out! I ate sugary cereals, candy, hot cocoa with loads if marshmallows. My blood sugar went quite high. I did his for two days. In my experience nothing changed between eating and not eating much sugar.

        This “Tom” person can go suck it. Excuse my way of speaking. There’s no need to be hostile behind words that are trying to disprove this woman’s post. Regardless if she has experienced it for herself or not. I’m not sciencey nor am I saying that I have medical evidence, I speak only out of experience.

        Thank you for this post Doctor. You are doing womankind a wonderful service!

        Posted by A girl with a little problem | March 2, 2013, 2:22 pm
  12. The problem here, while you keep reiterating that sugar has nothing to do with Yeast infections, is that many comments say differently. My own experience included. If I eat a lot of sugar I get a yeast infection. When I’m cruising around on a relatively low sugar intake all is, well, sweet. One can argue there is not a link, based on extremely flawed scientific research, but the numbers speak a thousand times louder.
    Another issue I have here, as a scientific person, is the research completed on the sugar levels, from the title of it (I can’t find a copy on my phone to read), is that it only deals with glucose, also known as dextrose. However, table sugar, and in fact any sugar labelled sugar, is sucrose, which is broken down by our body into half fructose and half dextrose. This ultimately voids any research done in this matter concentrating solely on glucose, as this is not the only sugar component in our daily diet.
    And while your post is for women based on occupation, genital yeast infections generally stem from the same cause. Yeast, a food source, and a warm place to grow.

    Posted by lotski | August 26, 2012, 5:50 am
  13. I agree that sugar is not good for thrush and vaginal infections. It may not show sugar in your vagina but it does upset your hormonal balance an effect your hole system , sugar is a drug not a food, I’ve done numerous tests an sugar is the cause for me…

    Posted by Julie | December 6, 2012, 1:42 am
  14. Try an over-the-counter cream. If you are suffering from a yeast infection and are familiar with the symptoms after having them previously, it is safe to treat it yourself with an OTC cream. The cream is applied to your vagina with an applicator or a suppository is inserted into the vagina. However, if you are pregnant or this is your first infection, it is recommended that you verify your diagnosis with your doctor.

    Posted by kara s | December 20, 2012, 10:30 pm
  15. Increasing sugar ALWAYS causes a yeast infection for me! When I went on a low carb diet I no longer had yeast infections. Around Christmas I ate all kinds of sugar and had a terrible yeast infection. The research can say whatever but I know what happens to me. To avoid yeast infections I limit my sugar intake

    Posted by H. Watson | December 28, 2012, 4:09 pm
  16. Thank you so much for this info. I am a non-diabetic who used to eat 2+ slices of bread a day. Went to 2 slices a week, if any. After the diet change is when I got chronic yeast infections, have had 10 rounds of diflucan. I don’t eat sugary foods, don’t eat desserts, chips, other sugar or high carb foods, and it has changed nothing for me.

    The doc said it is an atypical yeast, meaning its not treated with the same antifungals as 80% of the yeast infections out there, apparently. Get a yeast culture done!

    For those claiming that removing all sugar worked, maybe you’re in pre-diabetes and your body reacts to sugar like a diabetic.

    I am sick and tired of a friend insinuating I can prevent a yeast infection by changing my diet, so i comment to let you know that just because you think it worked for YOU doesnt mean it will for someone else. I eat a high-nutrition diet with tons of raw produce. The ecosystem is out of balance- I have asthma, eczema, and sinusitis- all of which require steroids and lower the immune system. I’m a vegitarian. My diet is optimal, in other words. Sometimes it’s just low immunity.

    Posted by B | February 28, 2013, 3:15 pm
    • My issue was over immunity. I had no infection of yeast (a normal amount was present), but my body was having an allergic reaction to it. This caused symptoms that mimicked a yeast infection. Once I upped the probiotics, vitamin C, and adjusted my allergy medication, things began to improve. I also found things were better when I ate healthy overall, and that included food that some say make yeast infections worse. It is different for everyone.

      Posted by vicky | May 17, 2013, 7:22 am
  17. You women who want to eat your sugar and have your cake too go for it and be sick for the rest of your lives. Have your doctors tell you what you want to hear. Eat all the sugar you want and keep coming to me so I can take your money. Stop complaining and take responsibility for your own well being. Stop eating sugar or be sick.

    Posted by Tom | March 6, 2013, 9:07 am
  18. I support what the doctor says and Tom, stop posting here if you’re going to be that way. I don’t like sweets or sugar. I don’t even put it in my coffee and hate candy and desserts. I barely eat sugar in ANYTHING. I don’t eat refined carbs either. But I’ve been VERY stressed out lately. My OBGYN told me that my recent yeast infection was most likely caused by a rise in Cortisol in my body, which in turn, elevates the sugar level in the body and…ta da! Yeast infection.

    So I don’t know if it’s the case for other women, but for me, the occasional infection has nothing to do with sugar; rather, lack of sleep, stress, and probably not drinking enough water.

    Posted by JS19 | May 18, 2013, 8:07 pm
  19. been there done that, i did the whole cleanse no sugar for a month, pills, probiotics, supplements. i wept and prayed and stuck to it. nothing. doctor told me it was likely stress. ive chilled out about it and now its rarely a problem. the mind body connection is powerful and i would guess its at play here.

    Posted by jephanie | May 25, 2013, 9:51 pm
  20. After I initially left a comment I seem
    to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each
    time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the same comment.
    Is there an easy method you are able to remove me from that service?
    Thanks a lot!

    Posted by http://exbackresults.com | June 17, 2013, 3:31 am
  21. Ok my problem is I ate 20 sugar cookies…during the night.

    Posted by Sarah | September 3, 2014, 11:00 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Society for Menstrual Cycle Research : » Why Women Menstruate, Yeast Infection Myths, and Other Weekend Links - December 31, 2011

  2. Pingback: Constant Male Yeast Infections - February 8, 2013

  3. Pingback: Do Bakers Get Yeast Infections | I Make Good Food - September 23, 2014

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