Thrush is an infection caused by an excess of Candida albicans, a yeast which normally inhabits the intestines and vagina.

For women, the most common symptoms of thrush are a vaginal itch and a discharge that ranges from white to creamy yellow.

Men can get thrush too. Although often free of symptoms, the glans of the penis may become irritated and red after sex. Sometimes there is a trace of thrush on the penis. Thrush in the mouth and on the skin is common in babies.

Vaginal infections other than candida can also produce a discharge. For example, trichomonas has a fishy-smelling discharge. Although candida is the most likely cause of vaginal discharge, don’t assume. Your doctor will be able to find out what exactly the problem is. See also Candida.

Why Me?

  • Commonly, vaginal thrush occurs after a course of antibiotics.
  • Stress is a trigger for thrush, as it depletes the immune system.
  • Many women experience thrush prior to menstruation when the acidity of the vagina decreases and alkalinity increases, increasing susceptibility to candida.
  • Thrush in the mouth and throughout the digestive system is common in people with a compromised immune system including long-term or high-dose cortisone users, those taking transplant drugs and those living with HIV.

What To Do


  • Avoid sugar and alcohol. They will only increase the yeast overload.
  • A UK study has found that women who ate acidophilus yoghurt every day for three months had a 50 per cent reduction in the incidence of vaginal thrush.
  • If you have a stubborn case of thrush, follow the candida dietary suggestions. See Candida.

Herbs and Supplements

  • Take an acidophilus supplement every morning.
  • If your life is a nightmare of itching and pain, a twice-daily douche should relieve the symptoms quickly. You can buy a small rubber enema or douche bag, but you can use a clean plastic sauce bottle, the squeezy variety. Just don’t put back in the kitchen cupboard! Douche recipe: To 100ml cup of warm water add: 1 teaspoon of acidophilus powder, or the contents of three acidophilus capsules (to replace good microflora); 1-3 drops of tea tree oil (a good antifungal, but optional if you are sensitive); 30ml white vinegar or apple cider vinegar (to improve the pH balance of the vagina); and one teaspoon of calendula or golden seal tincture(antiseptic, optional). Lie down in the bath, insert and apply the douche. Leave for a few minutes, then shower. Douche with this mixture once or twice daily for four days. Even if the symptoms disappear after a day or two, keep up the treatment for the full four days.
  • Tea tree pessaries are available. Keep them in the freezer and insert one each night as an alternative to douching.
  • Submerge a tampon in acidophilus yoghurt (plain, not flavoured). Insert into the vagina and leave for two hours.
  • Thrush is easily transferred from male to female, and back again. James Green, a rather wonderful American herbalist and author of The Male Herbal, suggests that men perform a penis soak. To a glass of warm water, add one teaspoon apple cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon (or the contents of two capsules) acidophilus and 2-3 drops tea tree oil. Into this dangle penis (foreskin retracted) for 5-10 minutes. Dry thoroughly.
  • Drink herbal Tea that include lemon grass and Australian Lemon Myrtle as these contain a naturally occurring substance, Citral, which is particularly effective against Candida albicans.

Other Steps

  • Bathe before and after intercourse. If your partner has thrush, you can become reinfected quite easily via intercourse. Men: rub a little antifungal cream on the penis after intercourse. Women: apply antifungal cream or douche as mentioned before.
  • Avoid soap. Use plain water, or tea tree oil in sorbolene.
  • Dry every nook and cranny thoroughly with a towel after your bath or shower. If possible, dry your towels in the sun between uses.
  • Avoid tight jeans and underwear and ban lycra leotards. Stick to cotton pants and shorts for exercise.
  • Let the sun shine on you. For men and women the genitals rarely get to see the light of day. Allow sunlight (or UV lamp) on the area for around ten minutes a day. Sunscreen will defeat the purpose: go au naturel.
  • Swimming in sea water is good, but don’t romp around in soggy speedos for too long.
  • Tampons generally make things worse; avoid if possible.
  • As candida spreads very easily from the anus to the vagina, make sure that you wipe from the front to the back after going to the toilet.
  • Soak and disinfect all your towels and underwear in nappy-wash before washing in hot water. Throw ten drops of tea tree oil into the final rinse.

At a glance

Good food
Acidophilus yoghurt.
Food to avoid
No sugar or yeast.
Remedies to begin
Douche, acidophilus.
Avoid tight clothing. Let the sun shine on.
A conflict with intimacy?