Ask a Dietitian: Can Foods Prevent Yeast Infections?

Question: Hi Paula. Can foods help with yeast infections? If so, what foods? Would you be able to say why it is that these foods might help with yeast infections? Is there any research to suggest that they would prevent yeast infections? 

~Danielle P. 

Yes, research has shown a number of foods may help treat and prevent yeast infections. 

For those who don't know what a yeast infection is, yeast infections are a type of sickness caused by a fungus. People can get yeast infections that affect various parts the body, including the skin (dermatitis), mouth (thrush), esophagus, and genitals. 

Foods that may help fight and prevent yeast infections include cayenne, clove, Chinese leek, garlic  grapes, wine, Pau D'Arco tea, and yogurt. Although I have had patients try to apply these foods to their infected body parts, I'd recommend eating or drinking these foods instead. 

I'm not sure how much in-depth science you want, but I will try to explain...

Cayenne: This spice's yeast-killing properties may come from a compound called thionin. Thionin is also found in other plants as part of their defense system. I have only seen studies using cayenne to treat active yeast infections, but it may protect against future infections as well. 

The compound eugenol in clove seems to kill yeast by destroying yeast cell walls. Studies have found clove oil, clove tea, and powdered clove all work. I think drinking clove tea is the most practical approach. If you can't find clove tea by itself, most chai teas contain clove or you can buy clove buds in the spice section and boil them. Consuming clove should both fight an active yeast infection and protect against future infections by destroying yeast before the infection starts. 

Garlic & Chinese Leek: 
Both of these kill fungus, including yeast, because they contains sulfur. Sulfur's benefit is passed on to us when we eat it. It seems to both kill active yeast infections and decrease the likelihood of future ones. 

Grapes & Wine: Wine may also help decrease yeast infections due to the flavanols in it. One unique study in 2014 found that mice treatment with grape flavanols every other day for 8 days had decreased yeast infections. To my knowledge, this study has not been repeated in humans. However, it suggests that grapes and grape-based products, like wine, may decrease yeast infections. If you are taking medication, check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if it is safe to drink wine. 

Pau D'Arco Tea: This herbal tea is made from the bark of the pink trumpet tree. Studies suggest that the compound lapachol found in the bark is what provides the tea with anti-fungal properties. This compound probably originally existed to protect the tree from fungus but, when consumed by humans, it seems to protect us from fungal infections including yeast infections. 

Yogurt: It is the good bacteria that is important, not the milk, so even vegan non-dairy yogurts may be helpful. Probiotic supplements containing Lactobacillus species have also been found successful in studies.  When we eat yogurt or take a probiotic supplement, some of the bacteria survives.  These good bacteria live inside us and help fight infections.

Best wishes, 

Paula W.
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist


The information provided in this blog is not intended to replace individualized medical advice provided by your own doctor, dietitian, or other healthcare professional.
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