Yeast infections are notably unpleasant conditions resulting from an overgrowth of the yeast naturally found in the body. Knowing this, it’s common to wonder if foods and beverages high in yeast, such as beer, can cause a yeast infection.
In short, while beer does not always cause a yeast infection, it can increase the risk or potentially worsen an existing yeast infection. Continue reading to learn more about yeast infections, what causes them, and how to identify one.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Yeast Infection?
- Can Beer Cause a Yeast Infection?
- Can Beer or Alcohol Make a Yeast Infection Worse?
- What Can Cause a Yeast Infection?
- When to See a Doctor?
- Key Takeaways
What Is a Yeast Infection?
A yeast infection occurs when yeast, a fungus naturally found in the vagina, grows out of control. The most common yeast to cause yeast infections is Candida albicans, and other names for this condition include vaginal candidiasis, candida vaginitis, or vulvovaginal candidiasis.
What Are the Symptoms of a Yeast Infection?
The most common symptoms of a yeast infection include the following:
- a clumpy, cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge
- watery vaginal discharge
- pain or discomfort when urinating or during intercourse.
If the infection is severe, you may notice symptoms of swelling, redness, and cracks in the skin outside the vagina.
Can Beer Cause a Yeast Infection?
While it seems unusual that what you drink affects your vaginal health, this one isn’t a myth. It has been shown that those who drink beer more often are more likely to have yeast infections, but now the question becomes, why? To understand this, you need to understand what makes up beer.
Beer is composed of live yeast, and although it is fermented, which converts most of the yeast to alcohol, it has been found that with beer, a lot of live yeast remains. What this means is that each time you drink beer, you add live yeast to your digestive tract, increasing how much is already there.
Once the yeast is in your stomach, it can easily get into your bloodstream, where it can then make its way to the vagina.
Even more, a lot of beer also contains sugars which serve as a food source of yeast. This means that, by drinking beer, you introduce more fungus into your body while also providing it with a food source.
Can Beer or Alcohol Make a Yeast Infection Worse?
It is possible for beer, or alcohol in general, to make a yeast infection worse, partly because of alcohol’s effect on the immune system.
Overall, alcohol impacts how well the different cells in your immune system are able to work, which makes it harder for your body to fight off the yeast infection and can make the infection worse. Let’s take a closer look at the different ways alcohol inhibits your immune system.
Your gastrointestinal tract is full of helpful bacteria that play crucial roles in your immune system, such as helping to develop T cells, another type of cell used to fight infection. However, drinking alcohol can result in fewer bacteria in your gut, which means your immune system lacks some critical players.
T cells and B cells are two types of cells within the immune system, and one of their key roles is making and releasing antibodies into the bloodstream. The antibodies then detect and remove any dangerous pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. However, those who drink chronically are shown to have fewer T cells and B cells, leaving them with fewer cells able to create antibodies.
When considering the effect of alcohol on your body, it’s important to note that a single drink now and again isn’t going to affect your immune system in this way, Chronic drinking is generally defined as drinking for 12 to 15 years, and extremely heavy drinking involves 30 drinks a day.
However, even occasional binge drinking may weaken your immune system, which involves 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more for men.
The good news, though, is that the immune system can recover, and avoiding alcohol for 30 days can bring your T cell counts back to normal.
Feeding the Infection
Yet another way that beer can make a yeast infection worse is by continuing to introduce yeast into the body, which makes it even harder for the body to fight the infection.
Additionally, consuming any sugary beverage, which can be common with alcohol, provides yeast with a food source that can make it easier for them to grow and reproduce.
What Can Cause a Yeast Infection?
Yeast infections result when candida yeast grows out of control, which occurs when something throws off the balance of the microbiome in your body.
Some things which can do this include:
- immune-suppressing diseases, such as HIV
- certain types of medication (e.g., antibiotics, hormonal contraceptives, steroids)
- lack of sleep
There are also various lifestyle habits that can promote the growth of candida, potentially leading to its overgrowth, including:
- eating a high-sugar diet
- being sexually active
- certain contraceptives (e.g., diaphragms, vaginal sponges, and intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- having poor vaginal hygiene
- wearing tight-fitting and non-breathable clothing, such as tight jeans, synthetic underwear, or spandex
Of note, while being sexually active can increase the risk of a yeast infection, they are not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Still, they have been found to be more common in sexually active women.
When to See a Doctor?
If you suspect that you have a yeast infection, it’s recommended to visit a doctor. While there are OTC medications available to treat mild yeast infections, these are only recommended if you are positive that you have a yeast infection, which those with a past experience may be able to confirm based on similar symptoms.
However, using these medications if you do not have a yeast infection runs the risk of allowing the infection to remain in your body, untreated, for longer, which may result in a more severe illness. As such, unless you are positive that you have a yeast infection, it’s recommended to visit a doctor.
Your doctor can prescribe you an antifungal treatment for your yeast infection that can come as a cream, ointment, suppository, or tablet.
It’s essential to visit a doctor again if your symptoms do not improve after taking the medication. This way, your doctor can prescribe a stronger treatment for the more serious infection.
If you’re looking for a convenient way to visit with your doctor, DrHouse allows you to meet with an online doctor in just 15 minutes, all from the comfort of your home. Here you can discuss your symptoms with your doctor, and they can recommend a treatment plan to help you feel better quickly.
Yeast infections are unpleasant infections resulting from an overgrowth of yeast, commonly occurring in the vagina. While many things can increase the risk of yeast infections, many may be surprised to learn that what you drink plays a role.
Beer, in particular, contains yeast within it. When you drink it, there is the potential for this yeast to make its way into the bloodstream, where it may then infect your vagina. While drinking beer will not guarantee a yeast infection, it does increase your risk.
Additionally, alcohol can provide the yeast in your body with sugar and fuel and can inhibit your immune system, worsening an existing yeast infection. Because of this, it’s recommended to avoid alcohol while you have a yeast infection and reach out to your doctor about a treatment plan.
- Pasala, S., Barr, T., & Messaoudi, I. (2015). Impact of Alcohol Abuse on the Adaptive Immune System. Alcohol research : current reviews, 37(2), 185–197.
- Sarkar, D., Jung, M. K., & Wang, H. J. (2015). Alcohol and the Immune System. Alcohol Research : Current Reviews, 37(2), 153–155.
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Vaginal yeast infection (thrush): Overview. 2019 Jun 19. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK543220/
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Vaginal yeast infections (thrush): What helps? 2019 Jun 19. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK543219/
- Vaginal yeast infections | Office on Women’s Health. (2023). https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/vaginal-yeast-infections
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2022). Vaginal candidiasis. https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/genital/
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