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Vaginal Infections
By Duane Townsend, M.D.

Read Dr. Duane Townsend's last transcript

An Excerpt from Dr. Duane Townsend's book,
The Maverick of Medicine Speaks to Women:
A World-Reowned Gynecologist's Solution
for a Better World in Women's Health Care.

During the course of my practice, I met a physician from Houston named Carl Karnaky. He had the radical notion that vaginal infections could be treated naturally. At that time, the conventional treatment for these infections involved using anti-fungal ointments. Dr. Karnaky believed that using a special powder to make the vagina very acidic would cure the yeast infection. What we had here was a true alternative treatment and I liked the idea.

I began to use this acidifying powder. When a patient would come in complaining of a vaginal discharge, we evaluated her using what we call a wet nap technique (no fancy testing procedures were available yet). This was a potassium hydroxide screening test done with a good old fashioned microscope. If the patient had a yeast infection, we would apply a dose of this fine, flour-like powder to the area. Its application often caused a small cloud of white mist that would float up from the end of the examining table.

Unfortunately, while the fine powder worked just fine, it was virtually impossible to teach a patient how to use it herself. It was just too hard to handle. The bottom line (excuse the pun) was that it was effective, but too difficult to administer. I later discovered the value of placing boric acid in capsules to acidify the vagina and immediately switched to this method because it was so easy for the patient to use. Let me stress here that this acidification of the vaginal canal was incredibly effective and cost no more than 40 cents, in contrast to the expensive prescription creams used today. 

Yeast Infections Are Common

Vaginal yeast infections (vulvovaginal candidiasis) occur when the candida albicans fungus (a natural inhabitant of the vaginal canal) overgrows. Several things can cause this proliferation of yeast include: using antibiotics, diabetes, pregnancy, intercourse, hormonal changes, nutritional deficiencies, and poor hygiene. It is estimated that 75 percent of all women will experience at least one yeast infection during their lifetimes. If you’ve had a yeast infection (and chances are you have) you know the symptoms — itching, burning, and a thick discharge. 

Practical Do’s and Don’ts 

I tell my patients with recurring infections to keep the vaginal area cool and dry by wearing loose clothing and cotton underpants. I also frown on the use of vaginal sprays, commercial douches and deodorants, which can alter the natural acid/alkaline balance of the vagina, predisposing it to more infection. Douching can actually be dangerous. It can force the infection up through the cervix which could eventually cause pelvic inflammatory disease.

Research shows that women who douche on a regular basis actually develop more vaginal irritations and infections, than women who don’t. These women also develop more cases of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). In fact their risk is 73% greater. Keep in mind that PID can lead to serious problems during pregnancy, infections in the newborn and problems with labor and delivery. Thatt being said, it certainly makes sense to keep as close to nature as possible when it comes to treating vaginal infections. Natural treatments for yeast infections involve directly targeting the ecosystem of the vaginal canal and boosting immune defenses.

Pharmaceutical Solutions: Putting the Horse Before the Cart

Have you seen the latest pharmaceutical campaign to treat yeast infections? The newest approach is to take anti-fungal pills by mouth to treat a localized yeast infection. Instead of treating a local problem with a topical medicine, why not send a powerful anti-fungal chemical coursing through the bloodstream so it affects every organ in the body on its way to the vaginal canal? 

The promotion of an oral medication to treat a vaginal infection defies common sense. It is nothing less than opportunistic ploy by pharmaceutical companies. In other words, they want increase their vaginal infection medication sales. One reason they may succeed is that vaginal creams are messy and inconvenient. Once again, popping a pill is so much easier. This convoluted logic powerfully illustrates our obsession with magic pill therapy and the marketing prowess of the pharmaceutical industry. They would have women taking a handful of drugs daily whether they needed them or not.

The Dangers of Oral Medications for Vaginal Infections

Yes, antifungal pills may get rid of your vaginal infection, but they also have the potential of causing liver disease. Pregnant women with vaginal infections should be especially careful. A new study shows that taking the drug metronidazole (Flagyl) for a vaginal infection (known as asymptomatic vaginal trichomoniasis) may cause premature delivery of their babies. A startling 19% of the women who received the drug delivered their baby before 37 weeks gestation. Moreover, over-the-counter preparations can contain antihistamines or topical anesthetics that only mask the symptoms of the infection and do not treat the underlying problem. Moreover, prescription medications are so expensive that a single pill cost 3 times as much as using acidification. You maybe thinking, “no problem, my insurance pays for the drugs.” Don’t you believe it. You pay with higher premiums, etc.

How To Use Acidification

You don’t need a medical diploma to acidify your vaginal canal. The process is easy, inexpensive and can be very effective.

1. Purchase a 4 oz. jar of boric acid powder. Cost: $3 to $4

2. Purchase 30 empty gelatin capsules (check your health food store). Cost $3 to $4

3. Pull apart about a dozen capsules and set on a tabletop.

4. Pour a small mound of boric acid powder into the cap of the boric acid bottle.

5. Scoop the boric acid into both halves of the empty capsules and put the full capsules aside.

The Treatment Protocol

1. Insert one capsule high into the vagina at morning and night. If sexual relations are planned, insert the capsule after sexual relations, when the semen has left the vagina.

2. Insert the capsules twice a day for one week, then once a day for a week at night.

3. For the third week, insert one capsule every third night.

4. Insert one capsule weekly for an indefinite period of time as a preventive treatment.

NOTE: For less severe infections, go directly to one capsule once a night for seven days etc.

This program can be repeated as necessary.

If you notice any burning after applying the capsules, empty ½ of the boric acid out of the capsules so that you are using only ½ capsule full of the boric acid powder with each treatment. Not only is acidification effective for yeast but can be used for virtually any other vaginal infection. If your symptoms keep recurring it is important to have your health care provider evaluate your problem further.

Other Natural Ways to Prevent Vaginal Infections

1. Avoid alcohol, white sugar and refined flour foods. The candida fungus feeds on simple sugars.

2. Cut Down on Dairy Products. Milk products may aggravate yeast infections although low-fat yogurt with active cultures is recommended.

3. Choose seafood and vegetable proteins over meat and poultry, and be careful of yeasted or fermented foods or those containing molds, such as aged cheeses, dried fruits, or mushrooms.

Additional Supplements To Consider

1. Acidophilus and Bifidobacteria at 1/2-1 teaspoon or two capsules three times a day help to repopulate the beneficial intestinal flora

2. Transfer factor to boost natural killer cells to keep fungal growth in control.

3. Garlic (one to two raw cloves or capsules two to three times daily) may be more effective against yeast infections than Nystatin (a prescription medication).

Vulvar itch

Many woman with a vaginal infection also experience vulvar puritis (itching). When a woman has vulvar itching without a vaginal infection, it is most commonly caused by some kind of topical irritation or surface reaction to a chemical irritant (i.e. contact dermatitis). Some women who are severely allergic to pollens can also experience vulvar itching when grasses and weeds are blooming. After all, the area is moist and warm, much like the mucosal tissue found in the eye and in the nasal passages. I prescribe a simple program to address vulvar puritis which is easy to use and does the job.

1. Avoid washing the area (the vulva) with all soaps including so-called hypoallergenic varieties except for Aveeno soap. The only true anti-allergic soap is Aveeno, which is an oatmeal based cleansing agent. Wash the affected area 2 times a day with Aveeno soap and then thoroughly rinse with soft water. Pat dry, do not rub!!

2. Keep the area dry. Wearing loose fitting clothes is a MUST. Form fitting or tight jeans or slacks are to be avoided. Wear a dress or skirt! Panties and under garments must be made of 100% cotton and not just cotton lined. When possible, go al fresco (no panties) for periods of time to let the vulvar tissue breathe. When sleeping, wear nothing below the waist.

NOTE: If the itching persists or if redness, ulcers, or lumps are present, consult your doctor. Certain types of cancers can cause itching in conjunction with the presence of a growth or ulcer.

I’ve used the above program with phenomenal success in hundreds of individuals from youngsters to great grandmothers. Two recent patients expressed their amazement that this simple program succeeds when drugs and prescription medications that have cost women countless of dollars have failed.

Donna’s Dilemma

Donna was 33 when she was referred to me for a persistent vaginal discharge that had not responded to all available creams and prescription drugs (which I like to call “jams and jellies”). Why? Because most of them are messy, sticky, not very effective, and are expensive (averaging about $20 per tube). In the course of our visit, Donna also told me that intercourse had become painful. The pain seemed to emanate from the tissue located at the entrance of her vagina. She remarked (with a pained expression on her face) that it felt like there were tiny cuts at the opening of her vaginal canal. She continued to have sex for her husband’s sake but cringed at the prospect, commenting that she thought it was her duty to do so. (It’s no wonder that so many women who develop similar problems develop an aversion to sex. When a woman has this kind of condition, I don’t hesitate to tell her spouse to back off). 

What Bonnie had is referred to as “vuladynia” or “vestibulitis,” something I’ve been treating quite successfully for over 20 years. Despite millions of dollars spent on researching this condition, its cause remains a mystery. Men are not afflicted with a similar condition. Personally, I believe it’s related to some type of allergic reaction to yeast. Why? Because in severe cases, using transfer factor both orally and topically dramatically improved the problem.

In Donna’s case, I suggested vaginal acidification and the vulvar hygiene program discussed earlier. She came back in a month with a big smile on her face. She had no vaginal discharge and the pain that she had been having with sexual relations was gone. She thanked me. I was quick to point out, however, that she should give herself the credit for faithfully following my directions and I sent her back to her referring physician. I can assure you she is not the first woman who responded in this way. In fact I almost feel guilty using this treatment protocol because it’s so simple and seemingly “unmedical.”

Nora’s Profile

Nora is currently still under my care. She’s 44 and came in with a history of extreme fatigue, chronic vaginal infections, severe vulvar itching, heavy menstrual periods, and breast tenderness. As far as she was concerned, sex was expendable and its elimination altogether would not have troubled her a bit. She was also tired of catching everything that came along (colds, sore throats, etc.). She brought a large bag full of $300 worth of vaginal creams and prescription drugs to our consultation. When I asked about her dietary and exercise history, I soon learned that she fit the classic profile of most North American women — one which I consider a health disaster waiting to happen. I sat her down and introduced her to The Program.

Get With The Program! 

Nora’s diet consisted of red meat, chicken, no coldwater fish, some vegetables, soda pop, and little to no exercise, despite the fact that she belonged to a health club. I introduced her to “The Program.” In a nutshell The Program involves a change in eating habits and the addition of exercise. I also informed her about the “Dynamic Duo” (genistein and natural progesterone cream) to treat her heavy periods, PMS, etc. To top it all off, I told her to get on transfer factor for her immune system (which was obviously failing to function properly). We concluded the 45 minute discussion with the vulvar and vaginal programs.

When she came back in a month, her only complaint was some fatigue. She hadn’t been sick for the entire month and her family had all been sick with colds. I smiled and asked her why she hadn’t shared her transfer factor with them. She said that she had tried, but they just didn’t believe her. Let me stress that she had dramatically changed her diet but was having a hard time convincing her husband and two teenagers to tame their love of red meat. She was also exercising and was finally able to get her overweight husband to go the gym. Her vaginal discharge and vulvar problems were gone. She was on her way.

When Nora left after her first return visit, I suggested that she add a potent mix of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. to her daily regimen. Nora represents the pharmaceutical industry’s icon — she ate a lousy diet, did not exercise and took no dietary supplements. The drug industry would have us believe that we eat anything we want, sit on the couch all day, and then take their medicines to make us all better. Nora chose to participate in her health destiny and in so doing reduced her risk of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. I have no doubt that her family will eventually come around.

To most of you this approach may sound too easy but it really is. On the other hand there are some conditions of the vulvar that are a bit more challenging.

Lichen Sclerosis;

This is a condition that affects hundreds of women. Its most common symptom is vulvar itching. The cause of vulvar dystrophy is unknown and there is no male counterpart disease. Symptoms are primarily itching of the vulva that can be severe, even keeping women up all night.

First the diagnosis can only be made by a biopsy of the tissue. However, physicians with considerable experience treating this disease can diagnosis it with tissue sample. Once the diagnosis has been made, the tissue must be carefully examined with colposcopy. This is necessary to rule out cancer and a precancerous condition.

Treatment consists of vulvar hygiene accompanied by a powerful cream to control the condition. Recent studies have shown that Clebetasol is the cream of choice. Then the tissue must be given at least a two week rest before retreatment is resumed for another two week period. When Clebetasol is not being used a mild steroid can be applied. Unfortunately this condition is a lifelong problem. However, we have recently found that natural progesterone cream applied at least once a day will help keep the condition under control once Clebetasol has reached maximum benefit. If ulcers develop in this condition then a biopsy of the ulcer is mandatory to rule out cancer. Women with improperly or untreated vulvar dystrophy have an increased chance of cancer of the vulva.

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An Excerpt from Dr. Duane Townsend's book,
The Maverick of Medicine Speaks to Women:
A World-Reowned Gynecologist's Solution
for a Better World in Women's Health Care.

Read Dr. Duane Townsend's last transcript





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