Nancy Appleton PhD and G.N. Jacobs
© 2009 Nancy Appleton Books
Doctors just love giving medical conditions fancy names with Latin roots to make us tremble when they give the diagnosis. Vulvodynia is one such word. Derived from vulva (a key part of the female anatomy) and dynamo (an active, irrepressible machine or energy source), the word translates to plain English as the poor woman has a lot of chronic pain down there.
The condition typically presents with stinging, burning and/or itching sensations that can really zap a woman’s sense of wellbeing. If men put great store in their virility and testosterone production (see article), then vulvodynia is one female equivalent that results in less sex, depression, low self-esteem and a general hit to quality of life from not exercising or riding bikes to avoid the pain. One estimate says that 14 million women in the U.S. and up to 16-percent worldwide have this condition, which is not contagious, nor is it related in any way to sexually transmitted disease.
Is there a cure or treatment? Mainstream medicine has been slow to come up with a definitive answer. In 2006, a researcher at the University of Michigan wrote an article that gives an overview of the symptoms and many treatments available once a woman is diagnosed with vulvodynia.
One condition of the diagnosis requires that a woman have the pain without the usual suspect – Candida Albicans (yeast infection) – being present. Doctors poke and swab and find nothing under the microscope. So, the article meanders through discussions of nerve sensitivity, cognitive behavior therapy and pelvic floor muscles. However, there are some interesting tidbits for the holistic minded in that several key phrases common to Dr. Appleton’s work popped up: inflammation, immune system, allergies and diet.[i]
The first question to ask is did this researcher overlook Candida as a cause simply because it couldn’t be found on a microscope slide? Can the yeast infection change form and continue to cause pain in women after the topical ointment has killed off the infection, which typically is found on the surface?
Obviously, we’re asking the question like a lawyer, we already knew the answer to be yes. According to Marjorie Crandall, vulvodynia is caused in many cases by a Candida infection seeping through tissues and cell membranes. The infection becomes dormant in terms of growth, but continues to irritate causing pain.[ii]
So if Candida can cause vulvodynia, what causes Candida? Again we knew the answer: allergies and sugar. We will refer to our article 141 Reasons Why Sugar is Ruining Your Health – Sugar assists the uncontrolled growth of Candida Albicans.[iii]
Dr. Crandall suggests that the treatments and prevention regime for Candida is what is required for vulvodynia only switching out the topical antifungal creams for a systemic antifungal taken orally to make sure the patient gets the yeast that has entered her vulva and vagina. She also notes that allergies play a role in the development of symptoms saying, “Some women notice that their symptoms worsen 12 to 72 hours after eating certain foods.”[iv]
Other researchers have noted a high correlation between yeast and other symptoms of allergies meaning that people who have one seem to have the other. A study from Brazil showed that 71-percent of the Candida group also had allergic rhinitis (classical nasal allergy symptoms like runny nose and watery eyes).[v]
Most information about Candida says that prevention includes a diet free of sugar, alcohol, coffee and refined carbohydrates along with removing anything that can change the woman’s hormone balance like birth control pills and antibiotics.[vi] For women who specifically have vulvodynia as opposed to regular Candida on the surface, further dietary recommendations include going on the Low Oxalate Diet originally indicated for kidney stones.
Foods to avoid completely on the Low Oxalate Diet: spinach, rhubarb, beets, strawberries, nuts, chocolate, tea, coffee, cola and wheat bran.
Foods to limit: White corn grits, wheat germ, whole-wheat flour, berries, concord grapes, red currants, Damson plums, citrus peels, tangerines, fruity deserts, baked beans in tomato sauce, peanut butter, tofu, sweet potatoes, vegetable soup without vegetables, beans, dark leafy greens (swiss chard, endive, escarole, parsley), eggplant, leeks, summer squash and draft beer.
Your health care professional will have the last word on what you should remove from your diet to heal vulvodynia or kidney stones for that matter.
We have talked about sugar and allergies as seemingly separate causes of vulvodynia, but Dr. Appleton has always asserted that allergies are also the result of too much sugar in the diet. The very first statement in 141 Reasons is sugar can suppress the immune system.[vii] Sugar depletes minerals that make hormones work and said hormones are part of the immune system’s proper functioning. An allergy is merely a precursor response that can later develop into whatever disease comes next, because the immune system fights off the food allergy instead of the rapidly growing Candida.
Sugar causes everything and vulvodynia is but one more example.
[i] Reed, BD “Vulvodynia: Diagnosis and Management” Am Fam Physician 2006;73:1231-8, 1239.
[ii] Crandall, M “Allergic Predisposition and Recurrent Vulvovaginal Candidiasis” Journal of Advancement in Medicine, Spring 1991;4(1):21-38.
[iii] Crook, W. J. The Yeast Connection. (TN: Professional Books, 1984).
[iv] Crandall, M “Allergic Predisposition and Recurrent Vulvovaginal Candidiasis” Journal of Advancement in Medicine, Spring 1991;4(1):21-38.
[v] Moraes, PS “Recurrent Vaginal Candidiasis and Allergic rhinitis: A Common Association” Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1998 Aug;81(2):165-9.
[vi] http://www.empowher.com/media/reference/vaginal-yeast-infection#prevention viewed July 9, 2009
[vii] Sanchez, A, et al. “Role of Sugars in Human Neutrophilic Phagocytosis.” Am J Clin Nutr. Nov 1973; 261: 1180-1184.