Small amounts of fungus naturally exist on and in the body, causing no problems. But certain factors can cause it to multiply out of control, resulting in a yeast infection.

Yeast infections usually happen when the fungus Candida albicans proliferates unchecked. This can occur almost anywhere on or in the body, including the skin, mouth, and genitals.

Though the symptoms can be uncomfortable, a yeast infection is usually not serious. However, the infection can enter the bloodstream if the person does not receive treatment, and this is a medical emergency.

Below, find seven tips for preventing yeast infections. Also, learn why these infections can return and when to contact a doctor.

Several condoms, which can help prevent yeast infectionsShare on Pinterest
Image credit: LemonTreeImages/Getty Images

Here, we explore the benefits of breathable underwear, the risks posed by diabetes, and more.

1. Having a low-sugar diet

Yeasts feed on sugars and starches. A 2015 review observes that consuming refined sugars and high-lactose dairy products may encourage the growth of yeast. Eating fewer of these foods may help prevent yeast infections, though further research is necessary.

In the meantime, a person may find that eliminating the following helps prevent yeast infections:

  • foods containing simple sugars
  • white flour
  • white rice
  • foods and drinks that have been fermented with yeast

Cutting out sugars and refined carbohydrates can result in increased hunger. In response, a person should boost their intake of:

  • low-starch fruits and vegetables
  • protein-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, and legumes
  • healthful fats and oils

2. Maintaining a healthy weight

Someone with overweight or obesity may have larger skin folds that trap in heat and moisture. In this type of environment, yeasts thrive

Having overweight or obesity also increases a person’s risk of diabetes, a condition that makes a person more susceptible to yeast infections.

3. Managing diabetes

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes cause high blood glucose levels, which encourage the growth of yeast. This is why people with diabetes have an increased risk of yeast infections.

To reduce this risk, people with diabetes need to control their blood glucose levels, which tends to involve:

4. Wearing breathable clothing

Fungi thrive in warm, moist environments. To prevent yeast infections of the skin and genitals, opt for loose clothing made from breathable materials, such as:

  • cotton
  • linen
  • silk

For exercising, try fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin. Also, make sure to change out of damp clothes immediately after a workout.

5. Having good hygiene

Boosting hygiene can help prevent yeast infections.

Avoid cleaning the genitals with scented products, which can irritate these delicate areas. Look for products that are unscented and free from other harsh chemicals.

After a bath or shower, dry the genital area gently but thoroughly to remove any excess moisture.

Penile hygiene

Smegma is a natural fluid that can help lubricate the head of the penis and the foreskin, but a buildup of smegma encourages the growth of yeast.

Cleaning the penis thoroughly and regularly helps prevent this buildup.

Vaginal hygiene

The following strategies reduce the risk of vaginal yeast infections:

  • Avoid douching: The vagina contains important bacteria that control populations of fungi. Douching can cause an imbalance in these bacteria, resulting in an overgrowth of fungi and a yeast infection.
  • Wipe from front to back: This helps prevent the spread of yeast or bacteria between the anus and vagina.
  • Change pads or tampons frequently: This helps prevent vaginal infections generally.

6. Maintaining strong sexual health

Yeasts infections can pass to partners through sex — unless people use barrier protection, such as condoms.

A person’s penis is sometimes itchy following unprotected intercourse with someone who has a vaginal yeast infection. If both partners have symptoms of a yeast infection, both require treatment.

7. Taking probiotics

Beneficial bacteria help control populations of fungi that cause yeast infections. An imbalance in the numbers of helpful and harmful bacteria can lead to an overgrowth of fungi and a yeast infection.

Some factors that can contribute to a bacterial imbalance include:

Taking probiotics might help replenish levels of beneficial bacteria in the body, thereby preventing yeast infections.

The following foods are good sources of probiotics:

  • yogurt containing live bacterial cultures
  • fermented foods, such as:
    • kefir
    • kimchi
    • kombucha
    • some pickles
    • some sauerkraut

Alternately, people can take probiotic supplements containing the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus.

Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy can increase a person’s risk of yeast infections. These infections are especially common during the third trimester.

There is no evidence that vaginal yeast infections can harm a fetus. For the pregnant person, however, they can be very uncomfortable.

A person can reduce the risk of a yeast infection by:

  • avoiding hygiene products that contain fragrances and other harsh chemicals
  • avoiding douching and genital deodorants
  • avoiding perfumed toilet paper
  • avoiding hot baths and hot tubs
  • immediately changing out of damp clothing, such as after exercising
  • wearing underwear made from breathable materials, such as cotton or silk

Some yeast infection treatments are not safe during pregnancy, so contact a doctor or pharmacist for advice.

A yeast infection may come back repeatedly following treatment. This might happen for several reasons, including:

  • having sex with a partner who has an untreated infection
  • taking hormonal birth control
  • being pregnant
  • having an underlying health condition, such as diabetes
  • taking certain medications, such as:
    • antibiotics
    • steroids
    • immunosuppressants
    • chemotherapy drugs

A doctor should evaluate anyone who may have a yeast infection to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms, such as sexually transmitted infections.

Also, see a doctor if an infection is not responding to treatment. A stronger dosage or a different type of antifungal medication may be necessary.

A doctor should determine the cause of recurrent yeast infections, as this can result from underlying health issues.

Yeast infections are fungal, and they usually result from an overgrowth of the fungus C. albicans. Small amounts of this naturally live on and in the body, but certain factors can cause this fungus to grow unchecked, resulting in an infection.

To reduce the risk of a yeast infection, have a healthful diet and strong hygiene, and make sure to receive effective treatment for any underlying medical conditions.

Anyone who suspects a yeast infection should see a doctor, and this is especially important if the infection does not respond to treatment or keeps returning.