Vaginal yeast infections, or candidiasis, affect about 75% of all women at some point in their lives, according to Harvard Medical School. This condition is typically due to candida, a fungus that lives in your body. Stress, sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, and certain conditions or medications promote candidate overgrowth, causing itching, rashes, and other symptoms.

Wayne State University reports that a staggering 138 million women worldwide have recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis. However, yeast infections can affect any part of the body, not just your private areas. Oral thrush, for example, is due to candida overgrowth in the mouth. Nail fungus, athlete’s foot, and diaper rash are all caused by the same fungus (via Healthline).

Candida overgrowth can have a multitude of causes, depending on the affected area. Tight underwear, for instance, creates a warm, moist environment around your private parts, which may contribute to candidates. The same goes for tight exercise clothing, such as leggings and yoga pants. Hot tubs, panty liners, and scented tampons promote yeast overgrowth, too (per Cornell University). 

Unfortunately, it’s possible to develop yeast infections even if you wear loose clothes and maintain good hygiene. The reason might surprise you. 

Keep your immune system strong to prevent yeast infections

Recurring yeast infections are more common in those with weak immune systems, notes Healthline. A compromised immune system, whether it’s due to medications, illnesses, or poor nutrition, promotes candidate overgrowth and can make it harder to fight off infection. This factor may also increase your risk of viral and bacterial infections.

Corticosteroids, for instance, can affect immune function and contribute to the onset of yeast infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This class of drugs includes prednisone, prednisolone, cortisone, and more. Inhaled corticosteroids, such as fluticasone and budesonide, are not safer either. Generally, these medications are prescribed to those with autoimmune or inflammatory disorders, like arthritis and ulcerative colitis.

Note that other factors, such as your diet, can wreak havoc on your immune system, too. Vitamin C, for example, plays a key role in immune function. Low levels of this nutrient may increase your chance of getting an infection (per Nutrients). Magnesium, zinc, selenium, and iron are just as important for immune health. Also, try to avoid stress and squeeze more “me” time into your schedule. Severe or chronic stress can impair immune function, leaving you vulnerable to yeast infections, says Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler (via MedicineNet). 

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