Natural Remedies for Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis is the most common infection that affects women who are about 15 to 44 years old. It is believed to result from an imbalance in the number of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the vagina, which may occur due to a variety of factors. Fortunately, in most cases, bacterial vaginosis is mild and self-limiting, which means that it may go away on its own without the need for expensive medical treatment.
Many women do not even know that they have bacterial vaginosis. Symptoms may be mild and these include having a thin, white or grayish vaginal discharge, fishy odor, itching, pain, or burning sensation in the vagina. The fish-like odor is usually strong especially after sex. A burning feeling may be experienced when urinating. Itching may be felt around and/or outside of the vagina. These symptoms may be similar to other sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, and yeast infection. It is therefore important to consult a doctor if you are pregnant, or if you experience high fever, lower abdominal pain, and vaginal discharge. Although most cases of bacterial vaginosis gets better on its own, it is advisable to call you doctor if your symptoms do not improve after one week, or if you have other unusual symptoms.
What Causes Bacterial Vaginosis?
We may not be aware of it, but millions of bacteria inhabit our bodies. While it is normal for our bodies to host some amount of bacteria in the skin, mouth, and other parts, most of these are harmless and do not cause infection or disease. These are called “good” bacteria because their presence actually prevents “bad” or harmful bacteria from thriving in our bodies. This balance, however, may be lost when certain factors intervene.
Just like the skin, mouth, colon and anus, the vagina is usually protected from bacterial infection by the presence of good bacteria. However, bacterial infection, or bacterial vaginosis may occur when harmful microorganisms outnumber the friendly bacteria. This is usually associated with a change in the normal level of acidity (pH) in the vaginal environment, which favors the growth of bad bacteria. This may occur under certain circumstances, such as:
- Chronic smoking
- Frequent douching
- Not using condoms
- Having more than one sexual partner
- Having a new sexual partner
- Having a female sex partner
Although bacterial vaginosis does not appear to be sexually transmitted, your risk increases if you are sexually active. However, women who do not have sex may also experience it. It is not acquired from beddings, toilet seats or swimming pools.
Natural Remedies for Bacterial Vaginosis
As with other conditions, the best remedy is prevention. To prevent bacterial vaginosis, it is advisable to avoid vaginal douching and to use condoms during sex. Limiting yourself to one sexual partner is also recommended. Since it may be passed between women during sex, you may benefit by using some protection. Shared sex toys must be washed carefully.
Although bacterial vaginosis is not considered an STI (sexually transmitted infection), it may increase your risk of acquiring one if you have bacterial vaginosis. It is therefore always important to practice safe sex. Preventing STI is easier than treating it.
If you are pregnant, having the disease may increase your risk of getting a miscarriage, an early or preterm delivery or a uterine infection. If you undergo a gynecological procedure while having bacterial vaginosis, you may also run the risk of developing a serious infection such as endometritis or pelvic inflammatory disease. Women who are at risk for these conditions may need antibiotic treatment as prescribed by their doctors. However, infections tend to recur even with antibiotic treatment. In addition, frequent use of antibiotics may increase your risk for developing vaginal yeast infection.
Some experts recommend using a dilute solution of apple cider vinegar and water to wash the vaginal area and putting apple cider vinegar in a warm bath to relieve vaginal itching. Others suggest inserting plain yogurt, which contains “good” bacteria, into the vagina by placing it on a tampon. Alternatively, it may also be placed on a clove of garlic, also is known to have natural antibacterial properties, and inserted into the vagina.
Many experts believe that taking a good probiotic containing acidophilus bacteria helps restore friendly bacteria in the vagina. In addition, eating two to three servings of plain yogurt daily may help recolonize the body with “good” bacteria.
Probiotics are substances that contain live bacteria that help increase the number of friendly or beneficial microorganisms in the gut, as well as other parts of the body. Aside from bacterial vaginosis, they may also help relieve other conditions associated with an imbalance in good and bad bacteria in the body, such as infectious diarrhea, lactose intolerance, chronic constipation, and childhood eczema.
The most commonly used probiotic is Lactobacillus acidophilus, which may be found in acidophilus-enriched milk, yogurt, miso, and tempeh. Probiotic supplements may be sold in the form of tablets, freeze-dried capsules/granules/powder, liquid preparations, and vaginal suppositories.
Consult your doctor when you have symptoms of vaginal infection and ask about the use of natural remedies such as probiotics with your treatment.
This information should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your health care providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health.
CDC. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). http://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/treatment.htm
CDC. Bacterial Vaginosis – CDC Fact Sheet. http://www.cdc.gov/STD/bv/STDFact-Bacterial-Vaginosis.htm
WebMD. Bacterial Vaginosis. http://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/tc/bacterial-vaginosis-treatment-overview
Health Guidance. Bacterial Vaginosis Cures – Get Relief Now! http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/14278/1/Bacterial-Vaginosis-Cures–Get-Relief-Now.html
UMMC. Lactobacillus acidophilus. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/lactobacillus-acidophilus