What is bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a common condition among women, associated with imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. A woman’s vagina contains two types of bacteria, good (essential) bacteria and harmful bacteria.
In the case of a change in the body, such as reduced immunity, the good bacteria is usually reduced in number hence an increase in number in the bad bacteria, causing related symptoms. Bacterial Vaginosis is one of the most dealt with cause of vaginal infections for women of reproductive age.
What are the symptoms?
About 50% of women suffering from bacterial Vaginosis never present with symptoms. However, if you notice the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
- Excessive, thin gray or white vaginal discharge that is sticky to the vaginal wall.
- Fishy unpleasant vaginal odor, especially after sex
- Vaginal itching and irritation during urination.
What are the risk factors?
Bacterial vaginosis in most cases occurs when the number of normal bacteria in the vagina is outnumbered by some different organisms existing the vagina.
A bacteria called Lactobacillus is important since it produces lactic acid which keeps the vagina slightly acidic hence preventing any bacteria from thriving. In the case of Bacterial Vaginosis, the number of the other bacteria significantly increases causing a chemical imbalance in the vagina. Here is what might be increasing your chances of acquiring Bacterial Vaginosis;
- Use of scented soaps which contain chemicals that deplete the good bacteria in the vagina causing bacterial imbalance
- Having unprotected sex with multiple partners puts you at a high risk of contracting BV
- Use of Intrauterine Contraceptive device (IUCD)
- Vaginal douching, whether by use of antiseptic solutions or herbal concoctions causes bacterial imbalance in your vaginal leading to BV.
- The E.coli (a bacteria mostly found in the rectum), spread to the vagina due to poor hygiene practices
Bacterial Vaginosis cannot be caused by
- sharing of eating utensils
- sharing of swimming pools
- toilet seats
Any woman with an abnormal vaginal discharge should be prompt to visit a doctor. Once you have explained to your doctor about how you are feeling, several tests will be carried out to diagnose BV and rule other infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Because BV can pose a high risk for pregnant women, it is advisable that such cases be taken seriously to prevent birth of a pre-term baby.
Just like other infections during pregnancy BV has an equal potential to cause premature labor. Here are the tests that your doctor is likely to take you through;
1. Physical Exam
Your doctor will use an instrument called a speculum which they insert into the vagina to examine your cervix, this way the doctor will be able to make an observation with the naked eye and the nose.
2. Laboratory tests
Your doctor will ask you to get a vaginal swab, which will be examined in the laboratory and viewed under a microscope to determine
- Absence of “good “bacteria lactobacilli
- Change of pH of vaginal fluid
- Decreased acidity
- Presence of Gardnerella bacteria by microscopic examination
The sample is then mixed with a reagent called potassium hydroxide which produces a strong fishy odor in the presence of the bacterial Vaginosis.
Although BV can go away without treatment, it is highly recommendable that women with the symptoms and signs should seek treatment to avoid complications. There are two types of treatments that you are likely to undergo in case the tests turn positive.
1. Conventional treatment
Even though it is uncertain that BV is sexually transmitted, treatment of all sexual partners is crucial to avoid reinfection. Males suffering from BV and not sexually active, may not need treatment. The males engaging in sex can spread the infection to their female partners, that’s why it is important that they are treated.
The doctor is likely to prescribe one or two of the following medications,
- Metronidazole is the most widely used antibiotic since it is safe for use even in pregnancy and lactation. In a tablet form, it is taken orally twice daily for seven days. In gel form, it is applied to a clean, dry vagina twice daily for five days. It is, however, important to note that this drug reacts with alcohol, and may cause serious complications if the two are mixed. It is therefore advisable to keep off alcohol during this period.
- Clindamycin might be prescribed in cases where metronidazole is less efficient; it is important to note that when using clindamycin, barrier family planning methods such as the use of condoms and caps may be less useful.
- Tinidazole might also be prescribed in place of metronidazole; one thing with tinidazole is that it causes serious vomiting once taken with alcohol. Just like Metronidazole alcohol should be avoided during its intake period. This drug is taken as a single dose orally.
Any of the above drugs might cause the following side effects:
- Nausea, (persistent urge to vomit).
- Abdominal cramps or overall abdominal disturbances
- Loss of appetite
- Acne breakouts
- Increased sweating
- Dizziness and decreased sleep (insomnia)
These side effects are mild in most cases; they usually wear off after the treatment is over.
2. Naturopathic treatment
In this kind of treatment you will be required to:
- Abstain from sexual activities while the bacterial imbalance/infection heals
- Apply the antimicrobial products as instructed by your doctor
- Support your immune system and its ability to balance the vaginal system by eating plenty of vegetables and fruits.
- Cut off from the following: Coffee, fast foods/Oily foods, Saturated fats from animal products, Sugary products, Smoking.
3. Probiotic treatment
When dealing with Bacterial Vaginosis, you are required to load up your diet with proper probiotics. The best way to get the probiotics is simply by finding them in fermented foods. It is useful also to consider the following characteristics:
- The probiotic should have the ability survive your stomach acidity to reach your intestines alive to provide the longer lasting effect.
- The probiotic should contain health-promoting components
- The probiotic activity should stay alive throughout the processes until the end-user consumption.
According to Doctor Michael Greger, a physician and a writer on National Institutes of Health “The standard pH of one’s vagina is like that of a tomato juice once it starts creeping out to that coffee, an overgrowth of bad bacteria can take hold and cause bacterial vaginosis.” Here is what is highly recommendable for you;
1. Nutritional supplements
Consuming supplements of vitamin C (1000mg) three times daily with meals go a long way in building up the immune system. Zinc 30 mg daily for at least two months also to boosts your immune system. These are other most common supplements recommendable.
- Bromelain 400mg
- Coenzyme N(5 tabs three times daily after meals)
2. Fruits and vegetables
Enriched with vitamins and fibers fruits and vegetables increase the body’s immunity against infections such as bacterial vaginosis and any other than might invade your body.
Home Remedies for Bacterial Vaginosis
Nutritional Deficiencies in local immunity may predispose women to BV.Deficiencies more so in micro nutrients are highly associated with a depressed immune response. In other words if proper diet and balanced diet is not adhered to, risk of infections is increased. According to Dr.Mercola of taking content for your health “Bacterial vaginosis diet should mainly consist of anti-bacterial foods which should then be merged with probiotics to control the presence of pathogenic bacteria, not just in your vaginal tract but also the entire body.”
Garlic is a powerful antibacterial remedy, not only is it known for its sulfonic acids which are bactericidal when ingested, but also for its anti-fungal properties.
In other words, regular intake of garlic reduces by far the complications of BV by equalizing the bacteria in the vagina and speeding up the healing process. Here is another way to use garlic to treat bacterial vaginosis;
What you need
- A clean gauze
- Garlic cloves
- Wrap three pieces of garlic in a clean gauze
- Insert into the vagina and leave for an hour, do this daily for two weeks
2. Tea Tree Oil
This compound contains both antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Besides reducing and depleting the awful smell common with bacterial vaginosis, it profoundly helps kill the germs when used regularly.
What you need
- Two table spoons of tea tree oil
- Warm water
- Add three table spoons of tea tree oil into two cups of warm water
- Rinse your vagina twice daily using this solution, use for at least five days for better results.
Of the most used standard remedies, Yogurt finds itself useful because it contains lactobacillus that helps fight bad bacteria maintaining the correct vaginal PH.
What you need
- Three table spoons of yoghurt
- A tampon or cotton wood
- Dip a tampon or cotton pad into the yogurt and insert into the vagina for half an hour
- Rinse off with warm water without using soap, repeat the same procedure twice daily for at least five days
- Alternatively take a glass of yoghurt daily to help restore your vagina’s normal bacteria balance.
4. Apple cider vinegar
The acidic properties of the vinegar make it a suitable remedy against BV.Vinegar naturally helps restore some bacteria in your vagina.
What you need
- Apple cider vinegar
- Warm water
- Add a tablespoon of vinegar and add into warm water
- Cleanse the vagina twice daily using this solution, use for at least five days for better results.
- Alternatively add honey to the mixture and drink daily for at least one week.
4. Hydrogen Peroxide
Am sure you have come across this solution, it is widely used in households for different purposes. While this solution can disinfect and control the growth of harmful bacteria, it can also help combat itchiness and swelling.
What you need
- Hydrogen peroxide 3%
- Mix equal parts of hydrogen peroxide with water
- Cleanse your vagina twice daily using such solution, continue this for atleast two weeks for better results
Known for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It helps reduce inflammation and reduces itchiness.
What you need
- Tumeric powder
- Water or milk
- Add a tablespoon of powdered turmeric into a glass of water or milk and stir properly
- Consume this mixture twice daily for a week to notice results
Besides its known function of maintaining a balanced level of hormones, fenugreek is essential against bacterial infections of the vagina
What you need
- Fenugreek seeds
- Clean water
- Soak a handful of fenugreeks seed in water and leave overnight.
- Take solution in the morning on an empty stomach, do this daily for at least five days to note results
8. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is also another great remedy for bacterial Vaginosis; it is loaded with antifungal and antibacterial agents that not only kills the harmful bacteria in the vagina but also stops them against re-infecting you.
What you need
- Cotton wool
- Coconut oil
- Dap a piece of cotton wool into coconut oil
- Insert into your vagina
- Wash off, after half an hour, repeat this daily until symptoms disappear.
9. Oregano oil.
Its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to reduce itchiness make Oregano oil, a remedy not worth keeping off this list. The recommended dose is 500mg until infections are subsided. It will improves immunity against future bacterial infections when taken as stated above.
What you need
- 500mg oregano oil
- Take a 500 mg of oregano oil daily until symptoms subsides
10. Cold water (ice water)
Cold water can be helpful especially in cases of swelling and redness. It reduces inflammation and irritations by increasing blood circulation to the constricted blood vessels,
What you need
- Two ice cubes
- Clean cloth
- A basin of cold water
- Dip cloth in a basin of cold water with ice cubes
- Dap the affected area twice daily until redness and inflammation subside.
11. Indian Lilac
Also known as neem or margosa, Indian Lilac is one of the most sought after remedies against bacterial vaginosis.Both its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties make it a perfect solution to ease itching and inflammation together with killing the harmful bacteria present ion the vagina.
What you need
- Fresh lilac leaves
- Take fresh leaves and warm in a pan, leave to cool and smash to form a powder.
- Add water to form a thick paste, this is what you are going to apply into the vagina and around the vaginal walls.
- Wash the paste off using warm water
- Repeat the process until you notice results.
Ways to Treat Bacterial Vaginosis with Homeopathy
Even though this can be a safer way of treating bacterial vaginosis, it is recommendable that one seeks the help of a registered homeopath for prescription and usage instructions.
This medium is effective when used against bacteria vaginosis especially when it presents with milky and water discharge. Borax 30 C can be taken five pills after every 4 hours. This treatment is supposed to be continued until the symptoms subside. Notably, this medium can also be used to treat other yeast infections such as candidiasis
2. Arsenicum Album
This remedy is suggested when symptoms of burning sensation and vaginal discharge are exhibited. Arsenicum 30 is prescribed to both girls and women suffering from Bacterial Vaginitis.It is taken orally, two pills every two hours until six doses in a day. If continued for at least five days relief is attained, and in mild cases, symptoms are alleviated completely.
This medium is commonly used when the discharge is milky, greenish or yellowish.Sapia 12 is prescribed in cases where severe Vaginitis is diagnosed. Five pills are to be taken four hourly, for five days. In case symptoms persist Sepia 30c is also prescribed to be taken four hourly until positive changes are noted.
4. Caldera Carbonica
This remedy is suitable for women who have persistent vaginal discharge together with a burning sensation and itching.Carbonica 30c should be taken four hourly, and the treatment continues until one is completely relieved.
This plant is known as an immunity booster, its miraculous properties of stimulating the immune system make it a perfect remedy for bacterial vaginosis.Echinacea is available in tablet form of 500mg and 1000mg.Any earlier allergies with the sunflower plant should be an indication against use of Echinacea compounds because the two plants are belong to the same species.
Prevention of BV
Boost your immunity
Besides use of home remedies, it is important for women of all ages to build their immunity against such infections, which can be achieved by;
- Consuming plenty of vitamin A foods together with iron and zinc supplements which makes your body stand a better chance of fight infections
- Drinking about 3 liters of water daily.
- Sunbathing each day to maintain balance in vitamin D
- Taking enough rest daily
- Proper exercise for about 30 minutes each day.
Maintain good vaginal hygiene
- Always keep your underwear clean, wash and sun -dry your undergarments daily
- Do not wear tight –fitting underwear
- Opt for cotton underwear compared to other materials that do not absorb sweat.
- Avoid over cleaning your vagina
- Avoid use of soaps to clean your vagina.
- Use wipes front to back after using the toilet.
- Do not stay in wet clothes for longer than you should.
Have proper sex habits
- It is advisable to have one sexual partner; several sexual partners increase your risk of contracting Bacterial Vaginosis together with other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Use condom correctly during sexual intercourse
- Have your partner tested for any sexually transmitted disease before you engage in any sexual activities with them.
- Form a habit of going for regular visits together with your spouse, this way such infections can be noted early enough and treated accordingly.
- Always be quick to see your doctor when you notice any of the symptoms listed in this article.
Complications of Bacterial Vaginosis
In most cases, Bacterial Vaginosis is treatable giving no room for complications. However, in cases where treatment is not given, the following complications are bound to occur;
1. Sexually transmitted Infection
Research shows that women who suffer from bacterial vaginosis are at a high risk of contracting sexually transmitted disease (STI) such as chlamydia. The reason is that such infections reduces the possibility of protection against any other related diseases
More than half of the women treated with antibiotics for bacterial Vaginosis report back to their doctors within three months with the same symptoms. In case that BV reoccurs, visit your doctor and discuss other treatment options available.
3. Pregnancy complications
Pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing complications related to BV because their immunity reduces during pregnancy.
In severe cases, the infection ascends to the amniotic sac causing it break too early leading to miscarriages or even chorioamnionitis a condition whereby the membranes that make up the baby sac (amnion) is infected. If one is lucky to carry the pregnancy to term, then there is a likelihood of developing postpartum endometriosis (Inflammation of the womb due to infections especially after caesarian section).
Spread of infections following gynecological surgeries
Bacterial Vaginosis may substantially increase the risk of having a post-surgery infection especially in procedures such as hysterectomy (removal of one’s womb) because in most cases the infection ascends and spreads to the operated (surgical) site.
SOURCES AND REFERENCES
- Mayo clinic staff (April 2016), Bacteria Vaginosis: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bacterial-vaginosis/home/ovc-20198404
- Debra Rose (June 2015) home remedies for bacterial vaginosis : http://www.healthline.com/health/home-remedies-forbacterial-vaginosis
- CDC, (December 2016) Bacteria Vaginosis treatment and care : https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/treatment.htm
- Melisa Conrad M.D (October 2016), Bacteria Vaginosis: http://www.medicinenet.com/bacterial_vaginosis_causes_symptoms_treatment/article.htm)
- Web Med (July 2015) Bacterial Vaginosis: http://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/tc/bacterial-vaginosis-topic-overview#1
- American Pregnancy Association (August 2015), Bacterial Vaginosis in Pregnancy: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/bacterial-vaginosis-during-pregnancy/