Stopping Recurrent Bacterial Vaginosis
by Barbara D. Allan
Author of Conquering Arthritis
This issue is for women who suffer from bacterial vaginosis (BV) - which is most of us gals at some time or another. (You know: funny smells, itching, tenderness, and/or thin white or gray discharge.)
(Sorry guys, this issue probably isn't of interest to you unless the woman you love has been dealing with BV.)
In this issue I will explain treatment options that help reverse this condition while strengthening and preserving the intestinal flora you need to heal your arthritis.
Bacterial vaginosis is relevant to arthritis because many doctors will tell you that antibiotics are the only way to wipe out the undesirable bacteria growing in the vagina.
Unfortunately antibiotics wipe out all the good bacteria, too (in the gut, the vagina and the bladder). Eliminating good bacteria can wreak havoc with your whole body, including triggering arthritis or making it worse.
In addition, although the antibiotic metronidazole (Flagyl) has a 70% initial cure rate, that cure doesn't last long for many women. The problem keeps recurring because the good bacteria that hold the bad bacteria in check have been wiped out. Also, for entirely different reasons, the pH in the vagina becomes periodically too high, suppressing the good bacteria and giving the bad bacteria the perfect conditions to overgrow.
Effective treatment must address both the healthy flora issue and the pH issue.
How to Re-establish Healthy Vaginal Flora
Healthy vaginal flora is different than healthy intestinal flora.
Taking probiotics specifically for intestinal flora or the home remedy of douching with live-culture yogurt will NOT re-seed your vagina with all the necessary healthy flora. Instead you need to take probiotics that specifically re-seed healthy vaginal flora. Here are a couple of options that are out there.
- "Fem-dophilus" can be purchased on the internet for about $15 on sale. According to the manufacturer, you need to take two pills a day for 60 days to treat a bacterial imbalance. That means a full treatment would cost about $60. I haven't heard anything one way or the other about this particular brand.
- "Ultimate Flora Vaginal Support" is on sale at my local health food store for about $28. A full 60 day treatment of this would cost about $116. I'm currently taking this product. I haven't taken for 60 days yet, but so far I haven't had any more BV while on it.
Both of these are taken orally.
Healthy Vagina pH
A healthy vagina has a pH between 4 and 4.5, although some natural variation does occur (such as a rise in pH following the completion of a menstrual cycle). This acidity prevents the overgrowth of bad bacteria.
However, sexual intercourse can sometimes change the pH of our vaginas because sperm cannot survive in such an acidic environment. Semen raises the pH in the vagina, so that sperm can survive long enough for our species to reproduce. Some men have more alkaline semen than others, which is why women can have little or no problem with BV with one partner, but are more likely to get BV when engaging with another.
In a healthy system, our bodies respond on their own to these temporary rises in pH and rebalance back to the 4-4.5 range. But a number of factors can inhibit this process, including stress and existing disease processes like arthritis.
Ways to Correct the pH Problem
There are several ways you can assist your body in rebalancing its vaginal pH. Here are four I've found in the course of my research:
- A commercial pH buffer I found at my local chain drug store called RepHresh. It costs about $18 for 4 pre-filled applicators. That's about $4.50 per treatment. The cream is injected into the vagina before or after sex, or after your period, and is advertised to last for 3 days. So far I have tried it once, and it worked great.
- Inserting a single vitamin C tablet in the vagina and leaving it there. (Uncoated tablets are the best.)
Repeat again the next day if needed. Do this immediately before or after sex, right after your period, or whenever needed. This is popular and effective among women in BV chat rooms. It also costs very little and dosage isn't critical. 500mg of vitamin C is one dosage that seems popular. This is my favorite remedy of all the ones I have tried.
(Note: If you seem worse after the first vitamin C tablet, don't worry. Just insert another tablet the day after the first tablet.)
- A commercial product called Enzara which contains herbs, botanicals and essential oils that help the body restore normal vaginal pH. The recommended dose is one tablet every 12 hours taken orally. The manufacturers claim a 94.7% success rate. A thirty day supply cost $67. If you buy in volume you can get it for half of that. I haven't tried this one.
- A friend of mine had great success with douching once or twice a day with a mixture of 1/10 apple cider vinegar and 9/10 water. It gave her complete symptomatic control. I tried the same thing and it didn't work for me. I mention it because if it does work for you, it is an inexpensive option.