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Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection caused by an imbalance in the healthy vaginal microflora. Commonly, it occurs due to an overgrowth of Gardnerella vaginalis.
Various factors such as douching and the use of vaginal products can affect the vaginal pH, causing this change in bacteria levels.
A systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2019 highlighted that BV is a common condition that affects women all over the world. (1)
Home Remedies for Bacterial Vaginosis
Here are a few ways to manage BV at home:
1. Use probiotics to keep your vagina healthy
Probiotics are healthy bacterial formulations that are available as capsules, pills, drinks, and certain food products.
Many clinical trials have shown a positive effect of probiotics on vaginal microbiota. The efficacy of the treatment depended upon the strain of bacteria and dosage. (2)
Probiotics can help counterbalance or curb the growth of harmful bacteria in the vaginal environment, thereby preventing infections such as BV.
2. Consume more vitamin C
Vitamin C can help alleviate BV by lowering the vaginal pH and preventing vaginal irritation. Studies have shown that vitamin C tablets can help in restoring or maintaining healthy vaginal microflora and pH and also in inhibiting BV recurrence. (8)(9)
Use: Include vitamin C-rich foods in your daily diet and ask your doctor about starting a supplement.
Although vitamin C is only mildly acidic, it can successfully lower your vaginal pH when taken in the right amounts and thereby can make the vaginal environment inhospitable for the growth of unwanted bacteria.
3. Apply boric acid to curb bacterial overgrowth
Topical application of boric acid may help kill the growth of yeast and bacteria in the vaginal region, but it is usually recommended for treating azole-resistant and recurrent vaginal infections, such as those caused by Candida glabrata. (10)(11)
Use: You must consult your doctor before using this remedy for BV to know if it is safe for you. The doctor will outline the correct dosage and frequency of use to avoid any complications or adverse reactions.
4. Try garlic supplements
The medicinal intake of garlic yielded positive results for some users grappling with recurrent BV and this beneficial effect was observed in an RCT study as well.
However, there still a need for more extensive research to conclusively establish the safety, efficacy, and exact mechanism of this remedy for treating BV.
Use: If you plan on taking garlic supplements for relieving BV, it is important that you run it by your doctor first to know the correct dosage.
5. Wash your vagina with hydrogen peroxide
Yet another home remedy for BV that has gained a lot of support on the internet and among general users is hydrogen peroxide.
Although hydrogen peroxide is a chemical, it is a weak acid that has been traditionally used as a topical antiseptic. But you must invariably use it with caution and in the right consistency, especially when you are applying it on a sensitive region, such as your vagina.
One small study highlighted the efficacy of using hydrogen peroxide to disinfect the vaginal area, but further large-scale studies are needed to support this claim. Thus, hydrogen peroxide may limit the growth of harmful bacteria in the vaginal region to prevent infections, but you must speak with your doctor about the safest ways to use this antiseptic solution.
Use: In most cases, people use 3% hydrogen peroxide diluted in water to irrigate or clean the vaginal cavity, but you must discontinue this remedy if you experience even the slightest bit of irritation.
Self-Care Tips to Prevent Bacterial Vaginosis
Several measures can be adopted to decrease the risk of developing BV. These include the following:
- Avoid taking baths in hot tubs.
- To lower the chances of BV recurrence, use protection while having sexual intercourse. (12)
- Keep your genital area clean and dry. Use only plain water for rinsing.
- Use unscented pads and tampons.
- Avoid using antiseptics in bathing.
- Avoid smoking.
- Do not wear tight-fitting clothes.
- Avoid douching completely. (13)
- Do not wash your underwear with strong detergents.
- Wipe in a front-to-back motion, from the vagina to the anus.
- Clean sex toys before and after use.
In the case of recurrent BV, your treatment may be prolonged to decrease the risk of recurrence.
Bacterial Vaginosis vs. Yeast Infection
BV is due to an increased number of harmful bacteria. It produces a thin vaginal discharge with malodor and increases the vaginal pH.
A yeast infection, on the other hand, is caused by the overgrowth of fungus in the vagina. It produces a thick, cottage-cheese-like, and odorless discharge. Symptoms of yeast infection include itching and burning in the vaginal area.
Most-Asked Questions About Bacterial Vaginosis
How does bacterial vaginosis spread?
It is normal to have the bacteria that cause BV in your body. BV occurs when there is an imbalance between the good lactobacilli and the BV bacteria. BV is confined to the vagina and does not spread to other body parts.
Can stress cause bacterial vaginosis?
Stress can be caused by situations, feelings, and life events that disturb your mental or physical well-being. (14)
A study showed that recurrent BV was common in people who had suffered from childhood sexual abuse, discrimination, a feeling of non-belongingness, and other stress factors. (15)
Is bacterial vaginosis a sexually transmitted infection?
BV is known to occur post sexual intercourse. However, it is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). BV increases the chances of contracting an STI by disturbing the natural protective barriers such as the normal vaginal lining.
Is apple cider vinegar good for bacterial vaginosis?
No studies have been conducted that support the use of apple cider vinegar for BV treatment. However, some women report that consuming diluted apple cider vinegar or adding it to their bath has been helpful.
Bacterial vaginosis is a common problem that can be easily treated with medications. However, in some women, the infection recurs in a few weeks or even after their periods or having sex. This is indicative of chronic BV, which should be checked by a doctor.