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Vaginitis is the inflammation of the walls of the vagina due to an infection or irritation. It can occur in women of all ages but is most prevalent during the reproductive years.
The inflammation may result from bacterial or fungal infections, allergic reactions to chemical irritants, and lack of estrogen due to certain medications or menopause.
The cause of vaginitis may differ from patient to patient but the symptoms typically include vaginal discharge, pruritus, burning, irritation, erythema, dyspareunia, spotting, and dysuria.
Home Remedies for Vaginitis
The use of home remedies not only helps in the treatment of vaginitis but also lowers the risk of developing it.
1. Consume probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that assist in fighting infections and improve the body’s microflora. They are available as capsules, pills, and various food products. Probiotics have been used alone and along with antibiotics for the treatment of bacterial vaginosis and the prevention of relapse.
However, systematic reviews of trials of probiotics for the treatment of bacterial vaginosis have not found enough evidence to prove or disprove its effectiveness. (1)
Therefore, large-scale research is needed before including probiotics in the clinical treatment of bacterial vaginosis and vulvovaginal candidiasis, which are often the root cause of vaginal inflammation. (2)
How to use:
- Include rich food sources of probiotics in your regular diet, such as yogurt (especially Greek yogurt), sauerkraut, kimchi, and buttermilk.
- Ask your doctor to start you on a probiotic supplement but do not exceed the recommended dosage.
Probiotics, whether derived from food or supplements, are beneficial so long as they are consumed in the appropriate amounts. Excessive consumption will only disturb the bacterial balance in the gut and trigger digestive distress.
Probiotics are live active cultures of healthy bacteria that can help regulate and eliminate the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in your system, including the vaginal area.
2. Increase garlic intake
Garlic is known to exhibit considerable antimicrobial activity that can help fight various vaginal infections that lead to vaginitis. In fact, one study suggested that garlic may work as a suitable alternative for the standard antibiotics used in the treatment of bacterial vaginosis (BV). (3)
However, the efficacy and safety of this herb as a legitimate treatment for vaginal infections have to be verified by further large-scale studies before it can be advocated for general use.
How to use:
- Eat a few cloves of raw garlic or add it to your cooking.
- Ask your doctor to recommend a suitable garlic supplement.
Medicinal intake of garlic can be a safe and effective replacement for metronidazole in the treatment of bacterial vaginosis for those who are looking for herbal substitutes or not responding well to the standard medication. However, you must consult your doctor before changing your medication or trying any new supplement.
3. Sit in a warm sitz bath
Another popular home therapy for treating vaginitis is dipping your perineum in a sitz bath. A sitz bath is basically a warm pool of saline water that is so shallow that it only covers your nether regions.
The gentle heat from the water helps relieve the swelling, while the salts in the bath kill the bacteria and other germs.
How to use:
- Take a sitz bath bowl and fill it with warm water.
- Stir in 1–2 teaspoons of salt in the water.
- Dip your finger to make sure that the water is not too hot before sitting in it.
- Sit in the bath while spreading your legs so that the water washes over your vagina and let it soak in it for 10–15 minutes.
- Once you get out of the bath, let your vaginal area air-dry or pat it gently with a clean towel to get rid of any moisture before putting on your clothes.
Caution: Do not put any harsh substances such as soaps, chemicals, or essential oils in the sitz bath as they can further irritate your vaginal lining.
4. Use apple cider vinegar
The antiseptic properties of apple cider vinegar (ACV) are much talked about and have been widely utilized in the self-treatment of vaginal infections. This mildly acidic liquid in its unfiltered form is swimming with beneficial bacteria known as the “mother.”
Thus, it can help restore a healthy vaginal pH to make the environment inhospitable for the growth of infection-causing germs.
How to use:
- Include ACV in your diet.
- Prepare a disease-fighting tonic by mixing 1–2 tablespoons of ACV in a glass of water and chugging down this solution. If you want, you can add honey for better taste and additional antimicrobial activity.
Caution: Don’t use ACV for vaginal irrigation as it can damage the sensitive skin in your genital area and disrupt the vaginal flora by destroying the healthy bacteria.
Note: Always dilute ACV in water before using it medicinally, as it can be extremely harsh in concentrated amounts.
5. Try gentle cold therapy
Cold therapy is one of the simplest, safest, and cheapest ways to manage a variety of discomforts. No wonder, then, a lot of users have reported good results after using this intervention for vaginitis relief.
The application of a cold compress on the skin temporarily numbs the underlying nerve endings, making you feel less pain, itching, and general irritation. However, you must do the cold therapy correctly for it to yield the desired results, especially when you are using it on an already sensitive area like the vagina.
How to use:
- Wrap a few ice cubes in a clean cotton cloth, and tie its ends into a tight knot to form a pouch.
- Place this cold pack on the vagina for a couple of minutes, followed by a minute-long break, and then reapply.
- Repeat the same application a few more times until you register relief, but one session should not extend for more than 20 minutes.
Note: Never apply the ice directly or for too long at a stretch as it can further damage the vaginal lining and even cause frostbite.
6. Consider cranberries
Cranberries have traditionally been used for treating urinary tract infections with overwhelmingly successful results, (4)(5) but there is no scientific support for their use in the treatment of vaginal infections. However, some users found cranberries to be helpful in alleviating their vaginitis symptoms when taken orally in the right amounts.
The inherent antioxidant, antifungal, and antibacterial potential of these tart berries may be responsible for this therapeutic effect, which can only be confirmed through rigorous research.
In any case, they are unlikely to cause any adverse side effects when consumed as part of your regular diet, unless you are allergic to them. So, there is absolutely no harm in trying.
How to use:
- Cranberries by themselves are unlikely to deliver any considerable relief. The idea is to incorporate them into an overall healthy and well-balanced diet.
- Drink cranberry juice now and then, until your vaginal irritation subsides.
- Ask your doctor about the suitability of taking cranberry supplements.
Self-Care Tips to Maintain Vaginal Health
Maintaining vaginal hygiene and personal cleanliness using the following self-care tips can help in preventing vaginitis, alleviating the symptoms, and speeding recovery:
- Wipe in a front-to-back motion after defecating or emptying your bladder.
- Avoid wearing nylon underwear as it retains heat and moisture, thus promoting bacterial growth. Instead, wear 100% cotton underwear that absorbs moisture and allows good air circulation.
- Take a warm bath to alleviate the irritation in your vaginal area, and refrain from using soap.
- Resist scratching or rubbing your vaginal area as it causes discomfort and may lead to a secondary infection.
- Do not wear body-fit clothes, such as tight jeans and bodysuits, which limit air circulation and cause friction for a long time.
- Refrain from using scented products on your vagina, even if you do not have vaginitis, as they may contain chemical irritants. These products include dyed, scented, or antibacterial soaps, powders, perfumed or deodorized tampons, feminine deodorant sprays, colored or perfumed toilet paper, and alcoholic wipes.
- Use protection during sex, such as condoms and diaphragms, to prevent the entry of harmful bacteria into your vagina.
- Avoid taking bubble baths or using spray jets as they can disturb the balance of the vaginal microflora.
- Replace sanitary napkins and tampons frequently.
- Do not stay in wet clothing for a long time. Change into dry clothes immediately after swimming.
- Refrain from casual sex as women with multiple sexual partners have a higher chance of having bacterial vaginosis and acquiring STIs.
- Abstain from sharing your sex toys.
- Do not share medications even if you have similar symptoms as the infection or the required treatment may differ.
- Avoid using old medicine as it may have lost its efficacy and may worsen the condition.
- Identify and discontinue the use of products that may be the reason for vaginitis caused by an allergy or sensitivity.
- Eating a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet helps strengthen your immune system, thus making your body more resistant to the infections responsible for vaginitis.
- Vitamin C intake through diet or supplementation can help alleviate vaginitis by lowering the vaginal pH and preventing vaginal irritation. Studies have shown that vitamin C tablets can help in maintaining the vaginal microflora and pH. It also decreases the chance of recurrent BV. (6)(7)
- Do not douche. A healthy vagina has the right balance of bacteria. Douching can alter this balance and may pass the harmful bacteria into the upper genital tracts, including the uterus and fallopian tubes.
Most-Asked Questions About Vaginitis
How are vaginitis and vaginosis different from each other?
Vaginosis is an infection caused by a disturbance in the vaginal microflora balance due to the overgrowth of certain bacteria, leading to an inflamed vagina.
The inflammation of the vagina is referred to as vaginitis, which can also be triggered by factors other than vaginosis, such as irritants, allergy, low estrogen levels, yeast infections, and trichomonas infections. Thus, vaginosis is the cause, whereas vaginitis is its symptom.
Can condoms cause vaginitis?
If a person is allergic to latex, the use of condoms can induce an allergic reaction, which leads to itchiness in the vaginal area after sexual intercourse. However, not using protection increases the risk of developing vaginitis, which is why people with a latex allergy are advised to use non-latex condoms.
Are antibiotics effective in all cases of vaginitis?
No, antibiotics only work for vaginitis that is triggered by a bacterial infection. Yeast infections warrant antifungal medication, whereas non-infective vaginitis is treated mainly by avoiding the causative chemical or allergen.
Is tea tree oil recommended to relieve the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis?
Some women use tampons soaked with tea tree oil to improve the vaginal pH. However, the efficacy or safety of this home remedy has not yet been tested in any human scientific study; thus, it is not recommended.
Is boric acid helpful in treating vaginitis?
Boric acid vaginal suppositories are not shown to be effective in treating isolated or initial cases of bacterial vaginosis. However, there is a role for boric acid in managing recurrent bacterial vaginosis. It was also found helpful in treating some cases of resistant yeast vaginitis. (8)
Do chamomile tea bags help in treating vaginitis?
There are no studies to support the use of chamomile tea bags for relieving vaginitis. (9)
Is vaginitis contagious?
Women with trichomonas vaginitis can sexually transmit the infection to their male partner during intercourse, but the condition often remains undiagnosed and untreated in men since they rarely develop any symptoms.
The infected man can, therefore reinfect his female partner who might have been cured. Therefore, both partners must get treated for the disease at the same time. Occasionally, trichomoniasis may be passed through wet towels, bathing suits, or washcloths.
Bacterial vaginosis and yeast vaginitis are not spread sexually. However, some studies have reported reduced rates of recurrence with routine use of condoms. (10)
Can vaginitis occur along with a UTI?
One study showed an association between urinary tract infections (UTIs) and vaginitis, despite the differences in their respective causative organisms.
About 75% of women with bacterial vaginosis, 46% with vaginal candidiasis, and 13% with trichomoniasis were diagnosed with UTIs as well. It is thus recommended to get tested for UTIs if you are suffering from vaginitis and vice-versa. (11)
Can coconut oil help treat a vaginal infection?
Coconut oil is often floated as a remedy for vaginitis due to its inherent antifungal and antibacterial properties, (12) but there is virtually no scientific evidence to confirm the safety and efficacy of this intervention. In fact, this remedy may even worsen your condition, so it’s best avoided.
Although some people have registered relief after using coconut oil on the outer skin of the vulva, no follow-up was done in these cases to know how long the relief lasted and whether there were any side effects later. So, never wash or douche the vaginal canal with coconut oil, as it can cause more harm than good.
Vaginitis can be treated easily with doctor-approved medical interventions, home remedies, lifestyle changes, and vaginal hygiene measures, but some women may experience recurrent episodes, which may require extensive or long-term treatment.
Consult your doctor if your condition fails to improve or worsens despite following the prescribed treatment.