Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common cause of abnormal discharge in women. BV is even more common than thrush and affects approximately 1 in 10 women during their lifetime. The discharge caused by BV usually has a strong odour. Your doctor will take a swab to exclude more serious vaginal infections such as STI's.
Bacterial Vaginosis occurs when the normal bacteria present in the vagina become out of balance. In our gut, we want a large diversity of bacteria, however in the vagina it is normal for one species, Lactobacilli, to be the predominant species.
Vaginal bacteria are part of the vaginal immune system. When vaginal bacteria become out of balance, other infections can occur, and you become at a greater risk of contracting an STI. To maintain a healthy vaginal microbiome, it is necessary to maintain the pH (acidity/alkalinity) of the vagina. Imbalanced vaginal microbiome can also contribute to infertility in some women.
Flares of bacterial vaginosis
Many women experience frequent flares of bacterial vaginosis, which can be disheartening because the discharge and odour can have an affect on romantic and sexual relationships, as well as self esteem. Remember that this problem is common for many women, and you can make quite a few diet and lifestyle changes to reduce the chances of flares.
These are a few of the reasons that the vaginal microbiome can become out of balance and flares in BV may occur:
changes to estrogen levels during the menstrual cycle can affect the pH of the vagina
changes in estrogen levels throughout a woman's reproductive life, such as adolescence, perimenopause and menopause
after having a period, especially if it's a long period
a high sugar diet and blood glucose fluctuations
washing the vagina with antibacterial soap or douching
sex, especially with new partners
using lubricants during sex
using flavoured, scented, or coloured condoms
Tips for reducing flare ups:
hygiene is an important first step to reducing flares, but it's important not to overdo the cleanliness with antibacterial products. Antibacterial soaps and douches can kill of the good bacteria as well as the bad, and create an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina.
keep track of the flares to see what is likely to be causing them. Does BV occur every month at the same time, or does it reoccur after a big night of drinking?
avoid eating foods that are high in refined sugar such as juices, lollies, packaged foods, sauces, sweetened yoghurts and breakfast cereals
change tampons regularly, or switch to pads until the BV has been gone for 6 months
avoid condoms or lubricants that have colourings, flavours, or fragrances
seek help from a naturopath if your menstrual cycle is irregular, if the flares in BV occur at the same time every month, or if you suffer from other symptoms during your period
smoking is a risk factor for BV, so reduce your smoking or quit
Naturopathic treatment of Bacterial Vaginosis
Naturopaths commonly prescribe dietary changes, probiotics and herbal remedies to reduce the occurrence of BV. Herbal remedies are an individualised formula, depending on whether the flares are related to the menstrual cycle, to lifestyle, or to blood sugar fluctuations.
Unfortunately, bacterial vaginosis can reoccur in about 60% of women. If it reoccurs, then long term maintenance is necessary and I recommend that you work with a naturopath for a period of about 6 months.
Hi! I'm Simone Jeffries. I am a naturopath, nutritionist, herbalist and certified wellness coach.
I welcome men and women to consult with me at my Surry Hills clinic, or online from anywhere in Australia.
The information in this blog is from my B. Health Science degree, experience from working with women in my clinic, and continuing research.
This blog is not intended to take the place of medical advice. Please seek assistance for any medical concerns.