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Vaginal Health Series: Bacterial Vaginosis

Keeping the conversation going about vaginal health! The most common vaginal infections we treat in clinic are yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. In practice we find there to be too much shame and secrecy around our vaginal health, and more often than not we feel women are embarrassed or withhold information that may be concerning them. We are here to say these things are COMMON and they need to be treated appropriately. Knowledge is power, there are answers, so don’t be afraid to ask your health care practitioner!

 

B A C T E R I A L  V A G I N O S I S  1 0 1 

Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition that affects the pH of the vaginal canal, and can present with or without symptoms. BV can be difficult to resolve as the pH of the vaginal canal is very sensitive.

SYMPTOMS: BV typically manifests with discharge that

  • is thin, watery or grey 
  • has an odour similar to fish or amines (sour/metallic

DIAGNOSIS: via vaginal swab with your primary health care provider.


RECURRENCE: Recurrence is common, and if you've ever had BV chances are you're no stranger to this frustration. Approximately 70% of all cases tend to reoccur AND 30% of those cases are within the first month after treatment. So why does this happen? The root cause of this recurrence is commonly attributed to continued changes in pH of the vaginal canal, which allows bad bacteria to overpopulate, pushing out the good bacteria. Good bacteria need an acidic environment to populate. 

Remember that these infections are much more common than you think, and the key to stopping recurrence is to speak up to your healthcare practitioner when you notice a pattern of recurrence.


R I S K  F A C T O R S

Risk factors are elements of your life that act as contributing factors to developing any health concern. They can be related to diet, lifestyle, hormone levels, sleep quality, and more. Some common risk factors in developing bacterial vaginosis are:

  • using non-cotton and non-breathable pants and underwear fabrics. think daily exercise/hot yoga or workout classes

  • IUD contraception, especially the copper IUD

  • semen - semen has a higher pH than the natural vaginal pH and can increase the likelihood of BV 

  • pH changes with menstrual blood

  • scented soaps or body washes

  • poor diet leading to low immune function. when our immune system is not well equipped with proper nutrients to combat unhealthy bacterial overgrowth, this is the perfect environment for unhealthy bacterial overgrowth and recurrent infections.

 

C O M M O N  R O O T  C A U S E S

  • engaging with multiple sexual partners. be mindful of re-infection, and abstain when treating.

  • IUDs - copper in particular. copper IUDs are known to double the risk of BV, and this is commonly attributed to heavier + longer menstrual flows of copper IUD users. this increased and lengthened flow depletes Lactobacillus (a good bacteria) and permits the overgrowth of Gardnerella (we don't want too many of them at this party) which is associated with bacterial vaginosis infection.

  • poor diet. supporting the gut microbiome by feeding it fiber from vegetables and legumes is important in maintaining healthy gut bacteria levels, as there is a strong connection between the gut microbiome and the vaginal microbiome.

 

N A T U R O P A T H I C  T R E A T M E N T

This can be with or without antibiotic treatment, we work with both!

First things first. We help to minimize fluctuations of pH in the canal by discussing your relevant triggers and how to avoid them.

We supplement with medical grade oral and vaginal probiotics designed specifically to repopulate good vaginal bacteria. Two probiotic strains that have been clinically proven to reduce recurrence and prevent future infections are L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri.

We incorporate the use of Gynalac gel designed specifically to balance pH and improve efficacy of antibiotics in clearing infection.

We encourage elimination of alcohol and sugar during healing phase, as both feed the bad bacteria and contribute to an imbalance in good/bad bacteria in the vaginal canal. 

P R E V E N T I O N

  • Using Gynalac gel 3 days after menses for 6 months. This prevents changes in pH that could trigger a flare up.

  • Oral probiotics for 3 months to establish healthy consistency in good vaginal bacteria.

  • Addressing the ROOT CAUSE and making lifestyle changes accordingly.

WHAT ABOUT TAMPONS? A conversation that is increasingly popular is the risk factors associated with tampon use. Should you consider making the switch to a menstrual cup, more environmentally-friendly reusable cloth pads, or menstrual underwear (PS see our underwear favourites here)? A consideration with tampons is that they can contain chemicals and fragrances that act in the same way as scented washes, to disrupt vaginal pH and good bacteria. Additionally, leaving anything in the vagina for too long can increase the likelihood of bacterial overgrowth. If recurrent BV is a concern for you, this could be another option we explore!

Living with recurrent bacterial vaginosis infections does not have to be your reality! If you're wanting to take action in preventing them for good, book today with one of our naturopathic doctors!

M O N C T O N : [email protected] // (506) 830-8333 // Click Here to Contact Moncton

C H A R L O T T E T O W N : [email protected] // (902) 367-5300 // Click Here to Contact Charlottetown

 

RESOURCES: 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24318276/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20804637/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4373506/ 

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