What To Do When You've Got BV

Written by Melissa Ramos
Medical review by Wendie Trubow, M.D., MBA
Functional Medicine Gynecologist
Wendie Trubow is a functional medicine gynecologist with almost 10 years of training in the field. She received her M.D. from Tufts University.

Photo by Shutterstock.com

I clearly remember the day, nearly 10 years ago now, when my Pap test results revealed I had "BV." At the time, I was an advertising executive, naïve to the world of health. The fact that my doctor used an acronym was enough to make me worry. I felt a mix of shame, disgust and then confusion.

Turns out I was diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis. Like many women who receive that news, I felt like I was broken "down there." And these feelings aren't uncommon, especially since BV isn’t discussed as commonly as yeast infections. And here’s the kicker: BV is actually more common in women than yeast infections.

So ladies, let’s get talking about our vaginas.

It is estimated that about 21 million women in the US are affected with bacterial vaginosis. Symptoms of BV include: vaginal discharge that can be thin white or grey with a strong odor; itching, swelling and even burning during urination. While these symptoms sound unpleasant, roughly 50 percent of BV is actually asymptomatic.

There are two problems with BV: (1) the misinformation about the infection and (2) the stigma, which is a result of that misinformation. So I'm going to bust some myths, reveal the truth, and provide a natural alternative to make your vagina happy once and for all.

Myth: Women who have BV are unclean

While certain women get BV from using an IUD, others actually get it from frequent douching, which disturbs our vaginal flora.

And did you know that Lysol was once used as a douche back in the 1920s? (Ouch!) So while women are thankfully no longer cleaning with a pine-scented product, we need to stop douching. It disrupts our good friendly flora (mainly L.acidophilus), which is needed to prevent and reduce viruses, bacteria, yeasts and/or parasites.

Myth: BV is a sexually transmitted disease

While sex with new sex partners can disrupt the pH of the vagina, bacterial vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted disease. Unfortunately, the internet is flooded with false information, making many believe BV is an STD. Before becoming fearful or self-diagnosing, it's important to understand the facts.

BV occurs when the vagina is lacking good, friendly bacteria, and when the pH becomes too alkaline (above a 4.8 on the pH scale). Ideally, it should be an acidic environment to fight infection. Your doctor will find bacteria on epithelial cells (marked by having a speckled appearance), which will create large numbers of bacteria in your vaginal fluid. These bacteria laced epithelial cells are also known as clue cells, as they give a “clue” to the diagnosis of nonspecific vaginitis.

As a practitioner, I've noticed that almost every woman who has come to me with BV has also had some level of digestive imbalance. In fact, so did I when I was diagnosed. Women will exhibit signs of high levels of stress plus increased carb and sugar consumption— all of which decrease our friendly digestive flora and create bloating and even constipation in some.

Just as we do with yeast infections, we need to focus on our gut to keep our vaginas happy.

How to treat BV naturally

1. Eliminate sugars and reduce carbohydrate consumption.

If you’re craving sugar, carbs or having an excess of alcohol, it's time to cut back. That excess insulin coursing through your body can lead to inflammation in the vagina. In fact, I had one patient who reported after "drinking a little too much" over the holidays that she was unable to walk because her inflammation was so severe.

2. Stabilize your blood sugar & drink lots of water.

If you’re a carb-lovin’ lady, switch your carbs for veggies and lighten up your plate. But remember: balancing out your blood sugar with protein and healthy fats are just as important as getting in your eight glasses of water a day. By not eating balanced meals, your stress hormones will kick in, further promoting inflammation.

3. Take probiotics.

While conventional medicine will suggest taking an antibiotic, realize that while symptoms may clear up, they can come back with a vengeance since you’re killing your friendly gut bacteria.

If you suffer from BV, taking probiotics by mouth (as well as inserting probiotic ovules into your vagina) is a must. Doing so will reinoculate your friendly bacteria in your digestive tract and your little bits.

Plus, get this: a 2011 study coming out of McMaster University revealed that when rats were stripped of their friendly microbes, their cortisol levels increased. So taking your probiotics is crucial for both your body and your mind.

How I treated my BV naturally

One of the best natural ways that I’ve found to treat BV externally is with the following 14-day method. It may sound harsh, but not only have I tried it myself, I’ve also had plenty of patients use it with great success. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 organic tampon (without the applicator)
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 4 drops lavender essential oil
  • 4 drops tea tree oil essential oil
  • ¼ cup unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (ACV) diluted with ½ cup filtered water
  • Probiotic ovules

Begin by adding essential oils to coconut oil. Mix well and soak tampon in oil and insert in the evening. You will feel a bit of a gentle tingle for maybe five minutes, but it will subside.

In the morning, use the ACV diluted with water as a douche. I realize that I previously mentioned not to douche; however, in this case, it is essential for re-establishing the acidity in the vagina over a 14-day period. Immediately after, insert the probiotic vaginal ovule. Repeat this process every day for a week.

If DIY treatments aren’t your thing, tea tree oil suppositories will also do the trick. Vaginally insert one pre-made suppository nightly for six nights.

If you incorporate the dietary suggestions and the techniques above, you are sure to find relief. But to get a complete and thorough analysis, it's recommended that you visit your trusted health care provider.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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