I clearly remember the day almost 10 years ago when I was given my Pap test results from my doctor and was told that I had BV. Back then, I was an ad executive and naïve to the world of health. The fact that my doc was using an acronym was enough to make me worry. I felt a mix of shame and 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 nearly as much as yeast infections. And here’s the kicker: BV is actually more common in women then 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 odour, itching, swelling and even burning during urination. And while these symptoms sound unpleasant, roughly 50% of BV is actually asymptomatic.
There are two problems with BV: (1) all the misinformation that’s out there and (2) the stigma, which is a result of all that misinformation. So I thought it might be a good idea to bust some myths, give you the truth, and provide you with 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 1920’s? (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 we need to prevent and reduce viruses, bacteria, yeasts and/or parasites.
So ladies, remember: you're not dirty; put the vaginal squeeze toy of water away.
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 information telling women that BV is an STD, so before you go yelling at your man, know the facts.
BV occurs when we lack good friendly bacteria in the vagina and when the pH becomes too alkaline (above a 4.8 on the pH scale). Ideally, it should be 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.
The interesting thing is that as a practitioner, I’ve realized that almost every woman who has ever come to me with bacterial vaginosis had some level of digestive imbalance, in fact, I know I did when I had it. 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 eve constipation in some.
In fact, just as with yeast infections, to keep our vaginas happy, we need to focus on our gut, so here’s how.
How to treat BV naturally
1. Eliminate sugars and reduce carbohydrate consumption.
If you’re craving sugar, carbs or having an excess of alcohol, then put down the loaded gun, mama, because that excess insulin coursing through your body can lead to inflammation down there. In fact I had one patient who reported after drinking a little too much over the holidays that she was unable to walk because the inflammation was so bad.
2. Stabilize your blood sugar & drink lots of water.
If you’re a carb-lovin’ mama, 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 internally (as well as inserting probiotic ovules externally) 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 a little harsh, but not only have I tried it myself but I’ve 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's to reestablish the acidity in the vagina over a period of 14-days. Immediately after, insert the probiotic vaginal ovule. Repeat this process every day for a week.
If you incorporate the dietary suggestions and this technique above, trust me when I say you will get relief. But to get a complete thorough analysis, make sure to visit your trusted health care provider so you can get checked and treated.