Bacterial vaginitis refers to inflammation of the vagina. It occurs when there is a growth of bacteria. Certain bacteria are normally present in the vaginal area. When the levels of these bacteria rise, an infection can occur. The condition mostly affects women during their reproductive years, but can also occur at any time. The exact cause of bacterial vaginitis is unknown but certain factors can place you at risk for the infection. These factors include excessive douching and engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse.
Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginitis
The symptoms of bacterial vaginitis may include the following:
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Vaginal discharge. The discharge may be thin and grayish in color
- Unpleasant odor
- Burning while urinating
- Vaginal bleeding
In many cases, the infection may not produce any symptoms. It is advisable to consult a doctor in case you develop symptoms of a vaginal infection.
Causes of Bacterial Vaginitis
Bacterial vaginitis occurs when the microorganisms that normally live in the vagina start multiplying. Under normal circumstances, there are certain beneficial bacteria present in the vagina which keep the levels of harmful bacteria in check. However if this balance is affected it could result in an infection. Bacteria may transfer to the vagina during sexual intercourse. But bacterial vaginitis is also known to occur in women who are not sexually active. Some of the risk factors involved in the development of bacterial vaginitis include:
Bacterial infection may occur in women who have more than one sex partner or a new sex partner.
Douching can affect the balance of bacteria in the vagina and thus increases the risk of infection.
Use of intrauterine devices for birth control may also lead to bacterial vaginitis.
In some women, the levels of good bacteria in the vagina may be naturally low.
Bacterial vaginitis is an easily treatable condition and does not pose a serious risk. However in some cases, certain complications may occur:
Women with vaginal infections are at a higher risk of developing sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea or HIV.
Women with bacterial vaginitis who also have HIV are more likely to transmit the virus to a sex partner.
Pregnant women with the infection may give birth prematurely or may give birth to low birth weight babies.
The risk of bacterial vaginitis may increase after gynecologic surgical procedures such as an abortion or hysterectomy.
Remedies for Bacterial Vaginitis
Treatment for bacterial vaginitis involves the use of anti-bacterial medication. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics in the form of creams or ointments. You may also need to take oral antibiotic medications. However it is possible for the infection to recur and therefore it is necessary to complete the entire course of treatment. Some people may experience side effects after taking antibiotics. In some cases these antibiotics may even trigger a yeast infection. This is because most antibiotic regimens dont just eliminate the harmful bacteria; they also eliminate the beneficial bacteria. In such scenarios it may home remedies and other natural treatments may actually be a safer option. This varies from situation to situation as it depends on various factors, such as the severity of the infection, the frequency of infection and other health risks or prevalent conditions. Keep in mind that while there are many remedies that have been found to be effective, not all of these remedies have been scientifically investigated and you should exercise caution when relying on any home remedy. You can make use of the following tips for vaginitis home treatment.
- Yogurt is one of the most common home remedies for vaginal infection. Soak cotton plugs dipped in yogurt into the vagina or apply yogurt over the inflamed areas. You can also eat a bowl of yogurt every day until the infection disappears. Studies into the efficacy of probiotics have supported claims that lactobacilli content in yogurt can help with the treatment of urogenital infections whether ingested or applied topically. If used in combination with antibiotic treatments it also lowers the risk of subsequent yeast infections, while sustained intake of yogurt also lowers the risk of re-infection.
- To relieve redness, swelling and irritation, soak a clean cloth in cold water and place over the affected area. This will constrict the blood vessels and relieve discomfort. It also soothes the burning sensation.
- Tea bags can also be used for treating vaginitis. Soak a tea bag in water and keep in the refrigerator. Once it is sufficiently cooled, place over the vagina to reduce itching.
- Margosa is also said to be an effective natural remedy for vaginitis. It works well in destroying bacteria. Use margosa powder for getting rid of the infection.
- Garlic and turmeric are both beneficial natural cures for vaginitis. You can eat a couple of garlic cloves daily. You can also wrap a clove of garlic in gauze and insert in the vagina. An effective anti-bacterial remedy can be made with crushed garlic and onion. Avoid keeping the garlic for more than half an hour as it can lead to a blister. Use this treatment regularly to cure the infection. Turmeric may be added to milk and consumed.
- Add a few drops of cedar oil to a tub of hot water along with some salt. Soak in this water for some time to alleviate itching, redness and burning.
- The herb tracheal is believed to help in eliminating toxins from the body. Add a teaspoon of dried tracheal leaves to boiling water and consume as a tea.
- Drink plenty of cranberry juice as it helps in getting rid of bacterial infection.
- Change your undergarments regularly and wash used undergarments with anti-bacterial soap.
- Germs present around the rectum can pass into the vagina quite easily. Therefore wipe only from front to back.
- If you use a bathtub, ensure that you clean it regularly.
- Avoid wearing tight clothing as it can restrict circulation of air and create a moist environment for bacteria to grow.
Bacterial vaginitis can lead to premature labor and other pregnancy complications such as infection in the amniotic sac and infection of the uterus. Hence screening for the infection is highly important during pregnancy.
Diet for Bacterial Vaginitis
Here are some dietary tips for treating and preventing bacterial vaginitis:
- The diet for bacterial infection should be low in saturated fat. Studies have found that high fat intake can lead to bacterial vaginitis and can also affect the severity of the condition. Saturated fat can diminish immunity and can also affect the natural acidity of the vagina, thereby allowing for growth of harmful bacteria. Therefore saturated fats such as butter, lard, red meat, full fat milk and biscuits should be avoided. Monounsaturated fats were shown to have a much lower effect on the incidence and severity of the infection, while polyunsaturated fats had no effect at all.
- Vitamin E is highly beneficial for the immune system and individuals who get an adequate supply of the vitamin through food or supplements were at a lower risk for developing infections. In addition, vitamin E helps to protect you from cardiovascular disease and stroke. Vitamin E can be obtained from foods such as broccoli, spinach, collards, avocado and kiwi. Those who are unable to get sufficient vitamin E can take supplements. 100 IU of vitamin E a day is recommended. However consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
- Folate should be an important part of the diet. It helps in protecting against bacterial vaginitis as well as several other conditions. A high intake of folate is known to help in reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. Folate is prescribed for pregnant women to protect the unborn child from neurological defects. Folic acid also helps in boosting immunity. Some studies have shown that women with reduced folate levels are at a higher risk of developing bacterial vaginitis. Folic acid can be obtained from foods such as asparagus, avocado, spinach and breakfast cereals.
- Drink fruit juices such as cranberry and blueberry juice. These citrus juices can help the vagina to regain its acidity and discourage the growth of bad bacteria.
- Avoid eating foods that are rich in sugar as they can aggravate the infection.
- Also avoid eating white breads and opt for whole grain bread instead.
Suggestions for Bacterial Vaginitis
Bacteria vaginitis can be prevented by following certain tips:
- Avoid using hot tubs. To cleanse the genital area, rinse the outer area with soap and water and dry well. Use gentle soaps that are not perfumed. Also avoid using scented pads or tampons.
- Bathing is enough to cleanse the vagina. Therefore avoid douching as this can upset the natural bacterial balance in the vagina and elevate the risk of infections.
- Practice protected sexual intercourse by using condoms. Also avoid having multiple sexual partners.
- Avoid consuming alcohol and smoking as they can increase your risk of developing various ailments, including bacterial vaginitis.
- Hilton E, Isenberg HD, Alperstein P, France K, Borenstein MT. Ingestion of yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus as prophylaxis for candidal vaginitis. Ann Intern Med. 1992 Mar 1;116(5):353-7. PubMed PMID: 1736766.
- Hantoushzadeh S, Golshahi F, Javadian P, Khazardoost S, Aram S, Hashemi S, Mirarmandehi B, Borna S. Comparative efficacy of probiotic yoghurt and clindamycin in treatment of bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women: a randomized clinical trial. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2012 Jul;25(7):1021-4. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2011.614654. Epub 2011 Oct 1. PubMed PMID: 21854132.
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