Bacterial Vaginosis & Yeast Infections affect millions of women each year. In many cases a quick trip to the store or to the doctors office for medication is enough to cure the problem. However, there are many women out there who will only be cured for a short period of time and then their symptoms return & become chronic. Before you know it repeated trips to the doctor or the store do not result in a permanent resolution to the problem & it can be extremely frustrating. I’ll highlight some tips and products that may help you get back on track to having a healthy vagina.
Step 1. Symptoms & Diganosis
It’s important to know what you have.
Symptoms of a yeast infection:
- Odd discharge
Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis:
- Odd colored discharge(yellow, grey, green)
- “Foul” odor(examples: fishy, rotten meat or eggs, dirty gym socks).
There are also people who only have chronic itching & irritation only on the exterior of the vagina. This could still be a sign of a yeast, fungal infection or bacterial infection & it would be wise to follow the treatments steps below.
Many times the differences between a yeast infection & bacterial infection is a strong odor, but there are always exceptions to the rule. For accurate diagnosis it is probably best to seek a doctors opinion.
Step 2. Treatment
Bacterial Vaginosis Treatment
You need to treat whatever acute infection is present before you can move on to more permanent solutions of prevention. Usually with bacterial vaginosis antibiotics are given to the patient, which are taken(usually orally) for 7 – 10 days. If you do not want to take antibiotics or do not have immediate access to a doctor you can try a douche mixture of 1 tablespoon(or 15ml) hydrogen peroxide to 1 quart(or 1 liter) of distilled water. Repeat this for 7 – 10 days. Normally douches are not recommended & it is definitely not recommended you use this as a regular treatment. The bacteria that reside in the vagina normally produce hydrogen peroxide themselves. Douching the vagina will clear out both good & bad bacteria, this method is used to rid yourself of bad bacteria that have overrun the good bacteria. If you do not have a douche handy, you can try Cara Douche Syringe Bulb, it’s got pretty good reviews on Amazon.com.
Yeast Infection Treatmeant
Most stores will offer a variety of yeast infection treatments. You’re welcome to try any of them you like. Many have reported more success with longer duration treatments, for example using Monistat 7 instead of Monistat 3. In some cases yeast can be extremely resilient and may not be knocked out entirely by many of the products on the store shelves. In this situation you might want to try Gyne-Lotrimin 7, which has clotrimazole, a very potent anti-fungal medication(yeast is part of the fungus family). Gyne-Lotrimin 7 is an off the shelf product but is not carried in many stores.
For those experiencing external vaginal itching it still would not hurt to try treatment with Gyne-Lotrimin 7 just to rule out a mild, but resilient yeast infection.
If all else fails you will want to talk to your doctor to see if there is anything more potent or to verify you have a yeast infection.
Step 3. Prevention
If all has gone well you should be rid of your current infection be it bacterial or yeast based. If you are not you may have a yeast infection instead of a bacterial infection, or vice versa, or you may not have either and should seek medical guidance to ensure you are not dealing with something entirely different.
Prevention breaks down into two steps, supplementation & habits.
Step 3a. Preventative Supplements
Vaginal Probiotics (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)
Your vagina has an eco-system all it’s own. It’s actually somewhat similar to the digestive tract as it relies on healthy bacteria called probiotics to maintain the healthy eco-system. The most common strain of probiotic found in the vagina is L. Acidophilus. L. Acidophilus creates hydrogen peroxide in the vagina, which kills off bad bacteria. It does so in small, controlled amounts so as to not kill off the good bacteria as well. When you take antibiotics or use a douche usually it will wipe out all the good bacteria as well as all the bad bacteria. This can set you up for chronic recurring problems because your vagina will essentially be defenseless to foreign bacteria or yeast. Even if you haven’t taken antibiotics recently & you do not douche you can suffer imbalances which may cause the loss of healthy bacterial flora.
So the question is, how do you restore healthy flora back to the vagina? Many times you will hear from friends or even doctors to “eat more yogurt” or “take probiotics”. This actually doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If you are taking these probiotics orally you are very unlikely to see vaginal benefits. The digestive tract is not in anyway connected to the vagina. The digestive tract will not absorb probiotics into the blood stream and transport them to vagina. The only plausible scenario I have heard that allows probiotics from the digestive tract to cross to the vagina is through anal-vaginal crossover. Essentially relying on fecal residue either on the skin or on underwear to find it’s way into the vagina. This is not a reliable or quick way to restore healthy vaginal flora and many many women have found out that eating a bunch of yogurt or taking an oral probiotic has done nothing to improve their condition.
The solution here is introducing probiotics directly to the vagina itself, bypassing the digestive tract altogether. The only problem is that there hasn’t been a lot of research in developing a vaginal probiotic suppository, at least in the USA. If you live in Canada or Austrialia you might want to look for the products EcoVag or GynOphilus. You might be able to find these through overseas pharmacies if you’re in the USA, but it will be costly for transportation.I am not quite sold on EcoVag or GynOphilus mainly due to their cost.
It’s important to realize that probiotics are rated by CFUs(Colony Forming Units), the more CFUs the higher the likelihood the bacteria will set up shop. However, too much bacteria could lead to irritation & be counterproductive. There are many probiotic products on the market that tout they have billions of CFUs in them. Billions of CFUs are fine for the digestive tract as it’s extremely long, many many times longer than a vagina. The vagina needs only a fraction of the bacteria that’s required for the digestive tract. EvoVag & GynOphilus have 25 million CFUs which is an appropriate amount, but again the cost is something to consider. You can easily spend $20 – $30 for 10 doses, which is pretty pathetic when all you’re getting 250 million CFUs worth of probiotics.
The best alternative I have found is Nature’s Bounty Acidophilus. It has 100 million CFUs, which is more than EcoVag’s 25 million CFUs, but not enough to be overwhelming. The size is similar to EcoVag& the cost is much much lower than EcoVag. I am talking orders of magnitudes lower. You can get approximately 400 Nature’s Bounty Acidophilus pills for the price of 10 EcoVag pills. You don’t have to buy this brand if you don’t want to. You can track down a different brand of Lactobacilus Acidophilus or Lactobacilus Gaseri. Just make sure it doesn’t have more than 100 million CFUs in it or any sugars, sugar alcohols or Fructooligosaccharides(FOS).
To use the probiotic pills directly, you will want to insert one capsule, deeply into the vagina, every other night for two weeks. You can then drop back down inserting a capsule once or twice per week. During your period you can stop using the capsule. You can probably keep this regimen going for as long as you’d like. It is possible you may need to continue this regimen long term to maintain vaginal health.
If you have a lot of itching or burning while taking probiotics vaginally, stop taking them. There may be mild itching or burning after insertion, but this should go away & not linger.
Oral Probiotics (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)
As I mentioned above oral probiotics are not very effective at preventing bacterial vaginosis or yest infections. It is still probably a good idea to take one though. Oral probiotics aid the immune system & may improve your digestion. Additionally, if there is anal-vaginal bacterial cross-over, having a lot of good bacteria involved is better than not having any at all.
You could actually take the Nature’s Bounty Acidophilus orally, but you probably would need to take quite a few pills daily. I would recommended at least 5. You might look into taking a higher potency probiotic such as Align or Renew Life Ultimate Vaginal Support.
You can also eat yogurt, but you will want to avoid yogurts that are high in sugar or corn syrup, have artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, stabilizers or other weird gunk. Yogurts to avoid are things like Yoplait or Light & Fit, which are essentially “dessert yogurts” & are not going to be keys to healthy anything. Your best bet is to look for an organic yogurt that is lightly sweetened with honey or cane sugar. You could also go about replacing sour cream in your diet with plain yogurt as they have similar flavor profiles.
AZO Natural Yeast Symptom Prevention & Relief (optional)
AZO is an herbal supplement that many women recommend for helping to prevent, as well as relieving, yeast infection symptoms. It’s also inexpensive and worth trying. Good reviews on Amazon.com as well.
Cranberry Extract (optional)
Cranberry extract is mainly helpful for preventing urinary tract infections. It is not directly related to the treatment of yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis, but lowering the chances of urinary tract infections will also lend to a healthier vagina. Reducing areas where bad bacteria can propagate and cause problems is always a good thing. AZO makes a cranberry extract, which also has good reviews.
If you are not already taking a multi-vitamin, then now would be a good time to start. There are many multivitamins on the market. You could try Rainbow Light’s Women’s One or whatever is available at your local store. I’d suggest getting one online that has good reviews. Taking vitamins will help boost your immune system, which may help fight off or prevent infection.
Step 3b. Preventative Habits
Preventative habits are things you can do to help prevent future reinfection.
- Do not continually use a douche.
- Do not use vaginal wipes or products like Vagisil, as these only mask the problem.
- Wipe front to back after bowel movements & urination. Being sure to avoid the vagina.
- Avoid scented tampons, pads or pantyliners. Look for hypoallergenic products.
- Switch to sanitary pads instead of tampons, at least during or after treatment.
- Avoid overly washing the vagina.
- Avoid deodorant soaps around the vagina. Look for castile soaps which are made from natural oils.
- Avoid tight restrictive clothing, especially around the crotch area.
- Wear cotton panties, avoiding synthetic fiber based panties.
- Change panties daily.
- During treatment it may be a good idea to invest in some cheap cotton panties which can be washed in hot water with bleach. Be sure to rinse well & dry well. This should ensure bacteria / yeast are killed. Warm laundry water is lukewarm & laundry soap is usually not anti-bacterial.
- Use an unscented/allergy sensitive laundry soap.
- Avoid sexual activities during treatment.
- Avoid risky sexual behavior such as anal sex or multiple sexual partners shortly after treatment.
- Even after treatment if you engage in risky sexual behavior you may be more susceptible to recurrent infection.
- Ensure your sexual partner(s) are clean and not suffering from yeast, fungal or bacterial infections themselves.
- Avoid lubricants that contain Glycerin as bacteria & yeast can feed off of it. Try Astroglide Glycerin & Paraben Free or Pjur Silicone Lubricant.
- Bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections & urinary tract infections are usually not caused by sexual activity unless one engages in risky behavior. You do not need to be sexually active to obtain an infection. Bacteria & fungi are all around us, there is no need to assume someone is involved in risky behavior because of an infection.
- Reduce sugar intake. Sugar can be absorbed by the blood and sugars do show up in the vagina. Avoid sugary sodas, juices or coffee drinks. Bacteria & yeast love sugar just as much as we do.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise will burn off sugar as energy, ensure proper blood flow to all parts of your body & is good for overall health.
- Be sure to shower & dry immediately after exercising.
- Avoid public pools, hot tubs & exercise equipment while doing treatment.
If you still do not have relief after going through these treatments, then you may have an issue that needs to be looked at by a dermatologist to see if you might be suffering from a skin disorder such as Vaginal Lichen Planus.
Hopefully this information has been useful to you and if you have anything to add, please do leave a comment below.
Wow, this is a great and comprehensive write-up of the topic – thank you for the effort it must have taken to put this article together.
Thanks for your comprehensive write up about vaginal yeast infections. It’s such a difficult subject for so many women to talk about and that makes it hard to get the help needed. This article will help with the info we need!
Is Nature’s Bounty chewable probiotic Acidophilus natural strawberry flavor with Bifidus good to use?
I would not use the chewable variety for vaginal supplementation as they have sugar & that may just encourage more bad bacterial growth.
Using the non-chewable Nature’s Bounty Acidophilus is probably the best way to go. You could still use the chewables orally along with a non-sugar containing probiotic vaginally.
Thank you very much for the article! There is not so much information about natural cure. USA is really poor on vaginal probiotics. I moved to USA from Europe, where i’ve used to use probiotic suppositories after each period. Helped a lot!!! Of course, it would be very expensive to ship it here, besides, some of them must be kept in the fridge. I didn’t think of using oral probiotics vaginally, I will give it a try! I am using tampons soaked in natural yogurt with lactobacilus and taking FemFlora from Swansonvitamins orally.
Is it okay to use a probiotic with an enteric coating vaginally? I use benebiotic’s only by mouth as of now. Thank you
I would not recommend using a pill with an enteric coating. They are meant to dissolve in an alkaline environment of around a pH level of 7 to 9. A healthy vagina is around a pH of 4.5, while an unbalanced vagina may be more alkaline than normal it probably won’t reach a 7 – 9 pH level. Look for vegetable cellulose or gelatin coated pills.
I disagree with the comment “the digestive tract is not in anyway connected to the vagina.” I have been taking alot of probiotics for the past three weeks to try to cure my digestive problems, and ever since taking them have been experiencing vaginal itching and discharge, and it is not from “anal-vaginal crossover.”
It is possible the probiotics you are taking are having an effect on your overall body functions, but there is no direct link from the digestive tract to the vaginal tract. There is also the strong possibility that your probiotic usage and vaginal discharge are unrelated. You may want to talk with a doctor to verify if you have a yeast or bacterial infection. Probiotic bacteria strains should not cause bacterial or yeast infections.
Impressive write up. I think you will help a lot of women. Since you seem to have a wealth of knowledge and expertise regarding this subject, I am interested to know if you feel refrigerated probiotics are necessary or not. Thank you again for a really informative article, I am putting it in my arsenal for clients.
I don’t think it matters a whole lot if you use a refrigerated probiotic or not. Usually refrigeration does help probiotics retain their potency. You may need to try different probiotics. The Nature’s Bounty Acidophilus I linked to in my article is probably a good starting point, but does not require refrigeration.
Do you know if disposable menstrual cups are safe to use as an alternative to pads and tampons? I have been trying Instead Softcups thinking that my pads and tampons have been causing the problems.
Many women safely use menstrual cups, like the Diva Cup. I am not sure how well it helps for chronic bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections though. Tampons do have the potential to wick away the body’s natural fluids, and can provide a safe haven for bacteria, which is what can lead to toxic shock syndrome if tampons are not changed regularly.
Wonderful information! Thanks so very much!
I have been looking every where for answers and options for explanations, long term preventative options, and treatments for BV. I have had this issue off and on for over two years becoming so frustrated, depressed and defeated. Thank you do all this information. It seems that not even my doctor had this much information. I am taking a probiotic orally and will no defiantly try the options for the vaginal treatment. I’m feeling very hopeful with all this information. Thank you and I will be sure to post an update.
Any update? I would like to know if you had success with the treatment.
Can I I sent the pill while having a nuvea ring birth control in? How should I function with this?
I doubt a probiotic pill would cause any harm. I would probably avoid the boric acid or hydrogen peroxide douche, just in case they could deteriorate the ring or flush it out.
I have been using 500 million for the last couple weeks just about every night and then I came across your info, what will it do to me using too much?
Can you use Nature’s bounty Probiotic pills vaginally?
TO all the drug companies or whomever this may concern,
PLEASE!!! Make a product to insert in the vagina that can replenish the good bacteria US women need. OR an insert oval to kill bad bacteria in the vag..The good bacteria products taken orally are making me very sick, no matter what brand I try, no matter if its dairy free, they ALL make me very sick. I still am suffering with yeast/bacteria infections constantly. I am a clean person, thin, and eat decent. I had to stop sex for awhile, and have taken all the measures given in this page but STILL doctors find me with constant yeast/bacteria infections. I am not diabetic and have taken so many lab tests, pelvic exams, etc. All my tests come back ok, except for the yeast/bacteria.
So interesting to read this because about 2.5 years ago for the first time in my life at 36 I was suddenly plagued with bv. For 6 months I tried EVERYTHING but it never stayed away until I started doing this exact method that you’ve explained just by happenstance. Unfortunately I have to do this once a month after my period and wish so badly that I could keep it away for good. Since then I’ve developed digestive issues and wonder if it’s linked some how. I read in your article that they are not but I wonder if my whole body may have a bacterial imbalance. if I were to try oral probiotics for the first time what dose would you recommend?
The human microbiome is complex, and there is certainly a possibility everything is linked. Poor whole body health could make you more susceptible to infection. What I don’t buy is that suggestions to eat a cup of yogurt every day in order to fend off Bacterial Vagnosis are of much help.
If you want to start taking oral probiotics, I’d suggest checking your local store and buying something with 1 – 10 billion CFU. You could also try the http://www.CustomProbiotics.com for their 50 billion CFU probiotic or VSL#3, but those are more costly.
This blog was very helpful however all women’s body are different. So why don’t you think taking 2 natures bounty Acidophilus pills a day will help yield bacteria and yeast. I am in the process of trying this method orally as I have digestive problems as well. I have read several reviews from women that take up to 2 pills a day and keep away infections. I however only suffer from infections only when I am sexually active. Otherwise I am perfectly fine. I just wondered have you ever heard of a yeast infection spreading to the anus?
It’s best to take a cautious approach, but you could certainly experiment and take more or less depending on results. I am skeptical of oral probiotics helping with Bacterial Vaginosis, as the vaginal tract and digestive tract are not connected. A healthier digestive tract may make it less likely for invasive bacteria to get transferred from the anus to the vagina though.
People could develop a fungal infection around the anus, but it would be an external infection that would cause irritation and itching. External powdered anti-fungal sprays could be used to treat it. The digestive tract is probably already hosting yeast and other bacteria, so it’s unlikely you could call it an “infection”. The vagina is not meant to host large yeast/fungal colonies. You could have bacterial or yeast overgrowth in the digestive tract, but this would lead to digestive upset most likely.
I just wonder if I Can use this one: http://www.iherb.com/Nutrition-Now-PB8-Original-Formula-Pro-Biotic-Acidophilus-120-Pro-Biotic-Capsules/5931#p=1&oos=1&disc=0&lc=en-US&w=pb8&rc=3&sr=null&ic=1
Or is the coating to irritating for the vagina?
And how many billion probiotic should I have daily for those 10 days I`m going to try this?
My doctor told me to buy ecovag, but it cost alot, and I don´t know if it even does a better “job” ;)
Do you think oral probiotic supplements can use to inserting to vagina? It seems they are really same for what i used for vagina and oral but im not sure if i can use oral to vaginal inserting please help me any suggestions.
This has been so helpful for my vaginal atrophy. I have battled bv for 2 years because of its effects and feel as if it has fallen on deaf ears talking to my physicians. Thru reading and my own research I found that using probiotics and vitamin E suppositories that it is manageable. But I was using too high CFUs daily that caused irritation and burning that I had prior to probiotic use. So now I will try your suggestions with natures bounty!!!
Great site! Everything said here is so important! But I think you’re missing one thing as do most sites, and that’s that sex can cause vaginal infections because of three things,
1. the guy and girl have different flora/he’s sick.
2. Dry sex. If the woman is not turned on, she’s not going to get wet, and there’s something about the dry rubbing that weakens you and makes it easier for bacteria. If you’re not turned on JUST STOP. But if you must, use the above suggestions of lubricant.
3. Unknown Latex sensitivity/allergy. If you’re using latex condoms and have lots of pee infections, experiment with non-latex condoms.
I’m not saying that sex is bad, you just have to do it right. And it’s a really hard conversation to have because of the whole no sex before marriage thing that doctors and academics don’t want to accept because of religious implications. This is a social argument, that I personally think is valid, but taking it to the other extreme and saying sex doesn’t cause pee infections period, is wrong because it physically does sometimes, and here I’m speaking from personal experience and many verbal conversations because it’s like an underground thing. Women know it and they say it, but they don’t dare to write it.
The other thing is people are prudes and don’t talk about the details, not to mention there’s a whole lot of unsaid sexism that comes to us as scientific knowledge, like the whole sex doesn’t cause infection. Why is this sexism even though it seems like the opposite? Because in practice, you end up in situation number 2. Women, you don’t have to have sex if you don’t want to, in fact you SHOULDN’T BECAUSE IT CAN MAKE YOU SICK AND EVEN KILL YOU IF YOU END UP WITH A BLADDER INFECTION. No man has the right to make you feel like you have to give them sex, you’re not an inflatable doll, you’re a human being. Any argument that makes sense in theory, but that in practice doesn’t pan out, is an incorrect argument that should be changed no matter how fair it sounds. That is quite simply a trap that we can fall into.
This information is from personal experience and conversations with other women. There’s probably more than the three I put up there and I encourage a discussion because the truth is women need to be empowered with their own health and the internet is a way of doing that without being judged.
Lets have sex, but safely, in a healthy way!
You stated not to use vagisil, is there a certain type you shouldn’t use or do mean mean all of them? I was looking into the vagisil pH balancer and was wondering g if that would be a bad choice and if so why exactly
To balance my ph I buy a douche at the dollar store. Dump out the crap in it and wash it out. I add a couple tablespoons of baking soda and fill it up with water in the shower. I shake it up and use it as a douche. You can also add white vinegar if needed. When in doubt, go natural. These companies just care about profits not your lasting health!
Thank you very much for this article! I moved to the US about 1,5 yrs ago and ager having a urinary infection and having been treated with strong antibiotics I’ve started getting recurrent BV for all this time. And I’ve noticed that the treatment in the US is quite different from the one I used to, I.e., here in the US the antibiotics prescriptions for my BV were NOT accompanied by any “restorative” probiotic treatment and I couldn’t understand why. After many-many recurrent cases and switching doctors, I finally found one who suggested taking probiotics ORALLY (and quite expensivish as well)… so then I went to Mexico and asked for some vaginal probiotics capsules (because I remembered I used to receive something like that as a part of BV treatment) and the pharmacist gave me precisely this GynoPhilus. They didn’t cost more than 18$ for 14 capsules.
Now that I’ve read your article, I understand why I was not receiving the combined treatment I was used. Hopefully, adding this probiotic treatment will finally resolve my recurrent problem.
Thank you for your insight on the US healthcare situation and the detailed recommendations on the supporting treatment
Thank you for this write up! Does the capsule just dissolve? Or does it need to be removed?
It dissolves on its own.
If I am on prescription medication for a yeast infection then get in the hot tub and or bath is it defeating the purpose of the medication?
Thank you for this. I read this after putting my two year old in the bath. She took antibiotics for an ear infection and has a yeast infection. I grabbed a few tablets of probiotics and dissolved them in the tub. Hoping this helps a little. Also going to make a paste out of it and put it on her before bed.
This time when she had ear pain I used tea tree oil! It worked within a day and no yeast side effects!
When I click the link provided it takes me to amazon and shows me natures bounty acidophilus probiotic friendly bacteria for the digestive system and it has .5mg of lactobacillus acidophilus as its main ingredient. Is this what I should use to relieve bv symptoms?
Boric acid capsules used as a vaginal supository is best! Unfortunately in Alberta you need a perscription for it, whereas in BC you do not. I don’t want to wait to go to the doc and have the Compounding pharmacy take 3 days to make my pills… So I have tried Tea Tree Oil w/ water, w/ coconut oil and mix of all 3 (few drops of Tea tree and a bit of oil seemed to be best)… Only problem is you are to only leave the tampon in for 30-60 mins so when I wake up in the morning or after work, it’s back… Trying using my Ultimate Flora Probioric as suppository tonight… As taking orally is not curing me.
Wish me luck! Wish I just went to walk in and got Boric acid… It literally has worked every single time, usually smell and discharge has mostly subsided after 1 treatment.
A day or so after inserting probiotic vaginally I had a lot of discharge. Do yoh know what this is? I typically have no discharge.
In your article it says to stop using probiotics vaginally if you experience itching. Can you please explain as to why this occurs? I always itch after using them for a couple of days.
I have had Bv for 3 months now and went to the doctor last month to get antibiotics for it but after taking them nothing changed. So I started taking a probiotic that I ordered online, I have been taking two every day for a week now and it seems my symptoms have gotten worse. Is that normal? Or is that bad?
You mentioned that you can put a probiotic in vaginally, does the probitoc need to be a certain capsule or what? Thank you