Chapter 5: Natural Treatments for Bacterial Vaginosis
Women who have had one or more Bacterial Vaginosis infections know that frustration of seeking medical treatment, taking antibiotics and finding that for all that effort and expense they are not much better off than before treatment.
Value of Supplements in Treating Bacterial Vaginosis
Those who know the irritation and embarrassment of repeated Bacterial Vaginosis infections are looking for other options since taking more antibiotic comes with the danger of becoming drug resistant as well as developing yeast infection or urinary tract infection or both!
For these reasons, 21st century women are not willing to accept whatever their doctors say. They are tired of having their complaints dismissed as not a big deal.
They want results and they want a say in treatment. At times that means women have to look at alternative medicine options, supplements and other lifestyle changes to control future recurrence of Bacterial Vaginosis.
Because of the damage that antibiotics can do to the intestinal tract, women need to be proactive in protecting their bodies. A simple way to offset this problem is to add Folic Acid supplements.
Folic acid is found naturally in green and leafy vegetables. Unfortunately with so many processed foods and vitamin-depleted foods, it can be a challenge to get enough folic acid in the typical American diet.
The best foods to choose for increasing Folic Acid in the diet are these. So be sure to add to the grocery list:
• Fresh green leafy vegetables
• Nuts, spouts and seeds
• Whole grain bread
• Citrus fruits like orange, tangerine, grapefruit
Folic acid is a key component in producing healthy red blood cells and helping the body to metabolize proteins.
According to the American Academy for Anti-Aging Medicine, Folic acid “increases the activity and production of antibodies and may reduce susceptibility to infection.”
Folic acid also is known to benefit heart health by lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid. Higher levels of homocysteine are also associated with Parkinson’s disease and osteoporosis.
Women with Bacterial Vaginosis are often not getting enough Folic acid either in a diet of fresh foods and whole grains or by supplements. The same infection fighting properties that Folic acid has for other diseases also applies to supporting the immune system in battling Bacterial Vaginosis.
The American Academy for Anti-Aging Medicine recommends 400 micrograms of Folic acid combined with a B-complex vitamin daily. Women who are attempting to Women who are breastfeeding need to consume up to 500 micrograms of Folic Acid daily.
As with any supplement, pregnant and breastfeeding women need to discuss this with their OB/GYN specialist before adding any supplements to their daily routine.
Even with vitamins, more is not always better, so don’t decide to take an excess of Folic Acid as a quick cure for Bacterial Vaginosis. The National Academy of Sciences warns that doubling the adult normal dose of 400 to 800 may be used for a short period with proper medical supervision.
But in no case is it wise to go over 1,000 micrograms daily as this can create additional medical complications for no greater benefit.
That’s a big title for a small, yet power type of good bacteria. Remember that one of the best defenses against harmful bacterial infections like Bacterial Vaginosis is having enough good bacteria in your body.
In the grocery store, you can find acidophilus milk, which is the best choice for people who have difficulty digesting regular pasteurized milk. The lactobacillus acidophilus element is also in yogurt, which are often labeled “probiotics.”
Women who do not like milk or yogurt can still get the benefits of probiotic dairy products by using acidophilus capsules found in health food stores. The best way to keep a steady level of good bacteria in the body is with regular use on probiotics.
Attempting to over-load on probiotics as a fast fix for the early days of an infection is not likely to be successful and could cause problems. Some women choose to introduce acidophilus by inserting it directly into the vagina.
While stuffing yogurt up the vagina may seem disgusting to some women, it’s probably no worse than dealing with the prescription vaginal creams or gels. Just clean up well or the sticky residue from the yogurt becomes as disgusting as the Bacterial Vaginosis discharge.
It may smell better, but the combination of strawberry banana yogurt and Bacterial Vaginosis is not appealing.
If yogurt is sweet and sticky, garlic is quite the opposite. Yes garlic is one of nature’s antibiotics. In the late 19th century, Louis Pasteur experimented with a new idea discovered by a German chemist.
The allyl which gives garlic its distinctive and pungent odor can also stop the growth of bacteria.
Nearly one hundred years later, a Swiss pharmaceutical company, Sandoz, attempted to use the allyl in garlic to create an infection-fighting drug.
The company came up with an effective infection fighter but did not eliminate the odor so it was not marketed because researchers did not think the public would buy it.
The garlic tablets that are on the market today in health food stores have the benefits of garlic without the garlic breath. This is a kinder way to take in garlic daily rather than subject family, friends and co-workers to the eye-watering, off-putting odor.
Since garlic is effective in combating both viral and bacterial infections as well as lowering blood cholesterol, the little herb is a multi-purpose cure. If you enjoy the taste of garlic, then you can choose to eat raw garlic or add freshly chopped garlic to foods.
A few sprinkles of garlic powder on buttered bread isn’t enough. You need to take in at least several cloves of fresh garlic to get the full benefit or a teaspoon of garlic powder.
Echinacea and Golden Seal are often touted as natural remedies for reducing the impact of colds and flu virus. That’s because Echinacea improves the immune system function by stimulating production of white blood cells that are necessary to fight infection.
One property of Echinacea that is particularly important for women who have Bacterial Vaginosis is that it is known for effectively treating both current and recurrent infections.
Another valuable property of Echinacea is that it can be formulated as an internal treatment or external ointment.
The most efficient way to get Echinacea into the body and working on infection is to take it as a liquid extract. The liquid form is more rapidly absorbed into the blood stream than when taken in a capsule or tablet form.
In general, Echinacea is a safe, non-toxic herb to use. Since Echinacea boosts the immune system the only disadvantage is that this effect can become harmful for people who have autoimmune disorder.
As a type of Vitamin A, beta-carotene is necessary for production of the collagen that supports skin structure and cartilage for strong bones. Beta-carotene is also an antioxidant.
High levels of beta-carotene are associated with ovarian health, which is important for women who are attempting to get pregnant. When beta-carotene is low, the ovaries are prone to infection, which can result in infertility. In the same way, beta-carotene supports the overall immune system function and the maintenance of normal mucus in the vaginal environment.
Beta-carotene is often combined with Vitamin E in capsule form that is found at the health food stores.
Vitamin C is much more than a delicious glass of fresh orange juice; it is also important for immune system function. Like beta-carotene, Vitamin C is necessary in the formation of collagen, which is the foundation for skin, ligaments and tendons.
Talking about collagen seems more like a discussion during a facial at the spa, but it’s so much more than that.
The reason that collagen strength is important to Bacterial Vaginosis is that healthy skin is more resistant to bacteria than weak skin.
Strong connective tissues are a secondary defense against infections that pass through the skin.
Stopping the spread of any infection gives the body’s immune system time to launch a successful attack on the invading bacteria.
Now you know, healthy skin is about more than looking good, it’s also a measure of overall health and resistance to infection which is vital in eliminating the reoccurrence of Bacterial Vaginosis.
Yes, myrrh is something that most Americans only know about from the lyrics of a holiday carol. But in the Middle East and Africa, myrrh grows as a bush and if common among herbal remedies. The gum resin from myrrh is used in the Middle East for upset stomachs and respiratory infections.
Myrrh fights infections by stimulating the white blood cells whose job is to search and destroy bad bacteria. Taken by liquid extract, myrrh can be used to treat sinusitis, sore throats, bronchitis and flu. In some herbal formulas, myrrh can be combined with Echinacea for a one-two punch against bad bacteria.
These beautiful bright yellow and orange flowers are as good for the body as they are pleasant to the eyes. Marigolds have been used for centuries to treat infections because of their natural anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.
You might be surprised to learn that marigold extract is found in many cosmetics, body creams and natural soaps. Marigold can be taken in the form of a tea or a liquid extract.
These flowers are so safe that you could pinch off several marigolds from the flower bush and place in a tea infuser to steep in hot water. Then you can drink the marigold tea or use the marigold infused water to soak into a plain cloth and apply to the vaginal area for relief.
A green thumb isn’t necessary for this option – you can get fresh marigold teas at a natural foods store.
Tea Tree Oil
An herbal wonder from the land down under, Tea Tree Oil comes from an Australian plant. In the outback, the leaves of the tea tree have been used for generations to treat burns and skin infections.
The healing property in tea tree oil is the terpeniod, which has both anti-fungal and anti-microbial characteristics. For this reason, tea tree oil is a popular element in ointments for Athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, dandruff, eczema, lice and acne.
Tea tree oil has also been found effective in treating Bacterial Vaginosis and other vaginal infections. While tea tree oil is available in a liquid form, it must never be taken internally by mouth in that form. The tea tree oil extract that is found in toothpaste or mouthwash is sufficiently diluted to be safe for consumption.
As a treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis, tea tree oil is best used in an ointment applied directly to the vaginal area. Another option is tea tree suppositories that are made for vaginal insert. Only use products made for internal insertion. Don’t take external tea tree oil and insert directly into the vagina.
Zinc is a mineral that’s commonly used in throat lozenges and over-the-counter medications to combat colds and flu. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, there is a minimum daily requirement of zinc for all ages from infancy thru adulthood.
Zinc is important for cellular metabolism, wound healing and strong immune system.
While zinc is found in many foods, oysters contain the highest milligrams per serving over any other food.
Red meats, poultry, nuts, beans and dairy provide lower amounts per serving but are the most common dietary intake of zinc.
When the body is low in zinc, the immune system is weakened. Without adequate amounts of zinc, the T-lymphocytes don’t swing into action like the killer cells they were designed to be.
People who have low zinc are also more prone to develop various types of infections and pneumonia.
With zinc, too much of a good thing becomes harmful. Be careful to take only the daily requirement for age and gender. The daily requirement of zinc also changes for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
One caution: zinc can interact with antibiotics, so don’t continue taking zinc with prescription antibiotics without approval from the prescribing physician.
If zinc and certain antibiotics are in the digestive tract at the same time, they counter-act each other so that both the zinc and the antibiotic become useless. That’s like making twice the effort for zero results.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, the best way to get regular zinc in the safest way is with a diet rich in:
• Lean red meat
• Nuts – cashews and almonds
• Whole grains
• Milk and dairy products
• Zinc fortified cereal
• Fresh green leafy vegetables
Some multi-vitamins contain zinc so carefully evaluate the amount of zinc you get from daily vitamins before deciding how much additional zinc to take as part of the natural plan to manage Bacterial Vaginosis.
Even more than black tea or oolong tea, green tea is loaded with antioxidant properties. Green tea is a rarity in that it’s something medicinal that also tastes delicious.
Widely researched as an immune system booster, green tea also delivers relief from irritable bowel syndrome, stomach upset, herpes simplex and helps to regular blood sugar for persons with diabetes.
The anti-viral properties of green tea are also used as an element in an external cream or ointment applied to cuts, cold sores, acne and other skin infections.
In tropical climates, green tea bags are used for sunburn. After the tea is brewed and cooled, the tea bags are applied to the skin. The tannin in the tea brings soothing relief that diminishes the itching and reduces peeling of sunburned skin.
If you dislike the strong odor of over-the-counter sunburn creams, then green tea bags are great; drink the tea to stimulate the body’s ability to heal the skin from within and apply to the painful areas on the skin surface.
Applying moist tea bags to the vaginal area might feel soothing but could be too much warmth and moisture. Instead look for an organic vaginal cream or gel that contains green tea or dap on concentrated green tea to the vulva, then dry off.
Green tea does contain caffeine so unless you get a decaf green tea, avoid drinking the tea before bedtime. If you are sensitive to caffeine or have anemia, you will want to drink less than the 10 cups a day that can otherwise be enjoyed.
When you break open a stem from this plant, you can squeeze out a clear gel that is a broadly effective for soothing irritants, itching and infections.
Commercially processed aloe vera is widely used in creams and ointments for burns, sunburns, cuts, scratches, rashes and insect bites. Some cooks keep a small aloe vera plant in the kitchen window as a natural treatment for quick access to treat a burn or scrape when preparing meals.
The aloe vera gel is also processed for use in internal remedies. Some vaginal creams or gels contain aloe vera, which can be applied to the vulva area for relief from the itching. The aloe vera not only provides comfort but also helps in fighting infection.
Be Aware of Treatment Conflicts
Whether you choose herbal treatment or prescription antibiotics, don’t combine these without knowing the possible conflicts. The information sheet that comes with prescription drugs will list both prescription and non-prescription items that may cause problems if taken with that drug.
Pay careful attention to this and call the pharmacist or physician if you aren’t certain what it means.
The same warning goes for herbal treatments. Even innocent herbs when combined with prescription drugs can create the kind of chemical reaction that either boosts or destroys the prescription effect. In either case, the Bacterial Vaginosis is problem enough so don’t add a prescription conflict to the mix.