Bacterial Vaginosis surprisingly is more common than yeast infection among women. Women in their reproductive years, between 15-44 years are the ones who get BV the most. BV is not a sexually transmitted infection but usually women get it after unprotected sexual intercourse.
Bacterial Vaginosis is the most common cause of vaginal symptoms and 29% of women in their childbearing age usually get BV. It affects different ethnicities with black women having the highest risk at 51%. Mexican women with 32%, and white women with 23%.
What are the best probiotics for BV?
Is it effective for treating Bacterial Vaginosis?
Will it prevent BV from recurring?
This article will focus on the best probiotics for bacterial vaginosis so keep reading 🙂
How Does BV Occur?
Bacterial Vaginosis usually occurs when there is an imbalance in the number of bacteria in the vaginal ecosystem. The vagina normally has both good and bad bacteria. The good bacteria, Lactobacilli is the one in charge of keeping the vaginal pH slightly acidic because it produces lactic acid. It is usually between pH 3.8-4.5 and it keeps bad bacteria in check.
If there is an imbalance in the vagina, the bad bacteria will overpower the good bacteria and the vaginal pH will be higher than 4.5. Bacterial Vaginosis happens when the pH becomes alkaline and it allows more bacteria to grow and multiply.
When a woman develops BV, the vaginal ecosystem usually has a diverse mix of bacteria that can be caused by unprotected sexual intercourse with different partners. Men are not prone to getting BV but they can transfer different types of bacteria that are usually found on their penis and cause BV to women. It is important to always practice safe sex to prevent infections in the genital area.
There are instances where woman can have BV but do not exhibit symptoms. There are about 50% of women with BV that do not experience any symptoms. Sometimes when the immune system is strong, BV can go away on its own, but there are instances that when it is left untreated it can often lead to complications such as infertility, premature delivery and low birth weight babies to pregnant women.
What Are The Symptoms Of BV?
- Thin whitish, gray vaginal discharge
- Foul-smelling fishy odour (usually more evident after sexual intercourse)
- Painful and itchy vagina
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are good bacteria and when taken in the body will produce beneficial effects on a person’s health. They are effective in controlling vaginal infections, prevent bad bacteria from multiplying and help improve the immune system.
Studies have been done and there are two species of probiotic bacteria that are effective in improving a woman’s health: Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri. Both bacteria are effective in fighting bacterial and fungal infections in the vagina.
L. rhamnosus GR-1, and L. reuteri RC-14 bacterial strains are effective in preventing vaginal disorders. These probiotics help women in supplementing 5-10 billion colony-forming units of Lactobacilli strains GR-1 and RC-14; these products also require refrigeration to maintain their potency.
Women who are immunosuppressed must inform and consult their medical care provider before using probiotics. Probiotics will help restore the balance of the vaginal ecosystem and it also prevents infection by fighting off the harmful bacteria.
According to a study done in 2017 that was published by the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, the Lactobacilli is effective in preventing vaginal infections. Bacterial Vaginosis is treated with probiotics that can be taken orally or in the vagina.
When taken orally, probiotics can help maintain the balance of the vaginal flora. Always check the probiotics and make sure to consult your medical care provider if it is safe to use. You cannot just take any probiotics and expect that it works the same as the others.
What Are The Best Probiotics For BV?
- Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GR-1
Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GR-1 is a gram-positive bacterium which is being used as a probiotic and has been used to treat female infections such as Bacterial Vaginosis. It is commonly found in the genital areas of healthy females.
These probiotics, when used as a supplement, will help control the overgrowth of anaerobes during an active infection. L. rhamnosus is commonly found in yogurts and dairy products like fermented milk, unpasteurised milk, and cheeses.
L. rhamnosus may be beneficial to some but in some rare circumstances it can weaken the immune system and cause endocarditis. Before using it, you must consult your medical care provider.
Since probiotic products contain live bacteria, when taking antibiotics for BV you must always remember that the two products can interact with each and the antibiotics will affect the live bacteria in the probiotics, you must take your probiotics at least 2 or 3 hours before or after taking the antibiotic medications.
- Lactobacillus Reuteri RC-14
Lactobacillus Reuteri RC-14 is a gram-positive bacterium that is commonly found in breast milk, genital area, skin, and gastrointestinal tract. It has antimicrobial properties and helps fight off pathogens and other microbiota that can invade a human’s body. It is effective in preventing inflammatory diseases. L. reuteri is also effective in fighting off infections and mediating the immune system.
What Are The Side Effects Of Using Probiotics?
Probiotics contain live bacteria and as such come with a few side effects:
- Bloating, increased stomach gas.
- Serious side effects – signs of infection: increased temperature or fever, chills, persistent cough
- Adverse reaction – an allergic reaction to probiotics, but it is considered a rare occurrence. However, it is important you seek medical attention as this is a life-threatening situation that can be fatal if not treated accordingly.
What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?
- itchy and redness of skin (different parts of the body)
- swelling (most evident in the face, tongue, throat)
- difficulty of breathing (spasm of the throat)
Tips When Using Probiotics When You Have BV:
- Insert one capsule of probiotic that contains L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri or you could use yogurt. There was a study conducted showing that 88 percent of women who used yogurt in their vagina twice a day for 7 days were able to remain free from BV for two months.
- It is best for you to combine vaginal and oral use of probiotic capsules especially if it is not contraindicated by your medical care provider.
- Take one capsule of oral probiotic daily as well, to maximise its effects and be able to fight off the symptoms of BV.
- Before starting to use probiotics, you must consult the medical care provider as individuals with a compromised immune system, central venous catheters, and heart valve disease can be at risk for adverse effects.
Bacterial Vaginosis is the most common infection of the vagina. It affects 1 out of 3 women but the most vulnerable are those who are sexually active. Women can fight off BV symptoms by taking probiotics. Probiotics offer a lot of health benefits especially when administered in adequate amounts.
Probiotics are not all the same, it is best for you to consult your medical care provider which one will work best to fight your BV symptoms. If you can, take probiotics daily by inserting a vaginal capsule in your vagina and also taking 1 capsule of oral probiotic daily. Doing this maximises the effects and you can fight the symptoms faster.
Always remember that BV is an infection that can be treated with antibiotics. When diagnosed with Bacterial Vaginosis, the medical care provider can prescribe a full course of treatment and if you are taking antibiotics and probiotics simultaneously you must remember to take your probiotics 2-3 hours before or after you take your antibiotic medication so there will be no interaction between the two. Probiotics contain live bacteria and antibiotics can kill off all the bacteria if they are taken together.
Using probiotics can also help restore the normal vaginal flora and help fight off the active infection in the vagina when a woman has BV. Probiotics will also help balance the vaginal pH to help fight off the bad bacteria or anaerobes that causes Bacterial Vaginosis. The best probiotics are Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14.
When the probiotics are taken orally, they help balance the bacteria in the vaginal ecosystem and the lactic acid they produce will help lower the pH of the vagina making it 3.8 to 4.5 pH. When used properly, probiotics and other natural home remedies will help prevent and treat BV.