Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, is an uncomfortable vaginal infection that can cause a variety of medical complications if left untreated. Many women experience recurrent or chronic episodes of BV. While oral or vaginal antibiotics are one method of addressing chronic BV, you may also wish to incorporate foods that might reduce your symptoms and their recurrence.
A variety of bacteria reside in your vagina. When healthy bacteria dominate the balance of bacteria, you do not experience abnormal or uncomfortable discharge. When “bad” bacteria outgrow the number of healthy bacteria, women experience discharge, itching and odor. BV increases the risk of preterm labor and delivery for pregnant women. If you have these symptoms, you should see your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment.
While the first-line treatment for BV is oral or vaginal antibiotics, many women experience recurrence of symptoms. Douching, IUD use, frequent intercourse and pregnancy appear to trigger recurrence. If you douche, stop, but it may be unrealistic to incorporate long-term lifestyle changes, such as removing the IUD or using condoms in a monogamous relationship.
One risk factor for chronic BV that is related to diet is vitamin D deficiency. Women with lower blood levels of vitamin D appear to be at higher risk for developing BV. As women’s vitamin D levels increase, their risk of BV decreases. Incorporate a variety of vitamin D-rich foods in your diet, such as milk, fortified cereal and fish. Ask your health care provider if a vitamin D supplement is indicated.
Yogurt contains healthy bacteria known as Lactobacillus acidophilus, which promotes a healthy balance of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract and vagina. If you have risk factors that increase your chance of developing recurrent BV, eating yogurt that contains these live cultures on a regular basis may help reduce your risk of recurrence.