The Best Probiotics for Bacterial Vaginosis
Published June 18th, 2020
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common genital infection that affects women. It’s associated with the overgrowth of certain bacteria which causes an imbalance in the vagina.
When we say “imbalance”, we refer to the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria. You may not know it but your vagina is home to over 250 different species of bacteria. An overgrowth of harmful organisms can increase the acidity level in your vagina. This leads to various symptoms such as:
- foul-smelling vaginal odor
- grey, green or white vaginal discharge
- discomfort during urination
Though women can catch it at any point in their lives, they tend to be more at risk during their reproductive years. According to the CDC, it commonly affects women aged 15 to 44.
Causes of BV
Though the exact causes of BV remain unclear, it’s traditionally associated with Gardnerella vaginalis and Prevotella. When either of these two bacteria outnumbers lactobacilli (the good bacteria naturally found in your vagina), BV occurs.
This imbalance is usually triggered or heightened if a woman:
- engages in unprotected sex
- is menstruating
- has new or multiple sex partners
- is experiencing hormonal changes
Douching the vagina with soap and water can also increase the risk of BV. Your vagina is capable of cleaning itself. Harsh chemicals in the soap can kill the good bacteria and upset the balance of microorganisms living there.
How Probiotics Can Help
Since BV is caused by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, many are convinced that probiotics can help prevent it.
If you’re still not familiar with probiotics, they are what we call “good bacteria”. They, together with the harmful microorganisms comprise our body’s bacterial population (microbiota). When there are less good bacteria, the bad ones will flourish. This will create an imbalance in your microbiota which can lead to various illnesses including BV.
Probiotics can help restore a healthy balance of microorganisms in your vagina. This will help keep the harmful bacteria in check and thus reduce infections.
A randomized controlled trial in China found that probiotics help reduce the recurrence rate of BV in women. This is supported by a study conducted in 2013. It showed that women who take antibiotics together with probiotics have lower recurrence rates than those taking antibiotics alone. No adverse effects were reported in both studies.
Despite these, the results remain inconclusive. There are not yet enough studies to prove that probiotics can effectively treat BV. Thus, experts recommend exercising caution when taking probiotics claiming to be effective against BV.
Best Probiotic Strains for BV
Unlike your gut, there are only a select group of bacteria that are native to your vagina. Taking probiotics that do not contain strains naturally present in your genital area may do more harm than good.
Here are some of the probiotic strains that experts believe will help fight BV:
1. Lactobacillus rhamnosus
A clinical trial in 2009 was conducted to test the effects of L. rhamnosus on women with BV. The participants received long-term probiotic treatment. After 12 months, a significant reduction of vaginal PH was documented among the participants. A further reduction was reported after 24 months.
2. Lactobacillus gasseri
In 2015, 40 Scandinavian women who are suffering from BV participated in a clinical trial. The trial was divided into two phases. The first one administered a short term (5 days) dosage of probiotics with L. gasseri together with antibiotics to the women.
The second trial grouped the participants into three:
- women receiving antibiotics and probiotics for four months
- women receiving antifungal tablet and probiotics for an extended period
- women receiving purely antifungal tablets
Results showed that women receiving antifungal tablets together with probiotics for an extended period have higher cure rates than other groups. This suggests that supplementing L. gasseri probiotics to antifungal tablets enhances its effectivity.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the health benefits of probiotics and she wants to share that with the world. She also loves to write about healthy foods and other healthy living tips.