Sometimes it can be challenging to start a conversation about vaginal health. We want to change that. Vaginas are amazing things; they give us life, pleasure and are their very own ecosystem. Unfortunately, vaginal health-related issues are something we see very frequently at Remedy. Bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infections, and urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common nowadays. We believe this is in part a modern-day systemic issue; overuse of prescription of antibiotics leaving many people (not just women!) prone to antibiotic-resistant infection; modern diets are also a factor, with an overabundance of sugar that only feeds the issue further (literally and metaphorically!) and not to mention the extra stress we all live with.
This can easily lead to a seemingly endless pattern of infection, treatment, and antibiotic resistance. We see many women coming into remedy who have gone back and forth between antibiotics and infection for months after one instance of bacterial or fungal overgrowth. To avoid this vicious cycle, maintenance and prevention are key!
Here are some things to know about maintaining a healthy vaginal microbiome:
Vaginal Acidity and Why it Matters
Though they seem different, BV and yeast infections are two sides of the same coin-- they both stem from imbalanced vaginal bacteria and pH levels.
Vaginas need to maintain a specific level of acidity to stay healthy. This is around 3.8-4.5 on the 0-14 pH scale, making it slightly less acidic than lemon juice. The predominance of Lactobacillus bacteria strains creates this unique acidic environment– when healthy vaginal strains like L. Ramnosus and L. Reuteri are thriving, less beneficial bacteria are kept in check.
Many things can alter your vaginal flora and pH, from a diet high in processed foods, harsh chemicals to frequent/substantial courses of antibiotics. This is where symptoms like strong odor, abnormal discharge, and irritation are prone to happening.
To quickly begin rebalancing your vaginal pH locally in the case of BV, we recommend Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) suppositories as a first-line approach. Vitanica’s V-Fresh suppositories are our personal go-to– they are less irritating to the vaginal area than boric acid and can be conveniently broken into half-doses for sensitive individuals. A course is about 6 days, and can be repeated if needed. Past this acute phase, clean eating and a women-specific probiotic are key for balanced vaginal pH maintenance long term.
We see great traction with probiotics as a first-line approach to addressing cases of BV and yeast infections. Two in particular-- L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri-- are shown to restore overall vaginal pH levels and improve cure rates of BV (9). We have probiotics that can be taken orally like Jarro Dophilus ® Women as well as ones that can be inserted vaginally, like Jarrow Women’s Femdophilus. We will often recommend a combined approach of these daily past symptoms for acute scenarios, and an oral probiotic for maintenance afterwards. Stop by in-store to chat with us on the nuances of each and see which method is best for your needs!
Urinary tract infections are a slightly separate beast in themselves. If you catch them early enough, an herbal approach is very effective. U.T. Vibrance is an excellent formula of herbs to help support bladder health while flushing out bacteria. Dosing must be frequent and past symptoms. Jarro Dophilus Women helps restore proper microbial balance in the female urinary tract as well, and is a huge ally during and after an acute infection.
The following tips can go a long way in terms of female vaginal health and maintenance:
- Try to avoid tampons or cups during an active infection - it is ideal for blood to stay in a state of flow, and this acts as a mechanism for the body to clear out unwanted bacteria. Keep some 100% organic cotton pads on hand, like these.
- Choose a condom and lubricant brand that prioritizes women’s health! Sex is a huge trigger for vaginal pH imbalance, so this is a pretty easy box to check on your sexual wellness to-do list! Thankfully, there are more brands nowadays that keep women’s health at the forefront of their minds. We are huge fans of Lovability’s natural latex condoms and lubricants because they are made from natural rubber latex and contain no parabens, fragrances, harsh chemicals, animal products, artificial colors, or flavoring.
- Avoid harsh soaps and douching. Soaps typically have a high pH, and using them to clean the vaginal area may increase vaginal pH. It is best to use warm water and a gentle cleanser to clean the vulva but to refrain from using soap inside the vagina. This will help to maintain the vaginal pH balance.
- If you had to pick one thing, eat less sugar- This is crucial, as ‘bad’ bacteria and yeasts feed on excess sugars. Cut out sugar temporarily to starve out the ‘bad’ bacteria. Moderation is a great rule of thumb-- this even applies to things like fruit, which can easily be overconsumed.
If that Doesn't Work
Our holistic philosophy includes using medications when needed. There are various Over the Counter (OTC) options as well as prescriptions that can be used to treat active infections. Check out our page on integrative UTI care if you need more support (including RX treatment options).
While antibiotics and antifungals are highly effective medicines, the main takeaway is that they do not restore vaginal flora or rebalance pH levels. In fact, they kill the pathogenic AND healthy bacteria/yeast in the vaginal microbiome. If you need to use them, it is best to also take the probiotics mentioned above. Ideally separate when you take the antibiotic/antifungal from the probiotic as much as possible. A probiotic even taken at the same time as the antibiotic would not make the antibiotic work less, it would only make the probiotic less effective, that is why separating the two is best. Continue the probiotic AT LEAST for an additional two weeks after completing the antibiotic therapy, if not longer. In the case of women with recurrent infections, we recommend taking these daily while also diving into root causes.
For women with recurrent issues, it can be very challenging to pull one’s self out of that cycle of antibiotic use alone. We highly recommend booking an herbalist consultation or giving us a call! Spreading knowledge empowers women to care for themselves, and we are here for you! 🔥 💃