The Role of Probiotics in Combating Chronic BV and Yeast Infections
I’ll get right into it:
Studies show that taking a probiotic formulated for vaginal flora containing L. Crispatus twice per day for 60 days and then once daily from then on is having a success rate of reducing recurrent bv infections by 60% and yeast infections by 93%!
Whether from antibiotics, diet, feminine products we use, birth control, low estrogen, boric acid overuse, or other medical conditions our vaginas are depleted of the much needed good bacteria and mature environment to prevent and combat the conditions that are causing the infections. Here I will share what I have learned from multiple studies of how probiotics work to help keep he vagina in balance and healthy.
How BV and Yeast infections start (most of the time):
Many chronic/recurring BV and/or yeast infections can be traced back partly to an imbalance in pH levels but ultimately due to the vaginal defense mechanism in totality being disrupted. BV can flourish in a pH above the preferred level of 3.5-4.5 . Yeast, on the other hand, is an opportunistic organism and can happen in a wide range of pH’s, it doesn’t really care-if the defense system is down the yeast will multiply and take over. Once one of these infections happen it can be difficult to break the cycle and get back to a place of health and stability.
After battling recurring BV or yeast infections you are probably desperate for help and one of the biggest things you can do to stop the cycle is find out the PRIMARY cause for your infections. Yeast and BV (which are a mostly a secondary health problem) both happen because there was first a loss of vaginal defenses at some point possibly due to any one of these factors such as sex and/or a new sexual partner, douching, anything with fragrance, birth control, low estrogen, ovulatory cervical mucus, or even your period blood, but sometimes changing any of these sources is not enough (or even an option) so we need to also then figure out how to build the vaginal defense system back up.
When I started digging into medical journals and case studies regarding recurrent BV and yeast infections, I came across a few studies about pH levels and beneficial bacteria normally found in the vagina, below is the data I found:
There are many causes of BV infections alone, some of which are avoidable, some seeming inconvenient to incorporate such as not wearing my beloved invisible thongs and some completely unavoidable Douches, soaps, boric acid overuse, sex and/or new sexual partners, ejaculate fluids, low estrogen levels, period blood…anything that elevates the vaginal pH can be a risk factor. So what do we typically do when we get an infections? We go to the Dr. who usually prescribes an antibiotic, which is fine and typically needed but if we aren’t also providing an environment that promotes the correct pH level for our vaginas we just end up in the vicious cycle and we’re back on antibiotics again and again.
The research data shows that the bacteria are also developing a resistance to the antibiotics making the infections more apt to return and taking the antibiotics over and over and not allowing the beneficial bacteria to replenish itself, is letting the bad bacterial recolonize more easily. Made sense to me– antibiotics kill off all the bacteria, good and bad and if you don’t replace the good then the pathogenic organisms come and take up that space. Kind of like a lawn; Weeds tend to grow like crazy in patches of dirt where healthy grass used to be before we did something that killed off that grass.
Look for a probiotic that contains the following:
L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, L. reuteri, L. crispatus, L. lactis, L. gasseri, L. paracasei, L. rhamnosus, L. brevis, and Bifidobacterium longum.
As mentioned before-taking a probiotic with the strains listed above (most importantly the L. Crispatus) at 10 billion CFU twice a day for 60 days and then once a day after shows a reduction in BV infections by 60% and yeast infections by 93%! I have another article on Boric acid that you may want to read as well that coincides with probiotic use and stopping the cycle of infections.
If you combine the probiotic use with the other suggestions from the medical community for prevention such as be extra careful not to spread germs from any anal play to the vagina, not wearing thongs and only wear those all cotton full butt panties, not using soaps, douches, anything scented, no wipes on the area, and only use warm water you should start to see a decrease in the number of infections.
Side Note: Estrogen also helps to acidify the vagina and promote beneficial bacteria growth so if you are on birth control and are having recurrent yeast infections I would strongly suggest you you talk to your gyno about the role your birth control may be playing in that issue as the estrogen in hormonal birth controls is different than the type our bodies naturally create. The synthetic estrogen in hormonal birth control does not fit quite right in our estrogen receptors so it isn’t able to perform the protective duties we need in order to remain healthy with strong defenses.
Make sure you have confirmation of a yeast infection before you treat with an OTC cream as you can cause crazy irritation or dermatitis to your genitals. Vestibulitis can feel very much like a yeast infection (and so can vulvovaginal allergies-check out this other article I wrote on that) and treating with creams can only make things worse so work with your gyno to confirm all infections whether BV or yeast and treat accordingly.
Boric acid, itself, does not cure a BV infection and many women have been misinformed of this fact. Boric acid as I mentioned creates a pH level of about 5.0 and destroys the biofilms of bacteria-good and bad and destroys the cell walls of yeast making these pathogenic organisms susceptible to medications and our body’s natural defenses. If your vulvovaginal health is typically really strong and your immune system is really good you may be able to successfully treat a BV infection with boric acid alone but don’t feel bad if you can’t-you are actually the norm in this situation. If you want to look into using boric acid or have already chosen to start a boric acid treatment make sure you read my article on it first so you know the medical community’s typical dosing, what boric acid can and cannot do, when to take it, and the mechanics of how it works!
I also want to reinforce that anyone with a vagina, sexually active or not, can get a BV and yeast infection so these are never something to feel ashamed of for having. I know they can feel uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing but don’t let anyone cause you to feel abnormal or dirty, the vagina is a delicate ecosystem and can be difficult to maintain.
So, get tested, get the right medication for what ails you, and get to the bottom of what has your vaginal health defenses so low in the first place!
Studies and research data mentioned: