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How to Treat Bacterial Vaginosis

Vitamin C is pitted head-to-head against antibiotics for bacterial vaginal infections.

A study published in 1999 raised the exciting possibility that “cheap, simple, innocuous and ubiquitous vitamin C” supplements could prevent a condition known as preeclampsia, but after a decade of research, we realized that was merely a false hope and that vitamin C supplements appear to play little role in women’s health. But this was in regard to oral vitamin C, not vaginal vitamin C, which has been found to be an effective treatment for bacterial vaginosis, an all too common gynecological disorder characterized by a foul-smelling, watery, gray discharge, which I discuss in my video Treating Bacterial Vaginosis with Vaginal Vitamin C.

Bacterial vaginosis “can best be described as an ‘ecological disaster’ of the vaginal microflora.” The good, normal, lactobacillus-type bacteria get displaced by an army of bad bacteria. Probiotics may help, repopulating the good bacteria, but the reason the bad bacteria took over in the first place was that the pH was off. I’ve talked before about the role diet may play in the development of the condition. (See my video Bacterial Vaginosis and Diet for more.) For example, saturated fat intake may increase vaginal pH, allowing for the growth of undesirable bacteria, so why not try to re-acidify the vagina with ascorbic acid, otherwise known as vitamin C? This isn’t just plain vitamin C tablets but specially formulated silicone-coated supplements that release vitamin C slowly, so as to not be irritating. How well do they work? One hundred women suffering from the condition were split into two groups, and the vaginal vitamin C beat out placebo. But how does vitamin C compare with conventional therapy, an antibiotic gel?

This is an important question. “Although perceived as a mild medical problem,” bacterial vaginosis may increase the risk of several gynecological complications, including problems during pregnancy, when you want to avoid taking drugs whenever possible. The vitamin C appeared to work as effectively as the antibiotic. So, vitamin C can really help, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy when you really don’t want to using drugs like topical antibiotics. And for women with recurrent episodes, using vitamin C for six days after each cycle appears to cut the risk of recurrence in half, as you can see at 2:36 in my video.


Another way to get vitamin C into the body is by dripping it directly into the vein. Does that actually do anything? See:

For those of us who prefer to get vitamin C the old-fashioned way, through the mouth and in foods rather than supplements, the question becomes What Is the Optimal Vitamin C Intake?

 If you’re considering taking oral vitamin C in supplements instead, make sure to watch this video first: Do Vitamin C Supplements Prevent Colds But Cause Kidney Stones?.

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live presentations:

Discuss

Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


25 responses to “How to Treat Bacterial Vaginosis

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    1. You may well ask. I suffer a direct correlation between vegan diet- persistent thrush. Go back to animal products- it subsides!

    2. I make boric acid capsules and insert them. Works better than anything else and I’ve run the gamut. Don’t eat sugar or any simple carbs, they make it worse.

    3. We can’t answer the question on a vegan diet because Dr. G does not recommend a vegan diet. He does recommend a WFPB diet which is loaded with pre and probiotics that will help fight candida. Also keep in mind that a competent immune system does a fine job as well. It takes quite a severe illness to suppress one’s immune system to the point that we’re overrun with candida, which is found everywhere in our environment and food.

  1. This was a very I interesting article, thank you. If any such information is available on recurring thrush, and how to treat or at least manage it.
    Surely some foods are more beneficial than others, would vitC be helpful in this case also?
    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Al, Dr Greger explains in this blog that re-acidify the vagina with ascorbic acid, otherwise known as vitamin C? This isn’t just plain vitamin C tablets but specially formulated silicone-coated supplements that release vitamin C slowly, so as to not be irritating. How well do they work? One hundred women suffering from the condition were split into two groups, and the vaginal vitamin C beat out placebo. But how does vitamin C compare with conventional therapy, an antibiotic gel?

      This is an important question. “Although perceived as a mild medical problem,” bacterial vaginosis may increase the risk of several gynecological complications, including problems during pregnancy, when you want to avoid taking drugs whenever possible. The vitamin C appeared to work as effectively as the antibiotic. So, vitamin C can really help, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy when you really don’t want to using drugs like topical antibiotics. And for women with recurrent episodes, using vitamin C for six days after each cycle appears to cut the risk of recurrence in half, as you can see at 2:36 in my video.

    1. How? I end up resorting to anti fungals. At one stage I had the outbreaks everywhere!

      Raw vegan works- but that is such a restrictive diet I defy anyone to keep it up, and you have to worry about vit B and mineral deficiencies once you eliminate all grains.

      Us girls need to speak up about this issue because it is awful and as you get older pharmacists become less willing to sell you the anti fungals. This is not a way to manage good health.

      1. Try using anti-fungals occasionally as a preventative, both partners at the same time.

        Also, use condoms for 6 months to see if that helps, and limit oral sex (both ways).

        How the combined pill can cause recurrent thrush
        >> https://thefemedic.com/thrush/how-can-combined-pill-cause-recurrent-thrush/

        Oral contraceptives can lead to Candida colonization.
        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5291939/

        Oral contraceptives influence recurrence of vulvovaginal candidiasis.
        https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/001078249500079P

  2. I suffered from that condition years ago and a nurse practitioner told me not to use soap in the vaginal area. Just use water. She assured me the water from a shower would be enough to cleanse the area. She also said to stop taking baths. I did what she said and never had an issue again. That was 20 years ago.

  3. Joan,

    I have heard that, too.

    Though I don’t actually have any problems down there.

    My friend was having problems a few weeks ago but hers ended up being related to using panty liners and having too much moisture.

    She is working a hard job at 65. On construction sites. Heavy lifting. Profuse sweating. No bathrooms much of the time.

    Caregivers know that there are moisture barriers for preventing fungal infections.

    If I ever do get one, I will be ordering the chlorine dioxide shampoo for dogs on JKat.

    Or maybe put some chlorine dioxide mouthwash in a spray bottle. Or some water treatment tablets.

    Chlorine dioxide outperformed every antifungal when my dog had ringworm.

    I would thing the process that turns tap water into a sanitizing agent would help.

    Also, there is the Kangen water system that has the ability to choose which pH of the water from highly acidic to highly alkaline. I think their range was something like 4 to 11. So you can use it for cleaning and use it to rinse your mouth after acidic foods, etc.

    That is expensive but highly versatile.

    I did high alkaline water when I had symptoms like strep throat, because viruses replicate within a narrow pH.

  4. Insert a capsule of vegan lactobacillus acidophilus diectly into the vagina until the condition dissipates. In addition bathe in water with I cup white vinegar .

  5. Another informative article, thank you so much for your hard and important work, Dr. Greger. I have an unrelated Q:
    I eat a lot of tofu and tempeh (usually raw/straight from the package). Does this contribute towards my three daily servings of legumes?

    Thank you!!!

    Dora

    1. Hi Dora. Great question! Thankfully, Dr Greger has covered these topics:
      TOFU >> https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/tofu/
      TEMPEH >> https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/tempeh/
      Who Shouldn’t Eat Soy? >> https://nutritionfacts.org/video/who-shouldnt-eat-soy/

      As healthy as tofu is, even better is tempeh, a whole soy food. Eat 1.5 cups of beans, including soy, per day. If you eat tofu, choose varieties made with calcium.

      The general advice is to eat a *variety* of whole foods. Specifically for soy products, a safe upper limit is about 5 portions per day (pretty sure I saw that on this site, but cannot find the reference).

      1. nutrition has,

        I still don’t have power and still haven’t come over to your site again but I want to pause and say how wonderful it is to see your passion.

        When life gets back to just covid-normal, I will try to remember.

        I just carried a tree, branch by branch out to the road. My brother cut it up for me and carried the heavy parts.

        I collapsed on the couch and picked up my phone and Nutritionfacts.org was loaded and it amazed me because I hadn’t been able to get online all day except at Lowes and it was the Lowes site that was on when I went outside.

        I have never had a vaginal problem in my whole life but it was so nice to see the page again.

  6. Where might one find these “specially formulated silicone-coated supplements that release vitamin C slowly”? Is there a particular brand, or style of tablet to look for?

  7. Thanks for all the wonderful information for this recurrent candidiasis. Wonder what dose and where to find this silicone coated VitC tablets.

    1. HiI haven’t found a pharmacy that will do a vit c capsules and if i do they will charge me a lot. I tried once with boric acid capsules and for only 10 they were asking around $60 including prescription from GP ( i am in Sydney) so i found a pack of 14 on ebay that cost me around $23 inc postage. You can try that option or you can do it yourself. I usually fill half with ascorbic acid of the capsule and close it off with the emprthy one ( i am not great at explaining).  

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