Hot Baths and Yoghurt – a look at home remedies for BV and how effective they are
There’s no doubt about it. BV is something women don’t like to talk about. Even though doctors and pharmacists treat intimate health issues with the same professionalism that they would show for other health questions, many women are looking online for advice and home remedies to use as a BV treatment. In fact, some people sharing their home remedies on YouTube have been viewed nearly half a million times in the last few years – and the internet is awash with suggestions from fellow BV sufferers in forums and chat rooms, ranging from scorching hot baths to dipping tampons in yoghurt.
So we’ve decided to look at the science behind some of the more common home remedies:
Very Hot water or steam:
Very hot baths and vaginal steaming are not recommended to treat BV. By raising the temperature inside your vagina by sitting in a super-hot bath or embracing ‘steam cleaning’ fad embraced by some celebrities, you risk damage to the millions of micro-organisms that exist inside the vagina and maintain your natural vaginal health. These include ‘good’ bacteria such as lactobacillus, which actually fights infections by harmful organisms and therefore is your first line of defence against infection. Damaging these and disrupting your body’s natural balance in the pursuit of a ‘clean’ vagina can do more harm than good. There’s also the obvious risk of damage to the extremely delicate and sensitive skin around the vagina as well – don’t try this at home!
Applying yoghurt for vaginal health:
This is an age-old remedy, based on the idea of introducing lactobacillus directly into the vagina by applying yoghurt. Some women recommend dipping a tampon in yoghurt and then leaving it in the vagina overnight. As mentioned above, Lactobacillus really is the natural hero of the vaginal eco system, but not all yoghurts contain ‘live’ bacteria. The other thing to be wary of is that yoghurts are made for eating and are likely to include other elements as well as lactobacillus. Introducing foreign ingredients into the vagina could potentially case further issues and exacerbate symptoms. If you want to encourage the growth of lactobacillus try using an acidifying gel or pessary such as Balance Activ, which also contains glycogen to actively encourage your own lactobacillus to increase, and re-establish your natural vaginal balance.
Hydrogen peroxide solution is available to purchase and some women recommend using this in a douche to combat infections such as BV. There are two problems that can be associated with this – hydrogen peroxide is essentially a disinfectant and will potentially kill the good bacteria in your vagina as well as the ones causing the problem. Therefore you may rid yourself of some of the symptoms of BV but are then left with a vagina that is out of balance and may be prone to further infections. Secondly, hydrogen peroxide is unlikely to tackle any of the bacteria that have created a ‘biofilm’ to adhere to vaginal walls and are not floating freely in the vagina. It is therefore much better to encourage your own body’s lactobacillus to do the job it’s meant to and fight BV. You can talk to your doctor or pharmacist about antibiotics or using a gel or pessary such as Balance Activ.
Tea tree oil:
As with Hydrogen Peroxide, Tea Tree oil has antiseptic properties, and it is likely to disrupt the natural balance of the vagina by killing both the good and bad bacteria. It is also possible to damage the vagina by using tea tree oil in this sensitive environment.
Probiotics can be great for restoring the natural balance of bacteria that your gut needs to stay healthy, if this gets out of kilter. However oral probiotics may not affect the balance of micro-organisms in the vagina, it’s better to use something that’s applied directly to the vagina to help restore the balance down there.
Pharmacist Sonal Davda comments:
While there may be some evidence behind the ingredients in these home remedies, for example, yogurt does contain lactic acid, they are not specifically made for the purpose of treating BV and may even contain other ingredients that could make the problem worse or cause further infection. It’s better to consult your doctor or pharmacist to discuss the range of treatments available that have been designed to fight BV and are clinically proven to do so.
What clinically tested BV treatments are available?
There are a variety of clinically proven treatments for BV available, including gels and pessaries that you can buy over the counter from your pharmacist, or antibiotics which you can get from your GP.
You can go to your doctor or GUM (Genito-Urinary Medicine) clinic to discuss your treatment options. Antibiotics are an effective way of treating BV but they can upset the delicate balance of bacteria in the vagina.
Balance Activ, which contains lactic acid and glycogen, has been clinically tested and shown to promote the growth of lactobacillus and restore your natural vaginal balance and vaginal pH level. You can buy this yourself in the shops or you can get it on prescription.