How to Naturally Get Rid of Vaginal Odor
The human vagina is home to a complex community of bacteria that can help to maintain good vaginal and sexual health. Many of these bacteria are part of the Lactobacillus family.1 However, other microorganisms can overwhelm the normal Lactobacillus population and cause a condition known as bacterial vaginosis. Let’s take a closer look at bacterial vaginosis, its symptoms, and some home remedies for taking care of it.
How Do You Get Bacterial Vaginosis?
Just about anything that either changes the pH of your vagina or upsets the normal vaginal flora can cause bad bacteria levels to spike and result in bacterial vaginosis. Below are the things that can increase your chances of getting BV:
- Scented Products -
Deodorants, scented pads, and perfumed bath products contain chemicals that can upset the normal vaginal flora and/or irritate the skin.
- The Practice of Douching -
Douching is the act of washing the vagina. Water has a neutral pH of about 7 while the normally acidic vagina has a pH of 3-4. Douching washes away the normal bacteria and causes fluctuations in your vagina’s bacterial and pH balance.
Vaginas are self-cleaning, making douching unnecessary. As mentioned, avoid using heavily scented products or harsh soaps on your vagina. These can irritate your vaginal lining and alter the pH levels. And it cannot be stressed enough: avoid douching.
- Hygiene Practices-
- Unsafe Sexual Activity -
Both receptive oral cunnilingus9 as well as male-female intercourse can increase the chances of getting BV.
Bacterial vaginosis is not necessarily a sexually transmitted disease (meaning that someone with bacterial vaginosis can’t necessarily spread it to a sexual partner), but having sex with a new partner or having multiple sexual partners has been found to potentially increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis. However, women who have sex with women can spread BV to their partners through the vaginal secretions.11
Home Remedies for Bacterial Vaginosis
Along with medical treatments, incorporating home remedies for BV can help improve your health.
Because BV is caused by dysbiosis, or imbalance, of the vaginal flora, restoring the normal vaginal flora is helpful for the treatment of BV.
One study found that consuming yogurt containing live Lactobacillus acidophilus cultures increases the amount of L. acidophilus found in the vagina and reduces the episodes of BV after 1 and 2 months compared to women who consumed sterilized and pasteurized yogurt10.
Another study found that the intra-vaginal application of yogurt in pregnant women with BV was better at treating it than intra-vaginal vinegar tampons and no treatment11.
Probiotics refer to the beneficial bacteria found throughout your body (primarily in your gut and vagina). Probiotics have been found to help support a healthy digestive system, but studies suggest that having certain Lactobacillus species such as L. crispatus and L. jensenii in the rectum is associated with a lower chance of having BV12.
Lactobacillus probiotics are particularly helpful for vaginal health as they make up a part of the normal vaginal flora and help establish a healthy pH environment.7
In addition to lowering your chances of having BV, having a healthy vaginal microbiome helps to lower the amount of UTI-causing E. coli bacteria as well as yeast-infection causing Candida yeast. You can get probiotics from various types of food, including yogurt, kefir, and kimchi, or from dietary supplements.
- Boric Acid Suppository
Boric acid is a versatile compound used to treat Candida yeast infections that are resistant to traditional antifungals. According to researchers boric acid has never been shown to be effective in treating BV. However, anecdotal stories and product reviews disagree.
Boric acid suppositories are inserted into the vagina to help to help restore the normally acidic state of the vagina. Boric acid must be used with caution as it can be toxic if eaten or consumed orally.8
How to Make Your Vagina Smell Good
A healthy vagina shouldn’t exude that fishy vaginal smell. If the bacteria in your vagina is well-balanced, any odor is kept to a minimum.
- Fragrance free natural soup: Ensuring your vagina smells good includes regular washing with a fragrance-free, natural soap. Avoid perfumed soaps, gels and antiseptics that can throw own your vaginal pH level and natural balance of heathy bacteria.
- Restroom Practice: It’s also crucial that you wipe properly after using the restroom. That means wiping from front to back, so you don’t accidentally get fecal material and its related bacteria into your vagina.
- Water Based Lube: If you use lube during sex, choose a water-based product.
- Underwear: Change your underwear daily, and wear natural materials, such as cotton or silk, rather than synthetics. Natural materials are breathable, and bacteria are less likely to overgrow.
What is Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis, sometimes referred to as nonspecific vaginitis or BV, occurs when the various bacteria in your vagina become imbalanced, causing certain types of bacteria to grow out of control. The infection is most often caused by Gardnerella vaginalis, which tends to be the most common bacteria found in association with BV.2
What Causes Bacterial Vaginosis?
In the past, bacterial vaginosis was originally called Gardnerella vaginitis, but doctors have since found that other bacteria can potentially cause the condition. A sudden imbalance or overgrowth of the following other organisms can cause BV. Below are some organisms that are bacterial vaginosis causes:
Bacterial Vaginosis Symptoms
The most common signs and symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include:
- A foul, fishy vaginal odor
- Vaginal itching
- Burning or discomfort during urination
- Vaginal discharge that may appear thin, gray, white, or green
However, bacterial vaginosis does not always exhibit symptoms. Sometimes symptoms will come and go quickly, or symptoms may be so mild that they’re basically unnoticeable. For this reason, some people may not even know that they have bacterial vaginosis.4
Can Men Get Bacterial Vaginosis?
Men can not get bacterial vaginosis. The penis just does not have the same type of bacteria as the vagina. However, it is possible that men can carry the bad bacteria and spread it to women with whom they have intercourse. Researchers are not certain whether men can spread the bacteria, but women who are sexually active have a higher rate of BV than those who are not, and that is true whether their partners are male or female.
A 2015 study found that uncircumcised men who had female sexual partners outside their marriages were more likely to have BV-related bacteria on their penises than men who did not have sex with women other than their wives or regular partners.14 Male circumcision allows for easier cleaning of the penis, so that is a potential contributing factor. Circumcised men have a lower risk of urinary tract infections, some of which have symptoms similar to BV.
Using a condom during sex reduces the possible risk of transmitting BV. So does daily cleaning of the penis and the wearing of loose cotton underwear to reduce bacterial accumulation.
Bacterial Vaginosis Treatment
Bacterial vaginosis can be easily treated using antibiotics, either in the form of pills you swallow or topical gels or creams applied directly to the vagina. There are several different antibiotics available, but the most common antibiotics for bacterial vaginosis prescribed by doctors are:
Make sure you complete the full course of treatment as instructed by your doctor, even if your symptoms go away sooner. Stopping treatment too early increases the risk of recurrence. You should also abstain from sex until you finish treatment and your infection subsides. If you are pregnant and exhibiting symptoms, it’s even more important to seek treatment as soon as possible to reduce the risk of low birth weight or premature delivery.6
Recurrent Bacterial Vaginosis
For some women, BV becomes a recurring or chronic condition. Treatment generally consists of extended courses of antibiotic therapy, often for four to six months. Temporary lifestyle changes may become necessary to eradicate BV. Probiotic supplements may support healthy bacteria in the vagina, and eliminating processed and sugary foods and consuming a healthy, organic diet can help the body combat the infection. Abstinence is recommended, but if that is not a long-term option, have your partner use a condom during intercourse.
Women with HIV may experience BV recurrences more often than women without this infection. However, treatment is the same for both groups.
Bacterial vaginosis can be uncomfortable and painful, but with the right treatment and some simple lifestyle changes, you can easily manage it and prevent recurrence.