Ever get that not-so-fresh feeling and instantly panic, wondering what it could be? It’s likely one of two culprits: a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis (BV). Neither are fun, but luckily there are ways to determine which it is — and natural remedies to prevent and treat both.
First, let’s define them. A yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of Candida, a fungus that grows naturally in the vagina. Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an overgrowth of bad — or anaerobic — bacteria. In both cases, the body’s natural balance is thrown off, and discomfort inevitably ensues.
This imbalance is pretty much where the similarities end, though. Yeast infections are fungal, while BV is bacterial. With a yeast infection, there’s often an itch and a thick white discharge. With BV, there’s a fishy odor, burning sensation during urination, and thin discharge that’s either white, gray, or green. Yeast infections are uncomfortable for virtually everyone, while BV can go largely unnoticed and undiagnosed.
Treating the Root Causes of Yeast Infections and BV
Most often, yeast infections can be caused by pregnancy, a weakened immune system, poor eating habits, uncontrolled diabetes, stress, lack of sleep, and antibiotics. BV, meanwhile, is most frequently caused by having a new or multiple sex partners, smoking, douching, or having a lack of good vaginal bacteria, called lactobacilli.
While a yeast infection can be treated naturally and typically doesn’t cause other health concerns, having BV opens the door to many other conditions, including the increased potential for contracting sexually transmitted diseases like herpes, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia. It can also lead to additional bacterial infections, as well as pelvic inflammatory disease. To avoid developing BV naturally, don’t use scented soaps (thousands of women rely on my feminine spray to do the trick!), always wipe from front to back, use condoms, and avoid douching, which can throw off the body’s natural balance all on its own.
At-Home Remedies for Yeast Infections and BV
Here’s the weird thing: While they’re different conditions caused by different factors, treating both yeast infections and BV at home can be done naturally using the same products. I dig in to home remedies for yeast infections more in this recent blog post, but the list is almost identical these tried-and-true at-home BV treatments:
- Using tea tree oil topically, diluted with a carrier oil, to kill bacteria and fungus
- Eating more garlic and yogurt to kill fungus and add more good bacteria, respectively
- Treating the affected area with 1 ounce daily of inexpensive, effective hydrogen peroxide
- Adding probiotics to your daily routine (this is good for prevention too!)
- Wearing cotton underwear for its breathability (also good for prevention!)
- Taking boric acid capsules, which work like a suppository
- Practicing good hygiene and safe sex
If you’ve experienced either a yeast infection or BV and you’re dreading making another doctor’s appointment or heading to the pharmacy for a temporary cure, try these solutions instead. It’s time to let nature do its good work!