Bacterial vaginosis, also known as BV, is an infection that occurs in the lining of the vagina. Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include a foul odor, heavy discharge, clear to gray discharge color and red and swollen vaginal membranes. However, some women with bacterial vaginosis may have no symptoms. Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria and fungus in the vagina due to vitamin deficiencies, improper nutrition, hormonal imbalances, pregnancy, stress and a plethora of other factors. Eating a diet rich in vitamins C, B, D and E can aid in preventing the occurrence of this uncomfortable infection.
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Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, strengthens your immune system and protects the lining of your vagina from the overgrowth of bacteria. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, take a 500 mg supplement of vitamin C twice per day or enrich your diet with foods high in vitamin C. Fruits high in vitamin C and other antioxidants include cherries, blueberries and tomatoes. The seed of a grapefruit, also a fruit high in vitamin C, contains antibacterial and antifungal properties boosting immune functioning.
High intake of folate is associated with lower risk of developing severe bacterial vaginosis, according to a 2009 study published in “The Journal of Nutrition.” Folate is linked with a decreased risk of cancer and is thought to enhance immune functioning, which may aid in prohibiting the growth of bacteria. Folate also aids the blood in distributing oxygen to the cells, ensuring adequate cell function. Foods high in folate and other B vitamins include almonds, whole grains, spinach, kale and beans.
Bacterial vaginosis is associated with increased risk factors among pregnant women, such as preterm birth and a surplus of harmful bacteria in the vagina. Vitamin D deficiency may increase a pregnant woman’s chance of developing bacterial vaginosis. African American women are particularly susceptible to developing this infection due to the amount of melanin in their skin, which prevents the skin from absorbing the sunlight needed for vitamin D production. Vitamin D decreases the development of bacterial vaginosis by producing natural antibodies that fight bacteria, fungus and viruses. According to a 2011 article published by the American Society for Microbiology, pregnant women may require supplementation up to 6,400 IU of vitamin D3 per day. Other sources of Vitamin D include direct sunlight exposure and foods rich in fish oil, like salmon and mackerel.
Vitamin E consumption decreases a woman’s chance of generating an overgrowth of bacteria leading to bacterial vaginosis, as reported by a 2011 study published in “The Journal of Nutrition.” Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and increases the body’s immune response. Vitamin E supplementation decreases infection rates and respiratory problems observed among older individuals. Increased immune response and bacteria-fighting antioxidants regulate bacteria levels in the vagina. Rich sources of vitamin E include wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut butter, broccoli and tomatoes.
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Vaginitis; Steven Ehrlich; June 2010
- “mBio”; Adequate Vitamin D during Pregnancy Reduces the Risk of Premature Birth by Reducing Placental Colonization by Bacterial Vaginosis Species; William B. Grant; March 2011
- “The Journal of Nutrition”; Maternal Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated with Bacterial Vaginosis in the First Trimester of Pregnancy; Lisa M. Bodnar, et al.; June 2009
- “The Journal of Nutrition”; Dietary Intake of Selected Nutrients Affects Bacterial Vaginosis in Women; Yasmin H. Neggers, et al.; September 2007