Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, can be irritating, frustrating and difficult to treat. However, left untreated, it can contribute to long-term problems. Vitamin C might offer an alternative or supplementary treatment for this uncomfortable condition. If you suspect a case of BV, see your medical doctor for a diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
Bacterial vaginosis is an infection caused by an imbalance in the normally healthy bacteria of the vagina. Although BV can be asymptomatic, it is often characterized by a strong, fishy odor, white or gray watery discharge, and itching and burning sensations. It may be triggered by a new sexual partner, poor daily or sexual hygiene, antibiotic use or perfumed douches and soaps. Some cases of vaginosis are not bacterial at all, but are caused by the fungus candida, or yeast. Untreated BV can lead to more serious problems, such as pelvic inflammatory disease and an increased risk of HIV.
Vitamin C supplements may help treat both BV and candida-related vaginosis. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends 500 to 1,000 mg twice daily for immune support and to strengthen the lining of the vagina, helping it heal from irritation. Vitamin C is essential to collagen production, which the body needs to repair damaged tissues. You can also get vitamin C from foods such as citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, green peppers, leafy greens and berries.
In 2011, scientists at the pharmaceutical company Polichem SA conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 277 women presenting symptoms of BV. The women were instructed to insert a silicon-coated 250 mg vitamin C tablet into the vagina for six consecutive days. About 55 percent of study participants found relief from this method, opposed to 25 percent of women taking a placebo. Although promising, these findings are not extensive enough to be conclusive. Consult your gynecologist before beginning this treatment.
Proper hygiene is essential to preventing and healing from BV. Wash the area carefully with unscented soaps, dry thoroughly and wear breathable cotton underwear. Whenever possible, such as at night, go without underwear to allow the area to breathe. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements such as fish oil may be helpful to build immunity and decrease inflammation. Grapefruit seed extract has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It can be taken internally or mixed with water for a soothing rinse. Probiotic supplements that have been developed to promote healthy vaginal bacteria may also be helpful. Drink lots of water and avoid added sugars, which promote bacterial growth.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Bacterial Vaginosis – CDC Fact Sheet; 2010
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Vaginitis; Steven Ehrlich; 2010
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Vitamin C – Overview; 2009
- “Arzeneimittelforschung”; Efficacy of Vitamin C Vaginal Tablets; E. E. Peterson, et al.; 2011