Most women will experience the unpleasantness of a vaginal infection from time to time. The itching, discharge and inflammation are usually caused by bacteria which displace the usual lactobacilli and change the acidity –making it a higher pH which means less acidic.
Lactobacillus crispatus and Lactobacillus jensenii are the dominant organisms in healthy premenopausal women; these bacteria produce antimicrobial substances such as hydrogen peroxide, lactic acid and bacteriocins. They also compete with pathogens and form barriers to prevent colonization and adherence of pathogens.
After menopause, only 25 to 30% of women have lactobacilli present. But If put on hormone replacement therapy (a controversial treatment), 60 to 100% of women maintain the premenopausal mix.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is treated with chemical drugs including metronidazole. The medication is not without possible complications including candidiasis, cramping and other side effects. Relapse is also common.
Researchers in Tehran wondered if addition of probiotics would improve the efficacy of the medication.
In 2010, 80 women in a clinical trial were divided into 2 groups: oral metronidazole alone or the combination of metronidazole plus probiotics. Results indicated that efficiency of treatment was greater in the combination group.
In other research, strains of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus fermentum have been shown to positively modify the vaginal flora.
It makes sense for women to make the connection between their microbes and vaginal health. Eating lots of fermented or cultured foods are recommended. Newer vehicles include targeted applications such as creams or gels.