What can I say? It’s been a journey. If you’ve been following this Confessional series so far then you’ll know all about my heartbreaks, and yes, all about my discharge too. ?
So there I was – trapped in a vicious cycle of bacterial vaginosis. My only saving grace was the fact that I was newly single and there was no sex to speak of (and therefore no fresh onsets of BV to battle either). My vagina was in a fragile state of balance.
We met on a mountainside and our first date lasted 48 hours. ? I suddenly had a very good reason to get to grips with my vajayjay! As anticipated, sex brought the BV back (and quick). I needed it to stop more than ever.
We humans are vulnerable things. A mild vaginal infection (which is extremely common, and in the greater scheme of things, is not too serious) completely annihilated my sexual confidence and made my orgasming issues even worse. You see, anticipating a new bout of BV took me out of the moment and into the inevitable and uncontrollable future.
It was time to figure this shit out.
Our bodies are a wonderful ecosystem of bacteria, and my vagina’s ecosystem was clearly going through crisis after crisis, with the bad bacteria coming out on top time and again. It became obvious to me that, just like the Yellowstone National Park, I needed to REWILD MY VAGINA! A.k.a get good bacteria back inside me to restore equilibrium.
Here’s how I did it:
** Please note that I’m not a medical professional. This is simply my story. What works for my body might not work for yours. If you have any concerns about your sexual health, speak to your doctor, gynaecologist or local chemist. **
I looked closely at my diet
How happy our lips are down below depends a lot on what we put in our mouths. Remember how I said I moved continents, started a new job, didn’t have sex for two years, and became vegan? While cutting all animal products out of my diet had an extremely positive environmental impact and meant I was eating lots of healthy fruit and veg, it also meant I’d removed my main source of live bacteria out of my diet – YOGHURT.
There are vegan sources of live bacteria such as as kimchi, sauerkraut, cashew nut yoghurt, and kombucha, to name a few, but I could never seem to eat enough of them to make a real difference.
I was so desperate to restore balance to my body that I decided to reintroduce live culture yoghurt and kefir (fermented milk) back into my diet.
I stopped taking antibiotics
Part of the reason why I was trapped in a cycle of BV was because every time I took an oral antibiotic or inserted antibiotic gel into my vagina, I wasn’t just killing off the bad bacteria, I was stripping my whole ecosystem bare. Think of it as the equivalent of slash and burn farming! I was killing off all the “weeds”, but I was also killing off what would ultimately restore balance.
My trips to the gynae and my endless prescriptions had become a kind of life line for me. The minute I picked up on a hint of bacterial vaginosis I would hurry to my nearest pharmacy and pick up a new dose of antibiotics. I took six rounds in about as many months. Suffice to say my inner ecosystem was a desolate wasteland.
It took a lot of resolve to decide I wouldn’t treat any future flare-ups with antibiotics as they were my only recourse, but they clearly had become a part of the problem.
I found the holy grail of vaginal probiotics
Bae and I were on our first big overseas adventure together. Naturally I wanted all the romance and all the sex. We had barely arrived when, lo and behold, the BV pitched up too like an annoying relative gate crashing a honeymoon.
I feverishly started googling home remedies. The general rule is, if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, then you shouldn’t put it in your vagina. I read about inserting whole garlic cloves up my vag, smothering myself with coconut oil, soaking tampons in yoghurt and popping one in overnight. I knew these solutions must have worked for someone, but I was concerned about making the situation worse. Besides – surely garlic would sting like a MOFO?!
I found a chat thread where someone swore by boric acid, because it apparently helps to tip the pH of the vagina back to normal. A healthy vagina is generally slightly acidic, but the bacteria responsible for BV make the vagina more alkaline, which isn’t conducive to healthy bacteria. Giving the good guys a helping hand by making my vag more acidic sounded sciency enough for me (?) so I grabbed my coat and walked right out the door, all the way to the nearest pharmacy. When I asked for boric acid the chemist paused and looked at me searchingly.
“We’re actually not allowed to stock that anymore. May I ask what you want it for?”
In a moment of sheer desperation I poured my story out to this stranger. I explained how I was at my wits end, how none of my doctors had any real solutions for me, and how boric acid was my last shot at a happy sex life.
“No, no, no,” she said gently and led me over a shelf that can only be described as a pharmaceutical altar dedicated to the vagina.
“This is a probiotic suppository,” she said, handing me a little pink box. “My daughter had a lot of trouble and she swears by this stuff.”
I could have knocked that woman to the floor with a bear hug. I was so relieved that someone had finally offered me a different, non-antibiotic solution. And guess what? IT WORKED! I still have to eat lots of live cultured yoghurt, and I keep a reserve of vaginal probiotics on hand (as a safety blanket), but I’ve basically been BV free ever since! ????
There’s just one FINAL piece of the happy-vagina-puzzle that I still have to share with you. Don’t miss my next post where I’ll talk all about how to keep your sex toys spic and span so they don’t become a source of vaginal trouble.
Photo: Autumn Goodman