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Bacterial vaginosis and UTIs

BV versus UTI

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) and urinary tract infections (UTIs) are both extremely common bacterial infections in women. There are key differences and similarities between the two infections.

In a healthy vagina different types of “good” and “bad” bacteria naturally, coexist. Women run into trouble when there is an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. BV is caused when there are more “bad” bacteria than good. Unfortunately, an imbalance of bacteria can happen quite easily, with BV being the most common vaginal infection for women between the ages of 14 and 2.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are triggered when bacteria enter the urinary tract and multiply out of control. Unlike BV, UTIs take place in your urinary tract (not your vagina) and are most often caused by E. coli. Although the infections are separate, there is evidence that indicates you're more likely to get repeat UTIs if you have BV, because the bacterial growth that comes with BV can trigger recurrent UTIs.

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What is a bacterial infection?

The common bacteria that causes both UTIs and bacterial vaginosis is E. coli. The gut maintains a balance of some harmless strains. However, a woman’s anatomy can allow the bacteria to enter the vagina or urethra because of its close proximity to the anus. Infections after sexual intercourse are common because the activity can move the bacteria along the short perineum skin and into the vagina and urethra.

What are the common causes of BV?

Prevention of BV starts with knowing what allows the bacteria to multiply in the vagina. Lactobacilli checks resistant bacteria, but when the levels drop, resistant bacteria have the opportunity to multiply and take over. pH imbalances and antibiotics can lower the levels of Lactobacilli. Douching, a history of BV, and frequently changing sex partners can increase your risks of developing bacterial vaginosis.

What are the symptoms of BV?

BV is not an SDI, UTI, or yeast infection. But with so many complications that can happen down there, how are you supposed to know if you have BV? While the only way to be 100% sure is to visit a doctor, the main symptom of BV is thin white or grey vaginal discharge with a strong fishy odor.

You may also experience itching or burning when you urinate, but itching and burning are symptoms more commonly associated with yeast infections or UTIs. It can be a bit confusing to tell one infection from another, so it is important to pay close attention to your symptoms. Are you producing discharge? What color is it? Does it have an odor? Are you experiencing any pain? UTIs don’t typically produce discharge and while yeast infections do the discharge is usually thicker, more cottage cheese-like with no odor. 

BV can be asymptomatic

Studies have shown that about half of the women who have developed cases of BV may not be aware of it. Bacterial vaginosis does not always exhibit its associated unpleasant and noticeable symptoms and it’s not uncommon for women with BV to be asymptomatic.

Because BV does not cause burning, difficulty in urination or itching, you may never know you had it and it can go away on its own. By virtue of the fact that BV is associated with a reduced population of the lactobacillus bacteria and the resulting lowered vaginal acidity, you may unknowingly restore the friendly lactic acid producing population by simply eating yogurt or other foods containing large amounts of probiotics. 

Paying regular visits to your doctor to check for potential or existing UTIs and BV is a good way to help ensure that nothing unexpected shows up. It’s part of a healthy proactive approach that can help prevent pain and discomfort from intruding into your daily routines. Be sure to also look into the natural and non-prescribed preventive measures you can initiate on your own; they can go a long way toward maintaining a healthy and happy lifestyle.

How to prevent BV

A doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to treat your BV, but some strains of bacteria are starting to show resistance to the most common drugs. In addition, antibiotics can increase the chance of recurrence.

Since BV occurs when the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina is off balance, it's important to promote the growth of good bacteria. Lactobacillus is your best friend. It helps to maintain your vagina's acidity, which prevents some other strains of not-so-friendly bacteria from growing, and that means there’s a lesser chance of developing BV.

You’ve probably heard about the microbiome living in your gut and how it’s better to have more of the good bacteria than the bad ones; the same is true of the vagina. Yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and UTI issues are all various types of infections, but maintaining a healthy population of good bacteria can help prevent BV.

The best natural remedy for bacterial vaginosis is to use probiotics with Lactobacilli, like Uqora Promote. Avoid using scented products such as tampons or soaps, since they can aggravate the delicate balance in the vagina. We also never recommend using a douche, as it is likely to make your condition worse.

Other tips for preventing BV

Consume probiotic-rich foods. Probiotics encourage the body to grow the “good” bacteria that help fight off the “bad” bacteria. Eating foods full of probiotics like yogurt and/or taking a probiotic supplement might help your BV.

Rinse with apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar may help balance the pH of your vagina. Mix 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of water and rinse the vulva (external part of female genitals) 2 times a day.

Eat more garlic. Garlic is known to be an antibacterial. Incorporating it into your diet or taking a garlic supplement may help your BV.

Avoid aggravating vaginal products. BV is not actually caused by poor hygiene. It is caused by an imbalance of bacteria. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, douching and using products like scented soaps or tampons can actually increase your risk of BV. Only wash inside of your vagina with water. Unscented soaps are okay to use on the vulva (outside).

Keep your vaginal area dry. That means changing out of swimwear/gym clothes asap and wash your hands before touching yourself, especially when inserting items like tampons.

Over-the-counter treatment for BV

The number one treatment for BV is antibiotics, but most of the time symptoms of BV are mild, and many people prefer to explore over-the-counter treatments and home remedies.

In some cases, however, it is important to know when you should seek a doctor. If you are pregnant, if there is blood in your discharge, fever, intense pain or if there is no improvement in symptoms after a week of home treatment.

The bacterial tug of war

BV is caused by several strains of bacterial pathogens which carry the potential to grow and become troublesome. Some of the species that can become troublemakers in large numbers include the following:

  • Atopobium vaginae – a bacteria found in many BV cases
  • Gardnerella vaginalis – a non-spore-forming strain incapable of movement, but considered a key player in BV by its ability to create a biofilm for other species to attach to and grow
  • Mobiluncus mulieris – typically found in BV cases along with Gardnerella vaginalis
  • Peptostreptococcus anaerobius – a slow-growing strain showing increased antibiotic resistance

The friendly Lactobacillus strains produce lactic acid. This helps keep the growth of unfriendly vaginal bacteria in check and can prevent BV from developing.

Do UTIs cause bacterial vaginosis, and vice versa?

BV and UTIs are separate clinical issues — BV is caused by specific species of bacteria which can create a vaginal discharge and a fishy odor. However, there is a connection between the two infections:

  1. Increased colonization of potentially pathogenic bacteria in the vagina can migrate to the urinary tract, causing a UTI.
  2. The Gardnerella vaginalis bacterium associated with BV is capable of damaging bladder wall cells after migrating out of the vagina, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Their studies showed that the damaged cells then enabled E. coli bacteria, which were already hiding in the bladder after a previous infection, to take root at the damaged spot and grow into another UTI.

E. coli is the primary culprit behind urinary tract infections, and previous research has shown that the bacteria strain can lie dormant in certain hiding places in the urinary tract until it can reactivate, recolonize and cause another UTI. The study performed by the Washington University School of Medicine researchers now points to a plausible BV-related activation mechanism and helps to shed further light on the question “Can BV cause UTIs?”  

Get ahead of UTIs with Uqora's preventive drink mix

Uqora’s products aren't made with cranberry, and they aren't antibiotics. At Uqora, we use unique ingredients found in nature to develop products that work. Our drink mix will flush out bacteria introduced during specific activities, like sex or exercise. Fewer UTIs means fewer antibiotics, and fewer antibiotics means fewer yeast infections, fewer BV outbreaks, and a more balanced, health vaginal microbiome.

You guys... this stuff is a life saver.

"I suffered from CHRONIC UTIs and have had some pretty serious repercussions from taking mass amounts of antibiotics. I have not had a UTI since I started taking uqora. I drink it after things that are my triggers (sex in particular) and it stops it in it’s tracks!"
Lacey, Uqora customer


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