Treating recurrent vaginal infections

Q: What could be the cause of recurrent yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis? I have been getting both infections for several years. I have tried everything recommended by every doctor I have seen, and nothing works. It is an expensive and uncomfortable situation. Could there be some underlying condition? Thank you for any advice you may give.

A: Many women are plagued by recurrent vaginal infections, and although seldom health-threatening, the condition can be quite annoying. Underlying medical conditions are seldom the culprits. However, the two that you should rule out are diabetes, which can be detected by testing your blood-sugar level, and HIV infection, which can be ruled out with a simple blood test.

Presuming these two are negative, I would suggest several things. If your diet is rich in carbohydrates, try switching to a protein-rich diet. I would also suggest eating some lactobacilli, either in the form of acidophilus tablets from the health-food store or yogurt with live cultures. Although many gynecologists don’t think this helps, but many have found relief this way.

I also encourage to take some plain (unsweetened) yogurt with live cultures (lactobacilli) and place it into the vagina with a tampon or applicator from a vaginal cream. Lactobacilli help to replace the bad bacteria with the good bacteria, which create acid and keep yeast and anaerobic bacteria away.

If those measures don’t work, try this next step, taught to me by a famous gynecologist and cancer doctor named Duane Townsend: acidification of the vagina. Get some plain gelatin capsules, and fill them up with boric acid. Many pharmacists will do this for you if your physician asks them. Apply a vaginal capsule of boric acid twice a day for two weeks, then once a day for two weeks. Following it up with a little yogurt is very good, too. Most women with recalcitrant infections will get relief from this regimen.

You are in good company with this problem, and although it’s discouraging, do not give up. There is hope.

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