Vitamin C Effective Against Common Feminine Problems
A new study finds that vitamin C is effective against a tough-to-treat
vaginal infection called bacterial vaginosis (BV), according to the
European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology
(2004;117:70-5). Healthnotes Newswire (November 11, 2004)
BV also known as nonspecific vaginitis, is the most common vaginal
infection in women of childbearing age. It is diagnosed when at least three
out of four of the following are present: vaginal discharge, fishy odor,
increased vaginal pH (lowered acidity of the vagina), and bacteria-laden
cells in the vagina as seen under a microscope. Women with BV may also have
a fever and vaginal itching or burning. Almost half of the women with BV
have no symptoms at all; however, the condition can be serious, leading to
other pelvic infections and to pregnancy complications. Having BV also
increases a woman's susceptibility to HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) and
other sexually transmitted diseases. For these reasons, treatment is
recommended for all women with BV and is especially important for pregnant
BV is related to an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. Normally,
protective organisms such as Lactobacilli create an acidic environment that
makes it difficult for harmful bacteria to grow. When the beneficial
bacteria decrease in number, harmful bacteria can grow and multiply. These
changes are accompanied by a decrease in the natural acidity of the vagina
and symptoms associated with BV. Using an intrauterine device (IUD) for
birth control, douching, and having new or multiple sexual partners can all
disrupt the balance of the vaginal flora, leading to an increased risk of
Treatment for BV infection usually involves a seven-day course of the
antibiotic metronidazole (FlagylT). This drug is not recommended for use in
the first trimester of pregnancy because no human studies have proven its
safety. Side effects can include nausea, decreased appetite, and a metallic
taste in the mouth. Treatment clears up most cases of BV infections, but
the disease can recur in up to 80% of women within nine months. One reason
for the high recurrence rate may be the failure of the protective bacteria
to become reestablished in the vagina.
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Vitamin C applied vaginally has the ability to increase the acidity of the
vagina, potentially inhibiting the growth of bacteria associated with BV.
The new study investigated the effect of intravaginal administration of
vitamin C in 91 women with BV. The women were assigned to receive either a
placebo or 250 mg of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) per day for six days. The
participants were instructed to insert one tablet vaginally each night
before bed. The presence of BV and related symptoms was assessed at the
beginning of the study, and one and two weeks after the treatment was
One week after treatment, BV infections had resolved in significantly more
women who received vitamin C than in those women who took the placebo.
Fishy odor and the numbers of harmful bacteria and bacteria-laden cells
decreased significantly in the group receiving vitamin C compared with the
placebo group. Lactobacillus concentrations increased significantly after
treatment with vitamin C, indicating a positive change in the flora of the
vagina. In addition, significantly more women in the vitamin C group than
in the placebo group had an increase in vaginal acidity, indicating that
vitamin C produced an environment less suitable for the growth of harmful
bacteria. There were no significant differences between groups with respect
to vaginal itching and discharge.
The vitamin C used in this study was a time-release formulation designed to
provide extended contact of the vitamin with the vaginal tissue and to
reduce irritation. Vitamin C treatment was generally well tolerated; two
cases of yeast infections were the only adverse events reported. Buffered
forms of vitamin C would not have the same effect as the acidic form used
in this study. In addition, many vitamin C preparations contain binders and
fillers that may render the product unsuitable for intravaginal use.
Consulting with a healthcare professional trained in nutritional medicine
is advisable before starting treatment.
Intravaginal vitamin C should be considered for the treatment of BV,
especially in pregnant women who may not be able to safely take a
prescription medication. Pregnant women should always consult with a
medical professional before taking any medications or supplements.
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