How Does BV Impact My Overall Vaginal Health?
BV impacts the vagina’s immune responses. Women with BV have an increase in vaginal chemicals associated with inflammation, called interleukins. The white blood cells that fight infection are also compromised, making them more prone to other vaginal infections. The BV-type bacteria also produce the bad smelling chemicals that women experience as unwanted vaginal odor often described as fishy or ammonia-like.
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) that fight invading bacteria are normally made by the vaginal mucosal cells. In women with BV, AMP levels are decreased. Iron, zinc and manganese are required micronutrients for the healthy vaginal ecosystem. Abnormal levels of these nutrients (from dietary causes) may increase BV risk. Women with BV have reduced levels of amylase in the vagina, so that glycogen for lactobacillus to eat becomes limited and the good lactic acid bacteria can’t grow. A helpful diagram and discussion about vaginal ecosystem health can be found here.
For about 90% of women that get BV, it develops following a transient and then persistent loss of lactic acid producing bacteria in the vagina. If conditions that favor lactic acid producing bacteria reoccur, the unhealthy BV state will reverse. However, if the bad bacteria populations continue to grow, there won’t be enough glycogen or manganese to feed the healthy lactobacillus species of bacteria. The BV bacteria then make a biofilm at an elevated pH that coats and protects these bad bacteria, making it difficult for the lactobacillus to return to healthy levels.