H. pylori and bacterial vaginosis

There is evidence (in theory) of a link between Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and bacterial vaginosis (BV), since this bacteria can colonise yeasts in the vagina, and is associated with biofilm formation.

H. pylori may be able to also colonise the vaginal environment, since it is an acid-loving bacteria. Candida albicans (yeast) has a symbiotic relationship with H. pylori.

Antacids used to treat H. pylori cause a reduction in stomach acidity – that’s their job. Stomach acid kills most bacteria, which is why we don’t get sick despite swallowing a lot of pathogens every day. There are a few acid-loving bacteria that get through, however, which are the ones humans most commonly get sick with – for example, Escherichia coli and H. pylori.

An alkaline stomach means more bacteria get through to the intestine, leading to what’s known as dysbiosis – a bacterial imbalance – because the first line of defence has been deactivated. This is bad news, because protective gut bacteria must then fight the incoming pathogens, and can become overwhelmed.

Over time, this can lead to food intolerances, allergies, digestive problems (bloating, gas, diarrhoea, constipation, pains) and other bacterial infections.

The gut is a major source of immunity, with stomach acid being a critical component. Once that’s lost, the digestive tract is vulnerable to pathogens.

The intestine is alkaline (there is a small squirt of sodium bicarbonate as the churned-up food exits the stomach), since acidic food in your intestine would eat away at the delicate intestinal lining.

The vagina requires acid-loving bacteria to be healthy, so a dearth of acid higher up, with too many alkaline-loving (pathogenic) bacteria, means possible problems lower down, potentially in the vagina.

If you have an H. pylori diagnosis and BV, work on treating the H. pylori first – it is the most efficient method. Once the gut infection is gone, the vagina may recover by itself, or you can then use recolonisation methods (advised) to get back to good vaginal health.

We recommend you see an experienced naturopath who has successfully dealt with H. pylori infections previously, in conjunction with your doctor – a joint approach can work very well in treating stubborn infections.

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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)