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Alternative Treatments for Atrophic Vaginitis

Alternative Treatments for Atrophic Vaginitis

Atropic vaginitis is a condition of inflammation that occurs along the skin and mucosal layer of the vagina and vulva. The inflammation develops most commonly in women going through menopause. The diminishing estrogen levels of the menopausal phase and other conditions of absolute or relative estrogen deficiency can cause skin changes in these sensitive areas, leading to a thinned, fragile and dry vaginal lining. Symptoms, according to the University of Iowa, include changes in urination, burning and urinary urgency, vulvar itching and burning, bleeding, spotting and pain with intercourse.

Bio-Identical Hormones

The desire for alternative treatments for atropic vaginitis arise from the controversy surrounding its conventional treatment. The University of Iowa notes that mainstream treatment of atropic vaginitis is the use of estrogen replacement therapy (HRT). Synthetic estrogens such as HRT have been associated with increased risks of hormonal cancers, blood clots and other cardiovascular issues. Bioidentical estrogens, which more specifically match the structure of human hormones, are, according to some critics, associated with a much reduced risk for these diseases. A 2009 "Postgraduate Medicine" journal article concludes that until evidence that controverts the current level of efficacy and improved safety profile that bioidentical estrogens and progesterones offer over their synthetic counterparts, bioidentical hormones are the preferred method of hormone replacement. Bioidentical hormones should be discussed with your physician before use.


Phytoestrogens are a class of plant-based nutrients that simulate the effects of estrogen in the body. Tulane University notes that, unlike both synthetic HRT and bioidentical hormone therapy, phytoestrogens have an adaptogenic, or balancing, effect in the body. An adaptogen is the effect of a plant or food that allows it to balance states of deficiency and states of over-expression. Atropic vaginitis, a common symptom of menopause, will use the phytoestrogens from plants and foods to stimulate the estrogen sensitive tissue of the vagina and vulva. The mucous membranes, or internal linings of these sensitive tissues, will increase their natural production of lubricant. The University of Iowa notes that atropic vaginitis can be treated in some women with phytoestrogens from soy. Eric Yarnell, N.D., notes in his Compendium of Pharmacological Actions of Herbs, lists other phytoestrogens such as licorice, red clover, alfalfa, fennel, anise, hops and Asian ginseng. Phytoestrogens should be discussed with your healthcare practitioner before use.

Natural Lubricants

Exogenous lubrication is the use of an artificial slippery substance to reduce friction and mimic the natural lubrication of the body. Lubrication is a common treatment for atropic vaginitis. A 2008 "Sexuality, Reproduction & Menopause" journal article notes the lubricants are the first line therapy in treating atropic changes of the vaginal tissue. The authors of this article note that patients with vaginal atrophy will tolerate lubricants differently. There are many mainstream, over-the-counter (OTC) lubricants, but many lubricants made from natural products like coconut, kiwi fruit extracts, olive and other natural oils haven't been well explored. Natural lubricants may provide an alternative for women who may not find benefit in the more common OTC lubricants and should be discussed with your healthcare practitioner before use.

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