Ever since I did a lot-lot-lot of reading about vulvodynia and digestive problems a few years ago, I've been coveting VSL #3. It's a heavy-duty probiotic used for a range of digestive problems, including IBS, Crohn's, and colitis.
You can get it over the counter, which I did, but the manufacturer recommends seeing a doctor because it's so powerful. (Much cheaper to try it myself.) It has about 110 billion live bacteria per capsule, compared to 5 billion in Fem-Dophilus and 50 billion in Ultimate Flora Vaginal Support, probiotics I had tried out before VSL #3.
The recommended dose of VSL #3 for IBS is lower than for other problems -- I think it's 2-4 capsules per day. I started off with one capsule per day, expecting to experience something explosive within a few days. I didn't, so I inched my way up to two capsules, then three or four over the course of a month.
Early on in this trial, I woke up with what felt like a UTI: bad burning centralized around the urethra that gets much, much worse upon peeing. I bombed my urinary tract with Cystex, cranberries, blueberries, and water, and decided to wait it out.
I waited for one week, then two. Finally, since I hadn't died yet, I figured I didn't have a UTI and that my vulvodynia was flaring instead.
The pain was very similar to the pain I had last winter, when I was sitting all the time and stressed out about personal problems. The pain was also similar to how my pre-period pain feels sometimes, so I thought maybe I was having a month of odd hormones.
As I went up on the VSL #3, the pain got worse. Sitting, walking, and peeing became hellish. I spent a lot of time lying in bed trying not to move. I took lots of Neurontin and Naproxen. At work, the pain just got worse and worse the more I walked around, and I'd hardly be able to sit down by the time my shift ended.
As I looked back over the month, I couldn't think of a single thing I was doing differently. It took me quite a bit of thought to realize that the only thing that had changed in my routine was that I'd started taking VSL #3. Really, who would think that probiotics are causing them coochie pain?!
A few days before my period, I skipped a day of VSL #3, and my pain was much better. Then I tried taking only one or two capsules, but my pain got worse again. I stopped the probiotic altogether, and my pain actually went DOWN for the couple days before my period started.
The one benefit I think I've seen from taking VSL #3 is that my cooch isn't hovering on the yeasty side of things anymore. But I don't know that I'll ever find out if it could help me more -- the pain was some of the worst I've experienced, and VSL #3 is one of the only things that's caused me that level of pain, along with antibiotics and too much sitting.
I don't know what to make of this. Did my urine become really acidic? If so, why did the pain get worse when I moved or sat and not just when I peed? The only digestive change I saw was that I got MORE backed up, and I finally started pooping regularly once I went off the VSL #3. Is it an allergy? Do my bacteria and the VSL intruders just not get along?
I've read a lot about "yeast die-off symptoms" and other symptoms from changing one's diet from bad to good. So if the pain was a side-effect of a "cleanse"...why was it so similar to antibiotic pain?! Why didn't I get the same pain when I went vegan or used other probiotics or took weekly doses of Diflucan? If I was experiencing a "cleanse," how long would the pain last? Can I hold my breath that long?
This experiment is particularly frustrating because I know if I took it to a doctor, his eyes would glaze over and he'd equivocate because he wouldn't have an answer and wouldn't be willing to help me find one. I have pre-emptive frustration with the doctor I tell this to. Which might not be any doctor.
There are so many theories out there. A woman claims that X cured her. Another woman, Y. Z, A, B, C... I know all of our bodies are different, but I have a hard time believing that there are so many versions of vulvodynia. I'd think that for a given set of symptoms, the possible causes would top out at like 4. The more I think about it, the more frustrated I get, so I've taken to not thinking about it at all.