• 23/06/2024 01:39

What is the vaginal microbiome and how to protect our flora

Bacteria may not be the sexiest term in the health world. But in recent years, we have become increasingly aware of how important it is for our well-being. Their best known community is undoubtedly the gut microbiome. But the microbiome, which we still don't talk about much, is located a little further down the body. What is the vaginal microbiome? Our vaginas are home to billions of bacteria. And they all play a vital role in maintaining good vaginal health.

ContentWhat is the vaginal microbiome? Why is our vaginal microbiome so important? How can we protect our vaginal microbiome?

WomanEL decided to take up this topic and remind us how important the delicate environment of our vaginal microbiome plays in protecting us from vaginal diseases and infections, which can affect everything from how we deal with STIs to our likelihood of conceiving and developing certain types of cancer.

What is the vaginal microbiome?

The vaginal microbiome is an ecosystem of millions of healthy bacteria, viruses and fungi. They colonize our vagina and help create the right environment for mucus production. It is very carefully balanced and plays an important role in the health of our vagina.

The vaginal pH should be between 3.5 and 4.5 – the same as a tomato – and it is the microbiome that helps maintain this slightly acidic level in the vagina. The main type of bacteria that lives in the vagina and maintains this important pH level is lactobacilli. According to Dr. Federica Amati, lactobacilli are considered the hallmark of a healthy vagina due to their role in the production of lactic acid, which maintains a protective acidic environment.

Each woman's vaginal microbiome is unique and individual. It undergoes changes and fluctuations at different stages of the menstrual cycle and throughout life.

Why is our vaginal microbiome so important?

Our vaginal microbiome is the first line of defense when it comes to protecting us from vaginal health problems and diseases. Lactobacilli play a very important role in protecting women from the overgrowth of other types of bacteria and organisms that can cause unpleasant symptoms, such as foul-smelling discharge caused by thrush and bacterial vaginosis, according to Dr. Zahra Amin.

A healthy vaginal microbiome will allow healthy lactobacilli to flourish, which helps protect against infections and can also affect the likelihood of conception, miscarriage, and even the development of certain types of cancer.

Research has shown that neglecting the vaginal microbiome can cause a range of problems with health. Thrush, an inflammation of the vagina and/or vulva, is caused by a superficial fungal infection.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) can also develop due to disruption of the vaginal microbiome. It is mainly caused by disruption of the vaginal flora, a decrease in the number of lactobacilli and an overgrowth of another bacteria called gardnerella vaginalis, and can affect up to 50% of women. BV can also have other adverse effects on women's health, such as the acquisition of certain types of sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes.

How can we protect our vaginal microbiome?

Wearing cotton, breathable underwear is very important for vaginal health , Source: freepik.com

Your vaginal microbiome can very easily go out of whack for a variety of reasons, some of which are under your control or not. These may include antibiotics, dietary changes, hormonal fluctuations, oral or penetrative sex, sex toys, and stress.

To protect your vaginal microbiome and maintain good hygiene levels, you should:

  • Wash the outside of the vagina (between the folds of the vulva and around the clitoris) with unscented soap at least once a day.
  • Always pee after sex to get rid of germs that may have entered the urinary tract, which can disrupt your microbiome and lead to UTIs.
  • Avoid douching. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, and douching can disrupt your microbiome.
  • Avoid scented soaps, gels and lubricants, which can disrupt the vaginal microbiome.
  • Wear loose cotton underwear and change them every day, especially in hot weather.
  • It is also important to be skeptical of pills and suppositories that promise to balance the vaginal microbiome.

Vagina manicures have become popular recently. Perhaps, after seeing these options, you will want to do it yourself.

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