Do you or someone you know suffer from ‘lady problems’ from time to time? Ever wonder what causes this to happen, and what you can do to stop it? Read below to find out more!
Many women all over the world are affected by poor vaginal health of some form; symptoms include soreness, abnormal vaginal discharge, itching, pain during intercourse, and bleeding between periods. The health of our vagina depends on several factors, mainly to do with having a healthy balance of the hormones estrogen and progesterone and good quality within the connective tissues. The vagina is made up of an epithelial barrier containing mucus proteins that provides a lubricated barrier, and the mucus facilitates the vagina’s clearing process and prevents bacteria from sticking to the vaginal wall.
Oestrogen is important in promoting healthy epithelial and connective tissues of the vagina; fluctuations in estrogen causes an imbalance in mucus proteins. Women who have hormonal imbalances have higher chances of getting recurring vaginal infections; menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can also affect estrogen levels, making women much more susceptible.
You’ve heard of the gut microbiome for a healthy gut, but what about the vaginal microbiome? This has a huge impact on women’s health, particularly a healthy vagina, and having a diverse balance of beneficial bacteria that reside in the genital area makes the vaginal microbiome healthy!
A healthy vaginal microbiome is mainly composed of Lactobacillus strains, including L. acidophilus, L. gasseri, L. rhamnosus, and L. plantarum with some Bifidobacterium species. These strains produce lactic acid, essential for maintaining the vaginal pH which should be within the 3.5-4.5 range. This level of acidity prevents opportunistic bacteria from multiplying. Lactobacillus strains contain and exert an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effect naturally, this keeps foreign bacteria out. An imbalance of these bacteria strains can lead to infections, as well as inflammation because of the drop in lactic acid production which means the reduction in the antimicrobial effect.
Factors that impact the vaginal microbiome include gut dysbiosis, consuming a high sugar diet, exposure to synthetic chemicals, toiletries, and fragrances that upset vaginal pH and bacteria, changes in the vaginal pH as a result of exposure to semen, obesity, reduced immune function (caused by stress), and medications (contraceptive pill, hormone replacement therapy, steroids, and antibiotics). Pathogenic infections in the gut, for example, E.Coli and Candida can directly affect the bacterial composition of the vagina because they can translocate to the vagina and multiply.
One of the most common causes of vaginal infections is an overgrowth candida strain; candida is a yeast that can multiply rapidly, especially with an increase in pH and moist, warm conditions. Symptoms of candidiasis include itching, white discharge, burning, soreness, and pain during intercourse.
Some women develop bacterial vaginosis at some point in their lifetime; it is caused by the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria Gardnerella vaginalis and Mycoplasma hominis which are known to reduce the local colonies of beneficial bacteria, and so reduce the acidity as well as the antimicrobial property and mucus production. The symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include itching, soreness, irritation, and grey-coloured discharge. If left untreated, bacterial vaginosis can lead to urinary tract infections.
Research has shown that probiotics have the ability to reduce recurring infections by fixing the bacterial imbalance, especially the Lactobacilli flora, and help maintain a more acidic pH and block adhesion of pathogenic bacteria to the epithelial wall of the vagina. Oral probiotics, particularly lactobacillus can reduce symptoms of bacterial vaginosis in a week. Vaginal administration can be more effective and immediate; the topical use of lactobacillus can reduce the recurrence of bacterial vaginosis and candidiasis.
Below are some tips on how you can achieve a balanced vaginal microflora:
- Stay hydrated; dehydration can worsen dryness and impact vaginal discharge used for cleaning.
- Avoid environmental chemicals that negatively impact your hormones (switch from plastic to glass, paper, and stainless steel).
- Reduce stress as high stress can affect vaginal health; an increase in cortisol (stress hormone) can inhibit estrogen associated vaginal epithelium activity.
- Stress can also reduce the immune system and increase the risk of pathogens to take hold.
Balance blood sugars, as pathogenic bacteria feed on sugar.
Heal the gut, internal dysbiosis can cause recurrent infections. Consume foods like live active culture yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, and cabbage to feed the beneficial bacteria.
Other things that can prevent infections are:
- Wearing cotton underwear and avoid tight clothing
- No to vaginal douching – the vagina cleans itself!
- Avoid using perfumed feminine products or toilet paper
At Perfect Balance Clinic, one of our Nutritionist or Functional Medicine Practitioner can talk to you about gut health, and advise you on the best probiotics as well as a diet to compliment the gut bacteria, so that you are infection-free and can achieve a healthy body!
If this resonates with you then…
Take advantage of our 15-minute sessions either with a Nutritionist or Functional Medicine Practitioner, designed to give you the support you need with your concerns and to get you started on your road to recovery. Find very quick and effective results!
At Perfect Balance Clinic, our Nutritionists or Functional Medicine Practitioners will provide you with an important assessment of your condition and discuss many routes to explore for optimum health. Our assessment covers important aspects that most practitioners seem to miss in normal sessions with their clients. This allows us to accelerate your recovery! Simply use the contact form below to provide us with your details to get booked in.