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 and microbes.
Do you or someone you know suffer with ‘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 about what you need to maintain a healthy vagina!
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 make the vaginal microbiome healthy!
What makes a healthy vagina?
A healthy vaginal microbiome is mainly composed of Lactobacillus strains, for example, 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. Consequently, this level of acidity prevents opportunistic bacteria from multiplying. Lactobacillus strains contain and exert an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effect naturally, keeping 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.
When do things start to go wrong?
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 such as contraceptive pill, hormone replacement therapy, steroids, and antibiotics are also worthy of mention. 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.
Symptoms of poor health: Common Vaginal Infections
One of the most common causes of vaginal infections is overgrowth candida strains. 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. Most 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. Similarly, the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include itching, soreness, irritation and grey-coloured discharge. If left untreated, bacterial vaginosis can lead to urinary tract infections.
How to avoid recurring 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. However, Vaginal administration can be more effective and immediate; topical use of lactobacillus can reduce recurrence bacterial vaginosis and candidiasis.
Tips on how to maintain 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 oestrogen associated vaginal epithelium activity. Moreover, stress can 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 yoghurt, 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
If this resonates with you then…
This article was written by our team of specialist therapists at Perfect Balance Clinic. If you would like more specific advice about how our team can help you with this condition or symptoms you may be having, please complete the contact form below and one of the team will get back to you shortly.