Updated: May 3
Talking about our ‘bits’ was once a taboo subject, but as a society we’re getting better about discussing our health. It means we can openly share „the secrets” what’s going on with our bodies without getting embarrassed, and that can have a positive impact on our physical and mental health.
In this article, we’re going to look at what kind of Universe your vaginal microbiome is and its impact on women’s health. So, here’s how you can nurture your good warriors in your vaginal flora.
What is the vaginal microbiome?
Your vagina isn’t just your own, it’s the whole Universe to millions of bacteria that together make up your vaginal microbiome. Don’t be concerned, you need these beneficial microbes to keep you and your vagina healthy.
You may also hear the vaginal microbiome being referred to as the vaginal flora.
This tiny ecosystem is dynamic. The balance in your bacteria will change at various stages of your lifetime, such as during menstruation, sex, pregnancy, and menopause[i]. The research into the vaginal microbiome is ongoing and researchers will uncover more information about its influence on women’s health. For now though, we know that an imbalance in microbes, called dysbiosis, can contribute to common conditions such as bacterial vaginosis.
What bacteria reside in the vagina?
Lactobacillus is the dominant type of bacteria found in the healthy vagina. This type of bacteria produces lactic acid[ii]- you may have heard of Lactobacillus because it’s regularly found in probiotic yoghurt.
The lactic acid protects the vagina from pathogens; the types of bacteria and other microbes that can cause infection. The lactic acid keeps the pH of the vagina low, so pathogens are unable to thrive. A healthy vagina should have a pH ranging between 3.8 and 5 to keep it slightly acidic, perfect for Lactobacilli[iii].
Causes of vaginal dysbiosis
Because the vaginal microbiome is dynamic, the balance can be easily disrupted by several factors. Plus, it is also a gateway between the outside world and your body which can leave it vulnerable to external factors.
Some of the causes of vaginal dysbiosis include:
· Antibiotics – even though they can get rid of infections, antibiotics also kill off the beneficial bacteria in the body. In the vagina, this can cause depletion of Lactobacilli and infection.
· Hygiene – washing out the vagina with a douche can disturb the microbial balance in your vagina, especially if it contains chemicals or fragrance.
· Hormonal changes – changes in your hormones, especially during menopause can reduce the levels of Lactobacilli in the vagina. Therefore, menopausal women are at a greater risk of vaginal dysbiosis.
· Sex toys – it is essential to thoroughly clean sex toys after use to avoid dysbiosis. Toys cleaned with fragranced cleaners of shared with someone else and not cleaned can also result in imbalances.
· Sexual intercourse – sexual partners can actually spread pathogens to the vaginal both through penetrative and oral sex.
· Stress – research shows that exposure to stress can lower the abundance of Lactobacillus in the vagina. It also increases the severity of vaginal infection[iv].
How to look after your vaginal microbiome
Some factors that can knock the balance out of your vaginal microbiome may be out of your control but there are some things you can do to help lower your risk of infection.
These are our top tips:
1. Only use warm water and unperfumed soaps to wash the outer area around your vagina, called the vulva, every day – not the vagina itself. You can buy microbiota friendly specialist soaps for the vagina to keep it fresh and balanced. Avoid using douches or fragranced, harsh soaps.
2. Practice safe sexual intercourse and use a condom. You should pee after sex and gently wash the outer region of the vagina with water as soon as you can. Semen is naturally alkaline so can disrupt the vagina’s acidic environment.
3. Try to limit your exposure to stress. Although this is easier said than done, the more you can remove yourself from stress triggers the happier and healthier you will be. Exercise, mediation, and mindfulness can all help manage stress.
4. Wash any sex toys after use and try to avoid sharing them with other people.
5. During your period, make sure you spill menstrual cups or change tampons regularly. Research shows that menstruation causes the decline in abundance of Lactobacillus species and increases pathogenic species associated with causing Bacterial Vaginosis, such as Gardnerella vaginalis[v]. So, changing tampons, pads, spilling cups and generally maintaining good hygiene will help to reduce your risk of infection.
6. If you need to take antibiotics, consider taking a probiotic to help restore balance. Probiotics are health-promoting live bacteria.
Avodes for Bacterial Vaginosis and Candidiasis
Avodes is a treatment for BV and Candidiasis that treats the underlying issue – vaginal dysbiosis. Unlike antibiotics, Avodes treatment doesn’t eliminate the healthy vaginal microorganisms and, instead, creates a healthy environment where good bacteria can survive and thrive.
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[i] Chen, X et al. (2021). The Female Vaginal Microbiome in Health and Bacterial Vaginosis. Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol: 11. [ii] Tannock, G, W. (2004). A Special Fondness for Lactobacilli. Appl Environ Microbiol: 70(6), pp 3189- 3194. [iii] Lin, Y, P et al. (2021). Vaginal Ph Value for Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment of Common Vaginitis. Diagnostics (Basel): 11(11). [iv] Amabebe, E & Anumba, D, O, C. (2018). Psychosocial Stress, Cortisol Levels, and Maintenance of Vaginal Health. Front. Endocrinol: 9. [v] Sobel, J. D., Kaur, N., Woznicki, N. A., Boikov, D., Aguin, T., Gill, G., & Akins, R. A. (2019). Conventional oral and secondary high dose vaginal metronidazole therapy for recurrent bacterial vaginosis: clinical outcomes, impacts of sex and menses. Infection and drug resistance, 12, 2297–2307.