Most of us know about the importance of maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. But a lot less of us know how important it is to have healthy vagina flora too. When it gets out of balance it can lead to some serious stuff like; a weakness to some sexual transmitted infections, HIV, pelvic inflammatory disease, urinary tract infections.
The vaginal microbiome is usually made of mostly Lactobacillus varieties which produce lactic acid and change the pH of the vagina. This in turn makes an environment which is inhospitable to many potentially harmful bacteria. But around 20-30% of women don't have this as their primary bacteria and do not suffer any symptoms as a result of this. So it seems there is a variety of healthy combinations of bacteria the vagina likes. If you get told you have bacterial vaginosis just because there isn't enough Lactobacillus in the vagina it might be a bit more complicated than that.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is the most common cause of unusual vaginal discharge and odor. In 2001 a survey showed that nearly 30% of women in the USA suffered with it. Sadly, BV can lead to other more serious problems like the ones above and the current treatment by antibiotics isn't particularly effective. But why not take actions to prevent it from occurring in the first place? Here are things which change the microbiome of the vagina. You may not be able to avoid everything on the list but the more the better.
Things to avoid
- Copper IUD. Copper is antibacterial and it is used in an IUD to help make the vagina inhospitable to sperm. Sadly it can make it inhospitable to healthy gut flora too. If you're having symptoms of unusual or smelly discharge since having one fitted it's worth talking this through with your gynaecologist.
- Soaps which change acidity. Feminine hygiene washes and soap products are a load of rubbish. 'nuff said.
- Synthetic underwear
- Sugar. Coffee. Wine. Grains. (all the fun stuff, sorry)
- Hormonal contraceptives
- Vaginal lubricants
Not only does the vaginal microbiome effect our health as women but it also affects the health of our children. When babies are born vaginally they get covered in our vaginal bacteria and pass on a fundamental level of immunity to them as these bacteria end up populating their gut. But if our vaginal environment is sub-par we aren't giving them the best immunity legacy they deserve.
Vaginal Births pass on your Bacterial legacy
If a vaginal birth isn't possible for you just annointing your precious new-born with some of your vaginal juices when they are born. You can also freeze a swab taken from the vagina before surgery and use that instead. Once it's on the skin it will replicate and populate the babies body.
So now you know. Healthy vaginal flora is just as important for your health as good gut flora, not just for you but your possible future children too. So take care of it for yourself and the next generation. Who would have thought changing the underwear you wore would go on to shape the immunity your child inherits!
Keep your eye on a company called Womanology for upcoming vagina-loving products. I've tested her products and they're utterly delicious.