The word ‘microbiome’ has gained significant recognition in recent years, largely in the context of gut health, however there is a link between the gut and unraveling the vaginal microbiome, a concept that extends beyond the intestines. There is another critical microbial community – the vaginal microbiome – whose importance is often overlooked, but it plays a crucial role in women’s health.
What is the Vaginal Microbiome?
The vaginal microbiome refers to the collective community of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, living in the vagina. One bacterium, Lactobacillus, plays a particularly vital role. A healthy vaginal microbiome is predominantly inhabited by different Lactobacillus species, which help maintain an acidic environment (pH < 4.5) unfavorable to harmful bacteria.
Lactobacilli contributes to vaginal health in several ways:
- They produce lactic acid, contributing to the acidic environment that inhibits the growth of harmful microbes.
- They produce hydrogen peroxide, a compound that can kill harmful bacteria.
- They can create biofilms that physically block pathogens.
Importance of a Balanced Vaginal Microbiome
A balanced vaginal microbiome is instrumental in fending off a range of health problems. A disruption in this balance, known as “dysbiosis,” can lead to infections such as bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Furthermore, dysbiosis has also been linked to complications during pregnancy, including preterm birth.
Ways to Improve Your Vaginal Microbiome
Maintaining or improving the health of your vaginal microbiome can lead to overall better health and well-being. Here are some ways to achieve this:
1. Balanced Diet
A healthy, balanced diet is essential for overall well-being, and the vaginal microbiome is no exception. Foods rich in probiotics such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods can help boost the presence of good bacteria not just in your gut, but throughout your body, including the vagina.
2. Adequate Hydration
Keeping yourself hydrated aids the body’s natural detoxification process and helps maintain a healthy environment in the vagina.
3. Safe Washing
Washing the vagina with water or a mixture of fluids, can disrupt the natural balance of your vaginal microbiome and lead to dysbiosis. It’s better to let the vagina clean itself naturally.
4. Use of Probiotics
The use of probiotics, either dietary or as supplements, can help promote a healthy vaginal microbiome. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.
5. Regular Medical Check-ups
Regular gynecological check-ups can help detect any changes or potential issues in the early stages, including shifts in the vaginal microbiome.
Acupuncture is recognised for its potential in balancing the body’s hormonal state. Hormones, such as estrogen, play a pivotal role in maintaining the vaginal microbiome’s health. A decrease in estrogen, like during menopause, can lead to a decrease in lactobacilli, the ‘good’ bacteria that dominate a healthy vaginal microbiome. By contributing to hormonal balance and balancing the energy within the lower Jiao (below the navel) acupuncture may help maintain the balance of the vaginal microbiome.
The vaginal microbiome plays a crucial role in maintaining women’s health. It’s not just about preventing infections; a healthy microbiome is associated with overall wellbeing. With better understanding and proper care, we can foster a balanced, thriving vaginal microbiome and improve women’s health on a broader scale.
Remember that everyone’s body is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your lifestyle or diet. They can provide personalised advice based on your health history and current condition.
Through education, prevention, and care, we can uphold the health of the vaginal microbiome, and in turn, improve overall health. If you’re looking to put your health first this year, and invest in your personal wellness, get in touch with me today for a free discovery call.