The topic of gut health has inundated media channels in its relation to a person’s overall health and well-being, and probiotics are often the recommended supplement to acquire this bacterial equilibrium. If a well-balanced microbiome supports immune and gastrointestinal health, can it also support vaginal health? Explore the world of beneficial bacteria and how it relates to your vaginal health. If you’re looking for a female gynecologist in the Houston area, Dr. Rhonda Jordan is welcoming new patients!
First Things First, The Microbiome
When someone speaks of bacteria we usually associate it with an illness or disease, but bacteria can be both harmful and beneficial. Did you know we are colonized by more bacteria than human cells? Meaning our cells are more non-human than human! There are 10 times more microbial cells in the human body than human cells, with 100 trillion bacterial cells roaming about and integrating with the 10 trillion human cells.
So, what exactly is the microbiome and the bacteria that encompass it? The microbiome is the internal ecosystem of beautiful and beneficial bacteria that support and populate your skin, nose, mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and vagina. When the bacteria is balanced your health flourishes, and when it’s berated with harmful bacteria you may become ill.
Vaginal Health and The Microbiome
Because beneficial bacteria colonize in the reproductive tract in women, they play a crucial role in your gynecological health. Not only do they help keep the balance and prevent yeast infections, they can also protect against other vaginal health concerns.
How Lactobacillus is Involved in Vaginal Health
You might recognize this probiotic from yogurt commercials in the media, but Lactobacillus is a prominent bacteria species housed in your vaginal community. Lactobacillus plays a key role in your vagina’s health by eradicating harmful pathogens by synthesizing lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide to help ward them off.
Although Lactobacillus plays a role in vaginal health, it’s been found that 25 percent of women either have no or very little vagnial Lactobacillus. This doesn’t mean that just because it’s missing that a woman’s vagina isn’t healthy, it just means there at greater risk for infections.
How Balanced Lactobacillus Bacteria Can Ward Off Infections
A healthy vagina bears a very acidic environment with a common pH level between 3.5 and four. An acidic environment wards off invading bacteria and pathogens in the vagina. Because of vaginal biology, it is more susceptible to bacteria because it’s considered an open site, similar to the mouth. When Lactobacillus is present and flourishing, it helps maintain an acidic habitat. Balanced levels of Lactobacillus is contributed to a lower instance of sexually transmitted infections (STI) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV. Lactobacillus also prevents yeast infections, that are often undiagnosed and go untreated because women are unaware of the infection. The unfortunate news is once you get a yeast infection, you’re more likely to get it again.
If you are in need of a gynecologist in Houston, Dr. Rhonda is accepting new patients!
What Impacts Beneficial Bacteria?
There are many components that can tip the bacteria scale and lower the pH in your vagina.
Antibiotics are a culprit that can greatly affect your vagina’s bacterial balance because it’s all in a name, and antibiotics kill both harmful and beneficial bacteria. If you have to use antibiotics, consider replenishing and recolonizing your microbiome with probiotics after you’ve completed the prescription.
Birth control, specifically progesterone-containing, can inhibit the growth and colonization of protective bacteria.
Vaginal douching and washing your vaginal with an antibacterial soap, can disrupt the bacterial balance and increase your chances of getting a yeast infection.
Sex can also impact this delicate bacterial environment. Men also carry bacteria on the penis and it can be transferred during sex. If the bacteria is continually transferred, it wipes out Lactobacillus in a very short span of time.
As we’ve found, our bodies are mostly composed of non-human bacterial cells that inhabit our nose, mouth, skin, GI tracts, and vagina. Because the beneficial bacteria exist in our vagina’s, keeping it balanced with Lactobacillus and an acidic environment is crucial in preventing vaginal infections. There are many factors that impact this balance including antibiotics, birth control, vaginal washing, and sex.