Yes, that’s right – I’m talking about your vagina and whether or not it’s home to a balanced microbiota! You see friendly, and not so friendly, bacteria don’t just live in our gut but they cover our entire body and for us women the vagina is an important destination.
The health of our vagina can dictate our overall health including fertility, birth outcomes, risk of sexually transmitted diseases, herpes infection and recurrent urinary tract infections, as well as human papilloma virus (HPV) infection and its sequale cervical cancer. So as you can see a dysbiotic vaginal ecosystem can have a huge impact on your health and wellbeing.
So why aren't we talking about it?
A healthy vaginal microbiota should be dominated by D-lactate-producing lactobacilli species, but research has shown that only about 40% of women have ecosystems dominated by this species!
Why is this? Well many of the factors that contribute to an impaired gut microbiome will likewise effect the microbiome of your vagina – lack of fruit and vegetables in the diet, high processed food intake, excess alcohol and recreational drugs, medications, high sugar intake, stress, lack of sleep, excessive exercise.
But also think about creams, lotions and hygiene products this environment comes into contact with. We have a delicate pH in our vagina and outside of it for a reason, to help protect from endotoxins, and products that interfere with this pH will put your vagina at risk! Excessive washing, including after sex, can disrupt the pH and leave you at an increased risk of infection such as a UTI. You are much better off peeing after sex, allowing the natural acidity of urine to clean the area. What an amazing in-built defence mechanisms our body has!
Whilst we are on the subject of sex, what can arguably be one of the most at risk behaviours for your vagina!, if you regularly use lubricants take a look at the ingredients. Lubricants are completely unregulated so could contain anything! They often contain ingredients that are endocrine disruptors - which means they can disrupt you and your partners hormones - as well as alcohols which will kill off your good bacteria. Other ingredients to look out for are glycerine - this is a sugar molecule and can contribute to yeast overgrowth; benzocaine - often used for its numbing properties; preservatives like parabens and citric acid.
The fewer the ingredients the better, choose something organic and natural. I was always a fan of coconut oil as this is also anti-fungal, but a lot of experts recommend water soluble versus oil soluble. If you think about being covered in oil down there, the temptation might be to have a shower to wash the area, where as a water soluble product would easily wipe away.
Also think about whether there could be an imbalance in your hormones causing you to regularly need lubricant? For post-menopausal women its quite common to need some extra lubrication due to falling oestrogen level but for premenopausal women it is worth investigating if there is an imbalance somewhere.
So to summarise, start thinking more about the health of your vagina if you want good overall health. Switch over to natural products and ditch the ‘feminine hygiene’ products you see in Boots and the like, these are also filled with nasty chemicals. If you regularly suffer from thrush or UTI’s think about other diet and lifestyle factors that might be contributing to this imbalance. Take a whole body approach to healing, as opposed to just treating the symptoms in one area. Feel free to make a Wellness Call with me to learn how my whole body approach to healing can help.