Probiotics for Vaginal Health
Let’s talk about the thing no one wants to talk about: vaginas, odors, and abnormal discharge. As unappealing as this topic is to most, it is an important conversation to have because every vagina owner out there needs the knowledge and tools to keep their vagina healthy. There are a wide variety of things one should and should not do to keep everything in check. One of the less talked about ways to maintain a healthy vagina is the use of probiotics.
First and foremost, it is important to note that one should always consult a doctor on vaginal health concerns. The Internet is an endless (cess)pool of information, but it cannot get up close and personal with your parts to figure out what is actually going on in there. However, there are many options out there for maintaining vaginal health from the get go: avoid using tampons, use unscented detergents without harsh chemicals, wear only cotton underwear, use safe and clean sex practices, and look into probiotics as a preventative and/or treatment method.
What, you might ask, do probiotics have to do with my vagina?
Well, because your vagina houses millions of bacteria and because probiotics are bacteria that are good for your health, it becomes understandable that ensuring you have healthy bacteria supporting your vaginal activities is an important part of maintaining a happy, healthy vagina. One of the most important roles bacteria play in the vagina is that of a balancing act: maintaining the correct pH and acid levels your vagina needs to function properly.
Probiotics also play an important part in protecting the vagina from any overgrowth of bad bacteria. Too much bad bacteria can lead to vaginal infections, with the three most commonly occurring infections being: yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis. A majority of women will experience at least once of these infections, and many women will experience more than just one. The acid and pH levels of the vagina can be turbulent – it’s how it is for many. However, with the use of preventative methods like probiotics, women are better able to fight off bad bacteria before an infection can take hold.
One culprit of vaginal infections? Antibiotics! Antibiotics can be understood as a sort of opposite to probiotics. While probiotics increase levels of (good) bacteria in the body, antibiotics deplete the levels of bacteria in the body, indiscriminately. Antibiotics are typically used to treat bacterial vaginosis, even though this treatment will likely throw off the fragile pH balance of the vagina, possibly resulting in the development of even more vaginal infections. Therefore, it might be wise to look into your options when it comes to taking antibiotics over probiotics. However, as always, it remains imperative to consult a physician before making any medical-related decisions.
You should take extra care in making decisions about your vagina, because according to microbiologist Gregor Reid, the bacteria found within the vagina is crucial to humanity’s survival. This is because the microbes (bacteria) found in your vagina have been passed down from generations of vaginas that came before you. The microbes of your parents, and their parents, and their parents, and so on live inside your gut…and your vagina (to name a few places)! Apparently, you owe your life to the bacteria in your ancestors’ reproductive systems! Successful reproduction hinges on the health of the reproductive microbial community.
What is a healthy (vaginal) microbial community?
A healthy vagina has a microbiome that produces hydrogen peroxide and lactic acid in order to maintain the proper levels of pH and acid. Balanced pH and acid levels allow your vagina to fight of bad microbes from taking control and throwing your vagina’s pH levels out of whack. If your pH levels become unbalanced, which means the acid levels dip below adequate levels, then unwanted, bad bacteria is able to survive in your vagina, and, given the right circumstances, thrive in your vagina, wreaking havoc and infection. The less serious infections, such as vaginosis, often go undetected, allowing for your vaginal microbiome to weaken even further. If this happens, more serious infections are able to take up residency in your vagina in addition to a multitude of unpleasant complications.
These consequences can manifest in anything from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to infertility. The health status (or lack thereof) of a woman’s vagina has innumerable implications on her life, including that of pregnancy, if that is a part of her life’s choices. Vaginal bacteria has been linked to the outcomes of birth, with some studies pointing to vaginosis being correlated to pre-term birth. Mothers are able to promote the health of their children in more than just the traditional ways – even before their children are born, mothers promote the well-being of their children through the microbial makeup of their reproductive systems.
The Vagina contains an invisible ecosystem, made up of a variety of microbes, both good and bad!