When you hear the word microbiome, you may think of the living ecosystem of friendly microorganisms in your gut.
But the microbiome is not just limited to your gut. In fact, the vagina has its very own population of useful microflora, including Lactobacillus, which works hard to help keep your vaginal microbiome healthy.
Lactobacillus and the vagina
The most common bacteria in a healthy vaginal microbiome belong to the Lactobacillus family, including strains such as L. crispatus and L. gasseri.
Lactobacillus crowds out less desirable bacterial strains and produces compounds that help maintain a healthy microbial balance.
In addition to its presence in the vagina, Lactobacillus can also be found in the bowel and throughout the gut, but the lower intestine is typically dominated by species such as Bacteroides and Bifidobacteria. (As a reminder, think 'L' for lady bits and 'B' for bottom.)
Some dos and don'ts
The vagina is pretty good at looking after itself, but every now and again, its balance of microbiota is upset. In general, the best way to maintain a healthy balance of vaginal microflora is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Here are a few tips:
- Switch to cotton underwear. Synthetic fabrics can trap heat and moisture, which may cause an imbalance of bacteria.
- Avoid douching and vaginal cleaning products. The vagina generally does a fine job keeping itself clean, and interfering can upset the bacterial balance.
- Probiotic supplements can help restore and balance your vaginal flora. Life-Space Women's Microflora Probiotic contains a range of Lactobacillus bacteria, including L. crispatus, one of the most common strains in a healthy vagina.
Did you know?
You can maintain your general microbiome health by eating a varied diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables. Look for food rich in antioxidants (for instance, blueberries, dark chocolate) and Omega-3 (oily fish). Fermented foods such as Greek yoghurt, kimchi and kombucha are a great addition as well.
Something you may have less control over is how much stress you encounter, but keep in mind there may be a link between high levels of stress and bacterial imbalance in the vagina.
If you have unavoidable sources of stress in your life, regular exercise can be a good way to channel it. So just in case you needed another reason to exercise, think of your vagina!
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use.