Understanding Vaginal Microbiome

Article published at: Agora London Apr 22, 2024
Understanding Vaginal Microbiome
All Hormone Health

We have previously discussed the Dietary Impact on Vaginal Health. Today, I'd like to explore the topic of the vaginal microbiome.

What exactly is a microbiome?

The microbiome refers to the diverse community of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that reside within our bodies, creating a dynamic micro-ecosystem. Despite their minuscule size, these microbes play significant roles in maintaining human health and well-being.

Within the vagina alone, there exist over 50 different species of these microscopic organisms, predominantly the bacteria known as Lactobacilli. These microbes are highly beneficial, as they contribute to maintaining a healthy vaginal environment and warding off infections.

Even though vaginal health is crucial for human reproduction and public health, research on microbial communities within the human body has historically concentrated on the oral cavity and the intestinal tract. However, there has been a recent shift in focus among researchers towards female health, particularly concerning the vaginal microbiome.

Exploring the Vaginal Microbiome

The vaginal microbiome is a complex and dynamic micro-ecosystem that undergoes continuous changes throughout a woman's menstrual cycle and her lifetime. In a healthy vaginal microbiome, Lactobacillus bacteria dominate and produce various antimicrobial compounds. There's a delicate balance between the host, which provides an ideal environment for the microbes, and the microbiota, which plays a central role in regulating inflammation in the female reproductive tract.

Various internal and external factors can disrupt this ecosystem, leading to the development of infections. Internal factors include hormonal levels, age, and the status of the immune system, while external factors encompass antibiotics and infections.

In women of reproductive age, physiological changes like fluctuations in hormone levels can significantly impact the vaginal microbiome. There's considerable variation in the vaginal microbiome among individuals, influenced by factors such as sexual activity, douching, chronic stress, and ethnicity.

The Role of Lactobacillus in Vaginal Wellness

The presence of the vaginal probiotic Lactobacillus is essential for maintaining the acidic environment of the vagina and stabilising its microbial balance. Disruptions in this delicate ecosystem can lead to various infections, including: 

  • Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) - read our article to know more
  • Yeast Infections or Candidiasis
  • Trichomoniasis - very common sexually transmitted infection 

Typically, vaginal infections manifest with symptoms such as itching, irritation, burning sensations, redness, changes in vaginal discharge, or discomfort.

Probiotics and Prevention

There's scientific evidence indicating that consuming yoghurt containing Lactobacillus may aid in preventing and treating vaginal imbalances. Likewise, other research suggests that daily intake of a probiotic capsule can effectively prevent and treat vaginal imbalance.

Further research has explored the efficacy of utilising a vaginal probiotic suppository to treat BV. Results indicate that 57% of the women participating in the study successfully cured their BV and maintained a healthy balance of vaginal bacteria post-treatment.

Clearly, whether through dietary intake or targeted suppository use, integrating probiotics, especially Lactobacillus, into our daily routines offers a promising strategy for maintaining a balanced vaginal microbiome and preventing infections like BV.