Vaginal flora or vaginal microbiome is a term for the group of bacteria that live inside your vagina. It is mainly composed of different strains of a bacteria called Lactobacilli, and it is essential to keeping your pH at balance.
The good bacteria
Your vagina is composed of billions of bacteria, good, bad, and neutral. The "friendly" bacteria in your vaginal microbiome and the most predominant is the Lactobacillus species. Lactobacilli live in your vagina and other parts of your body and vary from woman to woman. Depending on the bacteria's functionality in your body, it is from a different strand and has various properties. Lactobacilli can live in our digestive, urinary, and genital systems without causing diseases. So, how do these bacteria work inside our vaginal microbiome? In your digestive system, Lactobacilli help breaks down food, absorb nutrients, and fight off "unfriendly" bacteria that may cause, for example, diarrhea. Inside your vagina, they help keep it healthy. Lactobacilli produces lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and other compounds that can help repress yeast production. Fun fact, Lactobacilli is the bacteria used to ferment foods like yogurt and dietary supplements.
Back in 2015, a graduate student from the University of Wisconsin thought it would be a good idea to DIY yogurt from her vaginal secretions. Her theory suggested that because a woman’s vagina contains an organism called lactobacillus that is the same bacteria used to culture yogurt, there would be no problem. She thought that if Lactobacillus is meant to be good for your gut and keep your vagina healthy, ingesting it would help us give back our bodies all those good properties. So what happened? Click here to find out.
Your pH as good as wine
Lactic acid is one of the compounds produced by Lactobacilli. Lactic acid will be the one to keep your pH balanced. Your pH needs to be at a slightly acid level, which is vital to prevent yeast growth and keep your vagina happy. Happy vaginas need a pH balance of around 4.5, the pH of wine. If that's not a cue to care for your vagina as you care for your wine, I don't know what is! If your pH is unbalanced, your vaginal flora can be at risk of infections.
Changes in your vaginal microbiome
Many lifestyle changes can cause fluctuations in your vaginal microbiome. This can ultimately create bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections. Some of these lifestyle changes include:
High sugar diets
Using scented body washes
Intake of antibiotics
Not only that, but the different stages of your life cycle can also affect the ecosystem in your vaginal flora. From the moment you are are born up to menopause, your hormones are constantly changing, and so are your levels of pH and the amount of Lactobacilli in your microbiome.
You are born with a sterile vagina, but all of that changes once your microbiome starts to populate due to the mother's bacteria. During childhood, the vagina's pH will be slightly alkaline or neutral. But is at this time, Lactobacilli production decreases and can lead to infections in pre-pubescent girls. It is crucial to stay away from scented bath products and teach children the proper way to wipe after going to the bathroom to reduce infections. Once puberty hits, the levels of oestrogen increase, alongside the levels of glycogen. When this happens, lactic acid production increases, and we no longer have a barrier to protect us from vaginal changes. With the increase of sexual activity in adulthood, we open our vaginal flora to new unwanted micro-organisms. During pregnancy, there is an increase of Lactobacilli to protect us during this period from infections. Lastly, due to the drop in our sex hormones and Lactobacilli during menopause, there can be many vaginal issues like dryness or atrophy.
Keep it happy!
It is critical to remember that none of us are free from never getting vaginal infections. Vaginal infections can vary depending on your lifestyle and how you care for your vagina. We can be as precautious as possible and still be at risk of a yeast infection. A prevalent cause of yeast infections is leaving wet swimsuits for prolonged periods. It's up to you to be informed and care for your vagina and keep it happy. A happy vagina means a happy life!
American Alpine Institute - Climbing Blog: Women's .... http://blog.alpineinstitute.com/2017/07/womens-concerns-on-day-trips.html