Balancing the Vaginal Microbiome

11 November 2019

The vaginal area has its own distinct microbiome community which differs from the other microbiomes; the gut and the skin. An imbalance (termed dysbiosis) of the vaginal flora can play a large role in infertility, frequent miscarriage, endometriosis, frequent urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis,  itching and pain.

A number of protective Lactobacillus species dominates what is termed a healthy vaginal microbiota, and recent advances in DNA sequencing techniques have revealed that the dominant Lactobacillus species in the vaginal microbiota include L. crispatus, L. gasseri, L. iners, and L. jensenii, followed by L. acidophilus, L. fermentum, L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, L. brevis, L. casei, L. vaginalis, L. delbrueckii, L. salivarius, and L. reuteri 

So what is so special about Lactobacilli then, that keeps the vaginal microbiome “healthy”?  Well, they produce hydrogen peroxide (H2 O2) which inhibits the growth of anaerobic organisms including Gardnerella, Atopobium, Mobiluncus, Prevotella, Streptococcus, Ureaplasma, Megasphaera etc. that are able to cause infections such as bacterial vaginosis (BV)  and they also produce lactic acid, keep the pH nice and acidic which also inhibits these critters too. 

The influence of stress on vaginal health is also significant: Cortisol inhibits the oestrogen- associated vaginal cell wall maturation and accumulation of glycogen and consequently reduces lactobacilli dominance -and the resultant decrease in lactobacilli abundance can worsen vulvo-vaginal symptoms of infection.

The takeaway: Lactobacilli are key to maintaining the vaginal ecosystem. To delve further, DNA testing such as Female EcologiX gives quantitative measures of different Lactobacilli species, as well as BV-associated bacteria and pathogens. I am using this test with my 1:1 clients and those that attend my retreats and workshops.

There are many diet and lifestyle interventions, but from a product perspective, I also cannot recommend the Bio.Me Femme probiotic highly enough.  It has been developed to work on the vagina and urinary microbiomes in the aim to prevent recurrent urinary tract infections and balance these female microbiomes. The formulation consists of seven specifically selected probiotic strains for their capacity to inhibit uropathogen growth in the vagina and  bladder and gut, having been screened for their capacity to:

  • compete with uropathogens for attachment sites and nutrients

  • produce antibacterial agents such as hydrogen peroxide (as I just spoke about)