Microbiome-Friendly Food Will Keep Your Vagina In A Good Mood
Ina Schuppe Koistinen is an Associate Professor and Alliance Director at the Centre for Translational Microbiome Research (CTMR), at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. Through her research, she is exploring the human microbiome and its connection to inflammatory bowel diseases and women’s health. She loves yoga and is passionate about helping others make healthy lifestyle choices. She is also an artist, specializing in watercolor painting.
Bacteria and other microorganisms are found everywhere within and on the surface of our bodies, such as in our intestines, on our skin and in our mouths. Most of them are good for our health. Earlier scientists thought that babies are born sterile but that may not be true. At delivery, the mover passes microbes onto the baby as the newborn passes through the birth canal. Babies born by C-section pick up microbes from the mother’s skin and the hospital environment. There are also bacteria in breast milk that will influence the newborn baby’s health and gut flora. Another type of bacteria that have significant implications for a women’s overall health is the vaginal flora. Despite its importance, surprisingly little is known about the composition of a healthy vaginal flora. Our researcher group is trying to get to the bottom of this.
Most women have a large amount of Lactobacillus bacteria in their vaginal tract. They help maintain a low vaginal pH, which creates an unfriendly environment for “bad” bacteria like Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Gardnerella (that is associated with a smelly vaginal discharge and Bacterial Vaginosis). The fungus Candida can survive in a wide range of pH levels, but in a more alkaline environment that lacks Lactobacilli, Candida is more likely to overgrow and cause symptoms.
A healthy vaginal flora is made up of many different types of bacteria, the predominant bacteria being Lactobacillus. They are superheroes and play a key role in defending against infection. But how can you encourage lactobacilli to thrive in your vaginal microbiome? The answer is simple: lead a healthy lifestyle, eat a varied diet, exercise and practice safe sex. Another good tip is to combat vaginal dryness by avoiding soap that can affect the pH levels in the vagina and cause irritation.
Studies suggest that probiotic Lactobacillus has a beneficial effect on the vaginal microbiome. It’s a fascinating thought that these little bugs travel all the way from the intestines to the vaginal tract. Isn’t it incredible how these things work?
To define the composition of the vaginal microbiome in adult women, our group of scientists has initiated a number of large clinical studies, in collaboration with Uppsala University Hospital and Professor Matts Olovsson. The study is called VaMiGyn (Vaginal microbiome and gynecological health) and we investigate the relationship between changes in the vaginal flora and the development of cervical cancer.