“If your vagina could have food delivered…” – this somewhat provocative sentence is the lead-in to an article in Women’sHealth. The answer to this rhetorical question follows immediately: Probiotic foods would feature prominently on our menu. Paying attention to having a healthy bacterial balance in your body is always important. This applies to our diet which influences the gut flora’s balance, i.e. composition and variety of the bacteria living in the gut. Naturally, this also applies to the bacteria on our skin, just as it does to the vaginal flora and the microflora in the genital area.
A healthy vaginal flora is dominated by lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus species) which maintain a relatively acidic vaginal environment (pH of around 4.5) and in this way provide protection against pathogens such as Gardnerella vaginalis. Use of antibiotics or birth control pills, or undergoing hormonal treatment may disrupt the Lactobacillus population, changing the vaginal flora – which in turn diminishes protection from pathogens, potentially causing the emergence of conditions known as bacterial vaginosis.
Carolyn DeLucia, the US gynaecology specialist quoted by Women’sHealth, hence advises women to regularly eat probiotic foods such as plain yogurt, sauerkraut, or miso. “Probiotics help maintain the healthy balance of bacteria to promote a good pH to promote the healthy growth of lactobacillus.” Scientists at the University of Zagreb have researched the targeted use of orally applied capsules containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14. After a treatment period of six weeks, almost two thirds of the women receiving the capsules had returned to a balanced vaginal flora, in the placebo group this was reported in only 26.9 percent of the women.
The importance of a healthy vaginal flora is also revealed by comparing C-section babies with newborns delivered naturally and who are thus covered in vaginal bacteria.