First, what do we mean by flora?
Flora describes the community of microscopic bacteria that exist on or inside the body. Female flora is the microbes associated with vaginal health; you may also hear it referred to as vaginal flora or the vaginal microbiome.
But, what is healthy female flora?
There are billions of bacteria in and on our body, but vaginal flora is mainly made up of bacteria called Lactobacillus. The vagina is a particularly sensitive area that can easily be thrown out of balance, and Lactobacilli are crucial for maintaining vaginal health. They help to fight off infections. They do this by colonising the vaginal area, leaving no space for bacteria that may cause infections. They also produce lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide to help inhibit the growth of yeast and other unwanted organisms.
When there is an imbalance in Lactobacilli the risk of developing an infection increases. So what can lead to an imbalance in the female flora?
If you walk into the female health section of a supermarket you may come across products designed to help with vaginal hygiene, probably including scented soaps and douches. Douching is when you clean out the inside of the vagina with fluids or water. Be aware that both can impact the delicate balance of Lactobacillus, leaving one of your most sensitive areas unprotected. Douching removes the beneficial Lactobacilli and scented soaps can change the PH levels of your vagina creating an ideal environment for yeast and harmful bacteria to thrive. These harmful bacteria can lead to strong unpleasant smells in the vagina. Stress can also throw female flora out of balance; high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can disrupt the body's oestrogen levels which in turn decreases the abundance of Lactobacilli. Any change in the level of Lactobacilli can cause vaginal problems such as yeast infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bacterial vaginosis, all of which can make your day-to-day life very unpleasant.
Female flora is clearly very delicate and complex, so what can we do to help keep the Lactobacilli healthy and happy?
Supporting flora in the gut can have amazing effects on the vaginal flora. Your body is so clever that your gut and vagina communicate, and through this communication bacterial strains can transfer from the gut to the vagina. A good liquid probiotic can help your body deliver the bacteria the vagina needs. Nutrients such as vitamins and minerals are also great for promoting vaginal wellness; here are 3 vitamins we recommend for vaginal health:
Vaginal dryness is a condition in which the vagina loses its moisture or lubricant, causing discomfort, pain and itching. Atrophic Vaginitis is vaginal dryness due to a decrease in oestrogen. There are many aspects that can cause a drop in oestrogen; it happens naturally around menopause and temporarily when breastfeeding, but hormonal imbalances can also have an effect. The most common treatment for Atrophic Vaginitis is vaginal oestrogen, but this can lead to hormonal imbalance. An alternative solution is Vitamin E: studies have found that it can help to keep the vaginal area lubricated naturally whilst maintaining the delicate ecosystem that is your vagina. (1) Vitamin E can be found naturally in Dong Quai and Schisandra
Your body is incredibly intelligent and your immune system not only protects against colds and flus but also infections in the vagina. A healthy immune system means healthy female flora. Vitamin A plays a crucial role in your body's immune system; it's involved in the creation of white blood cells like T and B which help with immune responses that guard against disease by capturing and clearing bacteria and pathogens from your bloodstream. Vitamin A also helps to maintain healthy epithelial tissue, including the tissues that make up the vagina and vulva. Healthy vaginal epithelial tissue aids in the prevention of pathogens and sexually transmitted diseases entering the body and allows white blood cells to infiltrate and move through the tissue. Vitamin A can be found naturally in Dong Quai, Fennel, Moringa, and Saffron.
Vitamin C is great at boosting the whole body's immune system and in turn helps to prevent vaginal infections. It does this through producing immune cells such as macrophages and neutrophils, which help kill and remove harmful bacteria. Vitamin C also lowers the PH of the vagina making it more acidic; and low PH levels inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and reduce the chances of bacterial infections. In turn this leaves more space for the beneficial Lactobacilli to thrive. A study of 142 European women found that vitamin C tablets reduced the recurrence of Bacterial Vaginosis in nearly 50% of the women. (2) Vitamin C can be found naturally in Dong Quai, Schisandra, Fennel, Holy basil, Maca, Moringa, Peony and Saffron.
It is our belief that a healthy gut is key to maintaining healthy female flora, and microbz women (previously Bio-Live Women) is chock full of all the vitamins mentioned above, as well as beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus. Research and our own experience suggest that a combination of microbes and herbs is super powerful, because the microbes pre-digest the ingredients into bio-available compounds that are easily absorbed into the body. Your incredible body then delivers the nutrients to where they are needed most to help create a happy environment for your female flora.