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Health of vagina influenced by microbiome

by Margery Gass | Sep 16, 2013
The vagina is one of the body sites under study in the Human Microbiome Project examining the 100 trillion good bacteria that live in and on the human body—our inner ecosystem. These helpful bacteria are essential for digesting food, synthesizing vitamins, and protecting us from disease-causing bacteria.

In a healthy woman, bacteria called Lactobacilli produce the lactic acid that makes the vagina acidic and relatively unfriendly to harmful microbes. But when vaginal bacteria are out of balance, harmful bacteria may invade. Research shows that this is associated with health problems, including vaginal dryness and bacterial vaginosis, an unpleasant condition that increases the risk of other infections. Nearly 30% of American women suffer from bacterial vaginosis.

Douching can cause the microbial imbalance that leads to bacterial vaginosis, and one in three American women douche. Don’t do it. Women may believe that they are practicing good hygiene, but they are actually increasing their risk of infection.

Much more microbiome research is on the horizon. We hope to know more soon about the microbial changes that occur with menopause and aging, as well as how women can maintain the best balance of good microorganisms in their bodies. Stay tuned!



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