A woman’s flora

Nearly all intimate complaints are caused when the vaginal flora is out of balance. But what is this flora? What’s it made up of, what does it do, and why is it so important?

When a baby girl is born, her vagina is totally sterile, but very shortly after birth it becomes colonized with a wide range of bacteria, including staphylococci, streptococci, E. coli, and a lactic acid bacterium historically named “Doderlein’s bacillus” (Lactobacillus acidophilus). Imagine this mixture of bacteria as a flower filled meadow. These bacteria grow in harmony with each other and their function is to keep the vagina clean, slightly acidic, with a pH of between 4 and 4.5, (which acts as a mild disinfectant) and protected from bad bacteria, fungal infections and other germs. Together with the moisturising mucous lining, this makes up a protective layer, called a bio-film, to the delicate epithelium.

These natural defences can be altered or upset by certain situations. For example: pregnancy, menstruation, intercourse, antibiotics and menopause. And when this happens, the bacteria that are not normally harmful to us, can flourish, and cause us problems.

It’s this imbalance that is the main cause of BV and Thrush – the good bacteria become more sparse, and the bad bacteria (BV) or fungi (candida) start to take over – it’s just like weeds in a meadow!

But if you want to restore your lactobacilli, you need to use a gentle treatment, one that will reduce the bad bacteria but encourage the good. Most treatments work by indiscriminately destroying all bacteria, both good and bad – it’s like using weedkiller that kills all the flowers too. An ideal treatment will encourage the good bacteria, while getting the weeds back under control, without using harsh chemicals that upset the natural balance, but work in harmony with our own flora.

What’s so important about Lactobacilli?

Everyone has heard of lactobacillus these days, with the increased awareness in pro-biotics and gut flora. But just how can this bacteria help a woman’s vaginal health?

Lactobacillus bacteria forms a protective bio-film at the surface of the vaginal tissue which prevents bad bacteria from taking hold.

Lactobacilli produce lactic acid, creating an acidic environment, which is unfavourable for the bad bacteria, so they cannot grow.

If the lactobacilli are reduced, the pH becomes more alkaline and the protective biofilm is weakened, so the bad bacteria can attach to the tissues and multiply, causing problems.