Vaginal flora – how to keep the vagina healthy

When we think of bacteria, we usually first think of illness or poor hygiene. But bacteria are an indispensable part of our body. It is home to no less than 30 trillion of them. In the vaginal flora alone, at least 250 bacterial species have been identified. They should live in a delicate balance. What happens when the vaginal flora gets out of balance?

Sometimes just menstruation or semen throw the vaginal microbiome out of balance. Bacterial vaginosis can then develop. Around 9 percent of women are or have been affected. What to do?

If the vaginal flora is intact, lactic acid bacteria (lactobacilli), of which there are about 175 species, predominate. Up to four species of them are found in the vagina of every woman. Lactobacilli ensure a slightly acidic pH in which pathogens can hardly multiply. A weakening of the immune system and medications such as antibiotics or the pill can disturb this balance, so that the composition of the vaginal flora changes to the disadvantage of the lactic acid bacteria.

Changes in the vaginal flora

Bacterial vaginosis is not a classic infection of the vagina, as is usually assumed – in a recent survey, 71 percent of the women questioned assumed this! – but rather a bacterial overgrowth. Hormones also play a role: changes during the menstrual cycle, stress, menopause or pregnancy can have a negative effect on the vaginal flora. But what can help if the important lactobacilli become fewer and fewer until at some point unpleasant-smelling discharge appears?

Secret tip? No, thanks!

Again and again you read about “natural” home remedies and secret tips such as tampons soaked in yogurt, cloves of garlic to be inserted into the vagina or douches with tea tree oil or vinegar. Caution. With all of these measures, there is a risk that the vaginal skin will become irritated and more germs that do not belong there will enter the vagina, putting additional strain on the already shifted bacterial balance. In addition, the effectiveness of the supposedly “gentle” treatments has not been proven.

The vaginal flora loves it sour!

Gentle and effective, on the other hand, is a therapy with lactic acid, which is contained, for example, in the “Kadefungin Lactic Acid Cure” (in the pharmacy, about 12 euros). It ensures an acidic pH value in the vagina, in which the lactic acid bacteria feel comfortable and can multiply. If they are present in sufficient quantities, they can adjust the pH value themselves through their own lactic acid production. This regenerates the protective vaginal environment and the vaginal flora recovers. Harmful bacteria are driven back and vaginosis subsides. The right pH value and the settlement of the right bacteria also offer the only effective protection against a recurrence of vaginosis, which is why the lactic acid cure is not only suitable for accompanying treatment with antibiotics or for use alone in the case of mild symptoms in acute cases, but also for prophylaxis in the case of a tendency to recurrent vaginosis.

Lead photo: Ava Sol, Photo: Timothy Meinberg