One area of health that doesn’t get as much care as it should is vaginal flora health. Your vagina has it’s own unique microbiome also known as flora, a host of living bacteria and yeast, both good and bad. What is most important is to keep these micro-organisms balanced in both the digestive tract and in the vagina. For women, taking good care of your vagina and paying attention when something might be off is very important and can give insight for your overall health.
What Can Affect Your Vaginal Health?
There are many factors that can affect your vaginal health and we recommend taking all of them into consideration. While there’s no need to be overly cautious, it’s a good idea to be aware and mindful of the following factors and make sure you are taking the necessary steps to keep your vagina safe and healthy.
- Sex - This can affect your vagina in a variety of ways. Your partner can introduce new bacteria into your vagina, which can cause yeast infections or UTIs and it can also throw off your natural pH balance allowing bacteria to thrive. In addition, sex puts you at risk for Sexually Transmittied Infections (STIs). As you already know, it’s necessary to practice safe sex and make sure you are getting regular checkups from your doctor.
- Birth Control and Feminine Hygiene Products - As birth control affects your hormones, it can also affect your vaginal flora and overall health. Some women experience differences in lubrication, libido, and frequency of yeast infections when on birth control, not to mention other premenstrual symptoms (PMS) including mood, cramping, acne, etc. Make sure you discuss with your doctor the side effects of birth control and how to manage them. Feminine hygiene products such as tampons and pads can also affect your vagina by drying it out, causing irritations, or making it more susceptible to infections. We highly recommend looking into more natural and sustainable femine hygiene products that are better for your vagina and for the environment, like menstrual cups and reusable cotton pads.
- Hormonal Imbalances - A hormonal imbalance can affect your libido, lubrication, period, fertility, and so much more. If you suspect that you have a hormonal imbalance, we recommend seeing a healthcare practitioner that can help you get on the right track. We also recommend the natural and very effective herbal remedy Living Alchemy’s WARRIOR to help bring balance to your hormones and give you daily energy to do it all!
- Antibiotic use - Both antibiotics and other medications can greatly affect your microbiome, this includes specifically your digestive tract and your vaginal flora. Therefore, it is important to take a natural probiotic during and after antibiotics, do speak to your healthcare practitioner before consuming probiotics with medications. Continue reading below to find out more about a natural plant-based probiotic, prebiotic, enzymes and nutrients specifically designed to support women's health.
- Other factors - Pregnancy and childbirth can affect your vagina. Pregnancy alters your hormone levels and puts a lot of pressure on your body to grow your baby, while childbirth can cause physical differences to your vagina. Both pregnancy and childbirth can also influence your vaginal flora. Psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression, can affect your body in so many ways, including your vaginal health, digestion and immunity too. (1)
What are the Symptoms that something might be off?
There are a few signs and symptoms that your vaginal health might NOT be in tip-top shape. Each woman is different and so is her vagina, so it’s important to track your personal vaginal health so that you are aware when something isn’t right. (We recommend using an app like Period Tracker.) Some general symptoms are below so that you have a better idea of when your vagina may need some extra care.
Changes in colour, odour, or discharge can all be signs that something might be amiss in your vagina. It’s important to note that all vaginas have a smell and that smell depends on the person. However, a fishy smell or darker discharge could mean that something is off. Redness and itching, bleeding between periods, after sex, or after menopause, as well as pain during intercourse can be a sign of the most common vaginal conditions amongst women, vaginal infection such as an yeast infection (Candida albicans) or a bacteria imbalance such as Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). (2)
If you experience any of these symptoms consistently, it is best to see your healthcare practitioner for further classification and treatment right away as these could be a sign of a more serious issue.
How to Care for Your Vagina?
Vaginas are both delicate and resilient. Vaginas can bring forth life and also be susceptible to infections. That’s why it’s crucial to give your vagina the best care that you possibly can. Here are some tips below to help you keep your vagina happy.
- Practice safe sex!
- Talk to your doctor about HPV and the pros and cons of getting vaccinated.
- Do kegel exercises to keep your vagina strong and to prevent incontinence. (3)
- Talk to your doctor about your medications and how they could be affecting your hormonal or vaginal health.
- Limit alcohol and don’t smoke. (4)
- Use mild natural soap and water to clean your vulva (the external part of the female sexual organs). Anything with fragrances or harsh ingredients can irritate your vulva or exacerbate existing issues.
- Your vagina is self-cleaning, so there is no need to clean it by douching or with soap. If you do, you could alter your pH, which can cause further problems or irritate your vagina.
- After using the washroom, wipe in the front and then the back to avoid spreading bacteria to your urethra (potentially causing a UTI). (5)
- Take a sitz bath (a shallow bath with warm water and salt) when needed. This can help with itching, irritation, post-surgery, or after recently giving birth.
- Another alternative method to care for your vagina is vaginal steaming or yoni steaming in Ayurvedic medicine. Vaginal steaming is when you sit over a bowl (usually with a special stool) of steaming water and herbs to cleanse your vagina. There are many herbs that could be used depending on the issue, such as lavender, calendula, rosemary, or mugwort. Vaginal steaming has been used to treat cramps, reproductive issues, stagnant energy, dryness, and many other concerns. (6) There are pros and cons to vaginal steaming, so we highly recommend doing your own research to see if it’s right for you.
At Living Alchemy, we believe in a holistic approach to health, assessing all areas of the body, how it works together, and how we can fully optimize the care we give ourselves. To further boost your vaginal health, we recommend Living Alchemy’s Your Flora WOMEN. We have taken our unique Kefi-Soy and combined it with certified organic dried cranberry juice and roselle leaf (a plant species of the hibiscus flower) to bring you this powerful fermented whole food supplement for women’s health. Kefi-Soy (Kefir-kombucha fermented certified organic soy) helps boost and maintain your gastrointestinal flora, vaginal flora and immunity. Read more here about how and why we use fermented organic soy and how it is very different than conventional soy. The cranberry and roselle leaf prevent and treat UTIs and other bacterial infections while protecting and nourishing the membrane. With Your Flora WOMAN you will have the complete gut, vaginal, urinary and immune support that you need!