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The Maple Street Co-op

The Microbiome But Not as You Know It!

by Naturopath, Melissa Patsalou

The gut microbiome is very well known, but the vagina has an equally fascinating but often overlooked microbiome. A microbiome is a community of fungi and viruses that inhabit our bodies, playing a huge role in health and disease.

So, what makes the vaginal microbiome so interesting? These bacteria regulate the vaginal pH; unlike other areas of the body, the vagina requires an acidic pH. And unlike the gut microbiome where microbial diversity is a measure of gut health, the vaginal microbiome likes low microbial diversity. The vaginal microbiome is dominated by lactobacillus bacteria which maintain vaginal health by producing substances such as hydrogen peroxide and lactic acid. These substances support local immune responses within the vagina and can prevent or inhibit the growth of potentially harmful pathogens including candida species (thrush), sexually transmitted infections, and bacteria associated with bacterial vaginosis. A healthy vaginal microbiome is also associated with positive fertility outcomes, reduced complications throughout pregnancy, reduced miscarriage risk, reduced instances of preterm birth, improved IVF outcomes, improved post-menopausal health, and reduced risk of some gynaecological cancers.

Some signs your vaginal microbiome may need help:

• Recurrent infections such as thrush, bacterial vaginosis, and urinary tract infections

• Persistent itch, irritation, or inflammation

• Dryness, pain or discomfort

• Symptoms or infections which flare up at times throughout your menstrual cycle

• Changes in the colour, odour, or consistency of vaginal discharge.

To promote a healthy vaginal microbiome:

• Wear breathable fabrics

• Avoid using soaps, washes, or douches – use only water!

• Avoid glycerine in condoms and lubricants – I recommend Jonny Vegan Condoms and YES lubricant

• Stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet, regulating your blood sugar levels

• Avoid smoking

• Address any hormonal imbalances in consultation with a qualified practitioner.

For more individualised advice email


The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for health care advice. Please consult your friendly local naturopath, herbalist or other health care practitioner for personalised advice, particularly if you have a diagnosed medical condition or take pharmaceutical medications.

First published in 2023

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