They’re minuscule yet formidable. Bacteria aid in maintaining the overall well-being of your entire body, including the region below the waist. “The vagina possesses a natural microbiome that closely resembles that of the digestive system,” affirms Leah Millheiser, M.D., a clinical professor specializing in obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University. This microbiome comprises beneficial bacteria that ensure smooth functioning, as well as harmful organisms that can cause conditions like yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. (Both possibilities can contribute to an atypical vaginal odor, by the way.)
Similar to the microorganisms in your gastrointestinal tract, certain medications and other factors can disturb the balance of vaginal microbes, heightening the risk of infection or irritation. Safeguard your beneficial bacteria, consequently protecting your vagina, by employing these four scientifically supported strategies.
Don’t Excessively Cleanse
It is now widely known that douching is an ill-advised practice. Nevertheless, there is another technique that has gained popularity (quite literally) in the realm of natural health. Referred to as vaginal steaming, this practice entails sitting over a container of steaming water infused with medicinal herbs. Advocates of this treatment suggest that it accomplishes various objectives, including “cleansing” the uterus and restoring hormone equilibrium. Disregard the hype. “Both douching and steaming can eliminate beneficial bacteria,” warns Dr. Millheiser.
If you are concerned about odor, occasionally utilizing wipes after physical activity or during the day is acceptable. However, opt for unscented wipes and exercise moderation— a single swipe is sufficient. Furthermore, discontinue use immediately if you experience any burning or irritation, as advised by Dr. Millheiser.
Incorporate a Probiotic
Select a probiotic that contains no less than two strains of lactobacillus, such as RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic Feminine Supplement (available for purchase at target.com for $37), which can augment levels of healthy vaginal bacteria. Greek yogurt, known for its probiotic properties, is also effective— whether consumed orally or, if recommended by your physician, administered directly to the source.
If a patient experiences a yeast infection and is consuming oral antifungals, I will sometimes propose utilizing a syringe or an applicator to insert two tablespoons of unadulterated, probiotic-abundant yogurt into the vaginal area,” expresses Dr. Millheiser. (Once more, consult your medical practitioner prior to exploring this option.)
Perform a Speedy Transformation
Everyone is culpable of occasionally remaining in perspiring exercise attire while grabbing a meal or running errands subsequent to a workout session. However, this should be evaded to the fullest extent. “That generates a warm, damp setting recognized to result in the multiplication of fungi,” elucidates Dr. Millheiser.
To prevent such an occurrence, make sure to alter your attire prior to departing the gym. If unable to do so, don underwear with a cotton gusset instead — it’s breathable, so you’ll remain more dry, providing fungi and unhealthy bacteria with reduced opportunities to multiply.
Choose Lubricant Prudently
In the bedroom, steer clear of any lubricant containing glycerin. It’s a prevalent constituent, but it disintegrates into sugars, which may foster the growth of bacteria or fungi. When selecting lube, seek out glycerin-free alternatives instead. (However, the ingredient isn’t entirely negative — skincare products with glycerin work miracles for dry skin.)
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