The Dynamics Of The Vaginal Flora
The vagina is being likened to a garden, with flowers, and weeds alike, growing in it. The outcome of this natural garden depends on which of the two outgrows the other: if the flowers keep growing, everything remains beautiful; but if the weeds outgrows the flowers, everything turns “ugly,” constituting a nuisance.
The normal vaginal flora consists of naturally harmless organisms – the bulk of which are the Lactobacilliary species. These group of organisms protect the vagina from harmful invaders, by competing with them for space, by the mere means of their physical presence, and by making the vaginal pH acidic – which is unconducive for harmful organisms. In our analogy, above, this group of organisms would be the flowers.
In the vaginal garden, there are also weeds. These are organisms that are potentially harmful, but are usually in small amounts, as they are continuously being “weeded off” by the mechanism described above. These organisms include microbes from the gut, surrounding skin, and things like yeast [fungi]. If for any reason the flowers are plucked out, and/or there’s a change in the vaginal acidity, these “weeds and thorns” will grow unchecked, constituting nuisance.
? RISK FACTORS FAVOURING OVERGROWTH OF THE ‘WEEDS’ IN THE VAGINA
The risk factors that favor overgrowth of the “weeds” mentioned above include lifestyles, and conditions, that alter the delicate balance of the vaginal flora predisposing to an overgrowth of the “weeds and thorns,” leading to Vaginitis [which included Bacterial Vaginosis, Vaginal Candidiasis, and Trichomoniasis].
– Indiscriminate use of antibiotics
– Vaginal douching [washing of the inside of the vagina with soaps, and vaginal washes]
– States of low immunity, like HIV, and Diabetes.
– Unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners
– Poor genital hygiene
– Wearing of heat-retaining undies
– Hormonal factors like menopause, and use of hormonal contraceptives
– Alkalinization of the vagina by the presence of semen, and menstrual flow [reason symptoms seems to worsen after a sexual encounter, and during, or after, one’s menses]
? WHAT TO DO TO KEEP THE GARDEN BEAUTIFUL?
Simple: do not engage in practices and lifestyles that encourages the weeds to grow [refer the previous section].
The garden weeds and cleanses itself, all you need to keep it beautiful is allow it do its job.
Do. Not. Wash. The. Inside. Of. Your. Vagina. Especially not with soapy water, or scented products. Washing the vulva – the outer visible part is enough.
Allow lady town to breathe; stop wearing heat-retaining undies all the time.
Change your panties as often as necessary. And always keep them clean.
May sound yucky, but Yoghurt is good for lady town. However, even that is not necessary, as lady town works hard to keep itself clean.
Finally, when you feel weird down there, do not self-medicate; SEE A DOCTOR!
The author, Dr Chubuike Joseph Chukwudum is a former medical officer at Oakland specialist hospital, Obosi, Nigeria.
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