Vaginal Microbiome Overview

Human genome sequencing was a revolutionary achievement when first announced over 20 years ago. It changed human biology and medical practices forever because doctors could now study a marginal blueprint of the human species and the communities of microorganisms (human microbiota) within the human body.

As a result, medical doctors and scientists could begin piecing together the complete blueprint of the human body by studying the genetic profiles of all the human microbiota together. A combination of these genetic profiles makes up the human microbiome.

In the past, doctors only concerned themselves with diseased states when studying the human microbiome. Now, that has all changed because a growing number of health experts are beginning to understand the critical influence of human microorganisms on the health of the human body and all its organs and regions.

The perfect example is the vaginal microbiome, representing the bacterial communities in a woman’s vagina. These good vaginal bacterial communities play a critical protective role in sustaining vaginal health by stopping the growth of harmful bacteria or microorganisms.

Dangerous microorganisms could cause a woman to develop yeast infections, urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, and sexually transmitted infections. That is why understanding the vaginal microbiome is critical to prevent harmful microorganisms from growing their numbers in the vagina.

How to Maintain a Healthy Vaginal Microbiome

Lactobacilli comprise over 70% of all the healthy bacteria in the human vagina. Most female mammals only have around 1% of their vaginal microbiota containing lactobacilli.

Women in their child-bearing years depend on lactobacilli the most because the bacteria produce lactic acid to reduce and manage vaginal pH levels. Scientists are fascinated by how vital lactobacilli is for sustaining human vaginal health versus the vaginal health of other species.

However, recent phylogenetic research studies involving 16S rRNA gene sequencing have discovered more complexities in the makeup of vaginal bacterial communities and their roles in sustaining vaginal health. The studies revealed the vast dynamic state of the vaginal microbiome, to the point where it can sometimes survive without any lactobacilli. In fact, diverse ethnic groups appear to have the broadest range of bacterial species in vaginal communities.

Researchers have identified five primary microbial community types in a healthy vagina thanks to the revolutionary technology used in modern sequencing techniques. The following species dominate each respective type:

  • Microbial Community Type I – Lactobacillus crispatus
  • Microbial Community Type II – Lactobacillus gasseri
  • Microbial Community Type III – Lactobacillus iners
  • Microbial Community Type IV – More diverse anaerobic bacterial and fewer Lactobacillus spp
  • Microbial Community Type V – Lactobacillus jensenii

Another interesting discovery from the comprehensive research studies was how various age groups had more similar vaginal microbiomes than different ethnic groups. In other words, post-menopausal women did not have significant differences in their vaginal microbiome compared to younger women of reproductive and adolescent females. The only notable fact is that post-menopausal women have lower estrogen levels, creating a higher probability of a microbial imbalance.

The newest technological sequencing methodologies will continue to help medical researchers understand the vaginal microbiome and all its essential and less critical microorganisms.

Can Probiotics Help Establish a Healthier Vaginal Microbiome

Most women’s vaginas depend on adequate lactobacilli to sustain a healthy vaginal microbiome. Since many probiotic dietary supplements offer beneficial Lactobacillus microorganism species, they can help replenish the vaginal flora in over 80% of women suffering imbalances in their vaginal microbial communities. However, women must consistently consume probiotic supplements to see actual results.  GR-1 and RC-14 strains are the vaginal probiotics that have the most benefits for the vaginal microbiome.

Please consult your doctor or gynecologist for advice on which probiotic supplement products are best for restoring your vaginal flora.