Restore Your Inner Ecosystem After Menopause
Menopause is a time in a woman’s life when she loses the ability to reproduce.
When a woman goes through menopause, her ovaries no longer release an egg or the reproductive hormones that trigger the creation and destruction of the uterine lining. She no longer gets her period every month. Her hormones experience a dramatic shift.
Menopause means a dramatic shift in hormones that can change the vaginal inner ecosystem. Drinking a daily probiotic, like Passion Fruit Biotic, can restore numbers of good bacteria in the birth canal to ease menopausal symptoms like vaginal dryness, tissue inflammation, and pain during intercourse.
With this shift in reproductive hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, women may not know that the vaginal inner ecosystem also changes.
Researchers at the Lawson Health Research Institute in Ontario, Canada, have found that reduced numbers of good bacteria in the birth canal after menopause are associated with:
- Vaginal dryness
- Pain during intercourse
- Inflammation of vaginal tissue
This means that the microbes living in the birth canal may influence how quickly vaginal tissue ages. (1)
As the Vaginal Inner Ecosystem Ages
According to the Mayo Clinic, as vaginal tissue ages, it may come into less contact with the reproductive hormone estrogen. (2) The “aging” of vaginal tissue happens because estrogen prompts the expression of genes that protect and nourish vaginal tissue, reducing dryness and irritation.
Vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA) is a common condition, affecting as many as 47%-62% of women. Signs of VVA include:
- Pain during intercourse
- Urinary frequency, urgency, and incontinence
- Urinary tract infections
- Incontinence related to stress
An alkaline pH of 4.6 or more is used to help support the diagnosis of VVA. Interestingly, the microbes living in the birth canal are mostly lactic acid bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria produce lactic acid, which helps keep the birth canal slightly acidic and free from infection.
Without enough lactic acid bacteria, other microbes have the opportunity to grow, inflame vaginal tissue, and cause infection.
New Research on the Vaginal Inner Ecosystem
A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland have found that the inner ecosystem of the birth canal changes as a woman transitions through menopause. (3)
As a woman moves through menopause, the healthy microbes living on vaginal tissue dwindle.
Pulling from a pool of 87 women, ranging in age from 35–60 years old, researchers used genomic testing to analyze groups of vaginal bacteria. They found that many women with vulvovaginal atrophy have a specific mix of microbes, which may lead to symptoms of VVA and other common signs of menopause.
And while prescription, low-dose estrogen can increase blood flow in vaginal tissue and turn “on” genes that protect cells from dryness and irritation, this form of estrogen has its drawbacks. (4) Estrogen pills and creams for VVA often move systemically throughout the body. (5) Some women cannot tolerate increased levels of estrogen—this includes certain survivors of cancer.
The latest research tells us that probiotics may help manage the communities of vaginal microbes. Researchers at Johns Hopkins are even hopeful that probiotics might prevent or treat VVA in the future.
Natural Menopause Remedy: How to Restore Your Inner Ecosystem
Within the last decade, several studies have shown that oral probiotics can reduce vaginal infections. For example, in 2003 Gregor Reid and Alan Blocking at the Lawson Health Research Institute in Ontario, Canada, demonstrated that lactic acid bacteria can displace and even kill harmful microbes in the birth canal, including those that cause urinary tract infections. (6)
They go on to explain that, “In a society that focuses on disease rather than health and drug therapy rather than natural preventive measures, it will take some effort to get remedies such as probiotics into mainstream care.”
Today, researchers at the Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy, found that certain strains of probiotic lactic acid bacteria can relieve vaginal bacterial overgrowth, which is common during menopause and after. (7)
Researchers also note that there are no side effects with probiotic therapy.
What’s more, probiotic lactic acid bacteria do more than fight off harmful microbes. While probiotic bacteria produce toxins that prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to vaginal tissue, they also modulate the immune system and interfere with the inflammatory cascade. Less inflammation means less tissue damage.
Studies show that oral probiotic therapy is enough to shift the vaginal inner ecosystem. (8) And researchers are confident that, “These microorganisms might regenerate the vaginal ecosystem, thus eliminating the relapses associated with treatment of the infection.”
A small serving of fermented foods or a few ounces of a fermented beverage with every meal is more potent than probiotic pills you can find in the supermarket. It’s the perfect way to support the balance of bacteria living in the gut and in the birth canal.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. It’s a time when a woman will no longer get her period, and she will experience a significant change in hormones. This hormonal shift will also cause a change to the vaginal inner ecosystem.
Numbers of good bacteria in the birth canal may drop after menopause to cause:
- Vaginal dryness
- Pain during intercourse
- Vaginal tissue inflammation
Aging vaginal tissue caused by dryness and irritation can lead to vulvovaginal atrophy, affecting 47%-62% of women. After menopause, healthy microbes found on vaginal tissue may dwindle. Estrogen pills and creams may not provide a solution for vaginal dryness and irritation since many women cannot tolerate the medication.
All hope isn’t lost for women entering menopause. Research supports the fact that probiotics may help to prevent or treat vulvovaginal atrophy in the future. Oral probiotic therapy can shift the vaginal inner ecosystem and comes with no side effects. Enjoying fermented foods or fermented beverages with each meal can support a healthy balance of bacteria both in the gut and in the birth canal.
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- Hummelen, R., Macklaim, J. M., Bisanz, J. E., Hammond, J. A., McMillan, A., Vongsa, R., … & Reid, G. (2011). Vaginal microbiome and epithelial gene array in post-menopausal women with moderate to severe dryness. PloS one, 6(11), e26602.
- Mac Bride, M. B., Rhodes, D. J., & Shuster, L. T. (2010, January). Vulvovaginal atrophy. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Vol. 85, No. 1, pp. 87-94). Elsevier.
- Brotman, R. M., Shardell, M. D., Gajer, P., Fadrosh, D., Chang, K., Silver, M. I., … & Gravitt, P. E. (2013). Association between the vaginal microbiota, menopause status, and signs of vulvovaginal atrophy. Menopause (New York, NY).
- Gupta, P., Özel, B., Stanczyk, F. Z., Felix, J. C., & Mishell Jr, D. R. (2008). The effect of transdermal and vaginal estrogen therapy on markers of postmenopausal estrogen status. Menopause, 15(1), 94-97.
- Labrie, F., Cusan, L., Gomez, J. L., Côté, I., Bérubé, R., Bélanger, P., … & Labrie, C. (2009). Effect of one-week treatment with vaginal estrogen preparations on serum estrogen levels in postmenopausal women. Menopause, 16(1), 30-36.
- Reid, G., & Bocking, A. (2003). The potential for probiotics to prevent bacterial vaginosis and preterm labor. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 189(4), 1202-1208.
- Parma, M., Dindelli, M., Caputo, L., Redaelli, A., Quaranta, L., & Candiani, M. (2013). The role of vaginal Lactobacillus Rhamnosus (Normogin®) in preventing Bacterial Vaginosis in women with history of recurrences, undergoing surgical menopause: a prospective pilot study. European review for medical and pharmacological sciences, 17(10), 1399-1403.
- Reid, G., & Burton, J. (2002). Use of Lactobacillus to prevent infection by pathogenic bacteria. Microbes and Infection, 4(3), 319-324.