Urine infections, thrush and bacterial vaginosis can be harder to shift for diabetics. New over-the-counter treatments are on offer using probiotics but what’s the science?
We’re all now familiar with the idea that a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria or microflora is vital to gut health, but what you may not realize is that properly balanced microflora are just as important for health “down there”. In fact the urogenital system which includes the vagina and urethra, the tube from the bladder is home to more than 50 different species of bacteria and other micro-organisms. According to latest research, when it comes to keeping this system healthy and fending off infections such as cystitis, thrush and bacterial vaginosis (BV), probiotics could be your biggest ally.
Urogenital microflora – Need To Know
Pre-menopause, certain strains of “good” bacteria –called lactobacilli — all help protect urogenital health. How? Partly through sheer force of numbers, which muscles out the bad guys and partly through production of lactic acid and other chemicals, including a weak “bleach” (hydrogen peroxide), which repel bad bacteria. Research shows that if lactobacilli decline in number or are wiped out for any reason, the bad guys can take hold, leading to urinary tract infections (UTls), thrush, BV and other urogenital infections.
The Big 3
- UTIS happen when bad bacteria usually E. coli, which live in the bowel get into the vagina and urethra where they elbow out healthy Iactobacilli, causing inflammation and that agonising burning, stinging and strong-smelling urine that characterises cystitis and other urinary infections.
- Thrush occurs when certain yeasts usually candida — that most of the time lie dormant in the vagina, turn into an active form, causing a curd-like discharge, itching and soreness. Disruption of the normal balance of vaginal microflora due to a short-term clip in immunity or a shortage of lactobacilli can be triggers.
BV doesn’t always cause symptoms but there’s usually a thin, watery discharge and fishy smell that’s often worse after sex. It’s a result of harmful bacteria accumulating in a multilayered “biofilm” of bacteria and other microorganisms, that coats the vagina, which antibiotics find hard to penetrate, making it difficult to treat.
Best Tips to keep your System Happy
Various factors can disrupt the microflora, making it easier for urogenital infections to take hold. Some such as hormonal fluctuation and diseases such as diabetes can make the vagina less acidic, which you can do nothing about, but some you can, so maintain a healthy balance:
- Manage stress. It can dent the immune system, so make time for that yoga class, sit down and watch a box set, read a magazine, go for a run… whatever relaxes you.
- Steer clear of Sugar. Eating too much sugar can alter the acidic environment of the vagina, making it friendlier to bad bacteria and yeasts.
- Practice good vaginal hygiene. Use plain water to wash and avoid scented products as well as tight jeans and clothing that can create the dark, warm, moist environment that yeasts and certain bacteria love.
- Don’t push for antibiotics. Overuse of them is the recipe for antibiotic resistance. Don’t insist your doctor always prescribes them, but if you are prescribed them, take the whole course; stopping too soon encourages infection to return more strongly.
E225 – Diabetes, UTI and Probiotics – www.diabetic.today