The vaginal microbiome (VMB) is a complex bacterial ecosystem that plays an essential role in women’s health. Estrogen plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance and diversity of VMB, which can have a major effect on vaginal health over time. In this blog post, I will explore the impact of estrogen levels throughout life on the VMB, from menstruation to menopause, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. I will also discuss how to support healthy estrogen levels through gut health.
Menstruation and Menopause:
During menstruation, estrogen levels drop significantly, leading to changes in the make-up of the VMB. This shift can affect vaginal pH balance and result in dryness and discomfort. Similarly, during menopause when estrogen production decreases permanently due to aging, the VMB can become unbalanced leading to decreased lubrication as well as more frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Breastfeeding also has a major effect on estrogen levels since it suppresses ovarian hormone production by temporarily shutting down ovulation. This decrease in estrogen leads to changes in both vaginal pH balance and the make-up of the VMB.
Pregnancy & Puberty:
Estrogen levels increase significantly during pregnancy due to increased progesterone production from the placenta and ovaries. This influx of hormones helps create an environment conducive to lactobacillus growth which helps keep yeast infections at bay while protecting against UTIs. During puberty as well, there is an increase in estrogen production which helps build up the natural bacteria that protect against infection while regulating menstrual cycles.
Progestin-Only Local Release Contraceptives:
Progestin-only local-release contraceptives such as the Merina IUD also affect VMB composition by reducing lactobacilli abundance which increases susceptibility to infection by other bacterial species. Therefore it is important for those taking progestin-only contraceptives to take extra care of their vaginal health by taking probiotics and monitoring any symptoms closely with their doctor.
Supporting Healthy Estrogen Levels Through Gut Health:
The estrobolome is a term used to describe all enzymes involved in recycling estrogen back into circulation after being processed through our bodies’ metabolic process – essentially acting as a safety valve for our hormones! Supporting this process is key to balanced estrogen levels – something that can easily be monitored with functional analysis stool tests that measure estrobolome health via beta glucuronidase.
Balancing the estrobolome can help avoid hormone imbalances that could lead to issues such as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), endometriosis, fibroids, hot flashes, weight gain and PMS.
Estrogen plays a critical role in maintaining a healthy VMB throughout our lives – from puberty through pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause – meaning your overall vaginal health depends on keeping these hormones balanced! By understanding how lifestyle factors such as menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and progestin-only local-release contraceptives affect hormone balance, you can better support your body’s natural processes with dietary interventions such as probiotics.