Did you know that our vaginal microbiome is connected to our gut health? Everything we eat and drink not only affects the health of our digestive system, but also impacts our vaginal health.
Composed of trillions of microorganisms, our gut microbiome is home to our immune system and plays a major role in our digestion and elimination processes (duh), helps balance hormones, promotes healthy skin, hair and nails, supports our vaginal health, and so much more.
However, when our gut microbiome is thrown off balance, it can lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria, so that when your body tries to build on the healthy cells, it can’t. This negatively impacts your cells, tissues, organs, everything. This can lead to a variety of health problems like digestive issues, food intolerances, chronic fatigue, skin irritation, and autoimmune conditions. These are all signs of a weakened immune system, and can sometimes manifest as vaginal health issues like a proclivity to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), recurring yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and bacterial vaginosis.
When our gut microbiome is thrown off balance, it can lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria, so that when your body tries to build on the healthy cells, it can’t.
If you struggle with chronic vaginal health issues like those listed above, read on for some below-the-belly relief. Consider adding the following food and drinks to your diet to replenish your gut microbiome to help you heal from the inside out. Below are my top five food recommendations to help balance both your gut and vaginal health.
Including fiber-rich foods like legumes, nuts and seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains in your diet keeps digestion and elimination regular and helps our gut and vaginal microbiomes flourish by feeding the good bacteria what it needs to survive and crowd out the bad guys. Nuts and seeds also contain healthy fats for moisturized hair and skin while Vitamin E and Zinc can help regulate your menstrual cycle and combat dryness.
Fresh fruits & vegetables
Eating the rainbow of fresh fruits and veggies provides you with fiber and essential vitamins and nutrients that help support our overall health—especially our gut health.
Include dark leafy greens, like spinach or kale to promote blood circulation, which also helps prevent vaginal dryness and promotes healthy tissue (re)growth. Getting your greens can also elevate your mood, which will in turn help you make healthier choices in the future! Green veggies are also rich in folate, which is a nutrient especially important during pregnancy to prevent congenital disabilities.
Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, and yellow bell peppers are rich in Vitamin A, C, and carotenoids, which assist in cell regrowth and a healthy immune system by increasing blood flow.
Blue and purple fruits and veggies like blueberries, blackberries and purple cabbage are rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, which repair cell damage from oxidative stress and inflammation.
Red fruits and veggies like strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, and peppers are high in antioxidants like lycopene, which strengthen your immune system and help regulate blood pressure and inflammation.
Sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, tempeh, miso, and (low-sugar) yogurt all contain beneficial bacteria that help support our gut and vaginal microbiome by keeping our vaginal pH in its ideal acidic range, or what we keep referring to as “balanced.” Fermented vegetables are also a decent source of fiber, supporting healthy digestion while adding lots of flavor to any meal!
Probiotic-rich foods like fermented foods and foods that include beneficial gut bacteria like organic apple cider vinegar (which must include the “mother” to reap any benefits), support both our gut and vaginal health by replenishing the good bacteria the little guys already in your gut need to thrive.
While it's possible to get beneficial probiotics from fermented foods, some people can’t deal with the strong taste, or get in enough servings to see any benefits. An easy way to include probiotics in your diet is in supplement form. It’s recommended that good-quality probiotic provides between 20-50 billion CFU’s, or colony-forming units i.e. healthy bacteria.
Not only is drinking water important to keeping us hydrated, it also improves digestion and elimination by keeping our intestines smooth and flexible, helping the food we eat easily move through our intestines. I recommend drinking a glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon first thing in the morning to kick-start digestion. It may not have any proven benefits, but it makes that first glass more enjoyable and it’s a great way to start the day!
A balanced diet rich in fiber, fresh fruits and veggies, good-quality probiotics, fermented foods, and lots of water help keep our bodies running efficiently and feed our gut and vaginal microbiome with what it needs to flourish, which in turn, strengthens our immune system, balances hormones, supports our mental health, promotes a healthy weight, improves our vaginal health, and so much more.
Proper nutrition is imperative to maintaining not only our gut microbiome, but literally every other bodily system—our vaginal microbiome included. Our bodies are finely tuned machines and with the right fuel and proper maintenance, will flourish; everything’s connected.
Adrienne Rommel is a certified nutritional practitioner, yoga teacher, and health coach and has a passion for women’s sexual health and wellness.