Female Hygiene and Microbial Symbiosis, By Dr. Leonard Sowah

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Over the years human history and science had taught us the gospel of the pre-eminence of man and our dominance over all earthly lifeforms. Current learning based on the complexity of human DNA however revealed some surprises. One such surprise was the relative simplicity of the human genome when compared to the complexity of the human biological system. Geneticist and biologists have hitherto been unable to explain this obvious discrepancy until they considered the human biological system in its entirety.

When geneticist considered our bodies and all the bugs and bacteria that we carry both within our body orifices and on our bodies the human genetic equation that had so far appeared to be unbalanced immediately begun to fall into place. This has led to a new area of research which is currently termed the human micro-biome and this interesting new field could carry the keys to cures that have eluded us in the past.

For the purpose of this piece I would focus on one mundane but very important part of the human anatomy, the female genital tract.  In my work as a physician there is no problem that I have struggled with more without sustainable success than genital tract infections in women, mostly Bacterial Vaginosis or BV. What makes this problem so difficult for me is the fact that I believe there is a simple solution but I have continually failed to get my patients to benefit from that solution. In reality my patients do benefit from part of my solution ‘the cure’ but most of my afflicted patients come back with the same problem.

Woman with a vaginal douche

My investigations almost always reveal that these patients are very much invested in the hygiene of their vagina. Most use a plethora of female hygiene products including douches to keep the “vajayjay” clean. My conscientious patients were working very hard to ensure their “coochie” as some prefer to call their vaginas smell alright. Truthfully though, vaginas have their own scent which though not the typical smell of roses or lavendars are still very healthy. The strong musky smell of the vagina of an aroused female is usually a strong turn on to many and that is how it is supposed to be.

In some mammals that are still sensitive to the chemicals released by the special sweat glands around the genitalia in the female of the speci it is believed the males can tell which female is on heat and ready to mate. Unfortunately though most humans are not that discerning in that area.

For my male readers if you have never tried this, try oral sex if your erection is delaying and a woman who is aroused will always help you in that department if you do not have problems with erectile dysfunction. For those guys who are worried about oral sex, just be aware that if you love yoghurt you are eating the same bacteria. No harm in doing that and your partner would most probably enjoy that very much.  Unfortunately some women in their over enthusiastic efforts to smell fresh use a whole litany of artificial odors to mask their own natural viagra and usually cause more harm.

Electromicrograph image of Lactobaccillus acidophilus

Any efforts to change the scent of the vagina using artificial scents could risk tipping the balance in the vagina away from the acid producing bacteria like lactobacilli sp. which maintains a healthy vaginal environment.  In this same effort many women use soaps and soap-like products to douche in an effort to make everything clean. Well that cleansing action is basically flushing out healthy bacteria and the soap changes the acidic vaginal environment and allows more harmful bacteria to set up shop in the vagina.

One can liken this to the police raiding the abandoned building and driving out homeless squatters only to make room for drug dealers and addicts.  Thus we must all have a more open heart when we consider our bacterial neighbors. I do not know even  if neighbors is the correct term to use for them. It may be more appropriate to call these microbial neighbors our invisible army because that is what they are.

It is true they can sometimes turn on us, but that is usually not the case. Below is some advice that I would like to us all to consider;

  1. We are not alone, we have a host of soldiers inside and on us who we must cultivate for our own health, please treat them with care.
  2. This goes to doctors and everyone else, antibiotics do kill these healthy bacteria and can lead to problems with more harmful ones, we should only use them when they are really needed. Docs, please don’t use antibiotics to improve your patient satisfaction scores.
  3. Avoid using antiseptic soaps on your skin, they scrub away healthy bacteria and create a haven for bad ones usually leading to unhealthy body odors.
  4. When it comes to douching, I would say not a good idea. I know some women do it after sex or if the condom breaks. You don’t need that, there is Plan B, PrEP (HIV Pre Exposure Prophylaxis) and PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) to take care of that.
  5. Whilst I would advice everyone to brush their teeth, the vagina is a self cleansing system, please let God clean that for you. Some of you ladies trust God to find partners for you please trust him on that, after-all he created the vagina.

Fortunately there is a lot of research going on in the area of the human micro-biome and we would know more about this in due time.

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Dr. Leonard Sowah, is an internal medicine physician in Baltimore, Maryland


A physician providing primary medical care to patients across the lifespan