They’re tiny but powerful. Bacteria help make your entire body healthy—even below the belt. “The vagina has a natural microbiome that’s similar to the gut’s,” says Dr. Leah Millheiser, a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University. It contains good bacteria that keep everything running smoothly and bad bugs that can lead to issues like yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
And just like the bugs in your GI tract, certain meds and other factors can cause the vaginal microbes to fall out of balance, increasing your risk of infection or irritation. Keep your good bugs—and your vagina—healthy with these four science-backed strategies.