Every girl is taught from a very young age that wiping after using the bathroom should always occur from front to back. But for some women, that’s as far as the vaginal health lesson goes. One piece of evidence that supports that we need better vaginal health education is that one in five women in America is still using douching for vaginal cleansing, a practice that can actually be harmful to a woman’s reproductive system.
How would you know any better? If you’re like most women, you’ve kind of just figured out what works for you and what causes problems. Or maybe you’re still having problems and didn’t realize the cause. Either way, we’re going to cover 5 tips to keep your vagina healthy and happy.
Many products in the period aisle have both a scented and unscented version. There’s a reason for that. While it sounds like a good idea to freshen up your natural vaginal scent with a perfume-infused tampon, pad, or liner, it can wreak havoc on your natural pH balance and cause irritation. So our first tip is to always go for the unscented version. Your vagina is self-cleaning but when you begin adding extra chemicals and scents, it can interrupt the natural process.
Have you ever been taught how to wash your vagina? Probably not, but if you have, you might want to unlearn it. The vagina is self-cleaning. That means you do not need to wash inside the vagina, ever. Never use soap or insert any products, like douches, into the vagina for regular washing. The vulva, on the other hand, is the visible portion of a woman’s genitalia and it does require regular washing during showering with plain water or a very mild, pH-neutral soap.
If you are using a lubricant for sex, be sure to check the ingredients. Using a lubricant with unnatural added chemicals, flavors, or dyes can throw off your vagina’s healthy status quo. For example, some lubes contain a chemical called glycerin, which is a sugar-based food source for bacteria. Another chemical that should be avoided is petroleum which can affect pH. Here’s a list of chemicals to avoid and why:
Instead, opt for a natural lubricant like silicone-based or coconut oil. Be sure to verify compatibility before using with any sexual pleasure toys or condoms.
Everything you put into your body can affect your overall health so of course, optimizing your food choices can improve your vaginal health. But which foods keep your sensitive lady parts happy and functioning and which ones can be irritating and throw things off-kilter?
Eating fermented foods with probiotics, like yogurt, sauerkraut, or kefir, can help maintain healthy flora by keeping the right kinds of bacteria in the body. One thing to keep in mind with these foods is the sugar content. Avoiding too much added sugar is important for vaginal health because bacteria feed on the sugar.
Vaginal dryness can sometimes be improved with the addition of healthy fats. Here are some foods to try:
Alcohol and nicotine can also negatively impact your sex drive as well as your vaginal health. Limiting their consumption may help improve any vaginal issues.
Our final tip for optimal vaginal health is to stay on top of your regular annual screenings and exams. Women who are sexually active with multiple partners should be tested annually for STIs and all women should have an annual wellness checkup. Never ignore signs or symptoms. If you’re having discomfort or irregularities, your vagina is trying to tell you that something is wrong. Seeing your online OBGYN regularly is critical to maintaining your reproductive health.
Keeping your vagina happy can improve your overall outlook on life. If you’re experiencing discomfort “down there,” it can be a big disrupter. Following the tips provided above should help to maintain optimal vaginal health.
If you’ve tried these tips and are still experiencing odor, discomfort, discharge, irritation, irregular bleeding, or other symptoms, book an appointment online today with My Virtual Physician’s board-certified OBGYN, Dr. Howard, so we can help to get your vaginal health back to normal.