Vaginal health is extremely important to the overall well-being of women. A healthy vagina is acidic and holds high amount of beneficial bacteria which prevent infections and maintain a normal pH level. Moderate discharge is also normal because it keeps a vagina healthy, just as saliva is secreted to protect oral health. In case any of these typical conditions is interrupted, you are at a risk of vaginal infection.
How do you know if your vaginal health is compromised?
Warning Signs and Symptoms:
- Vaginal burning and itching
- Excessive discharge
- Red, inflamed or painful mucous membranes
- Appearance of lesions
- Abnormal bleeding
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse
Here is how you can keep your vagina healthy:
- Maintain vaginal PH balance without douching
Although recommended by some gynecologists, douching can in fact reduce the acidity of your vagina by disturbing its physiological pH, thus creating good ground for bacterial proliferation. Normally the vaginal pH is within the range from 3.8 to 4.5. If your vagina has a strong odor, consult your gynecologist instead of douching it as this will only hide the odor without treating the root cause. Also, stay away from strong personal hygiene products when it comes to vaginal hygiene, as these are likely to interfere with the normal pH of your vagina.
- Avoid junk food
Fast food, especially food high in sugar, can seriously affect your vaginal health because microorganisms and yeast thrive on sugar. In the words of Dr. Rebecca Booth, cutting down on carbs and focusing on fruits and vegetables instead is essential for vaginal wellbeing.
- Maintain a healthy diet for vaginal health
A healthy nutritious diet along with sufficient water intake is crucial for general wellbeing, and this includes your vaginal health too. Moreover, some foods are especially beneficial for treatment of vaginal issues. Cranberry juice and yogurt can successfully treat yeast infections. Also, in case of vaginal dryness, you could increase your soy intake because soy contains estrogen, which will stimulate natural lubrication.
- Practice safe sex to keep harmful bacteria out
Using protection during sex can prevent a number of STD, including HIV, genital herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, genital warts, and chlamydia. Some of these illnesses, like HIV and genital herpes, are incurable. What is more, the human papillomavirus (HPV) can lead to genital warts and many other serious conditions, including cervical cancer. It’s highly recommended to change condoms when switching from oral or anal sex to vaginal sex, so as to prevent the spread of microscopic organisms into the vagina.
- Quit smoking
If you are a smoker, it is not just your lungs that suffer. In the words of Rebecca Booth “Tar and nicotine can adversely influence your vaginal health by giving way to bacteria proliferation. These chemicals can close the pores in the vulva and trigger odors.” Give up smoking so that your vagina can breathe freely.
- Stay away from antibiotics as much as you can
Antibiotics set off a chain response that leads to yeast proliferation. In case you have to take an antibiotic, Dr. Rebecca Booth suggests increasing your intake of yogurt, kefir and other fermented foods during the therapy in order to keep yeast under control.
- Treat infections when they arise
There are three common vaginal diseases and these include yeast contamination, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis. Yeast contaminations can be caused by a few types of organisms, while bacterial vaginosis is normally triggered by too many bacteria in the vagina. Trichomoniasis is sexually transmitted. Treating these diseases is especially important because if left untreated they can lead to more serious health issues. Each of the three can be treated orally or topically.
- Choose underwear carefully
“Vaginal skin is extremely sensitive,” explains Dr. Rebecca Booth. “Always choose underwear made of natural fabrics, for example, 100% cotton or silk.” Synthetic materials often contain allergens and chemicals that can cause skin irritation.
- Schedule regular appointments with your gynecologist
Having regular gynecological exams is essential for your vaginal health. Each woman should have her first gynecological exam by age 21 or within three years of becoming sexually active. Regular Pap smears can successfully detect changes in vaginal cells that may lead to cervical cancer.
- Rinse only with water
Intimate hygiene gels have recently become very popular on the market. But, they aren’t recommended by gynecologists as they can disturb the natural pH of the vagina. You should only use water for intimate hygiene.
- Be careful with your soap choice
If you still prefer using something to wash your vagina with, it’s vital to choose a soap that will not hamper your vaginal pH value. It’s also important that it doesn’t dry the skin. Soaps containing olive oil are highly recommended by doctors.