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The pH level of your vagina plays a key role in keeping it healthy. There are, however, various natural and environmental factors that can affect this pH level, leading to symptoms such as itching, burning, and changes in discharge.

With a working knowledge of the pH scale and how it relates to your body, there are steps you can take to keep your vaginal pH in balance.

Let’s take a look at the ways you can keep this pH in the right range.

The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of less than 7 is considered acidic, while a pH over 7 is considered alkaline (basic). A “normal” vaginal pH is moderately acidic, hovering between a pH of 3.8 and 4.5.

The vagina’s acidic environment is a natural defense against bacterial growth. If your vaginal pH becomes too alkaline, there’s an increased chance for bacterial overgrowth.

So, how do you know if your vaginal pH is too alkaline? Here are some ways to tell:

  • Change in discharge color and texture. Your vaginal discharge may be white, gray, or yellow with a cottage cheese-like texture. Healthy discharge will typically be clear to white.
  • Change in discharge odor. You may notice a strong, foul, or “fishy” smell. Healthy discharge may have a very faint smell and can often be odorless.
  • Discomfort and itching around the vagina and vulva. You may feel itchiness around the opening of the vagina, burning and discomfort while peeing, or burning and discomfort during intercourse.

Symptoms of an alkalized vagina may also be diagnosed as bacterial vaginosis (BV) or a yeast infection.

If you suspect that your vaginal pH is out of balance or you have mild symptoms, there are steps you can take to help restore this balance naturally.

If your symptoms are more severe or they don’t go away with natural remedies, it’s important to follow up with your doctor.

1. Consider taking boric acid supplements

Boric acid is affordable, easy to access, and has been used to treat BV for over 100 years.

Still, more research needs to be done to clinically prove its efficiency in treating BV. If your symptoms are mild, you may want to consider taking boric acid supplements before opting for antibiotics.

You can buy boric acid suppositories at your local pharmacy or online.

2. Incorporate more probiotics into your diet

The “good” bacteria, known as lactobacilli, are abundant in a healthy vagina. In addition to fighting off infection, these bacteria help to keep your vaginal pH balanced.

Lactobacilli can be found in probiotic supplements and is naturally occurring in a number of fermented foods.

Lactobacilli can be taken in several ways:

  • orally, as a probiotic supplement
  • intravaginally
  • in probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, or sauerkraut

Although consuming more probiotics and fermented foods may help increase the lactobacilli in your vaginal microbiota, it doesn’t completely inhibit the growth of bad bacteria.

You can purchase probiotic supplements that are geared toward vaginal health at your local pharmacy or online.

3. Consider taking garlic tablets

Garlic is packed with antioxidants as well as the bacteria-fighting compound allicin.

According to a 2014 study conducted on 120 women, garlic tablets may be as effective as oral antibiotics at treating the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection or BV, with fewer side effects.

The participants in the study took 500 milligram garlic tablets twice a day, 12 hours apart, for 7 consecutive days.

It should be noted, however, that garlic can have digestive side effects. People with bleeding concerns and people on blood thinners shouldn’t take garlic at these doses.

You can buy garlic tablets at your local pharmacy and online.

4. Find ways to destress

Stress can affect all facets of the human body, including the health of your vagina.

In fact, a study from 2018 highlighted the connection between spikes in cortisol (the stress hormone) and BV.

Although stress is unavoidable, there are healthy ways to manage it and to prevent your stress hormones from negatively affecting your health, including your vaginal pH.

Consider the following destressing activities:

  • Exercising. Physical activity can increase your brain’s production of endorphins, the “feel-good” neurotransmitters. Some types of activities, like yoga and tai chi, can be especially helpful for reducing stress.
  • Deep breathing. Find a quiet place to breathe deeply and slowly through your nose and out through your mouth for 5 minutes. Deep breathing can help oxygenate your blood, clear your mind, and center your body.
  • Focusing on a favorite activity. Instead of focusing on whatever is worrying you, try doing a puzzle, playing a game, watching a show that makes you laugh, or spending time on a favorite hobby.
  • Listening to or playing music. Relax to the sound of your favorite music or spend time playing a musical instrument.

5. Cut back or quit smoking

According to research, people who smoke may be more likely to develop BV.

In studies from 2014 and 2018, nonsmokers were found to have a larger proportion of lactobacillus in their vaginal microbiota than smokers. Lactobacillus is vital to maintaining the health of the vagina.

If you smoke and you’re looking for support as you cut back or quit smoking, there are several medications and alternative therapies that may help. You can also talk to your doctor about setting up a cessation plan that works for you.

6. Be mindful of how you clean your vulva and vagina

Even though the vagina is self-cleaning, it can be tempting to reach for fragrant cleaning products when you have symptoms of BV or a yeast infection.

Research has shown that douching is strongly linked to BV. Besides avoiding douching, it’s also best to avoid fragrant vaginal washes and scented tampons or sanitary pads. These products can all disrupt your vaginal pH balance.

To clean your vulva and vagina, just rinse the area gently with warm water.

If you still want to clean your vulva with soap, consider using these fragrance-free washes.

7. Pay attention to your underwear

Your underwear can affect the health of your vagina in several ways. To keep your nether regions healthy and your vaginal pH balanced, consider:

  • wearing underwear that’s made from natural, breathable, absorbent fabrics, like cotton
  • washing your underwear with a hypoallergenic detergent
  • going pantie-free at night to prevent moisture buildup
  • changing your underwear during the day if you have a lot of moisture buildup or irritation

8. Use barrier methods during sex

According to a 2011 study, an increased exposure to semen, which has an alkalizing effect on the vagina, may increase your risk for BV.

Using a condom during sex may help lessen semen’s effect on vaginal flora.

Similarly, using dental dams and finger cots during sex may help prevent additional bacteria from being introduced to the vagina.

These barrier methods can be purchased at your local pharmacy or online.

Call your doctor as soon as possible if the following symptoms are more severe, don’t go away, or get worse:

  • itching
  • burning
  • foul odor
  • unusual discharge

Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to treat your symptoms.

Other medical conditions, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), may also be contributing factors.

When your vaginal pH is out of balance, it can cause an overgrowth of certain bacteria. This can lead to vaginal yeast infections or BV.

Fortunately, there are ways to naturally restore the pH balance of your vagina. Some options include taking boric acid supplements, probiotics or garlic tablets, and avoiding douches and scented feminine hygiene products.

If your symptoms are more severe or don’t go away with natural remedies, be sure to follow up with your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.