Caring for your vagina is important. You might not realize it, but poor vaginal health isn’t just about vaginal infections and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Wearing the right underwear, practicing good sexual hygiene, and eating a balanced diet are just some things you can do to ensure your vagine is always at its optimal health.
Read on for advice on how to level up your vaginal care routine.
Your vagina — the inner canal in your body that connects to the cervix and uterus — can clean itself, and douching or steaming are big no-nos.
The presence of healthy bacteria, known as lactobacilli, helps maintain your vagina’s pH levels. The bacteria also prevent the
Your vulva, on the other hand, requires some extra care to keep it functioning at its best.
But you don’t need special products to wash your vulva. The
If you’d like to use soap — which isn’t necessary at all — stick to something that’s gentle and unscented.
Harsh chemicals and scented products can disrupt your vagina’s microbiota and increase your risk of irritation and infection.
Many factors, including regular physical activity and a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, can affect the composition of vaginal microbiota.
So, taking steps to boost your immunity can, in turn, improve your overall vaginal health.
Foods rich in probiotics, like yogurt, cheeses, and kimchi, help keep your gut healthy. They can also make a difference in your vaginal health.
According to a
They work by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria — like the ones responsible for BV — and repopulating your vaginal microbiome with the good guys.
Here are some probiotic-rich foods to consider adding to your diet:
- probiotic supplements
According to a
You can eat a diet rich in whole foods, including avocados, apples, soy, and leafy greens, to increase your vitamin and micronutrient intake.
Upping your daily intake of certain nutrients, like vitamin A, calcium, and folate, can actually decrease your chances of BV, according to an older
These foods promote optimal immune health, and according to a
If you’re a fan of regular exercise, you’re not only improving your physical health, but you’re also making a positive impact on your immune system.
Finding a physical activity you love to do and sticking to it can help you reap multiple benefits, including better vaginal health.
Some examples of exercise to consider include:
- brisk walking
- yoga and Pilates
- team sports, like volleyball or basketball
Becoming familiar with the ins and outs of your vagina is one of the best ways to stay on top of your vaginal care game.
Each vagina and vulva is unique. Learning all about how yours looks, feels, and smells can clue you in when something’s off.
Here’s what you might do during regular inspections:
- Look at your genitals in the mirror.
- Touch your labia.
- Finger yourself.
- Observe the texture and smell of your discharge throughout your cycle.
Abnormal vaginal discharge and odors — think rotten fish or chemical-like smells — along with unusual bumps, spots, and vaginal pain, such as itching, burning, or rawness, are all red flags.
If you notice any recent changes or recurring pain in your vagina and vulvar region, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your gynecologist or doctor.
Keeping the vulvar area cool, dry and clean is vital.
Natural fabrics, like cotton, are breathable and have moisture-wicking properties, according to a
Avoid underwear made from synthetic materials, like spandex and nylon. These materials can irritate the sensitive skin down there.
In addition to gentle fabrics, wearing underwear that fits you well and doesn’t cause chafing is also essential to protecting your delicate vulvar area.
We know stress can take its toll on your mental and physical well-being, causing digestive issues, insomnia, and more.
But did you know it can also affect your vaginal health?
According to a 2018 review, chronic stress can cause changes to the vaginal microbiome.
It also disrupts your pH levels, making you more susceptible to vaginal infections, like BV.
- deep breathing exercises
- stretching or Hatha yoga
- enough sleep
- foods rich in B vitamins
- regular physical activity
Taking steps to cut down your stress levels can improve your overall well-being and your vaginal health.
Sex can be fun, but it’s also an opportunity for bacteria to enter your vagina and disrupt its health.
Practice the following steps to help maintain your vagina’s health and pH levels while being sexually active:
- Pee after sex. This may help reduce the occurrence of urinary tract infections (UTIs).
- Rinse with warm water. Gently rinsing off your vulva after sex can help keep bacteria away from your vagina.
- Clean your sex toys. Proper care of sex toys is crucial. Wash them after each use, especially between anal and vaginal sex. Follow the cleaning instructions that come with your sex toy to ensure it’s correctly cleaned.
- Use lube. If you’re menopausal or otherwise experiencing vaginal dryness, artificial lubricants can help. They are available in water, silicone, or oil-based options to suit a variety of needs.
A healthy vagina is a happy vagina. The vaginal microbiome consists of over 50 different species of microbes that keep it healthy, acidic, and free of infection.
Upsetting the normal pH balance can cause unhealthy vaginal discharge and unpleasant odors. It can also make you more likely to get bacterial or yeast infections.
Several things can disrupt your healthy vaginal pH, including:
- the use of harsh, alkaline soaps
- unprotected sex
- tight, non-breathable underwear
- poor vaginal hygiene habits
If you have mild symptoms that indicate your vaginal pH is out of balance, the following may help naturally restore it back to its optimal pH:
- Probiotic-rich foods. A diet rich in probiotics containing lactobacilli can help repopulate the vaginal microbiome and restore its pH levels.
- Garlic supplements. Results of a
2014 clinical trialsuggested garlic tablets may be as effective as antibiotics for treating symptoms of vaginal infections.
However, if you’re experiencing severe symptoms, like itching, unusual discharge, or a foul odor, it’s best to call your doctor right away. You may need a prescription treatment.
Your sexual health is just as essential as diet and exercise for your vaginal health.
Sexual activity, including masturbation and penis-in-vagina (P-in-V) sex, can offer many benefits to your vagina, like:
- premenstrual and menstrual cramping relief
- pelvic muscle floor strengthening
- increased vaginal lubrication
An active sex life is also more likely to boost your immunity.
According to an older 2004 study, people who had frequent sex had more immunoglobulin A (IgA), an antibody that prevents illness, in their saliva.
However, stress can negate these positive effects. If left unmanaged, chronic stress and anxiety can mess with your vaginal health.
You can also improve your vaginal health by boosting your sexual satisfaction and libido. Try some of these natural approaches:
- Practice good sleep hygiene.
- Consume certain aphrodisiac-rich fruits, like bananas and avocados.
- Eat herbs, like basil or garlic, to stimulate your senses and increase blood flow.
Getting acquainted with yourself down there is the first step in developing a vaginal health care regimen that works for you.
Making changes to your diet, getting regular exercise, and practicing clean sex are just some ways to level up your vaginal care.
However, it’s important to remember that every vagina and vulva is different. It takes time and experimentation to find out what works best for you. And don’t hesitate to talk with a doctor if you think something’s off down there.