You probably know that your nutrition affects many things in your body, but did you know that what you eat even affects your vaginal health?
Vaginal pH (the acidity level in the vagina) is an important factor in maintaining a healthy vaginal environment. The vagina is typically acidic, but the pH level of the vagina can fluctuate for a variety of reasons, including hormonal changes, stress, certain medications, and poor nutrition.
Fluctuations in vaginal pH can cause an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria, leading to conditions such as yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis. Certain foods can impact vaginal pH and other factors that contribute to overall vaginal health. On the flip side, there are also foods to avoid if you struggle with vaginal infections.
Read on to learn what foods can help your body maintain the best balance to fight or prevent certain ailments.
The probiotics found in plain yogurt can help maintain a healthy environment that keeps yeast and bacteria in check. As an added bonus, the calcium found in yogurt may help to reduce PMS symptoms.
The probiotic benefits are only found in yogurt that states “live and active yogurt cultures” on the label, so read the label carefully. While some flavored yogurts may also have live cultures, their added sugar content makes them a less healthy choice.
Similar to yogurt, fermented foods (and drinks) such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, and tempeh contain probiotics that can prevent infections. Like yogurt, it is important to select products that contain live cultures.
Shelf-stable products have usually been heat-treated and do not contain live probiotics, but those found in the refrigerated section do. While probiotic supplements are available, these fermented foods have numerous health benefits in addition to their probiotic content.
High in potassium, vitamin B-6, and healthy fats, avocados are great for cell function, heart health, and decreasing inflammation. Additionally, these same nutrients can help enhance your sex life and general comfort by increasing vaginal lubrication, strengthening vaginal walls, and increasing estrogen levels.
Dark, leafy greens such as spinach and kale are often touted for their health benefits. The nutrients found in these greens increase circulation, which can help prevent vaginal dryness and increase arousal. They also contain vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium, which are beneficial to vaginal muscle health.
Foods that are high in Vitamin C, such as citrus, kiwi, strawberries, and bell peppers, are a good choice for an immune system boost. A healthy immune system is better able to fight off infections, such as yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis.
While technically not a food, staying hydrated with water is important in maintaining healthy circulation and skin in the vaginal area. Dehydration can lead to dry, itchy skin in the vulva. This irritation can lead to scratching and infection, so maintaining adequate water intake can not only keep you comfortable but can reduce the risk of skin infections. Staying hydrated also prevents vaginal dryness. Of course, drinking more water also creates more urine, which flushes out the urinary tract and keeps urinary tract infections at bay.
While talking about what foods benefit vaginal health, it’s also important to know what should be avoided, especially if you struggle with recurrent yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis.
Yeast feeds on sugar, so it is theorized that eating foods that are high in sugar cause yeast to proliferate. Sugar is also thought to suppress the immune system, which can lead to an increased risk of infection. Avoid obviously sugary foods such as candy and desserts, but also avoid foods with added sugar, sugary juice drinks, and soda.
White bread products, as opposed to whole grain products, can cause spikes in blood sugar, which can also affect the pH of the vagina. Choose whole grain products, which can keep blood sugars at a steadier level.
The impact that diet has on vaginal health is an extra incentive to incorporate some of these balancing foods into your diet- and to limit others that are not serving you well.
Making some small changes can make a big difference in your quality of life and vaginal health.