Vaginal odor is a part of life and very natural. Our body can produce scents that are pleasant like a newborn baby and others that make us wonder. The good news is that there are ways to manage odor vs. trying to mask it by using heavily fragranced body washes which can contribute to the problem.
Our bodies are filled with different bacteria – some are good and some are not. The first instinct is for us to wash more frequently and vigorously. As a gynecologist, I can tell you that excessive washing of the outside of the vagina (aka vulva) with strong soaps or douching inside the vagina will kill the healthy bacteria and makes the bad bacteria stronger – which can cause vaginal discharge to have an unpleasant odor or lead to yeast infections and vaginosis. The vagina has a pH level approximately 3.5 to 4.5 on a pH scale that ranges from 0 to 14. The most acidic level is 0, while 14 is the most alkaline. Heavily fragranced body washes that have a pH balance of 6 or more can upset the natural chemistry and issues can arise. Daily washing with a mild pH balanced cleanser is your best option to keep your chemistry in check.
Here are my 5 tips to dealing with vaginal odor and getting your vaginal health back on track.
- Diet– Processed foods containing white sugar and flour can cause inflammation inside the body and can contribute to odor. Try to eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and add probiotics to your diet to help decrease inflammation and normalize the pH of your body.
- Tight Clothing – Avoid wearing restrictive underwear and pants that trap moisture and sweat around your vaginal area. The best material for circulation is cotton so the vagina can breathe easier.
- Don’t Douche - Douching was big in the 70’s and meant to clean inside a woman’s vagina – which is not something I recommend to patients. While we are at it let’s stop the special concocted suppositories, vaginal steaming and wasp’s nests (yes this is a thing!). The internal vagina is a self-cleaning oven and does not need to be cleaned.
- Gently Clean the Vulva - The anatomy of the vulva includes the outer lips also known as the labia. This as well as the vaginal opening can be washed with a pH balanced body wash. Try and avoid traditional soaps that have the wrong pH and that use harsh sulfates and glycerin that can strip the natural flora in the vagina. Heavily fragranced body washes often try to mask the odor vs. using better ingredients that will gently clean the pelvic area. SweetSpot Labs doesn’t use glycerin and uses just a touch of fragrance to create a luxurious experience in the shower that won’t irritate.
- Manage Stress – Easier said than done sometimes but find ways to manage your day to day stress to keep your body harmonized and healthy.
If vaginal odor persists and your discharge is abnormal even with changes in hygiene or diet, visit your doctor who will be able to get to the root of the problem and provide an action plan to get your vaginal health back on track.