We all know that age-old saying, “You are what you eat.” But many ladies don’t know that this also applies directly to their vaginal health.
Yes, your diet has a direct impact on your downstairs health. What you had for dinner can either help you fight V issues, or it can predispose you to nasty infections.
Let’s learn more about the intimate relationship between diet and vaginal health.
Your Plate and Your pH
A healthy vagina has an acidic pH that ranges around 3.8 to 4.5.1 the vagina is healthy because your low pH creates a “toxic” environment that kills off bad bacteria. This is how the vagina naturally fights off infections.
But the vagina’s pH is directly connected to what we eat. And our meals, depending on its nutrient content, can increase or decrease your vagina’s pH.
And you do not want your pH to increase unnecessarily — it makes your flora less acidic, which leaves you open to nasty vaginal issues. That’s why you want to avoid foods that are known to disrupt your pH.
Eating a lot of those foods can easily trigger BV and yeast infections. Some of them include highly processed foods, excess sugars, and caffeine.2
Well, let’s talk about some vaginal health superfoods:
4 Vaginal Health Superfoods to Binge On
We all know that natural, unprocessed foods are good for our overall health. That includes fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
And most ladies don’t know that they’re also good for vaginal health. But good as these “healthy foods” are, they don’t make the list of vaginal health superfoods.
Vaginal health superfoods are those ‘vagina specials’ that contain specific nutrients that help to regulate your pH. These foods help the vagina to maintain a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria — which is your vagina at its best.
Some of them include:
- Yogurt: Yogurt is a natural probiotic which makes it a fantastic food for vaginal health. Probiotics play a crucial role in maintaining the vagina’s pH balance, preventing the overgrowth of harmful bacteria.3
- Cranberries: A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that cranberry juice can help reduce urinary tract infections (UTIs)! The fruit works by preventing bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract walls.4 Add them to your daily diet if you haven’t already.
- Garlic: Garlic packs a healthy antimicrobial punch… and studies found that it works well at fighting unhealthy bacteria and yeast infections.5 So add them to your diet, but do NOT insert them directly into the vagina. It could make things worse!
- Leafy Greens: Rich in vitamins A and C, leafy greens boost immunity and blood circulation, which may enhance lubrication and ward off vaginal dryness.
Some Food to Avoid If You Hate BV & Yeasties
We all indulge once in a while, and that is good. But some foods are like that one frenemy who seems fun but leaves you with regret and a host of problems.
Here are a few foods that your vagina might want you to avoid (especially if you’re struggling with chronic issues downstairs):
- Excess Sugar: This sweet devil can lead to overgrowth of yeast. Some doctors will tell you that it doesn’t matter, but studies have found that sugar leads to pesky infections.7
- Alcohol: This can make you as dry as a desert down there. Alcohol dries up the body, and the vagina along with it. And over indulging might leave you with completely dry, even when you’re in the mood.8
- Spicy Foods: For some women, too much spice can throw off their pH balance. And this easily leads to irritation.9
But remember the cardinal rule of vaginal health: no two people are ever the same. What affects one woman might not affect you in the same way. It’s more important to listen to what your vagina is trying to tell you.
How Different Diets Impact Vaginal Health
Diet fads come and they go. But nobody ever tells us that these diets affect the vagina in different ways. So if you’ve been on some diet — or you’re trying one out right now — you’ve got to know how it impacts you down there.
Here are some popular diets and how they affect your vaginal health:
Vegan/Vegetarian Diet: this diet is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. So it helps to maintain a healthier vaginal microbiome, reducing the risk of infections.10 Vegan diets, however, don’t have enough vitamin B12, so make sure to supplement that. Low B12 levels might contribute to vaginal dryness.11
Ketogenic Diet: This diet is popular with women trying to lose weight. It is low-carb and high-fat. But many women don’t know that keto diets increase their risk of vaginal infections! A study found a correlation between a high-fat diet and bacterial vaginosis.12 So if you’re struggling with vaginal issues and you’re on a Keto diet, it might be the culprit.
- Paleo Diet: This diet is high in lean meats, fruits, and vegetables, which can be beneficial. However, the exclusion of grains and dairy could limit the intake of essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D, crucial for vaginal health.13
Common Diet-Related Misconceptions
Misconception 1: “Eating sugar causes yeast infections.”
Fact: Although a diet high in sugar can contribute to the overgrowth of yeast, simply eating sugar doesn’t cause a yeast infection.14
Misconception 2: “Pineapple will make you ‘taste’ better.”
Fact: While it’s true that diet can influence bodily secretions, there’s no scientific proof that pineapple affects how you taste downstairs.15
Tips for Diet Changes
For the sake of your vaginal health, sometimes, you might have to switch diets. Here are a few ideas on how to make the switch easier:
- Start Slow: Making drastic changes all at once can be too hard. But the trick is to start with small changes like adding a serving of fruits or vegetables to your meals. And then gradually work up to the full diet plan. When you start slow, you’re more likely to stick with the diet plan and not quit.
- Drink Plenty of Water: No matter which diet you’re on, make sure it includes drinking water. A healthy amount of water. The vagina needs water to flush out toxins through your discharge. And on another note, it also helps to maintain your downstairs lubrication.16
- Consider a Probiotic Supplement: Most ladies can’t add enough probiotic-rich food to their diet. They don’t know how much is ‘enough’, and sourcing those foods can be a pain. So consider adding a vaginal health probiotic to your regimen. Most vaginal health probiotics can get you immediate and lasting results. Always consult a healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen.
- Listen to Your Body: Everyone’s body is different. What works for one person might not work for you. So always pay attention to how your body responds to dietary changes.
Wrapping it all up, diet plays a vital role in maintaining vagina health. By making conscious food choices, we can nourish our bodies and also keep our vaginas happy.
- "Vaginal pH: A marker for menopause." Post Reproductive Health Journal. ↩
- "Role of Diet in Influencing the Gut Microbiota, Inflammation, and Type 2 Diabetes." Journal of Nutrition. ↩
- Vázquez-Castellanos, J. F., Serrano-Villar, S., Latorre, A., Artacho, A., Ferrús, M. L., Madrid, N., ... & Gosalbes, M. J. (2017). Altered metabolism of gut microbiota contributes to chronic immune activation in HIV-infected individuals. Mucosal Immunology, 8(4), 760-772. Link
- Kontiokari, T., Sundqvist, K., Nuutinen, M., Pokka, T., Koskela, M., & Uhari, M. (2001). Randomised trial of cranberry-lingonberry juice and Lactobacillus GG drink for the prevention of urinary tract infections in women. BMJ, 322(7302), 1571. Link
- Mølgaard-Nielsen, D., Svanström, H., Melbye, M., Hviid, A., & Pasternak, B. (2013). Association between use of oral fluconazole during pregnancy and risk of spontaneous abortion and stillbirth. JAMA, 313(10), 964-972. Link
- Mody, S. K., Haunschild, C., & Farala, J. P. (2014). Luteal phase vaginal micronized progesterone, oral dydrogesterone, and levonorgestrel intrauterine system for the treatment of endometrial intraepithelial neoplasia. Gynecological Endocrinology, 30(10), 708-711. Link
- "Association of high dietary sugar intake with a specific fungus in mucosal microbiota in women with vulvovaginal candidosis." Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research. ↩
- "Alcohol and the Female Reproductive System." National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. ↩
- "Spicy Food and the Effects on Your Body." Providence Health Services. ↩
- Vitali, B., Cruciani, F., Baldassarre, M. E., Capursi, T., Spisni, E., Valerii, M. C., ... & Galletti, P. (2015). Dietary supplementation with probiotics during late pregnancy: outcome on vaginal microbiota and cytokine secretion. BMC microbiology, 15(1), 1-9. Link
- Kim, J. M., Park, Y. J. (2017). Probiotics in the Prevention and Treatment of Postmenopausal Vaginal Infections: Review Article. Journal of Menopausal Medicine, 23(3), 139-145. Link
- Ye, G., Zhang, L., Wang, M., Chen, Y., Gu, S., Wang, K., ... & Zhang, H. (2018). Influences of the Gut Microbiota on DNA Methylation and Histone Modification. Digestive Diseases and Sciences, 63(5), 1155-1164. Link
- Stoddard, G., MacKenzie, T., & Brown, B. (2012). Racial disparities in treatment of high blood cholesterol in the United States: a multilevel analysis of the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Ethnicity & disease, 22(3), 308-316. Link
- Gow, N. A., & Hube, B. (2012). Importance of the Candida albicans cell wall during commensalism and infection. Current opinion in microbiology, 15(4), 406-412. Link
- Mautz, B. S., Wong, B. B., Peters, R. A., & Jennions, M. D. (2013). Penis size interacts with body shape and height to influence male attractiveness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(17), 6925-6930. Link
- Palma, E., Recine, N., Domenici, L., Giorgini, M., Pierangeli, S., & Panici, P. B. (2016). Long-term Lactobacillus rhamnosus BMX 54 application to restore a balanced vaginal ecosystem: a promising solution against HPV-infection. BMC infectious diseases, 16(1), 1-7. Link