Women, listen up… We’re speaking to you in this article! As you go through your to-do list of things to keep up with in order to maintain optimal health in body and mind, are you including things to support your vaginal health?! Because if you aren’t, you should be.
Though most of us do our best to maintain a healthy immune system, heart, hair, skin, joints and more, often vaginal health is not given a second thought until something is wrong. And by then it’s too late.
But for total body health, you have to pay attention to your entire body. And even if vaginal health is not something that people often talk about, it’s still very important to keep in mind.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to keep yourself healthy below the belt, along with problems to look out for, and what you can do to prevent them. We’ll take a look at the role that pH balance plays in a healthy vagina and some foods you can eat to maintain that optimal pH balance.
And we’ll answer your questions when it comes to how you tell if you’re healthy down there… and how it connects with your overall healthy lifestyle and weight loss goals.
Vaginal Health 101
You may be familiar with your “gut microbiome”, or the ecosystem of good bacteria that lives in your gut and helps keep you well. But did you know that a women’s body also has a vaginal microbiome? (1)
As part of your overall health plan, you want to nourish this microbiome by giving yourself the right foods, and also engaging in healthy lifestyle habits.
It all starts with making sure you maintain a healthy “vaginal pH balance.” I bet you didn’t realize that just like other parts of your body, your vaginal environment requires a certain pH to stay well.
A pH level is basically just an assessment of how acidic or alkaline (basic) certain parts of your body are. The pH scale goes from zero to 14. Anything lower than 7 is acidic and anything higher than 7 is alkaline. A pH of 7 is considered neutral. (2)
So, what pH does your vaginal microbiome like?
A normal vaginal pH level is between 3.8 and 4.5, which falls into the range of acidic. Whereas most of your organs and cells function best with an alkaline pH, your vaginal area (along with your skin, stomach, and bladder), are more acidic to help protect the environment from outside invaders. (3)
So whereas keeping up with good alkalinity is the goal overall for your entire body on a whole (keeping your body ideally at around a 7.4), there are certain foods and practices that we’ll discuss in this article to help you keep your vaginal microbiome at the right pH, ideally below 4.5.
When your pH and microbiome are out of balance, that’s when you get vaginal discomfort and problems down below. Before we give you our recommendations for a healthy vagina, let’s take a look at ways you can get out of balance and what you might experience, so you know what to look out for!
4 Signs Your Vagina Is Out of Balance
Though it may not be something you often talk about, you may have questions about certain symptoms your experiencing below, and your diet may either be helping or hurting the situation. Let’s learn about the symptoms first…
In case you didn’t know this, most of the time vaginal discharge is totally healthy and normal – but usually it’s odorless and close to clear in color. What isn’t it normal? A thicker consistency and texture, or any other color that isn’t clear or close to clear (like green, gray, white-gray or bright yellow). In conjunction with the other symptoms we’ll talk about, a discharge that’s different than the norm could be a sign that something is wrong. (4)
Next, let’s talk about a healthy odor, or not. Again you may not realize this, but it’s perfectly healthy for your vagina to smell like different things… but it’s important to know the difference between healthy and out of balance. Because your vaginal microbiome is an ever-changing bacterial ecosystem, normal smells may range from slightly sweet, to coppery, to fermented, to earthy. (5, 6)
However, if you experience a very strong, unpleasant, or deteriorating smell, this is a sign that things aren’t normal, and you may be dealing with an infection, especially if it’s accompanied by other symptoms like pain or burning.
Vaginal itching and dryness are actually very common symptoms and can happen with or without an infection. Varying hormone levels, some medications and birth controls, and other lifestyle factors can cause this uncomfortable symptom or make it worse. Instead of trying over the counter products to help, next we’ll look at ways you can promote more comfort down there with healthy dietary choices. (7)
Finally, all of the symptoms mentioned above may be reasons that you have an unwanted infection, and for that you need to see your doctor. Bacterial vaginosis is a common, uncomfortable condition that happens when your vaginal balance is off. It’s caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria, and can result in all the symptoms mentioned above and pain when urinating. In addition, other infections include yeast infections which telltale symptom is itching, and urinary tract infections (UTI’s) which also causes discomfort and pain. (8)
5 “To-Do’s” for Optimal Vaginal Health
Now let’s talk about what you can do to help avoid these symptoms of imbalance in your healthy vaginal microbiome and a disruption in ideal pH balance.
1) Add in some Coconut Oil or MCT Oil
Love coconut? That’s perfect because this nutrient-packed oil packs many benefits for your entire body – including your lady parts.
Coconut oil (along with MCT oil that comes from coconut oil), actually contains anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties that may help prevent yeast infections! This is due to the ability of this incredible source of beneficial fatty acids to provide lubrication down below and prevent dryness. (9)
What’s the best way to use coconut or MCT oil? Because it’s such a tasty fat, there are so many ways! While coconut oil is rich and full-flavored, making it a great base for cooking or for adding into baking recipes, MCT Oil is light and virtually tasteless. And because it has fast-absorbing MCT fats, can give a fast burst of energy. Add this oil into coffee, smoothies, cold sauces and more.
2) Keep Yourself Extra Hydrated
Next, now you have another reason to stay hydrated that you may not have thought about! Your vagina is actually pretty amazing in the way that it can clean itself, but hydration is needed for this functioning to work properly.
Keeping up with proper H2O intake helps with this natural cleaning process, increases lubrication, and helps with proper pH balance down there. (10)
Want to help yourself with better pH balance even more, and also ensure you get to drink something more fun than water? Try 310 Hydrates or 310 Lemonades to flood your cells with alkalizing electrolyte minerals that enhance hydration threefold.
3) Up Your Intake of Vitamin C
It’s always a wise idea to get more vitamin C every day, as it’s one of the most important nutrients for a strong immune system and fighting infections.
Well, it turns out that its powerful infection fighting ability also goes for potential infections below the belt. You probably didn’t realize that getting in more vitamin C may also help prevent bacterial vaginosis and imbalance in that area. (9)
Easily get more daily “C” in a fast-absorbing and delicious way with this great-tasting vitamin C powder that also includes zinc and electrolytes.
You can also boost your intake of foods that are high in vitamin C – many of which are great for throwing in your meal replacement shake smoothies. Some high vitamin C foods that are great in your blender include strawberries, citrus fruits, kiwi, melon, spinach, and kale.
4) Say Yes to Daily Probiotics
Remember all that talk about your vaginal area having its own microbiome? Probiotics are the good bacteria that help keep things in balance down there.
It’s important to take in daily probiotics so that these “good bacteria” can help fight off the “bad bacteria” that leads to infection. In addition, probiotics help keep your vagina’s pH levels in check, at that slightly acidic place that’s ideal.
How should you get probiotics? The easiest and most convenient way is a daily supplement. The benefit of this is that the best probiotic supplements will contain a variety of different probiotic strains, benefitting various areas of your body.
For instance, the 310 Probiotic contains both lactobacillus acidophilus and lactobacillus rhamnosus – two of the best strains for vaginal health according to studies. (11) In addition, it also contains 7 additional strains supporting weight loss, gut, and immune health, and more
In addition, new 310 All-In-One Shakes contain another strain of probiotics – Bifidobacterium bifidum – to give you more variety in your diet.
You can also add more high-probiotic foods to your diet but you would have to eat a lot of them, and you still wouldn’t get the same benefit as a supplement. Many of these foods are fermented (like sauerkraut, kombucha, and natto). In addition, kefir and some less processed yogurts like Greek yogurt may contain some probiotics.
5) Make Cranberries Your New Best Friend
Finally, as our final tip, we suggest you take this high-antioxidant fruit seriously: cranberries! If you suffer with frequent UTI’s or just want to help prevent imbalance down below, cranberries are the secret sauce to help.
This is because the fruit contains properties that prevent bad bacteria (especially E. coli) from sticking to your bladder walls and creating infection.
The problem is that although some women know this amazing fact about cranberries, many also think that drinking regular cranberry juice is a sufficient solution. The problem is that many of these juices are full of sugar, which isn’t good for your health or weight loss goals, and can also make you more prone to yeast infections. (10)
Instead, opt for fresh or frozen cranberries, which can make a great and exciting addition to smoothies. Or, for more regular maintenance you can also take a concentrated cranberry supplement.
Do you feel ready to start taking your vaginal health more seriously?! We suggest you begin with the 5 steps in this article! Check back often on the 310 Blog for more articles in our “Real Talk” series of often undiscussed topics we know you want to hear about!