There’s nothing worse than pain, burning, or itching coming from your most intimate anatomy. Unfortunately, more than 75% of women will experience issues with yeast infections and other vaginal irritations in their lifetime. These issues wreak havoc on your work and personal life and even become a recurring nightmare for some.
There is good news, however. The key to less irritation, fewer infections, and a healthier vagina could be as simple as getting one key factor right: the pH.
You may remember learning about pH in high school chemistry, but unless you’re a science-lover or sticking to an alkaline diet, you probably haven’t thought much about pH since. All that’s about to change! Let’s get technical and learn how pH affects the health of your vagina.
What is pH balance?
Let’s refresh: a low pH (<7) indicates an acidic substance or environment, and a high pH (>7) indicates an alkaline one. Acids help to break down and deteriorate (think about the digestive juices of the stomach) while alkalinity helps to maintain healthy blood. Different body regions require different pH levels to function properly, and your vagina is no different.
So, What’s a Healthy Vaginal pH?
Your vagina is healthiest and happiest with an acidic pH. The magic number? Somewhere between 3.8-4.5. Acidic environments are protective to the vagina and prevent against overgrowth of bacteria, yeast, and other infections.
The vaginal cavity is a host to many different types of bacteria – both the good and bad. With a pH within that healthy range, the vagina is a good host to helpful bacteria while keeping the troublesome kind at bay.
pH Gone Wrong
Like life in general, the vaginal pH can get out of balance from time to time. This can cause discomfort, odors, or even infections like bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis.
Menstruation itself can cause some issues with pH levels. The blood that flows out through the vaginal cavity has a pH of about 7.4 – that’s a bit more alkaline that the usual mucus that lines the vagina. At times, this can throw off the balance of the entire area. Products like cotton tampons can worsen the situation, trapping blood in the area for long periods of time. If you use tampons, be sure to change regularly (at least every four hours) to keep the risk of infection low.
Sexual activity can also cause pH woes. Sperm is quite alkaline, so increased exposure can alter the balance of the vagina. (Fertile fact: the pH of the vagina itself rises during sexual activity to protect the sperm as they travel through the canal.) So, unless you are actively trying to conceive, use protection.
If you are a regular antibiotic user, you may have issues maintaining a healthy pH. Many antibiotics kill both the bad and good bacteria. The vagina needs those healthy bacteria to keep pH low and ward off infection. Make sure to increase your intake of probiotics to counterbalance the medication.
When to Act
Think something might be off down there? Some tell-tale signs are a fishy or foul odor, itching, burning urination, or atypical white/grey/green discharge.
It doesn’t take much for imbalance to evolve into infection. The best treatment is usually a doctor-prescribed antibiotic pill or cream. This helps to get things under control while you work on maintaining a healthy balance.
If you suffer from recurrent issues with vaginal infections and irritations, it’s time to set things right. Ongoing imbalances can later cause issues with fertility and general sexual health. Speak to your OB-GYN and figure out the best course of action for you.
The Art of Vagina Maintenance
It would be nice if our lady parts came with a user manual, right? Fortunately, there are a few good rules to stick by to maintain a healthy, happy vagina.
Protect. Always use a condom during intercourse – not only does this prevent against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, but it helps to maintain the vagina’s natural pH.
Probiotics. These little guys are big players when it comes to maintaining healthy balance; you may even find that taking a regular probiotic improves your overall wellness. Take a supplement with lactobacillus such as RepHresh Pro-B or eat foods high in probiotics regularly (opt for a healthy no-sugar-added greek yogurt, kefir, kimchi, or miso). When it comes to your sexual health, probiotics are the perfect side-kick for maintaining a healthy vaginal micro-biome.
Moderation. Sugar and alcohol have a troublesome habit of worsening pH imbalances and can contribute to the growth of yeasts. Maintain healthy moderation with these, or flat-out avoid them when you’re going through a funk.
Keep it simple. Don’t douche and avoid the unnecessary chemicals in odor sprays. These can actually make the problem worse! A pH balancing gel like RepHresh can help to restore an imbalance and maintain a healthy pH for up to 3 days.
Make friends with your OB-GYN. Keep up with your yearly doctor visits and make sure to ask any questions you might have. When things seem off, get in to chat with a professional.
Beauty in Balance
The vagina is an amazing part of the body – it has the ability to clean and regulate itself (most of the time) without much more than basic hygiene. If you struggle with recurrent infections, vaginal irritation, or other issues, it may be time to take a closer look at your pH. Practice the self-care mentioned above and give your vagina the attention it deserves!
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