The pH of the vagina plays a very important role in its overall health. So, what is pH balance, and why is it important? A healthy vaginal pH level is somewhere between 3.8 to 4.5 on the pH scale. This slightly acidic pH helps inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and reduces your risk of developing various infections. Here are some things you can do to restore your vaginal pH levels and keep your vagina healthy.
Avoid Cleansing With Douches and Soaps
A lot of women worry about vaginal odors, so they try to make sure everything is clean by regularly scrubbing the area with soap or even douching it. However, this can actually contribute to the problem. Both soaps and douches tend to have a high pH, so using them can reduce the natural acidity of the vagina. Over time, this can result in various bacterial and fungal overgrowths that cause smells to develop. This can lead to an unpleasant cycle of more vigorous cleaning and even more pH imbalances.
The reality is that the vagina is self-cleaning, so you don’t need to clean it with chemicals regularly. You never need to clean inside the vagina itself with anything other than water. To remove sweat from around the vagina, you can gently clean the vulva with a very mild cleanser. However, be cautious that this doesn’t get too close to the vaginal entrance or you can upset the pH balance of the vagina.
Use All-Natural and Breathable Fabrics for Clothing
What you wear has a surprisingly big impact on your vaginal pH balance. Tight, synthetic fabrics trap a lot of moisture and sweat in between your legs. This can allow certain bacteria to flourish that end up throwing off pH levels. Whenever possible, aim for lightweight, breathable fabrics.
Most people find that cotton is the best material for underwear since it’s all-natural, comfortable, and easy to clean. Other popular choices for pants and shorts include linen, silk, and wool. If possible, try to go bare every now and then. Consider sleeping naked or slipping into a loose skirt without any undergarments when relaxing at home. This gives your vagina even more space to breathe, improving overall health and balance.
Take More Probiotic Supplements
The vagina, and every other part of your body, is home to millions of tiny microorganisms. Some help maintain healthy pH levels while others may damage pH balance, cause infection, or directly damage your body. Helpful probiotics are a wide category of bacteria that are beneficial to human health. Probiotics can help fight off harmful bacteria and restore healthy balance to your vagina.
You can boost probiotic levels by eating foods rich in certain bacteria. Most fermented foods are probiotic-rich. Things like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi are all excellent sources of probiotics.
If you’re not a fan of these sorts of foods, you can also take probiotic supplements to help you figure out how to restore pH balance in vag. These come as pills, chewable gummies, and even smoothies. They help naturally increase your probiotic levels, improving your vaginal pH. A word of caution about probiotics, though: They work best when eaten.
There’s a lot of misinformation on the internet that may encourage women to put yogurt or other probiotic foods in their vaginas. This is a bad idea because even plain yogurt contains natural dairy sugars that can cause infections. If you want to put probiotics inside your vagina, only use a product formulated specifically for the vagina.
Talk to Your Doctor About Antibiotic Usage
Antibiotics do a great job of killing harmful bacteria. However, they also kill off helpful bacteria that work to keep your vaginal pH at safe levels. Taking antibiotics regularly can put the vaginal microbiome out of balance, leading to all sorts of issues. Even just taking a course of antibiotics for a few weeks may potentially cause problems, so it’s important to be especially attentive to vaginal pH levels when taking antibiotics.
Keep in mind this doesn’t mean you should immediately discontinue all antibiotic usage. Antibiotics are an important type of drug you can use to treat some very serious medical conditions. It’s just worthwhile to be aware that they can cause vaginal issues because it gives you an opportunity to discuss the problem with your doctor. If you’re using antibiotics regularly to treat a chronic condition, your doctor may be able to suggest other medicine alternatives that help you figure out how to balance vaginal pH.
Be Extra Careful at Certain Times of the Month
The vagina is usually incredibly resilient, and normal vaginal pH varies a bit. One day wearing polyester underwear is unlikely to cause major imbalances. However, at certain times, the vagina is especially sensitive. Menstrual blood naturally has a higher pH, so it makes the vagina less acidic. Semen is also a basic substance, so it can contribute to raising your pH levels to unhealthy numbers.
This essentially means you need to exercise a little caution during your period and after you have sex. During these times, try to remember to give your vagina plenty of space to breathe, avoid getting chemicals near it, and increase your probiotic intake a little. Taking steps to encourage healthy acidity during times your pH might lean a little basic can reduce risks of health problems.
Know When to Go to a Gynecologist
Sometimes, your vaginal pH levels may get too far off balance for you to handle the problem yourself. There are all sorts of conditions, like bacterial vaginosis or trichomonas, that can throw off pH. Until you get proper vaginal treatment, it’s unlikely your pH levels will return to normal. Therefore, it’s a good idea to visit your women’s health doctor if you notice one or more of the following issues:
- Unusual or unpleasant odors
- Itching sensations
- Swelling or redness of the vulva
- Excessive amounts of discharge
- Discolored discharge
- Discomfort during sex
- Burning sensations during urination
Even if you don’t suspect you have an infection or other health problem, it can still be a good idea to make time for a gynecological visit. A qualified physician can perform a vaginal pH test, diagnose problems that may be leading to vaginal imbalance, and recommend ways of addressing the situation.
Now that you know all about vaginal pH, are you ready to take control of your own vaginal health? As one of South Florida’s leading gynecologists and women’s wellness experts, Dr. Andrew Krinsky is happy to answer any questions you may have about vaginal pH imbalances. To schedule your appointment, click or call today.