Pretty much every woman is susceptible to a vaginal infection at some point in her life. This is because anything that disrupts the pH or bacterial balance of the normal vagina can result in an infection.
Although infections can happen any time, your vagina is particularly susceptible during or right around your period when your mucus immunity is at its lowest, due to estrogen and progesterone levels – the same hormone levels that can cause some women to feel more emotional at this time in their cycle. Everything is connected! Most vaginal infections make their presence known by a burning or itching sensation, sometimes accompanied by a change or increase in vaginal discharge.
Below are a few common situations that can disrupt the pH or bacterial balance of the vagina and result in an infection, as well as some simple solutions to help you keep your vagina happy and healthy.
👫Repeated intercourse over a short period of time. Intercourse can increase the pH balance of the vagina for up to 8 hours (!!) – especially if exposed to semen (which has a high pH balance). When a vaginal pH is higher than normal for long periods of time, the normal bacteria balance can be lost which enables the “good” bacteria to be overtaken by the “bad.”
✔️Simple solution: Consider taking more time between intercourse, and use condoms.
💧Chronic vulvar dampness. The vulva sweats – especially under emotional stress and during exercise. Wearing tight, synthetic clothing makes it difficult for your vulva to breath, setting up the perfect conditions for both chaffing and infection.
✔️Simple solution: Use exercise to manage your stress, but wear loose clothing made from natural fibers – like cotton – so you don’t sweat the small stuff!
🚫Chemical irritants. Scented pads, tampons, douches, toilet paper and chemical-based soaps and bubble baths can all cause irritation.
✔️Simple solution: Avoid scented products. Period.
🤯Emotional stress. There is no separation between our bodies and our minds. When faced with stress or emotional challenges, a woman’s immunity can decrease and the vagina is more likely to manifest symptoms of an infection.
✔️Simple solution: Eat a balanced diet, get good quality sleep, integrate stress-reduction practices (yoga, walking, meditation) into your life, and spend time doing things that make you happy.
💊Antibiotics. Broad-spectrum antibiotics can disrupt the natural balance of organisms in both the vagina and the bowel, increasing the incidence of yeast infections.
✔️Simple solution: Balance the side-effects of antibiotics by taking a good quality probiotic. Your vagina will thank you!
💊Birth control pills. Some women notice that they experience more yeast infections when they are on the pill, which may be related to the hormone progestin.
✔️Simple solution: Try switching pills, and maintain your vaginal flora and pH level with high-quality probiotics and fermented foods (hello, sauerkraut).
🍽Diet. Sugar, flour and refined-foods are simply not your friend. Consuming high amounts can make it difficult for your body to fight excess yeast growth, leading to infections.
✔️Simple solution: Cut out the junk and eat real, natural, nutrient dense food. Focus on balanced meals made up of whole foods, complex carbohydrates, high-quality fats and proteins. Trust us, your entire body (not just your vagina) will feel better.
💥Sexually transmitted infections. Common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) include gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes and HPV. Although each of these infections have different symptoms, the common symptom is unusual changes to vaginal discharge.
✔️Simple solution: Apply common sense and be pro-active about protecting yourself. You’re worth it. And, if you notice an unpleasant odor, a strange color, an unusual texture or if you experience signs of itching, burning or non-menstrual bleeding, make an appointment to see your doctor or gyno right away.
Fundamentally, never underestimate the powerful effects of self-respect, self-esteem, self- acceptance and self-love on your health – especially your immune system.
Be sweet to yourself, always. 💕