They are small but powerful. The bacteria help your body to be healthy, even under the belt. “The vagina has a natural microbiome similar to the gut,” says Leah Millheiser, M.D., assistant clinical professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Stanford University. It contains good bacteria that keep everything running without problems and serious errors that can lead to problems like fungal infections and bacterial vaginosis. (Both are possible reasons why your vagina smells).
And like insects in your gastrointestinal tract, certain medications and other factors can cause vaginal microbes to become unbalanced, increasing your risk of infection or irritation. Keep your good insects and your vagina healthy with these four strategies supported by science.
Do not be a clean freak
Most of us already know that douching is not a good idea. But recently, a practice called vaginal vapor, which involves sitting on a pot of steaming water filled with medicinal herbs has been drawing attention. Treatment freaks say they do several things, including “cleaning” the uterus and rebalancing hormone levels. Ignore the rumor. “Vaginal douches or steam can kill good bacteria,” says Dr. Millheiser. If you are concerned about the smell, it is okay to use wet wipes after exercise or during the day occasionally, but adhere to those that do not have fragrance and do not use them excessively; enough with a blow. Dr. Millheiser also says to stop immediately if you experience burning or irritation.
Pop a probiotic
Choose one that contains at least two strains of lactobacilli, such as RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic Feminine Supplement ($ 18, target.com), which can increase levels of healthy vaginal bacteria. You can also eat probiotic yogurt or, if your doctor advises, by sending it directly to the source. “If a patient has a yeast infection and is taking oral antifungals, I occasionally suggest using a syringe or an applicator to place two tablespoons of probiotic-rich yogurt in the vagina,” says Dr. Millheiser.
Make a quick change
Many of us sit in sweaty gym clothes while we grab a bite or run errands. “That creates a warm and humid environment known to lead to the overgrowth of yeast,” says Dr. Millheiser. Change before leaving the gym. If you can not, wear underwear with a cotton gusset; It is breathable, so it will stay drier, which will give yeast and unhealthy bacteria fewer opportunities to grow excessively. (When you’re near the ocean, follow this OBGYN’s guide to a healthy vagina on the beach).
Choose lubricant wisely
Avoid any that contain glycerin. It is a common ingredient, but it is broken down into sugars, which can encourage the overgrowth of bacteria or yeast. Look for glycerin-free options and never use petroleum jelly. Women who did so were 2.2 times more likely to have bacterial vaginosis, reports the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.