- Vaginal wellness comes from a combination of lifestyle habits that reduce your risk factors for developing bacterial infections, including maintaining good hygiene, practicing safe sex with a low number of sexual partners, taking the right vaginal care supplements, wearing loose-fitting and dry clothes, and avoiding scented soaps or lotions.
- The foods you eat dictate the health of your whole body, including your vagina!
- Diets rich in water, probiotics, unsaturated fats, whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids, and colorful fruits and vegetables will support vaginal wellness.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could minimize your recurrence of common vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and trichomoniasis just by changing up your dietary intake?
We’ve got good news: eating a healthy diet is a simple way to maintain your vaginal health and prevent pesky infections!
Be honest…if you experience discomfort, itchiness, or strange vaginal odor down there, are you more likely to change your current lifestyle or to stock up on essential oils, supplements, and over-the-counter solutions? While supplementation with probiotics for vaginal health, prebiotics, and immune boosters for vaginal health like vitamin C for BV are vital for optimal vaginal wellness—after all, we wouldn’t have created Happy V if we didn’t think these natural items could benefit your health—your nutrient intake is also an important way you can prevent bacterial infections and maintain your vaginal bacteria.
Vaginal wellness comes from a combination of lifestyle habits that reduce your risk factors for developing bacterial infections, including maintaining good hygiene, practicing safe sex with a low number of sexual partners, taking the right vaginal care supplements, wearing loose-fitting and dry clothes, and avoiding scented soaps or lotions. If this sounds like a lot to remember, take a deep breath before choosing one thing to start working on today. At Happy V, we’ve created a series of articles that dive deep into each subject, so you can take your time getting comfortable with research-based best practices for vaginal health. In this article, we’ll start with one simple way to preserve your vaginal environment and prevent genital tract infections—eating a balanced diet.
How Does Diet Impact Vaginal Health?
Eating healthy isn’t just about getting good skin and losing weight, although those things may be an important aspect of your overall wellness regimen. When we eat, we aren’t just feeding ourselves—each mouthful is feeding trillions of microorganisms that carry out millions of our daily bodily processes.
From respiration and enzymatic processes to the production of lactic acid for optimal vaginal pH, a healthy dietary intake is essential to providing our body with the nutrients necessary to stay healthy and maintain a healthy vaginal flora.
Ever heard the phrase “you are what you eat”? Don’t ever forget that the foods you eat dictate the health of your whole body, including your vagina!
Your vaginal flora, or vaginal bacteria, are the organisms that prevent or cause vaginal conditions like infections. When levels of good bacteria, called lactobacilli, get low, harmful bacteria can thrive and cause unwelcome medical conditions. Adequate nutrient intake can help nourish lactobacilli so levels stay high and your body stays protected. However, certain foods, like sugar or alcohol intake, can support the growth of harmful bacteria and make it more likely you’ll develop an infection in your vaginal tissue.
7 Vaginal Superfoods for a Healthy Vagina
1. Probiotic-rich Foods
Probiotics are, simply put, good bacteria. High levels of probiotics in your body ensure everything functions properly inside of your body.
Probiotics are present in your body before you’re even born. It was first thought that babies were actually born sterile, but the birth canal and placenta of a woman contains billions of probiotics that are transferred to new babies upon birth. As we grow within our own environment, we develop our own microflora over time—that’s right, each person has their own unique microflora “fingerprint!”
Some bacteria, like lactic-acid producing bacteria such as lactobacilli species and certain strains of yeast decrease the chances of contracting vaginal infections. Vaginal yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and many premenstrual symptoms (PMS) are the result of an imbalance in the vaginal ecology. (1) Therefore, consuming probiotic supplements and natural probiotic-rich foods such as miso, pickles, and yogurt may help prevent vaginal infections or PMS symptoms by strengthening your body’s probiotic levels.
Probiotics have many benefits for vaginal health, including:
- Increasing your vagina’s store of lactic acid, which helps to balance the vaginal pH and prevent the growth of bad bacteria.
- Competing for nutrients with anaerobic bacteria that can cause infections, preventing them from growing and yielding vaginal infections.
- Helping to maintain the vagina’s hormone balance, including estrogen levels, which can prevent or minimize PMS symptoms.
Probiotics for women and other natural probiotics from food increase the number of good bacteria in our bodies, boosting immunity and improving gut health. For example, foods such as yogurt, kefir, and fermented foods like kimchi or kombucha are rich in probiotic lactobacillus. Eating a diet rich in probiotics can help you ward off some vaginal infections.
For a simple probiotic-rich smoothie, combine the following in a blender:
- 1/2 cup kefir
- 1/2 cup mixed berries
- 2 leaves of kale
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1/2 serving (approx. 15g) whey protein isolate
Adding too many probiotic-rich foods into your diet all at once may cause some unwelcome side effects, like diarrhea. To prevent gastrointestinal distress, add probiotics into your diet in small amounts at first before gradually increasing your probiotic intake.
Humans are about 55–60% water, and staying hydrated yields a host of health benefits— especially when it comes to our vaginal health. (2) Drinking water regulates your brain functioning, enhances your gut health, and improves your physical performance. When it comes to vaginal health, drinking water ensures your vaginal walls stay properly lubricated and that bacteria is consistently flushed out of the urinary tract.
Water has many benefits for vaginal health, including:
- Lubricating vaginal walls, which reduces vaginal itching and pain during sex.
- Balancing your vaginal pH level, keeping it slightly acidic, which helps to prevent bad bacterial growth.
- Flushing out bad bacteria that can cause vaginal yeast infections, BV, and UTIs.
Wondering how to drink more water each day? Try this: as soon as you wake up, drink 2 cups of water. Then, if you work out in the morning, drink 16 ounces of water for every 1 hour you worked out. Before you know it, you’ll drink 4–5 glasses of water before you start your workday!
Pro-tip: Buy a water bottle that has the time and measure lines on it to keep you accountable!
Garlic is truly a wonder herb. Grown worldwide, it’s responsible for a laundry list of health benefits. For instance, garlic contains organosulfur compounds which can fight off yeast infections caused by the overgrowth of C. Albicans, a harmful yeast. It can also be used to treat BV, a vaginal infection responsible for unusual vaginal discharge and unpleasant odor.
Aside from health benefits, eating garlic can also give your sex life a boost by enhancing blood flow to your genitals.
Garlic benefits your vaginal health by:
- Killing bad bacteria and yeast responsible for harmful vaginal bacterial and yeast infections.
- Enhancing vaginal and sexual health by improving blood flow to your vagina.
- Reducing PMS symptoms such as headaches, cramps, and inflammation.
Convinced you need to consume more garlic? No matter what your preferred cuisine is, there are hundreds of recipes containing garlic, including garlic potatoes or yuca, like in this Cuban-style yuca recipe. Whatever you do, just don’t insert garlic directly into your vagina, since it can easily irritate your vaginal walls. To reap the benefits of garlic, consume it by mouth.
4. Cranberries and Elderberries
Are you sick of chronic yeast infections, recurring BV, or repeat UTIs? If your answer is yes, then you should definitely try adding some nutrition-rich berries to your diet. Cranberry and elderberry juices are acidic in nature and contain lots of vitamin C, antioxidants, and tannins. They are also fiber-rich and prevent inflammation and UTIs.
Cranberries and other nutrient-rich berries can be consumed in their natural form, where they are balanced with good forms of sugars, polyphenols, tannins, fibers and more, but they can also be added to your diet as a supplement. For instance, Happy V’s cranberry pills for BV help prevent BV with a clinically proven cranberry blend known as Pacran®.
The benefits of berries for your vaginal health include:
- Preventing bad bacteria from sticking to your vaginal walls that can cause urinary tract infections or other common vaginal infections.
- Reducing the chances of cervical cancer by preventing the formation of free radicals.
- Enhancing immune function through bioflavonoids found in cranberries and elderberries.
Pro-tip: Make sure to consume natural cranberry and elderberry extracts and juices that are either unsweetened or contain low sugar (60 calories per cup) levels, since a high-sugar diet can promote vaginal infections.
5. Whole Grains and Nuts
Carbohydrates get a bad rap, but they’re not bad for you in moderation, and whole grains are an important aspect of a healthy diet. Whole grains, nuts, and seeds are rich in healthy fibers like prebiotics and vitamin E, which keeps your skin and vagina hydrated, prevents vaginal dryness, and controls the growth of bad bacteria. Good bacteria feed on healthy fiber, so fiber-rich diets help maintain bacterial balance in the vagina. It’s important to remember that foods labeled as stone-ground, multi-grain, or cracked wheat may not contain whole grains, so look for foods specifically labeled as containing whole grains.
Fat has a bad reputation too, but our bodies need fat for energy. Foods such as nuts are rich in healthy, unsaturated fats which nourish good bacteria. If you’re adding more nuts into your diet, choose dry-roasted nuts without salt. Some healthy fat sources include:
- Pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds contain zinc, which helps maintain the menstrual cycle and reduce PMS symptoms.
- Almonds and walnuts. The oil in these nuts prevents vaginal dryness, itching, and infections.
- Flaxseeds. Flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens, which mimic the hormone estrogen. Eating flaxseeds can improve sexual activity and regulate hormonal imbalance, especially in pregnant women.
6. Sardines and Salmon
Fish such as salmon and sardines are rich in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for general health, heart health and vaginal health. Vitamin D deficiency is directly correlated to hormonal imbalances, which can deplete lactobacillus levels and increase the chances of developing an infection like bacterial vaginosis.
Omega-3 fatty acids have another benefit for your health—they’re actually the building blocks of sex hormones and can improve your sexual response and trigger arousal. If you don’t care for seafood, try DHA, EPA labeled omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Ask your healthcare provider before adding vitamin D supplements to your diet.
Salmon and sardines benefit your vaginal health by:
- Naturally reducing inflammation and relieving cramps through anti-inflammatory compounds.
- Tightening your vaginal walls and muscles.
- Regulating mood swings and other PMS symptoms.
- Reducing the risk of bacterial vaginosis and other vaginal infections.
- Lubricating the vagina and reducing menopausal vaginal dryness.
7. Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are enriched with innumerable minerals and nutrients responsible for overall health. They strengthen your pelvic floor and vaginal muscles and even tighten your vagina—so eating a colorful plate benefits you and your sex partner!
Eating fruits and leafy greens for vaginal health:
- Reduces pelvic pain and cramps by improving blood flow to the vagina.
- Prevents uterine fibroids and tumors from developing.
- Strengthens your vaginal walls and muscles with vitamin B6 and potassium.
- Prevents vaginal dryness and infections.
- Boosts your sexual function, vaginal lubrication, and orgasms by mimicking female sex hormone estradiol.
Get a Happier V With a Healthier Diet
The shelves at drugstores may be stocked with creams and suppositories promising to boost your vaginal health, but the most important aisle for maintaining your vaginal wellness may be the one containing fresh groceries. A healthy diet can boost your vaginal health and reduce your chance of developing common vaginal infections. Pair a balanced diet with supplements for vaginal health like probiotics and vitamin C for a healthy, happy v.