You’ve probably experienced the acidic response on your tongue when drinking orange juice or eating something citrus….
Vaginal pH is a scale, between 0-14, which measures how acidic or alkalized (basic) a substance is. Distilled water has a neutral pH of 7 and the ideal pH level for the vagina is between 3.8-4.5.
If you haven’t yet, read our Ultimate Guide to Bacterial Vaginosis to get a better understanding of what Bacterial Vaginosis is and why pH is so important.
The human body is filled with different organs and system that depend on many chemical balances in order to function properly – one of those balances is that of pH levels. For example – the pH level of the stomach can be within a range to function properly 1-2 whereas the pH level of blood is between 7.35-7.45. It’s no wonder why we see so many hair brands coming out with the “pH formulas”.
Your vagina has several functions, and when working properly it secretes juices and mucus that helps with key functions such as:
- Keeping itself clean
- Removing the dead vaginal cells
- Staying lubricated
- Keeping bad bacteria out of your vagina
Your vagina is filled with healthy bacteria, the most prominent of which is known as lactobacilli. The role of lactobacilli is to keep the vaginal pH levels balanced and fluids in check. These vaginal juices contain glycogen, a deposit of glucose in the body, upon which these healthy bacteria feed.
Lactobacilli species feed on glycogen and are responsible for the production of lactic acid. Lactic acid constantly maintains an acidic environment in your vagina. Similarly, production of hydrogen peroxide keeps an eye on the growth of harmful vaginal bacteria.
So we now know what vaginal pH is and what its role is, but what happens when the pH goes past it’s optimal range?
More isn’t always better, and the same can be said for vaginal pH.
As soon as the vaginal pH level increases above 4.5, it creates the ideal environment for all the harmful bacteria, known as anaerobes, to come and live amongst the good bacteria. As these anaerobes begin to outnumber the beneficial bacteria, your vagina can become extremely prone to different vaginal infections — especially, vaginal yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis or BV, and Urinary Tract Infections or UTIs.
The pH tends to increase because the lactobacilli stop producing hydrogen-peroxide, thwarting the production of lactic acid which increases pH. We now know what pathogen causes this to happen, but it is the process that leads to higher pH and new infection with it.
Taking pH strips and checking your vaginal pH isn’t as easy as a school science lab where you were asked to checked pH of different things. So, to make sure that your vaginal pH levels are balanced, you have to avoid certain food, and lifestyle choices, which can cause the pH levels to fluctuate.
- During your menstrual days, you’re more likely to experience pH changes. This is because your blood has a pH of 7.35-7.45. Make sure to constantly change your tampons, pads or menstrual cups so that there isn’t a built up of blood.
- Using creams, lotions, and gels, which have many chemical substances can affect your vaginal pH levels. Make sure to always read the label prior to use.
- The same goes for Perfumed products, scented soaps, and shampoos.
- Not washing your vagina properly after having sex is also a contributing factor because the pH level of semen is above 4.5.
- If you’re experiencing menopause, you’re more likely to have pH level of above 5.3.6. Unhygienic lifestyles and choices such as changing sex partners and sharing sex toys can increase your chances of contracting infections. These infections are the key factors when it comes to increased pH levels.
pH imbalance can cause vaginal problems!
As soon as your vaginal pH level slips out of its delicate balance, infections such as Bacterial Vaginosis, Yeast Iinfections, Trichomoniasis, and others start to show up. These infections are accompanied with varying colors, thickness of discharge, and foul or no smell. Burning sensations while urinating, vaginal itching and severe discomfort make it more frustrating.
BV is associated with producing a thin grayish discharge and foul fishy smell. On the other hand, Yeast infections are responsible for discharge that is white and clumpy like cottage cheese, and typically no odor.
If these infections are not tended to in a timely manner then there are very high chances that they might lead to complications. Complications can include Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), problems in pregnancy, miscarriage, abortion, and low birth weight of infants could occur if these vaginal infections are not treated properly. Therefore, it’s extremely important to make sure that your pH levels are between 3.8-4.5.
If you, fortunately, haven’t contracted any infection yet, then here are some preventive measures that can keep your vagina healthy.
- Make sure to add probiotics to your diet because they increase the number of good bacteria in your system and replace bad ones.
- Yogurt is a natural probiotic. It not only keeps your digestive health in check but also your microbiome count.
- Keep your body hydrated because dehydration can also lead to disturbance in pH levels.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables such as Vitamin C, cranberry, and elderberry extracts have strong antioxidant and anti-infective properties. They naturally boost your immune functions, relieve stress, reduce inflammation and swelling, and also keep your vaginal environment slightly acidic.
- Garlic is also known for its strong anti-infective and anti-bacterial properties.
- Avoid using douching and cleaning products on your vagina because they make the vaginal pH levels fluctuate.
- Avoid using antibiotics because they can kill good bacteria along with the bad ones—opt for natural remedies.
- Make sure to avoid having multiple sex partners because you might not know who’s carrying the bacteria that can mess with your pH!
- Some people are allergic to condoms because they have ingredients that can cause irritation and pH level changes, too. It’s advisable to choose condoms that have latex-free mentioned in the packaging.
- Having unprotected sex and not washing afterward is not a wise choice because semen is basic in nature and can disrupt your vaginal balance. Make sure to give your vagina a good wash after sex.
If you have already contracted any infection due to changing levels of pH, then you need to treat it the right way.
- According to CDC, If you are experiencing multiple recurrences of BV, then your doctor might prescribe 600 mg boric acid daily for up to 21 days to stop the recurrences.
- Take antibiotics only for acute infections i.e. if you have an infection with severe symptoms such as swelling, inflammation, pain, and other symptoms.
- Antibiotics alone are not enough because they can’t make good bacteria recolonize in your vagina. Adding supplements with natural ingredients such as cranberry extracts, elderberry extracts, and added probiotics might accelerate the healing process.
- Elderberries and cranberries contain flavonoids, immune boosters, anti-oxidants, and tannins. All these compounds work together to make sure that the good bacteria is recolonizing, bad ones are being killed and thrown out, and that your immune system is working efficiently.
After all, a Happier-V ultimately means a Healthier-U!