What we eat and drink affects every vital organ in our bodies, and the vagina is no exception. Most of us have been given the advice to chug some cranberry juice when we're battling a UTI, but the foods we eat on a daily basis can reduce the risk of getting a dreaded infection in the first place.
The most crucial aspect of a healthy vagina is maintaining a balanced pH level. When your vaginal pH is at a healthy level of between 3.5 and 4.5, it'll naturally clear out the bad bacteria that leads to infections. A balanced pH also means the vaginal area is slightly acidic, which fosters the healthy bacteria that fend off infections.
You don't need to add "Test My Vaginal pH Level" to your weekly to-do list, though. By eating the right foods, you can rest assured that your pH level will stay balanced — and you'll be at a lower risk of getting a UTI or yeast infection. Integrate these nine foods and drinks into your diet to improve your vaginal health.
Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, CDN, and owner of BZ Nutrition, told POPSUGAR that Greek yogurt can help maintain a healthy pH balance in your vagina by adding probiotics and the good types of bacteria to your body. Probiotics help fight off the bad bacteria that throws off your pH balance and leads to infections.
"Have a cup of plain Greek yogurt for breakfast with cranberries and some walnuts," Zeitlin suggested.
Citing a study published in the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Zeitlin recommended eating an apple a day to promote vaginal and sexual health.
"Apples contain a compound called phloridzin, which mimics estradiol, the female sex hormone. [It helps] you reach higher levels of lubrication during sex, making it more enjoyable and pleasurable," she explained.
For those of us who experience extreme menstrual discomfort, Dr. Ronald D. Blatt, GYN, Chief Surgeon and Medical Director of the Manhattan Center for Vaginal Surgery, recommended integrating salmon into our diets. It contains anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce menstrual pain and may fend off endometriosis in some women.
"Green tea contains antioxidants that studies have found can reduce bladder inflammation and may kill the E. coli bacteria that cause UTIs," Blatt told POPSUGAR. You might want to take some time each day to make yourself a nice cup, because nobody wants to deal with a UTI.
Jaime Knopman, MD, suggested eating sweet potatoes and other foods that are high in vitamin A, because they've been shown to increase muscle strength and integrity.
Not only will this help you in the gym, but "this can improve the strength of the vagina wall," Knopman explained. She also suggested eating more nuts, which contain a high amount of vitamin E, which also improves the vagina's muscle strength.
Rebecca Lee, RN, founder of the natural health resource Remedies For Me, said that soy products keep the vagina moist and lubricated. "Soy is hydrophilic, meaning that it is good at attracting water into your tissues," she explained. "[It] also contains isoflavins, a plant compound that mimics the properties of the sex hormone, estrogen." Lee recommended adding soy products such as edamame, tofu, miso, and tempeh to your diet. Try this roasted tofu, cauliflower, and broccoli one-pan meal.
To fend off UTIs and yeast infections, Lee recommended eating more garlic or taking a daily garlic supplement. Its antimicrobial properties help keep infections at bay, and Lee said it's especially beneficial for women who have developed an antibiotic resistance.
Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles are loaded with the good bacteria that's key to maintaining a healthy vagina. Kaley Todd, a nutritionist at Sun Basket, told POPSUGAR that this fermented fare helps maintain a healthy population of gut flora in your body, including the vaginal area. This helps prevent most vaginal infections.
We all know that we should drink eight glasses of water a day, and Zeitlin provided further incentive to increase our water intake, because as it turns out, H20 is — you guessed it — beneficial to vaginal health.
"Vaginas have a self-cleaning system, and having enough water to help flush out the waste is crucial for maintains a healthy vaginal environment," Zeitlin explained. This will ward of infection and make sex more enjoyable. So fill up that water bottle and get to drinking!