Ah, the wonders of the human body! From the intricacies of brain function to the biomechanics of movement, it’s an amazing system. And in women, that system includes a complex relationship between vaginal health and hormones that shifts and changes depending on their reproductive phase. What can you do to foster vaginal health and maintain hormonal balance, whatever your life stage?
Whole Foods, Whole-Body Health
Yes, in these intricate bodies of ours, what you eat affects your vagina’s well-being. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends nutrient-rich foods from all food groups for women, with some adjustments depending on stage of life. For a healthy reproductive system, throughout your life your diet should include:
- Whole grains: oats, wheat, brown rice, and quinoa, including in the forms of bread and pasta
- Vegetables: leafy green vegetables like kale, chard, and spinach, along with carrots, squash, and cruciferous vegetables
- Fruits: blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, along with apples, grapes, peaches, plums, apricots, bananas, oranges, lemons, and limes
- Lean protein: fish (especially tuna and salmon), seafood, poultry, eggs, soy, nuts, legumes like beans and peas, and limited amounts of beef and pork
- Dairy: milk, yogurt, and cheese; if you don’t consume dairy products, try calcium-fortified foods and beverages
- Limited quantities of added sugar, simple carbohydrates, saturated fats, and alcohol
Depending on your stage of life, you’ll also need to modify your diet in some ways to meet your body’s changing needs. Pregnant women need more iron in their diets, and post-menopausal women need less than they used to. Folate and folic acid are important for women of childbearing age, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need even more. Calcium requirements are highest during adolescence and lowest after age 50.
Recent years have seen an uptick in research on the impact of consumption of dairy products on reproductive health. The results so far suggest that moderate consumption of regular-fat dairy products is the best strategy. For example, while there is a positive association between eating dairy products and live births, excessive dairy consumption is associated with a greater risk of endometrial cancer among post-menopausal women.
Supplement Your Diet
While diet is the cornerstone of a healthy life, there are additional opportunities to promote vaginal health and well-balanced hormones. Consider Jetson’s Women supplement, which includes five probiotic strains. The multifunctional Bacillus subtilis DE111 balances the gut microbiome and prevents the growth of pathogenic bacteria, and helps your body assimilate nutrients. Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-14 lowers gut pH, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 lowers vaginal pH, which creates environments inhospitable to harmful bacteria. Lactobacillus gasseri LG-36, which also lowers vaginal pH, is one of the main probiotic strains found in a healthy vagina. Additional ingredients help with symptoms of menopause and PMS, and combat and limit development of urinary tract infections.
Regularly taking a supplement that includes probiotics can have other benefits as well. Antibiotics are a modern wonder drug, but they can have an unwelcome side effect in women: because they kill the healthy bacteria that keeps the yeast in your body in balance, a course of antibiotics can lead to a yeast infection. Probiotics, particularly the Lactobacillus strains, can reduce the likelihood of developing a yeast infection.
Like many other health concerns, one of the essential components for vaginal health and hormone balance is well-managed emotional stress. While every life includes trying times, living day in and day out with high levels of stress and anxiety takes a toll. Addressing the causes of stress may require some hard choices, but the long-term benefit will be worth it.
There are also some easier practices you can adopt. Lose the douche habit. Douching has no health benefits and has been linked to vaginal infections. Again, the body is an amazing system, and it includes its own mechanism—mucous—for the vagina to clean itself.
Finally, embrace cotton (panties, that is). It’s breathable and is best for absorbing moisture, unlike synthetic materials or silk.