14 Things Compromising the Health of Your Vagina

How often do you deal with an itchy, smelly vagina? One day it’s fine, but the next something is off. You went to the doc and got treated for this, that, or the other. But soon you get those tortuous symptoms again. So you go back to the doc…

You can repeat this cycle over and over again, but it’s never going to end until you address the underlying problem.

Every day our bodies are bombarded with unhealthy habits. Each habit piles on top of the others until the load is too much to bear and our bodies give way.

Treating symptoms alone is no way to live. Instead, take a look at whether any of these bad habits could be compromising the health of your vagina.

1. Too Much Sugar

Sugar is a treat. You shouldn’t be eating it at every meal or every day for that matter.

If you have a high sugar intake, you could be on the track to diabetes or have it already. Increased blood sugar leads to an increased vaginal pH which makes you prone to yeast infections.

2. Douching

Each time you douche you’re washing away all the healthy bacteria keeping your vaginal pH balanced. Douching not only rinses out the vagina but introduces a chemical-laden product into a delicate area. Cleansing your vagina in this way sets you up for colonization of bad bacteria.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends avoiding douches, sprays and deodorants.

3. Antibiotics

Any time you take antibiotics to get over a bacterial infection, you’re cleaning out your GI tract and vagina of all the good bacteria.

Antibiotics are a must at times and shouldn’t be avoided just to maintain healthy microbiomes, but use caution and try not to overuse antibiotics. Follow antibiotics with probiotics to recolonize your gut and vagina.

4. Panty Liners

Pantyliners serve a grand purpose – keeping your panties clean.

That’s a necessary job when you’re on your period, but don’t let that panty liner sit there all day. Change it out regularly, even if it’s not dirty, since bad bacteria can build up. Plus, it can cause irritation to the vulva.

5. Dirty Gym Clothes

Going straight from the gym to the grocery store makes it easier to get things done in one trip. But your vagina may not have the same appreciation.

Stop by the locker room first to swap those sweaty panties for clean ones. Sweat can harbor bacteria and promote a yeast infection, especially if you’re already prone to them.

6. Thongs

They’re cute and great at keeping your pants free from panty lines, but if your thong is too small and doesn’t cover the entire vulva, then it’s not worth it.

Thongs too often end too soon without giving adequate coverage, which can lead to irritation and itch on the outside.

7. Smoking

The negative health effects of smoking extend to your vagina.

It’s all about the pH balance. When you smoke regularly, you throw off the pH in your vagina, which can welcome bad bacteria and create an itch and smell you’d rather not deal with.

8. Wearing underwear all the time

Make a habit of going commando when you’re at home in your pajamas (or give naked sleeping a try!). And when you’re not on your period, let your nether-regions breathe without the constraint of undies.

9. Shaving

Pubic hair serves a purpose. Keeping trimmed and clean is fine, but going completely bald can cause irritation.

Pubic hair creates cushion between your vulva and underwear. It allows air to flow through and wick away moisture, which prevents the buildup of bacteria. Keep the hair, for your vagina’s sake!

10. Leaving a Tampon in for Too Long

Woah, toxic shock syndrome (TSS).  This rare but life-threatening bacterial infection is an unwelcome friend for sure.

TSS occurs when you leave your dirty tampon in too long – even if you’re period isn’t heavy. On lighter days, wear a panty liner instead, or change out the tampon within the recommended time frame.

11. Dirty Sex Toys

Dirty toys harbor bacteria and cause bacterial infections in you. No thanks!

Wash that dildo thoroughly with hot water and soap. Rinse and dry with a microfiber towel or let it air dry to prevent fibers from sticking to the toy.

12. Unsafe Sex

Everybody likes to have fun. But if you’re swapping every day or every other day, vaginal health is yet another reason to use protection.

Not only are you at increased risk for STDs, you’re introducing another human’s bacteria into your sensitive regions. This can make it difficult for your vagina to regulate itself and find its rhythm with your body and bacteria.

13. Scented Soap

Most women think they need to lather up and scrub-a-dub to keep things clean down there. But that’s simply not true. It’s actually harmful. If your soap contains unnatural, human-produced fragrance, then it has no right being anywhere near your vagina.

Vaginas are self-cleaning. Rinsing your vagina with water is perfectly acceptable and will do the job just fine. Fragrance can not only throw off your vaginal pH, but it can also irritate the vulva and vaginal lining.

Vaginal health may not be a typical table discussion for every family, but it probably should be. Vaginas help our bodies carry out essential bodily functions, as well as pleasure and new life, and they deserve careful attention and treatment.

14. Bleached Toilet Paper

Tried everything and still have chronic irritation? You could be allergic to toilet paper—bleached toilet paper, that is. Highly processed toilet paper can contain scary ingredients such as formaldehyde, which is not only an irritant but also a cancer-causing agent. If no other conclusion can be reached for your irritation, trying unbleached toilet paper is worth a shot.

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Image via Thinkstock.

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