You consume lean protein when you need steady energy, good fats for healthy hair, skin, and nails, and whole grains to fill you up and keep your system running smooth.
But what should you eat to keep your vagina in top shape? Believe it or not, certain foods really can help keep your lady bits happy and healthy by easing cramps, fighting infections, and alleviating dryness. On the other hand, too much of some foods can mess with you below the belt, so it’s smart to leave them off your plate as much as possible.
Related article: 9 probiotic-rich foods that aren’t yogurt
For the health of your hoo-ha, find out what the ob-gyns we spoke to suggest you feed your V, plus what items you should keep out of your kitchen.
Yogurt’s nutritional power goes beyond its high levels of calcium and protein. It’s a probiotic, meaning it contains live bacteria cultures. And varieties that contain a bacteria called Lactobacillus acidophilus may help keep the pH of the vagina in the acidic range, driving down the risk of yeast and other types of infection, says Alyssa Dweck, MD, a New York–based ob-gyn and co-author of The Complete A to Z for Your V.
Other probiotic foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir (a fermented drink similar to yogurt) might also help your vagina maintain the right pH balance. “Probiotics are definitely helpful,” says Dr. Dweck.
Concentrated cranberry juice
You’ve already heard that you should drink cranberry cocktail to prevent or ease a urinary tract infection. But the healthy-sounding sip may be less effective than most people think—and it’s often loaded with sugar too. Instead, drink concentrated cranberry juice if you’re prone to UTIs, suggests Dr. Dweck.
“There’s a particular ingredient in concentrated cranberry that makes the bladder slippery (and therefore more resistant) to E. coli, the bacteria that’s linked to the most common type of urinary tract infection,” she says. The more you drink, the higher the likelihood that you flush out the bacteria before they breed and begin triggering telltale symptoms like pain while peeing.
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Staying well-hydrated helps boost energy and circulation, and it has positive benefits for your lady bits as well, says Dr. Dweck. She recommends that women who are experiencing vaginal dryness drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of H2O each day.
A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that ginger was just as effective as ibuprofen for relieving painful period-related cramps. Though the study focused on ginger capsules, this ginger tea recipe might help do the trick: add two tablespoons of fresh ginger root to water and let it steep for 15 minutes before straining.
Soy products such as tofu and edamame contain isoflavones that mimic estrogen, says Dr. Dweck. Although this isn’t proven by science, some experts suggest that the plant estrogen can have a similar effect as the estrogen a woman naturally produces, alleviating vaginal dryness caused by hormonal changes.
“Yes, soy products in general have phytoestrogens, which possess some estrogen-like qualities,” she explains. “But you would have to eat a ton of soy to get a real estrogenic effect from a dietary item.” If dryness is something you’re dealing with, you may want to add soy products to your plate.
Related article: 10 easy ways to slash sugar from your diet
Sure, a little dark chocolate can alleviate the frustration of PMS. But in general, excess sugar is not vagina-friendly. “People prone to yeast infections should cut back on sweets and fruit, since sugar can promote yeast growth in the vagina,” explains Leena Nathan, MD, ob-gyn at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Vaginal secretions contain sugar, says Dr. Nathan, and yeast tends to thrive in sweet, moist environments.
Like sugar, alcohol can encourage yeast to grow in the vagina, says Dr. Dweck, and it may also worsen menstrual cramps. Occasional imbibing is okay, but avoiding booze as much as possible is probably a good idea when it comes to keeping other female-only body parts healthy. Studies have linked alcohol intake to breast cancer risk.