The vagina maintains a natural pH level that allows normal amounts of bacteria and yeast to live without issue. When the pH level changes, the yeast or the bacteria may grow out of normal amounts resulting in infection. The best way to ensure normal pH balance of the vagina is to maintain a proper diet, balanced with fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. Excessive sugars, high fats, inappropriate amounts of water can cause imbalances in the normal environment of the vagina.
The term vaginitis refers to inflammation of the vagina. This can be the result of infection or hormonal changes due to stress, menopause, or normal flucations during the menstrual cycle. It is important to know that not all vaginal discharge is necessarily abnormal. However, a new discharge or a change in discharge – especially if associated with other symptoms – may indicate a problem.
WHAT IS A YEAST INFECTION?
A yeast infection is an overgrowth of fungal elements in the body. In the vagina, classic symptoms include a thick, white, cottage cheese discharge and intense itching or irritation. Infections can occur after excessive exposure to water or moisture like gym clothes, swimsuits, bubble baths, shower gels, sugary foods, oral sex, and antibiotics or medications among other things.
WHAT IS BACTERIAL VAGINOSIS?
Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, is characterized by a thin white vaginal discharge with an odor. Most commonly, the odor is described as a fishy smell. Common risk factors for BV also include exposure to excessive water or moisture, like gym clothes and swimwear, or douching. Sugary foods and stress can lead to similar problems. Some women have more problems with BV after intercourse, especially if having unprotected intercourse, due to semen exposure.
HOW DO I PREVENT RECURRENT INFECTIONS?
- Remove wet clothes immediately after use (i.e. swimsuits, gym clothes)
- Avoid soaps and shower gels in vaginal area
- Never use vaginal douches
- Maintain balanced diet and avoid high sugars
WHAT ARE MY TREATMENT OPTIONS?
There are many treatment options available over the counter that may help alleviate the symptoms and restore proper pH balance. These include miconazole (i.e. Monistat) for yeast and repHresh for BV. Boric acid suppositories may also be useful. If your symptoms do not improve within 5-7days of treatment, if is important to seek medical evaluation for proper diagnosis.