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A woman’s body as we know functions way more different than a man’s body. The beauty of a woman’s body is that in spite of passing through various stages from adolescence to adulthood, carrying out 9 months of pregnancy, to lactation, and finally hitting menopause, the body has a natural tendency to cope up with each stage. And it still remains vibrant and beautiful. Each stage has its own challenges, yet overcoming them along with handling her day-to-day chores of home life and professional life, has never been easy—neither for our grandmothers nor for the 21st-century women.
We weren’t open, till the last generation to openly talk about anything as intimate & personal as the “Vagina” or “Vaginal Health”. Also named as “YONI” in Sanskrit, it’s an iconic representation of Goddess Shakti. Yoni is natures gateway of all births, and creation. The word “Yoni” means “The Womb”.
In general, vaginal health is an important part of a woman’s overall health. Urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, bacterial/fungal infections, itching and dryness of the vagina, vaginal discharge & painful sex are a few common concerns women face at least once in their lifetime.
Before we can jump into which herbs & foods are beneficial for vaginal health, lets briefly understand what foods/beverages can put off the health of the vagina, so we can stay away from these harmful substances.
Harmful Foods & Drinks for Vaginal Health
- Sugar loaded sweets/candies/bakery products
- Refined & highly processed foods
- Animal dairy/meat containing artificial hormones
Sugars can kill the important vaginal bacteria, as they lead to yeast infections & soreness. Processed foods can suppress your immune system which can allow the harmful bacteria to take over.
The artificial hormones can block estrogen from the vagina, preventing mucosal lining, which again can leave you open to infections.
Smoke & alcohol can cause dryness & dehydration in the body & especially around the sensitive vaginal area and leave you with irritation & redness.
- Prebiotics & Probiotics
- Nuts & Healthy Fats
The vagina, like the gut, requires healthy bacteria to fight infections and maintain a normal ph. Prebiotic foods like garlic, onion along with probiotics like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh can actually help the vaginal good bacteria to flourish and thereby allowing you to enjoy good health.
Healthy fats like those found in almonds, pistachios, cashew nuts, oily fish, olive/coconut oil, ghee and avocados help keep your estrogen levels in balance, creating a healthy mucosal lining that can help ward off infections.
It is important to keep hydrated with enough water throughout the day. The feeling of dehydration due to heavy smoking/alcohol consumption can be reduced with staying well hydrated with water & herbal teas.
Best Herbs for Vaginal Health
- Neem: Neem is a bitter tasting herb with its antibacterial, antiseptic and astringent properties. This herb acts on the circulatory, respiratory, digestive and urinary systems. Being an antibacterial & antifungal herb, it helps in suppressing the bacterial and yeast infections in the vagina. We can take it in the form of a concoction or oil as per the advice of your ayurvedic doctor.
- Manjistha: Manjistha is known for its antitumor properties and it is also an astringent. It mainly helps with problems related to the circulatory & reproductive systems. It’s known for its blood-purifying properties and helps in controlling bleeding. You can take Manjistha in the form of a powder, paste, or a decoction.
- Aloe Vera: Aloe vera is part of the cacti family and it is very useful. The anti-fungal, anti-microbial and antiseptic properties can help curb the overgrowth of any infection-causing fungi or bacteria. Apply a thin layer of freshly extracted aloe vera gel over the affected area and let dry naturally. Wash with warm water and wipe dry. Use under doctors’ guidance.
- Brahmi (water hyssop): Brahmi is best known as a rejuvenating herb. Brahmi improves immunity and is also known for its antibacterial, antimicrobial properties. It can be taken in the form of oil, concoction and infusion as per doctors advise.
- Yashti Madhu (mulethi): Yashti Madhu is known for its rejuvenating, sedating, and tonic properties. It acts on the digestive, respiratory and reproductive system. This herb helps remove kaph from stomach & lungs. It also helps in treating vaginal infections like candidiasis. It can be taken with milk or decoction or with ghee as per your doctor’s advice.
- Turmeric: A very common root, turmeric is known for its anti-bacterial properties. The enzyme curcumin present in it acts as an antifungal and helps eradicate yeast infections. Even curcumin extracts have been known to be used in modern medicine.
There are many foods & herbs that support vaginal health but the most important is to maintain good hygiene habits along with the right lifestyle. Do not fall prey to advertisements that promote various washes/lotions to maintain hygiene as the simplest yet effective and naturally available water is the best cure of all. Maintain your personal hygiene, hydrate and avoid harmful foods as mentioned earlier.
Hope this helped enlighten you & help you understand your body a little better.😊
Written by Ananya Bhattacharya, ENHAPP Wellness Coach & Nutritionist