9 Surprising Foods That Can Impact Your Vaginal Health
When eating particular foods, we usually think about what is good for our body or our energy levels, but we don't usually pick a meal based on what it will do to our vaginal heatlh. However, there are a number of foods that can impact vaginal health, and this can be anything from causing a yeast infection or even some unwanted odor. It's not exactly something you learn in nutrition class, but if you're looking to keep your vaginal health in tact, you'll want to make sure you're tweaking your lifestyle to make sure everything runs smoothly with your reproductive system.
"Diet affects everything, and the vagina follows the same rules of thumb as the rest of your body," Dr. Angela Jones, M.D., FACOG, tells Bustle. "Too much sugar — not a good thing. Too much alcohol — not a good thing." Everything in moderation.
Some of these foods, especially the ones that just affect smell, are still healthy for you, which means you don't want to cut them out completely. Just make sure you're balancing them with other food groups. To keep your vaginal health in tip-top shape, pay attention to these nine surprising foods that can may impact vaginal health, according to experts.
"While most of us enjoy a drink or two (or three), remember some of the detrimental effects of alcohol," Jones says. "Other than hangovers, alcohol is very 'drying.”' And if your body is dry, Dr. Jones says that this may have consequences for your vaginal health as well. "Not being adequately hydrated makes it harder for the vagina to produce adequate amounts of lubrication," Jones says.
There’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks now and then, but it’s important to keep in mind that anything more than that can be potentially harmful. Chronic binge-alcohol drinking can also lead to problems with sexual functioning and drive as well as sleep, so talk to your doctor if this is an issue for you.
2. Sugary Foods
"Eating a lot of foods high in sugar may increase the likelihood of a woman acquiring a vaginal yeast infection in the right environment," Christine Greves, MD, OB/GYN, tells Bustle. "Yeast absolutely loves sugar, warmth and moisture. Foods that are high in sugar [...] can increase a woman's risk for having that if the environment is warm and moist; for example, if [the person] does not change their workout bottoms after sweating at the gym for a few hours, [it could create this type of environment]."
In fact, it is for this very reason that people who have diabetes because of high blood sugar problems are more susceptible to contracting yeast infections, according to Women’s Health Magazine. While sugar is OK every once in a while (who can live without cupcakes?), be mindful that you’re not consuming so much that it’s affecting your health negatively.
Onions don’t just cause a bad oral odor. "Any food that can give you bad breath can cause vaginal odor," Dr. Nicole Scott, OB/GYN at IU Health, tells Bustle. Onions are one of the most common culprits. When you eat an onion, you excrete an onion smell in your urine, Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president for external medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, tells Teen Vogue. This is similar to what happens when you eat garlic. Though eating onions is not bad for your health, consuming too many too often can negatively affect your vaginal health.
"Asparagus doesn’t just cause your urine to smell bad," Jones says. It can also affect the pH of your vagina, Jones says, which could cause a funky odor, although it will go away after a couple of days. Just like many other foods, eating asparagus is not extremely harmful to your vaginal But if your concern is keeping your vaginal odor as minimal or neutral as possible, asparagus may be a thing to eat in moderation.
Broccoli is another one of those stinky veggies that could also cause an odor in your vaginal region that may be different than usual. The vegetable is obviously healthy, so you may not want to cut it out of your diet completely. Just like with asparagus though, eating this vegetable will most likely only alter vaginal odor for a few days before it's back to normal. But Dr. Anna Cabeca, OBG/YN and women’s health expert tells Bustle, “You would have to eat a lot of broccoli really to affect the vaginal odor,” she says. “Broccoli is in general, so very good for vaginal health, breast health and hormone health. Switching or incorporating broccoli sprouts is a fabulous option.” She says incorporating the sprouts is a good way to avoid the odor altogether.
6. Fried Foods
This doesn't mean you should stop having French fries — but if you notice it's causing a vaginal odor that is bothering you, be mindful. "High-fat diets and fatty foods (fried anything, many processed foods) have, in some studies, been associated with increased risk for bacterial vaginosis," Sara Twogood, MD, FACOG, tells Bustle. Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection and is usually indicated by symptoms like thin, gray, green, or white discharge, fishy vaginal odor, vaginal itching, and burning during urination, according to the Mayo Clinic.
This one’s going to hurt the coffee-drinkers. Coffee is one of the strong-smelling substances that can change the odor of your vagina because of the way it changes the smell of bodily fluids like sweat, according to Business Insider. This change in your body and pH can even make you more susceptible to getting a yeast infection. Caffeine can also trigger stress in some people, which could also leave you more susceptible to an infection. For the people who can’t live without their morning coffee, you don’t have to quit or worry. If you drink coffee often and are worried about throwing off your vaginal pH, just be sure to balance your drinks with plenty of water throughout the day.
8. Refined Carbohydrates
Eating foods high in refined carbohydrates, including white bread, white rice, etc., can put you at risk for bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections, according to some research. These foods raise your blood sugar, which gives a prime environment for the bacteria to feed on. This is why people with diabetes that have blood sugar issues are more prone to yeast infections, according to the Mayo Clinic. Though it can be hard to avoid including these refined carbohydrates with your meals, it’s important to try to limit them as much as possible, especially if you have reoccurring yeast infections or other vaginal issues.
Don't feel the need to eliminate cheese completely, but take note if it seems to be impacting your health. Just as many dairy products can cause hormonal issues or imbalances due to high levels of insulin, too much cheese can do the same and disrupt the bacteria in your vagina, most often causing a yeast infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. As with other foods, eating cheese in moderation is fine as long as it is balanced with water and other foods that do not throw off your pH balance. But if you eat cheese on its own as a separate snack, you’re better off switching to yogurt, which contains probiotics that actually promote vaginal health.
While you don't need to cut these food out completely, take note if you think they may be causing problems with your vaginal health. If these problems are persistent, let your doctor know and they can help you find a solution.
This post was originally published on January 14, 2018. It was updated on June 13, 2019. Additional reporting by Syeda Saad.