When I received the following email from Nia Spicer, CEO of pHembiotics, I knew they were a company I wanted to work with:
“Many women attribute vaginal itching, odor and irritation to poor hygiene when in fact there are so many other contributing factors. The imbalances that we are experiencing are actually often caused by daily life events such as our period, sex, poor diet, lack of exercise and stress. These 5 things significantly impact our vaginal health and I think more women need education surrounding these. The ill effects of pH imbalance are not things that women should be ashamed of but we should support each other to reach optimal pH balance. We also need the support of our partners and need to feel comfortable expressing that there is an issue that needs to be addressed. Our partners also need to acknowledge that they are contributing to the problem with poor lifestyle habits as well. We all need a change and I think it’s the perfect time of year to do that! Our company focuses on empowering women with the knowledge and tools to heal their gut (the root cause of pH imbalances) while also seeking to break the stigma surrounding vaginal health.”
So let’s talk about those 5 things that can impact your vaginal health:
A healthy vaginal pH is acidic and ranges from a pH of 3.5 to 4.5. This means that there is a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria. Good bacteria thrives in the vaginas acidic environment.
However, when an imbalance in pH occurs, bad bacteria can grow and you can develop irritation, odor, and infections such as bacterial vaginosis, the most common vaginal infection for menstruating women. Therefore, pH-balance is an important factor in maintaining vaginal health.
Can my period impact my vaginal health?
While periods are a natural part of owning a vagina, how you manage your period makes a huge difference. From the flexfits.com blog: “Blood has a neutral pH of 7.4, so during your period your vaginal pH becomes elevated by the presence of menstrual fluids. Our bodies are able to handle a certain level of fluctuation, but the period products we use to manage our flow may be counter intuitive to the menstruation process. For example, tampons (both organic and regular) can contribute to an elevated pH since they absorb and retain the fluids that cause pH to increase.
Think about it: cotton is an organic material, meaning it can absorb it’s fluid surroundings and grow bacteria. The vagina is the perfect host for bacteria to grow on cotton because it’s a dark, moist environment. (That’s why you must change your tampons every 4 hours.) And furthermore, chemicals present in some tampons may also affect pH levels in the vaginal environment. The fluctuation in pH during menstruation is part of the reason why many women who suffer from recurrent vaginal infections find that their period is often the trigger.”
Can sex affect my vaginal health?
More than you might think! “Sex with a new male partner introduces new bacteria (about 10 million bacteria per ml of semen), often resulting in a change of the [vaginal] microbiome,” says Kathryn Wells George, M.D., a gynecologist in New York City. This specific number of bacteria is only the case for unprotected sex if a male partner ejaculates inside of you; however, “pre-cum is relevant to throwing off your microbiome since it contains and introduces new bacteria, too,” says Dr. George.
This imbalance may then lead to a host of side effects such as a change in pH, odors, bacterial vaginosis (BV, a super common infection), urinary tract infections, yeast infections, burning, and itching.
Most women’s vaginas contain a lot of lactobacilli, a natural bacteria that helps produce lactic acid and keep the vaginal pH low (<4.5), at a healthy level. “The low pH aids in preventing the growth of the bacteria that causes BV (Gardnerella) and helps to maintain high levels of lactobacilli, thereby preventing an overgrowth of yeast,” she says. That’s right: Lactobacilli keep the vaginal pH low, and this low vaginal pH then helps maintain normal levels of lactobacilli by keeping the microbiome in check.
Maintaining this balanced ecosystem is what keeps new, outside organisms from growing out of control. AND check this out: Sometimes HIV and HSV-2 (herpes) can even be inactivated by the low pH, she adds. Unprotected sex with a new partner, however, can throw off your vaginal pH, which can disrupt your vagina’s germ-fighting powers and lead to a growth of foreign bacteria. Another reason to consider always using condoms with new partners especially!
This goes for female sexual partners as well! Any new partner doing anything with your genitals introduces new germs, possibly throwing off your pH and creating the perfect environment for infection.
Can poor diet affect my vaginal health?
Absolutely yes, it can. Healthy vaginas have a naturally acidic pH, as well as a host of healthy bacteria that ward off infections and keep everything humming along as designed, says Mary Rosser, M.D., Ph.D., ob-gyn at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
But the foods you eat can influence that pH, changing the way your nether region smells (and even tastes). For instance, spices, onions, garlic, red meat, dairy, asparagus, broccoli, and alcohol can all affect the natural balance you’ve got going on, while fruits and fruit juices may turn things especially sweet, Rosser says. But whatever the effect, it will only last for two to three days after you eat your fill.
The most important thing to avoid? Sugar. High blood sugar levels feed yeast and yeast overgrowth is an itchy, stinky mess also known as a yeast infection.
Can exercising impact my vaginal health?
See also: SPORTS VAGINA. Yes, that’s a thing, and yes, it hurts! Sports vagina may cause a yeast infection, which is an overgrowth of the Candida fungus. Another infection that thrives in warm, sweaty environments is (you guessed it!) bacterial vaginosis (BV). It’s caused when the balance of good and bad bacteria in your vagina gets out of whack. BV may cause a fishy vaginal odor and grey discharge.
But can not exercising impact my vaginal health?
Yes! Another way to support your body’s pH-balancing process is through deep breathing. Breathing exercises like pranayama can have immediate effects by altering the pH of the blood, or changing blood pressure. Studies show that this form of breathing can positively affect immune function, hypertension, asthma, autonomic nervous system imbalances, and psychological and stress-related disorders. Which is a great segue to my next question…
How does stress affect my vaginal health?
Vaginal discharge is a totally normal part of having a vagina. It’s your vaginal cleaning mechanism, and it’s also one of the ways your body informs you that something is going on — by changing the color, smell, or in this instance, volume. The amount of vaginal discharge can change based on things like ovulation, pregnancy, being turned on — and stress. Stress hormones are to blame for this heavier discharge due to the hormonal imbalance they can cause.
High stress levels can cause yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis by lowering your immune system. To understand how this works, think of your vaginal climate as less of a balance and more of a constant battle between a bunch of different types of totally healthy, normal bacteria that are always inside you. Your immune system is one of the key players in maintaining the peace, so when it’s lowered because you’re stressed out, vaginal imbalance and infection may follow.
This is where pHembiotics comes in…
pHembiotics is a female led women’s health company that offers natural and sustainable solutions that optimize vaginal health and pH balance. They are scientifically based and are also holistic, believing in the healing power of nature and sophistication of modern medicine. Their mission is to help women find peace and balance with their vaginal pH and flora while providing long-term sustainable solutions for Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), Yeast Infections and Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).
Their featured product is the once daily Vaginal Health Support supplement which is the first ever vitamin and probiotic blend made to specifically combat BV, Yeast & UTIs. Their Vaginal Health Support balances and maintains a normal vaginal pH by creating an acidic environment where good bacteria can thrive, while breaking down biofilms that prevent the bad bacteria from multiplying. Everything we do at pHembiotics revolves around pH balance and healthy vaginal maintenance.
They also offer a loose-leaf detox tea which is currently the only tea on the market specifically designed to detox, cleanse, rebalance pH, heal the gut, and decrease menstrual and menopausal symptoms. This yummy tea does all of the following:
- Supports pH balance
- Cleanses and detoxes reproductive & urinary systems
- Eases menstrual cramps, PMS & bloating
- Relieves menopausal symptoms
- Improves gut health
Tea Ingredients: Hibiscus*, Lemon Peel*, Yarrow Flower*, Dandelion Leaf*, Lemon Balm*, Lemongrass*, Nettle Leaf*, Raspberry Leaf*, Dandelion Root*, Stevia Leaf*
- Hibiscus- relieves hot flashes
- Yarrow Flower- supports urinary tract health
- Raspberry Leaf- strengthens the uterus
- Lemongrass- antifungal, antibiotic, pain reliever
- Lemon Peel- antiseptic, maintains pH
- Lemon Balm- reduces PMS and cramping
- Dandelion Leaf- supports kidney health
- Dandelion Root- detoxifies kidneys and digestive system
- Nettle Leaf- relieves cramps, bloating, immune system & kidney support
- Stevia Leaf- a natural sweetener that does not raise blood sugar and helps good bacteria thrive in the gut
Lastly, they offer an herbal vaginal steam and herbal bath products such as bath bombs, bath salts and bath milks infused with herbs specially selected for their powerful healing properties for the reproductive, urinary and digestive systems. Their bath bombs are inspired by the Haitian postpartum cleansing bath called a “bain”, and are carefully crafted to include ingredients in their most natural state. Each bath bomb is made of sodium bicarbonate, citric acid, sun-dried sea salt, organic sunflower & coconut oils, essential oils, and ground minerals for color. Free of artificial dyes and fragrances their bath bombs include a botanical blend of mango leaves, avocado leaves, papaya leaves, and sage that detoxify the body and support pH balance. These specially selected herbs help optimize pH balance and feminine health due to their antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties.