Health

8 Surprising Foods That Can Impact Your Vaginal Health

Who knew?

What foods throw off your pH balance and make your vag smell bad temporarily? Experts weigh in.
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When eating particular foods, we usually think about what is good for our body or our energy levels, but we don't typically pick a meal based on what it might do to our vaginal health. However, there are a number of foods that can impact your vaginal health, causing conditions such as dryness or throwing off your natural pH balance. This topic is 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 help everything run 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 your vaginal 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 for a well-rounded diet. To keep your vaginal health in tip-top shape, pay attention to these nine surprising foods that may impact vaginal health, according to experts.

1

Alcohol

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It’s not just the harsh hangovers that impact your body after a night of drinking. "While most of us enjoy a drink or two (or three), remember some of the detrimental effects of alcohol," Jones says. "Alcohol is very 'drying.”' And if your body is dry, 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.”

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

Your sweet tooth could be to blame for your recent yeast infections. "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 [yeast infections] 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 may be more susceptible to contracting yeast infections, according to a 2014 study in São Paulo Medical Journal. 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.

3

Onions

Onions don’t just give you bad breath. "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 can excrete an onion smell in your urine, according to the Cleveland Clinic. 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.

4

Asparagus

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Asparagus doesn’t just give your pee a funny smell, Jones says. It’s a food that can throw off your pH balance, which could cause a funky odor — although it will go away after a couple of days. Perhaps that’s why it’s unfairly gained the reputation as a food that will make your vagina smell bad. Just like many other foods, eating asparagus is not harmful to your vaginal health. But if your concern is keeping your vaginal odor as minimal or neutral as possible, asparagus may be a thing to eat in moderation.

5

Broccoli

Broccoli is another one of those stinky veggies that could potentially 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 the vaginal odor for a few days before it's back to normal.

But not to worry — 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 they are causing a vaginal odor that is bothering you, be mindful that you might be dealing with a health issue. "High-fat diets and fatty foods (fried anything [or] 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 or green discharge, fishy vaginal odor, vaginal itching, and burning during urination. When it comes to BV, fatty foods might be ones to avoid.

7

Refined Carbohydrates

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Eating foods high in refined carbohydrates, including white bread or white rice, can put you at risk for bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections, according to a 2011 report in The Journal of Nutrition. These foods raise your blood sugar, which creates a prime environment for the bacteria to feed on. This is another reason people with diabetes who have blood sugar issues are more prone to yeast infections. Though it can be hard to avoid including these refined carbohydrates in your meals, consider limiting them if you have recurring yeast infections or other vaginal issues.

8

Cheese

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. As with other foods, eating cheese in moderation is fine as long as you alternate it with water and other foods that do not throw off your pH balance. If you frequently 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 foods 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.

Sources:

Dr. Angela Jones, FACOG

Dr .Christine Greves, OB/GYN

Dr. Nicole Scott, OB/GYN at IU Health

Dr. Anna Cabeca, OB/GYN

Sara Twogood, MD, FACOG, OB/GYN

Studies:

Gunther, L. S., Martins, H. P., Gimenes, F., Abreu, A. L., Consolaro, M. E., & Svidzinski, T. I. (2014). Prevalence of candida albicans and non-albicans isolates from vaginal secretions: Comparative evaluation of colonization, vaginal candidiasis and recurrent vaginal candidiasis in diabetic and non-diabetic women. Sao Paulo Medical Journal, 132(2), 116–120. https://doi.org/10.1590/1516-3180.2014.1322640

Thoma, Marie E et al. “Bacterial vaginosis is associated with variation in dietary indices.” The Journal of nutrition vol. 141,9 (2011): 1698-704. doi:10.3945/jn.111.140541

This post was originally published on January 14, 2018. It was updated on June 13, 2019. Additional reporting by Syeda Saad.