The vagina is exposed to germs through sex, hygiene habits, and daily living, but it also hosts a balance of friendly bacteria that maintain an acidic pH and keep things in check. Infections and irritations occur when the pH becomes disturbed, but you can incorporate a few simple habits and natural remedies to restore pH balance.
1. Wear Cotton Underwear
Your vagina is naturally wet and often leaks fluids that help clean and lubricate the area. Certain fabrics, tight underwear, wet clothes, and panty liners trap moisture, which can cause irritation and promote the growth of unhealthy bacteria or yeasts.
Instead, wear clean, loose cotton underwear and use unscented liners and pads only as necessary. Change out of wet clothes immediately after swimming or working out. Sleep nude or bare under pajamas to give your skin a chance to breathe.
2. Use Condoms and Barrier Methods
While the vagina is acidic and ranges between 3.8 to4.5 on the pH scale, semen is more alkaline at about 8.0. During unprotected penetrative sex, semen can change the vaginal pH and disturb the natural environment for up to 10 to 14 hours. It can also trigger the growth of some bacteria and make you vulnerable to infections.
But semen isn't the only culprit. You can also alter your pH from the vaginal fluid exchange during sex with women or exposure to other organisms during oral sex or penetrative sex with toys. A simple solution is to use condoms and barrier methods during penile or oral sex and over toys. Don't forget to wash your toys with soap and water.
3. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can throw off the delicate balance of vaginal bacteria. Because these bacteria control the pH level, your pH will also change. You might also experience dryness and skin irritation. On average, women need about 2.75 liters or 11 cups of water daily, with one cup being eight ounces.
4. Try Probiotics
People often recommend probiotics for pH balance or using yogurt tampons or other home remedies for fishy odor. The idea is that introducing friendly bacteria will crowd out the harmful ones and protect against infection, but research isn't clear that probiotics help. Plus, putting food in your vagina can cause additional problems.
However, some studies suggest a probiotic strain called Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 might have benefits. If you want to try pH balance pills by mouth, it likely won't hurt.
5. Practice Good Hygiene
Good hygiene can help keep your vulva clean and dry and promote healthy flora. However, you don't need to wash out the inside of your vagina because it is self-cleaning. This practice is called douching and disrupts your vaginal flora and pH, increasing your risk for infections.
Instead, practice regular bathing habits. Wash your vulva with warm water or unscented soap, and avoid personal wipes, perfumes, and sprays. Shower immediately after exercise, and wash your vulva and genitals after sex.
Monitor pH With Vaginal pH Balance Test
While probiotics and vitamins for vaginal health might not make a difference, your hygiene and sexual practices can. If you suspect your pH is off, check it at home with Vaginox VpH test strips. If it's out of range, adjust your lifestyle habits and see your doctor.