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Photo of woman with an SOS sign in front of her vagina to signal she needs help for vaginal dryness and irritation

Don’t Let Vaginal Dryness Ruin Your Day

Vaginal dryness and irritation can ruin your day! Maybe you were headed out for lunch with friends and wanted to wear your favorite pair of jeans. Nope. No-go. They may look cute but they’re definitely rubbing your lady parts the wrong way.

Perhaps it’s your anniversary and you planned a special intimate celebration with your partner. At first you were excited, but now you’re starting to dread it because you’ve been dry and irritated all day.

Vaginal dryness is more common than you realize, ladies. More than half of post-menopausal women experience vaginal dryness and irritation regularly. (Actually, the numbers could be as high as 90% because many women suffer in silence, too embarrassed to talk to their doctors about it.)

It’s 2023. Time to ditch the awkwardness and start sharing your “down there” pain with others who totally get it. If you stopped five women on the street to lament about your personal struggles with vaginal dryness and irritation, research indicates that at least four of them could relate.

In this blog, we’ll candidly discuss:

·         What does vaginal dryness feel like?

·         Why do you feel dry and irritated down there?

·         What causes sudden vaginal dryness and irritation?

·         What’s the most effective way to get healthy relief?

·         What are other natural solutions for vaginal dryness?

lit match burning to represent vaginal dryness and irritation feeling

What does vaginal dryness feel like?

Burning. Itching. Redness and swelling. Oh, and let’s not forget the searing pain that happens immediately after intercourse?

Those are just some of the most common signs of vaginal dryness and irritation. However, they aren’t the only ones. Some of the other tell-tale signs that can be easy to miss include:

·         Bleeding after sex.

·         Frequent (and painful) urination.

·         Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs).

·         Yeast infections.

·         Vaginitis.

If you let it go long enough, you’ll find it can be difficult to do normal, everyday things—like wearing underwear or your favorite slacks without pain.

Why do you feel dry and irritated down there?

While it’s true that a majority of menopausal women experience vaginal dryness and irritation, mid-life is not the sole cause of the uncomfortable condition. There are several reasons why your body might stop producing natural intimate moisture.

Autoimmune system disorders

Two autoimmune disorders are notorious for causing vaginal dryness and irritation: lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome.

Lupus contributes to vaginal dryness because it causes inflammation in different parts of your body. When you have lupus, your body fights itself instead of viruses and other immune system invaders, which causes excess inflammation.

Sjogren’s syndrome affects all the moisture-producing glands in your body, including your salivary glands and tear ducts. If you have this autoimmune condition, you’re 3 times more likely to deal with vaginal atrophy and dryness during menopause.

Breastfeeding and childbirth

Giving birth can be a joyous time. Your body was amazing in growing and delivering a new life. You probably endured a lot of discomfort during your pregnancy (which is 100% normal). What you may not realize is that things won’t return to normal once the baby is born.

Postpartum vaginal dryness is common because of hormone imbalances. Estrogen and progesterone increase during pregnancy. However, both dramatically decline once the baby arrives, increasing the likelihood of vaginal dryness and irritation.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy causes a sudden loss of estrogen production in your ovaries. Without it, vaginal dryness and irritation of the delicate vaginal tissues soon follow.

If you’re going through chemotherapy treatments—including using prescription cancer medications—talk to your doctor about vaginal dryness and how you can effectively combat it during your sessions.

Woman sitting alone looking depressed because of vaginal dryness and irritation.

Depression and excessive stress

Emotional and psychological issues can lead to vaginal dryness and irritation. Depression and excessive stress can destroy your desire for intimacy. Add in pressure from a partner (or even yourself) to enjoy sex again and—you guessed it—the result is more anxiety and even more intimate irritation.

Full hysterectomy

A full hysterectomy can be the solution for many women’s health issues. During a full hysterectomy, both ovaries and the uterus are removed. Without ovaries to produce estrogen, you can go into early menopause.

Vaginal dryness and irritation, along with abnormal vaginal contractions, can happen after a full hysterectomy. You may need to use hormone replacement therapy or bioidentical hormones if you undergo this procedure before you naturally achieve menopause.

Low estrogen levels

Estrogen plays an important role in your reproductive health. Its three primary functions include:

·         Enhancing the mucous membranes that line your uterus.

·         Maintaining vaginal wall thickness and promoting natural lubrication.

·         Stimulating the growth of egg follicles in your ovaries.

When your body stops producing enough estrogen, vaginal dryness and irritation soon follow. That’s why menopausal women are the most frequent sufferers of this condition.

Prescription medications

Prescription medications can be necessary for treating life-threatening and other debilitating health issues. Unfortunately, Vaginal dryness and irritation can happen if you regularly take any of the following types of prescription medications:

  • Antihistamines
  • Antiseizure medications.
  • Birth control pills (or the shot)
  • Blood pressure and heart medications.
  • Cancer drugs.
  • Decongestants
  • Sedatives

 

Smoking

Reducing the likelihood of experiencing vaginal dryness and irritation is just one more reason to quit smoking. Cigarettes—including vape devices—decrease your circulation. Smoking also decreases your hormone production, which means your body might not produce enough estrogen to help you maintain your natural vaginal moisture levels.

Douching syringes that can cause vaginal dryness and irritation.

What causes sudden vaginal dryness and irritation?

If you wake up one morning and realize you feel drier than the Sahara Dessert down there, you can probably blame one of the following reasons for the temporary shift in moisture levels.

·       You used a fragranced product. Just because something smells nice doesn’t mean it’s good for your body. Using overly fragranced body washes and other feminine products can cause temporary dryness and irritation.

·       You drank too much alcohol. It’s hardly a surprise that alcohol dehydrates your body. Since your vagina is part of your body, you can expect to feel drier than usual if you hit the bottle a little too hard the night before.

·       You douched. Your vagina contains bacteria needed to maintain vaginal health. Douches are harsh and can upset that delicate balance by disrupting your vaginal pH levels.

What’s the most effective way to get healthy relief?

Every vagina is different. The reason that you may be feeling dry and irritated can differ from your neighbor down the street who’s going through the same issue. The most effective way to get healthy relief is to talk to your doctor.

Being shy about your vaginal health can lead to unnecessary suffering, ladies. If you have a vagina, it’s time you learn to talk openly about it with medical professionals who can make recommendations for relief when you have vaginal discomfort of any kind.

Since it may take some time to get in to see your doctor, you may want to consider using a vaginal moisturizer to get all-natural and immediate relief from vaginal dryness and irritation. When choosing a vaginal moisturizer or lubricant, remember the following:

·        Glycerin-containing products can encourage vaginal yeast growth, which leads to itching and infection.

·        Oil-based lubricants can deteriorate latex, making them risky to use with condoms if you’re trying to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

·        Water-based lubricants can feel cold and wet, which may decrease your desire during intimacy. Many also contain alcohol, which can aggravate any already dry and irritated vagina.

Using an all-natural vaginal moisturizer made from 100% pharmaceutical-grade oils is the safest way to get quick relief.

Black and green olives are rich in natural plant estrogen to fight vaginal dryness.

What are other natural solutions for vaginal dryness?

Besides applying a vaginal moisturizer for instant relief, there are other strategies you can use to get all-natural relief from vaginal dryness and irritation. Remember, every woman is different. Some of these suggestions may work for you and some may not.

1.     Consume good fat
Natural lubrication requires estrogen, which comes at least partially from eating healthy cholesterol. If you want more moisture without slathering on lubricants, eat more fat. Just make sure you’re sticking with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (the “good fats”). They should comprise about 10% of your daily caloric intake. Some excellent sources include avocados, fatty fish, nuts, and olives.

2.      Eat foods rich in plant estrogen
Soybeans, soy products, and yams are among the foods rich in plant estrogen. Why do you need this? Well, consuming plants naturally high in estrogen can be beneficial if you’re pre- or post-menopausal and suffering from hormone-related vaginal dryness and irritation.

A word of caution: phytoestrogens can stimulate estrogen-like activity throughout your body. If you have a history of gynecological cancer, talk to your doctor before trying this strategy.

3.     Reduce caffeine intake
Caffeine dehydrates your body. It can be easy to forget that when you’re on your third cup of coffee for the day, then wondering why your underwear feels extra irritating against your dry, dehydrated vaginal tissue.

You don’t have to completely eliminate caffeine from your diet. Just be mindful of how much you’re consuming and be sure to cut back if you experience or already have vaginal dryness.

4.      Stop douching
We mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating. Douching is one of the worst things you can do for your vaginal health. Somewhere along the way, women were convinced that the normal smells and discharges from their vaginas were gross and needed cleansing. Enter the commercial douche product.

Be aware that douching can cause vaginal infections. Not to mention it makes an already dry and irritated vagina even angrier by further sapping your natural moisture by upsetting the natural balance of your delicate vaginal microbiome.

5.     Supplement with Sea Buckthorn
Sea Buckthorn truly is a wonder herb. It’s so versatile it even can be used to treat vaginal dryness and irritation. Taking this herbal supplement at least twice daily for a month can restore your vaginal moisture naturally.

Post-menopausal women find sea buckthorn particularly useful for protecting against vaginal dryness and irritation, plus vaginal atrophy.

6.      Try acupuncture
Acupuncture is an alternative medicine practice and a key component of traditional Chinese medicine. An acupuncturist inserts thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body to help relieve various ailments.

In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is used to balance the flow of energy (chi). Western medicine touts the benefit of acupuncture because it stimulates connective tissues, nerves, and muscles to promote natural healing and pain relief.

Stop suffering in silence

Vaginal dryness is nothing to be embarrassed about, ladies. It’s time to stop suffering in silence and start talking to one another (and your gynecologist) about solutions that work best for your body.

With a little research and some manageable lifestyle adjustments, you can make a real difference in your comfort level. Stay safe and be well.

Shari Berg is a researcher, frequent blogger, feature writer, and author of Wars End with Me.

 

Sources

1.       Acupuncture. mayoclinic.org. Accessed January 9, 2023.

2.       Analysis of cerebrovascular dysfunction caused by chronic social defeat in mice. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed January 9, 2023.

3.       Cigarette Smoking and Risk of Early Natural Menopause. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed January 9, 2023.

4.       Dietary fat intake and reproductive hormone concentrations and ovulation in regularly menstruating women. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed January 9, 2023.

5.       Don’t ignore vaginal dryness and pain. health.harvard.edu. Accessed January 9, 2023.

6.       Douching. womenshealth.gov. Accessed January 9, 2023.

7.       Effects of sea buckthorn oil intake on vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. www.sciencedirect.com. Accessed January 9, 2023.

8.       Impact of vaginal douching products on vaginal Lactobacillus, Escherichia coli and epithelial immune responses. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed January 9, 2023.

9.       Low Estrogen Levels in Menopause. urmc.rochester.edu. Accessed January 9, 2023.

10.   Prevalence of and risk factors associated with sexual health issues in primiparous women at 6 and 12 months postpartum; a longitudinal prospective cohort study (the MAMMI study). bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com. Accessed January 9, 2023.

11.   The Effect of Hysterectomy on Women’s Sexual Function: a Narrative Review. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed January 9, 2023.

12.   Understanding Sjogren’s. sjogrens.org. Accessed January 9, 2023.

13.   Vaginal Dryness. my.clevelandclinic.org. Accessed January 9, 2023.

 

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