Want to Stop Vaginal Dryness and Irritation? Try These Natural Solutions
Pssst. Hey ladies. Do you want to know a secret? After decades of feigning ladylike embarrassment, women have ditched the awkwardness and embraced the beauty that is sharing their “down there” pain with others who totally get it.
Vaginal dryness is more common than most women realize. Roughly 30 percent of American women occasionally cope with vaginal dryness throughout their lives. The prevalence increases to more than 75 percent in post-menopausal women. Trust us when we say that if you stopped five random women on the street to lament about your personal struggle with vaginal dryness, at least four of them would be able to relate.
What is vaginal dryness?
The burning. The itching. The redness. And let’s not forget the searing pain that happens during and immediately after intercourse. Those are just some of the most common symptoms. Vaginal dryness can lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs) in some instances, which is the last thing a woman needs when her vagina is already dry and irritated. Vaginal dryness and irritation are nothing to be ashamed of, yet some women are hesitant to discuss the condition with their physicians, let alone their partners.
What causes vaginal dryness?
While it is true that menopausal women experience vaginal dryness, it is not the sole cause of the uncomfortable condition. There are many reasons why women’s bodies stop producing intimate moisture. The main culprit is usually estrogen. When our bodies stop making adequate amounts of estrogen, it can cause vaginal dryness and irritation among other unpleasant issues. Estrogen is the hormone responsible for everything from controlling ovulation to boosting a woman’s sex drive. It also plays a major role in giving vaginal tissue the ability to produce natural lubrication.
So, what causes the body to fail in its duty to produce adequate estrogen levels?
- Excessive stress
- Full Hysterectomy
- Immune system disorders
- Prescription medications
Those are just a few on the extensive list of things that can trigger a woman’s body to produce less estrogen.
But can’t menopause cause dryness?
Absolutely! Menopause is the MOST common cause of vaginal dryness, with an estimated 20 percent of all women aged 45 to 64 experiencing menopause each year. In the years leading up to menopause – known as perimenopause – most women live with unpredictable periods. That signals that their estrogen production is starting to diminish. Some will notice the first signs of dryness and irritation during this perimenopausal phase. It can be as mild as slight (but annoying) vaginal stickiness. Or it can be as severe as chronic burning and pain during sex.
Is it true that birth control pills can also cause vaginal dryness?
Most women have a love-hate relationship with birth control pills. We love the freedom they give yet detest the many side effects they cause. One of those side effects can be a lower sex drive. Now scientists have found that oral contraceptives can also cause intimate dryness. Why? The pill not only lowers your body’s own natural estrogen production, but it also boosts the production of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). And the higher your SHBG level, the less natural lubrication your vaginal tissue will produce. Non-hormonal birth control is your best bet for women who can’t cope with the nasty side effects that come with hormonal options.
Do prescription drugs (and chemotherapy) dry vaginal tissue?
Absolutely. Chemotherapy causes a sudden loss of estrogen production in the ovaries. Without it, dryness occurs. The diuretics and beta-blockers that help lower your blood pressure – they all can lead to vaginal dryness. So can allergy and cold medicines. Some antidepressants provoke dryness. And, certainly, one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy is generalized dryness throughout the body, including vaginal dryness.
Are there other circumstances that cause dryness?
Some experts say that eating disorders can lead to dryness because they cause a woman’s reproductive system to shut down. Pregnancy and breastfeeding also suppress estrogen and temporarily leave women with less natural moisture than they’re used to feeling.
Smoking cigarettes can decrease circulation, which will intensify vaginal dryness. Alcohol can decrease sensation and lead to dryness. It is best to limit yourself to 1-2 drinks if you plan to be intimate later. Swimming pool and hot tub chemicals are very drying, too, so try to limit the amount of time you spend in either. Harsh (and heavily fragranced) soaps, douches, and perfumed feminine hygiene spray all irritate vaginal tissue. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need to do any of those things to keep your vagina healthy. It is capable of self-cleansing and doesn’t need our intervention.
What’s the best way to get healthy relief?
Start by talking with your doctor. Research tells us that only 22 percent of women over the age of 50 feel comfortable discussing sex with their physician. That’s just crazy, ladies! There is no reason to be embarrassed about the natural functioning of your body, including the vagina.
Also, think about using a vaginal moisturizer. The same way a facial cream keeps your complexion moist and smooth, an intimate lubricant helps protect the health of vaginal tissue. So, moisturize! And remember…
- Oil-based lubricants can deteriorate latex. It’s best to use a water-based moisturizer if you use latex condoms. Doing so will ensure the condom’s ability to help prevent unplanned pregnancy and protect you from sexually transmitted diseases.
- On the other hand, water-based lubricants feel wet and cold when applied. Plus, they usually contain alcohol, which actually dries and irritates your vagina. So, for regular use, an oil-based lubricant may be the wiser choice, along with a lambskin or polyurethane condom.
- If you want an oil-based moisturizer, choose one like Crème de la Femme, made from 100 percent pharmaceutical-grade oils. Lower-grade oils can expose you to unhealthy additives.
- Avoid any intimate product that contains glycerin since it encourages yeast to grow. (That’s why so many women feel itchy and uncomfortable soon after using a lubricant).
Other Natural Remedies for Vaginal Dryness
With some independent research and follow-up effort, it is possible to get natural relief from this irritating problem. Every woman is different, so it may take some testing to find the solution that works best for you. Consider the following in your search:
Sea Buckthorn capsules can help. This herb has gained a lot of attention lately. Many women report that two capsules, taken twice daily, have restored some natural moisture. Research suggests that it works because it’s so high in Omega-7 fatty acids.
Eat foods rich in plant estrogen. These include yams, soybeans, and soy products. Be aware, though, that phytoestrogens can stimulate estrogen-like activity throughout the body. So, if you have a history of gynecological cancer, you should speak with your doctor before adding these foods to your diet.
Consume good fat, too. Intimate moisture requires estrogen. And estrogen is ultimately produced from cholesterol. So if you want more natural lubrication, eat more fat. Don’t go wild for donuts, though! Stick with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Try to limit them to only about 10 percent of your daily caloric intake. Good sources include avocado, nuts, olives, nut butter, tofu, and fatty fish (salmon, tuna, or sardines).
Reduce Caffeine. We think of caffeine drinks as “liquids.” In fact, they dehydrate the body, including vaginal tissue.
Stop douching. It disrupts the vagina’s normal chemical balance, which often leads to irritation and dryness.
Good luck. With a little research and some manageable lifestyle adjustments, you can make a real difference in your comfort level. So stay safe, and be well.