Yoni Care: The Fundamentals for a Healthy Vagina
Yoni Care: The Fundamentals for a Healthy Vagina
By Freya Graf, Yoni Mapping Therapist and Sex Educator
Image credit: Artist, Shakti Christa Fox, 'Yoni Painting'
How to keep your vagina happy as a clam!
So, you’ve got a vagina, huh?
Well then firstly, congratulations and hooray for your Vagay-jay!
But now, let’s talk vag-care…
Since you are the proud owner of your very own luscious vagina, I have no doubt you’ve experienced first-hand, or known someone close to you who has struggled with some sort of vaginal infection or dysbiosis such as UTI, Bacterial Vaginosis, or Vaginal Thrush/Candida overgrowth.
I, myself struggled for years with an unhappy vagina, and on my epic quest to heal her I did quiiiiiiite a bit of research on this topic.
I felt utterly ashamed and embarrassed that I, someone who works in the very industry that this concerns (the vagina industry..? Well, why not!) could be having such trouble with my own Yoni. How could I possibly hold sessions for women and speak with confidence about areas such as sexuality, the female body, and self care, when I couldn’t even keep my own lady-bits in balance?! I felt like a fraud, an imposter, a failure.
But this experience took me to places I needed to go to learn more, in order to help and empathise deeply with the women I worked with, and eventually the shame dissipated as I realised how unavoidable vaginal issues like mine were with our culture’s approach to education on such matters - dismally lacking.
I discovered that conditions such as the ones I’ve listed above are all too common, and as a Yoni Mapping Therapist and vagina enthusiast, I speak to a LOT of women about their unfortunate battles with their boxes (excuse the shameless alliteration, it’s just too much fun!).
So to assist with your plight to maintain a healthy, balanced vagina, I’ve compiled some of the top tips out there on caring for your Yoni.
Before I hand over my best advice on how to have the healthiest lady-parts, it is important to understand the role that your gut plays in all of this.
The gut microbiome has an effect on the vaginal microbiome. To learn more about this gut/vagina connection, head over to my other blog post that speaks a little bit more in depth about this here.
But if you can’t be bothered with all of that, the bottom line is look after your gut at all costs, and enlist the help of some serious, high quality probiotics (the best strains are listed in my article) when necessary.
But now for some more general tips on how to keep your cooch happy as a clam! (I just can’t stop…)
> WEAR COTTON, bamboo, or other natural fibre underwear - no synthetics like lycra and nylon - no tiny thongs, G-bangers, or underwear with seams or designs that might cause friction or irritation. Thongs in particular can spread bacteria, from the anus to the vagina (BV here you come!), and also cause rubbing in a very delicate area.
> GO 'COMMANDO' at bed time - sleep without any underwear, and with only loose fitting, soft clothing made with natural fibres.
> GO EASY ON THE 'SHAPEWEAR', jeans, and other tight fitting garments that trap heat and moisture in the area. Try to wear infrequently and for short periods of time only. (So pull out those flowy harem pants and get your “Om Shanti, Shanti” on, girl! Once you go comfy, you never go back!).
> AVOID SUGAR (AND GRAINS!)! This is a big one, and possibly the hardest for most to adhere to! But all bacteria need the right environment to feed and grow and all bacteria need heat, moisture and food to grow. Bad bacteria have one particular food source that they enjoy: sugar. And not only sugar how we know it - in it’s sweet or refined forms either… All refined grains (which can be found in foods like bread, cereals and pasta) are high glycaemic carbohydrates which convert to sugar. This then leads to high blood sugar levels and high insulin response. Grains also contain other inflammatory agents, such as gluten, leptins and lectins. High insulin levels lead to inflammation, but they also interfere with hormone regulation too, namely higher amounts of oestrogens. High oestogen levels increase the amount of glycogen in cell linings of the vagina. This provides the right environment for candida growth and germination to flourish, as well as other bad bacteria and vaginal infections. (This is why thrush is more common during pregnancy, when oestrogen levels are higher.) For those wishing to maintain a healthy vaginal flora, or to get rid of vaginal infections and bad bacteria, strict adherence to a grain free and sugar free (no refined/processed food) diet is a must (and if this seems to extreme, as close as you can get - reduced amounts of these foods is better than nothing!). The fact is, all bad bacteria need sugar to survive. Take away the food source, and then these bacteria cannot survive, or multiply. Choose whole foods that are either grown or caught in the wild, without processing: protein (meat or non-meat), veggies in an array of colours, nuts (especially almonds and walnuts), leafy greens, seeds and good fats (avocado, eggs, fish, chia seeds). This will all benefit your gut and your health in general in a multitude of ways!
> AVOID GLYCERIN BASED LUBRICANTS - they will feed the bad bacteria, especially yeast. Eek! Go as natural and chemical-free as possible. (I make my own so I know what’s in it. If you’d like to buy some of my organic, handmade ‘Motion Lotion’, get in touch!).
> NEVER EVER DOUCHE, or deodorise with any preparations, unless it's with a doctor-prescribed medication to treat an infection - and even then I’d be wary.. Douching increases your risk of vaginal irritation and upsets the healthy bacterial balance of the vagina. A healthy vagina does NOT need a vaginal deodorant or douching, because a healthy vagina is self-cleansing should not have bad odour. “Numerous studies have shown the deleterious consequences of douching. It increases your risk of BV. It increases your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease. If you’re pregnant, it increases your risk of preterm birth. It may increase your risk of cervical cancer. There are a lot of negative associations that have been linked with douching.” (https://www.fredhutch.org/en/news/center-news/2015/04/lessons-about-vaginal-microbiome.html)
> CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF, soap (ONLY certain kinds listed below) can and should actually be used to clean the vulva (just the external bits!). Just like we wash our hands to remove bad bacteria, women need to wash the outer vaginal area (labia, mons pubis, clitoris etc). Bad bacteria feed on built up oil, sweat and other secretions, and need moisture and heat to multiply. The vagina and its associated parts are the perfect place for this to happen. Water alone will not get rid of built up salts, oils and other secretions which bad bacteria feed on. This is why soap is also needed. Wash/wipe very gently - do not scrub too thoroughly - with hands or a clean cloth only. Harsh soaps can cause irritations, so go for a super gentle, pH neutral soap (such as a vegetable based one like castile soap) to help keep the bad bacteria under control. Bad bacteria build up can not only cause odours and bad smells, but they can also cause irritation to the vagina and surrounding area. This can lead to infections, such as thrush and bacterial vaginosis.
> BEWARE OF VAGINAL STEAMS OR HERBAL BOMBS - Just like douching, vaginal steam baths disrupt the healthy vaginal flora, and inevitably kill off beneficial bacteria. It can also lead to overgrowth of bad bacteria once the good bacteria is killed off. Steam can cause irritation to the mucosa and the lining of the vagina and surrounding areas, further leading to bacteria and yeast being inoculated into the damaged area. There has also been reports of steam causing burns to the vaginal area, and home made herbal vagina ‘bombs’ causing severe reactions and even toxic shock. - There are specific herbs, such as naturopathic and Chinese herbal medicine formulas, which have been proven to eradicate bad bacteria and vaginal infections, as well as promote a healthy vagina and gut environment. But these are taken orally, not intravaginally.
> STRESS LEVELS. Stress is one of the major players in the disruption of the vaginal flora and vaginal health. Evidence suggests that the incidence of vaginal infections are higher in people who are stressed and have compromised immunity because of it. And too much stress is never good for anyone, so it’s important to address high or unhealthy levels of stress for many other reasons anyway! Stress is also the main contributor towards menstrual cramps. High stress levels produces a chemical that causes spasms in the uterus lining which are felt as period pain/cramps.
> THE HEALTH OF A SEXUAL PARTNER is important too - Partners can also share their bacteria if their hygiene is not adequate. Thrush and other infections are often passed on by a partner, then recurrent transmission to each other continues. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is sometimes referred to as Penis Injected Disease. (HA!) The use of condoms and barrier methods can also help you to keep a healthy vagina too. Make sure your partner has good hygiene habits in order to keep your vagina healthy too.
> MINERALS AND VITAMINS such as Vitamin D, zinc, Omega 3 oils, antioxidants and Vitamin C also assist in vaginal health and reducing the risk of vaginal infections.
> SMOKING IS A HABIT WHICH CREATES AN UNHEALTHY VAGINA, and can even lead to cancers of the cervix, endometrium and other parts of the body. Smoking of cigarettes and use of recreational drugs leads to disruption of the healthy vaginal environment, kills off good bacteria and promotes bad bacteria overgrowth. It's now known that the by-products of chemicals in cigarettes can be found in the vaginal secretions and cervical mucus of women. While smoking can cause bad breath in someone that smokes, it can also cause bad odours, similar to that of a smokers mouth due to these toxic chemical built in the vaginal mucus.
> SHOWER AND WASH CAREFULLY after sexual intercourse (and pee after sex too to avoid UTIs) to remove bacteria build up that can cause infection. Also be aware of your sexual partner’s hygiene as a partner (female or male - particularly uncircumsised males) can carry the bacteria that can contribute to increased risk of the above infections as a result of the contamination causing dysbiosis.
> ONLY USE ORGANIC, unbleached sanitary products made from cotton or bamboo, a moon cup, fabric pads, or another natural alternative. Regular sanitary products such as pads and tampons contain dioxins which are toxic chemicals and are terrible and risky biz for your vagina! Exposure to dioxins for women can increase the risk for pelvic inflammatory disease (which can cause major reproductive issues), endometriosis, and cancer.
> EAT LOTS OF HEALTHY FATS such as nuts, olive oil, flaxseed, avocados etc, to regulate your cholesterol, keeping oestrogen levels in balance and creating a healthy mucosal lining that helps ward off infection.
> ANOTHER FOOD RELATED TIP - certain meats and dairy contain artificial hormones that imitate estrogen. These can block oestrogen from the vagina, preventing the mucosal lining from forming.
> It is very important to KEEP YOURSELF WELL HYDRATED! A hydrated yoni is a happy yoni, and when we are dehydrated, so is our yoni!
> And lastly, since THE GUT plays such a huge role in vaginal health, you can do a basic online assessment here to ascertain whether you may need to look at your gut health: www.guthealthproject/q/gut-health-assessment/
So there you have it, a pretty extensive list, if you ask me!
If you’re already doing some or all of these things then ace! If some of them seem unmanageable, then take it or leave it.
But if possible, incorporate at least some of these healthy-vag-habits into your life, because every little bit helps. Doing some of them is better than doing none of them, remember!
I wish you all the happiest, healthiest, most empowered pussy's possible!
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