You are what you eat, and apparently so is your vagina. Your diet affects pretty much everything from your menstrual cycle to your mood, so eating the best foods for vaginal health can help keep things running smoothly down there.
For the ultimate vaginal-health-boosting diet, we asked the experts for their favorite foods.
1. Eat plenty of prebiotics and probiotics.
Your vagina, like your gut, requires healthy bacteria to fight infections and maintain a normal pH. Luckily, any foods that help promote gut health can also help promote a healthy balance of vaginal bacteria, says Jennie Ann Freiman, M.D. Consuming probiotics has actually been shown to help women with vaginitis, chronic vaginal discomfort that can lead to pain during sex, says Brian A. Levine, M.D. To improve both your gut and vaginal health, she advises eating a combo of prebiotic foods like garlic, onions, and raw leeks along with probiotic foods like yogurt, kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kombucha. (One thing to note: Prebiotic and probiotic supplements aren’t as good as actual prebiotic and probiotic foods, says Dr. Freiman. “Lab formulations don’t beat Mother Nature.”)
2. Enjoy nuts and other healthy fats.
Healthy fats like those found in nuts, olive oil, and avocados are often touted as superfoods for their role in helping to regulate your cholesterol. But that in turn also helps keep your estrogen levels in balance, creating a healthy mucosal lining that can help ward off infections. Almonds and other types of nuts are especially good, says Dr. Levine, because they contain B vitamins and calcium that prevent vaginitis.
3. Avoid processed foods.
While prebiotic and probiotic foods add helpful bacteria to the gut and vagina, Dr. Freiman says processed foods depress your immune system, which can allow harmful bacteria to take over. This can lead to all sorts of problems down there, including bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, dryness, pain during sex, and urinary tract infections.
4. Go easy on the sugar.
Too much sugar isn’t good for your vagina either. Specifically, it can damage or kill the important vaginal bacteria (dubbed Lactobacilli), says Burt Webb, M.D. Basically, sugar is the opposite of a probiotic. The bacterial imbalance can lead to yeast infections, soreness, and irritation—three things you really don’t want to deal with.
5. Avoid meat and dairy containing artificial hormones.
Certain meats and dairy products contain xenoestrogens—artificial hormones that imitate estrogen. According to Dr. Webb, these can block estrogen from the vagina, preventing the mucosal lining from forming, which, again, can leave you open to infection.
6. Stay hydrated.
“The vagina is just like the inside of the mouth,” says Dr. Levine. “When a woman is thirsty and parched, her vagina probably is too.” Hydration can also help prevent any unusual odors from surfacing down there, says Octavia Cannon, D.O.—just one more reason to gulp down those eight glasses a day.