It’s always uncomfortable and awkward trying to understand what a pH balance even is and if yours is normal or not. It’s okay to be unsure and even have questions about pH levels. Here are a couple of answers to those questions.
First off, what exactly is Vaginal PH? What is a normal vaginal pH?
PH is a way to measure how acidic or alkaline a substance is. The scale ranges from 0 to 14. The pH level of your vagina plays an important part in determining whether it is healthy. A normal vaginal pH ranges from 3.8 and 4.5, which is moderately acidic.
Why is this important?
An acidic vaginal environment creates a protective barrier that prevents unhealthy bacteria and yeast from multiplying too quickly and creating an infection. Even though this sounds kind of scary, all it really means is that the healthy bacteria called lactobacilli are doing their job protecting us from harmful bacteria.
Our bodies house an array of lactobacilli strains, and the ones that promote a healthy vaginal pH are strains Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and Lactobacillus Reuteri. These bacteria eat the glycogen found in vaginal mucus. In exchange, they produce lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide.
Want to know something interesting?
Your vagina is like wine… Yes, you heard that right. The normal pH of the vagina is less than 4.5, which is similar to the pH of wine. ... When levels of lactobacilli fall, vaginal pH levels can rise above 4.5, which is an ideal breeding ground for vaginal infections, such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
What causes an unbalanced vaginal pH?
Anything can really cause an unbalanced vaginal pH. Here are a couple situations that can change your vaginal pH level:
- Unprotected sex. Semen is alkaline, which can encourage the growth of certain bacteria.
- Antibiotics. These drugs kill not only the bad bacteria that cause disease, but also the good bacteria you need to maintain a healthy, more acidic vaginal pH level.
- Douching. Although it isn’t advised, about 20 percent of women regularly wash out their vagina with a mixture of water and vinegar, baking soda, or iodine. Douching not only increases the vaginal pH level, but also encourages the growth of harmful bacterial overall.
- Menstrual periods. Menstrual blood is a little bit basic and raises the pH in the vagina. When that blood flows through the vagina and is absorbed into a tampon or pad and sits in place, it can raise the pH level of the vagina.
How do you know if your pH is off?
Vaginal symptoms of a pH imbalance include:
- Burning, including during sex or urination
- Unusual vaginal discharge (watery, foamy, or chunky)
- Unpleasant vaginal odor (fishy)
How to Balance Vaginal pH
Boric acid suppositories are a popular and nature-based way to maintain a healthy vaginal pH balance.
Many people think of probiotics as gut supplements, but they also play an important role in your vaginal health. As beneficial microbe species, probiotics boost the number naturally present in the vagina and actually help protect your body against harmful organisms. More than 50 species of beneficial microbes live in the vagina, most commonly Lactobacilli. This species keep the vaginal pH around 4.5 by releasing lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide, which some experts believe protects against harmful organisms.
Yogurt & Probiotic Foods
Cultured yogurt contains beneficial bacteria that are similar to those found in probiotic supplements, but be sure to choose either raw or organic varieties. Raw and organic non-dairy kefir is another excellent probiotic food. This suggests probiotics may have a prophylactic effect deterring harmful organisms and keeping your vaginal ecosystem healthy.
Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
Organic raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) has antibacterial properties, which allows it to deter bad microbes that can interfere with normal vaginal pH. ACV also contains probiotics that promote the growth of healthy microbes. While these ideas can temporarily help with pH, keep in mind that your vagina will naturally restore itself once you find and address the cause of any imbalance.
Eliminate Feminine Hygiene Cleaning Products
Do not use feminine hygiene products that are scented or claim to clean your pelvic area.
Douching actually removes good bacteria that maintain balance. Douching, wipes, and sprays not only introduce chemicals down there, but they can also interfere with your natural vaginal pH and health.Your body cleans itself naturally when you maintain good health, and the vagina is no exception.
Consume Less Sugar & Starch, Eat a Plant-Based Diet
Sugar and simple starches promote an overgrowth of yeast (such as Candida albicans) and can contribute to infections. Furthermore, a diet rich in sugars and starches can lead to more sugar molecules in the vagina, prompting harmful organisms, especially yeast to grow.
Use Natural Lubricants
Some lubricants contain oil-based compounds that may damage vaginal cells when used in the vaginal canal. Vaginal glycerol use allows bad bacteria, viruses, and yeast to enter the body increasing the rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and infections. Instead, try a water-based lubricant that does not alter your vaginal pH or find ways to increase your body's natural lubricants.