Natural Remedies to Restore Your Vaginal pH Balance: A Guide
Read on to learn more about vaginal pH balance and how to restore it with natural remedies.
The pH scale measures how acidic or alkaline something is. The scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 being a neutral pH. The lower the number on the pH scale, the more acidic a substance is. Conversely, the higher the number, the more alkaline a substance is.
pH in the body
Typically, the average body pH ranges from 7.35–7.45, which is slightly alkaline. Many essential processes in the body work better at this slightly alkaline level. Your body has biochemical mechanisms that help it maintain its pH.
Typical vaginal pH is more acidic than body pH at 3.8–5.0. Naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina lower the pH via metabolism. The most common bacterial species involved are Lactobacillus.
Acidity in the healthy vagina prevents the growth of infectious organisms such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and yeast.
Many factors combine to maintain vaginal health, including:
- bacterial populations
- hormone use
- whether or not you are having sex without a barrier method, such as a condom
Below are several ways to help your body maintain a healthy vaginal pH.
According to researchers, tobacco use is associated with decreased vaginal Lactobacillus populations. Because Lactobacillus is a major contributor to a healthy vaginal pH, smoking may negatively affect vaginal health and increase your risk for infections.
The typical vagina produces clear to whitish discharge that should not have a foul odor. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends using only clean, warm water to wash your external genitalia. Avoid using scented tampons, feminine hygiene sprays or washes, soap, or detergent.
According to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health, doctors recommend that you do not douche. Chemicals and even water can cause changes in the normal bacteria populations that maintain vaginal pH. They can also wash bacteria that belong in the vagina into the uterus, leading to uterine infections.
If you are concerned about vaginal odor, contact your doctor.
Clean items you insert into your vagina
It is important to clean cervical caps, diaphragms, and sex toys with a cleaner appropriate for the material being cleaned. Do not insert anything into the vagina that cannot be cleaned thoroughly, such as porous materials.
Keep instruction manuals for these items and follow cleaning instructions carefully.
According to a 2022 study, eating a plant-based diet may decrease the risk of developing bacterial vaginosis. The study notes that plant-based foods, which are rich in fiber, have a prebiotic effect. This means they help maintain a favorable environment for beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus.
Foods shown to decrease the risk of bacterial vaginosis include:
Foods shown to raise the risk of bacterial vaginosis include:
- sugar-sweetened beverages, including fruit juices
- trans fatty acids
Consuming active cultures of Lactobacillus may help restore your vagina’s normal flora, helping to prevent vaginal infections. You can incorporate foods containing Lactobacillus into your diet, such as yogurt and sauerkraut. Probiotic supplements containing Lactobacillus may also be beneficial.
You may need to take probiotics for a few months to see improvement.
Exposure to stress hormones over time may lower your vagina’s natural glycogen production. Glycogen is the fuel that beneficial bacteria in the vagina need to survive and thrive.
Finding ways to manage your stress is a natural remedy that may help restore your vaginal pH balance.
Learn more about ways to manage stress.
Semen is slightly alkaline, with a typical pH of approximately 8.0. This can disrupt the natural acidity of the healthy vagina. Using barrier methods like condoms for sexual intercourse can prevent semen from entering the vagina.
Abnormal vaginal pH alone does not cause specific symptoms, but it can contribute to the development of secondary vaginitis.
Symptoms of vaginitis include:
- pain during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia)
If you suspect you have vaginitis, contact your doctor. Determining the cause is important to ensure that you get the correct treatment.
Your doctor will examine your vagina with a speculum. This device lets your doctor open the vagina to examine your vagina and cervix visually. This test may be slightly uncomfortable but should not be painful.
If you do have pain during the exam, let your doctor know. They may be able to use a different size speculum or reposition the speculum to make it easier for you.
Your doctor may use a vaginal pH test kit to assess the acidity of your vagina. They may also take swab samples of vaginal discharge for microscopic and genetic testing.
Under usual conditions, your vagina naturally maintains a slightly acidic pH. The vaginal environment promotes the growth of Lactobacillus species of bacteria. These bacteria maintain an acidic pH, which helps prevent the growth of other organisms that can cause infections.
Natural remedies to restore your vaginal pH balance include stopping tobacco use, using a barrier method during sexual intercourse, and eating a plant-based diet. Managing your stress and practicing proper vaginal hygiene can also be beneficial.
If you have symptoms of vaginitis, contact your doctor. They can make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment.