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Diet for Vaginal Health

By Lori A. Selke

Perhaps you or some one you know is prone to yeast infections or UTIs. Maybe you're entering menopause and are concerned about how your changing hormones may affect your vaginal health. Or maybe you're just interested in making some lifestyle adjustments to promote your general sexual well-being. Whatever the reason, just a few simple dietary adjustments can help support your vagina's general health by preventing infections and maintaining the proper pH balance.

Probiotics

Your body is a host to all sorts of bacteria, good and bad. Body-friendly bacteria are known as probiotics. A healthy population of probiotics can help keep the bad microorganisms that cause vaginal infections, such as yeast and the Gardnerella bacteria, at bay. You can help keep up their numbers by eating food that contains probiotics. The best-known probiotic is acidophilus, and it's in yogurt that has live or active cultures, as well as other fermented milk products such as kefir. Many more processed foods are also adding probiotic bacterial strains to their products and will say so on the label. Peggy Morgan, author of "The Female Body: An Owner's Manual," recommends eating a cup of yogurt a day for optimal vaginal health.

Cranberry Juice

Cranberry juice is commonly used to prevent and treat urinary tract infections, or UTIs, by acidifying the urine. But it can also help balance the pH levels of the entire vaginal area as well. The definitive women's health tome "Our Bodies, Ourselves," by the Boston Women's Health Collective, recommends consuming eight ounces daily, saying, "drinking unsweetened cranberry juice every day is the simplest way to keep the vaginal pH balanced."

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Garlic

Garlic has known antimicrobial properties, according to AltMD, and the Yeast Infection Home Page notes that garlic suppositories are often recommended as a home remedy for yeast infections. Eating one to three cloves of garlic a day, preferably raw, is another alternative recommended by AltMD. The volatile oils in garlic travel through the bloodstream and are excreted through the skin, which is why you smell like garlic the day after you eat it, but it's precisely this phenomenon that allows garlic to do its work.

Vitamins

Vitamin E helps skin conditions in general and, according to The Healthier Life website, helps prevent vaginal dryness. Foods rich in vitamin E include wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts, as well as the oils derived from these foods. It also can't hurt to keep up your levels of vitamin C, which is a general immune system booster, The Healthier Life states. Citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, green and red peppers and, surprisingly, broccoli are all rich in C.

Foods to Avoid

The Healthier Life website states, "the most important part of Candida treatment is to 'starve' this yeast of the sugars and other carbohydrates it needs to multiply, by adhering to a strict low carb diet." Most alcohol is also full of sugars that microbes can feed upon, so avoid that too. Some experts including The Healthier Life also recommend avoiding foods that contain yeast, such as bread and beer; although the Yeast Infection Homepage says there is no evidence that this has a positive effect, it states "it can't hurt."

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