What's Safe to Use Down There?
By Lea Ceasrine
In a time where corners of the internet have convinced women to purchase jade eggs for "vaginal healing," there are many myths and rumors about what’s really good to use down there. More so, a “do not put in vagina” list recently circulated on one OB-GYN’s Twitter, where she disapproved inserting foods like jelly, yogurt, soap, and other foreign objects.
Using food-based products for feminine care and hygiene is tricky territory, so we asked an OB-GYN about what commonly-googled DIY/holistic methods are safe or not safe to use for common vaginal infections.
“The truth is, from a scientific and evidence-based standpoint, there really are no foods that are curative of infections,” says Dr. Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, a gynecologist in New York, and author of The Complete A to Z for Your V.
To start, it’s important to know that all infections aren’t the same and some should be treated more seriously than others. A yeast infection, also known as vaginal candidiasis, is an overgrowth of naturally-occurring fungus in your vagina, candida albicans. It can cause a pungent odor and persistent itching.
Luckily, it’s one of the easier infections to treat. But contrary to popular belief, yeast infections aren’t the most common infection, and you shouldn’t always assume you have one if things aren’t feeling/smelling right down there. Most women misinterpret their symptoms as yeast infections, Dr. Dweck says, adding that you should always get checked out to see if you have something more serious like an STD/STI.
Bacterial Vaginosis (commonly referred to as BV) is the most common vaginal infection and is one of the harder ones to detect, because it doesn’t always elicit symptoms. BV is caused by an imbalance of your vagina’s pH levels – which could be caused by products that are actually irritating you.
A urinary tract infections (UTI), always requires you to see a doctor for antibiotics, because they can quickly spread to the kidney. These can be warded off by drinking tons of fluids.
So what's going off the shelves into vaginas?
Apple cider vinegar
Health sites have recommended soaking in this acidic substance to treat vaginitis.
The verdict: it is not OB-GYN recommended. “The vagina is an acidic environment,” says Dr. Dweck, which might be why this substance has made the list.
Boric acid suppositories
The verdict: For women who are plagued with constant yeast or bacteria, where their pH is just off, Dr. Dweck prescribes these weekly suppositories for a 8-10 week period.
Coconut oil (or olive oil)
The verdict: Dr. Dweck approves this oil for vaginal dryness, as a lubricant during intercourse or as a natural massaging oil for external tissue.
The science: While the oil is mainly known for being high in saturated fats, it’s also great for hydrating and moisturizing your skin.
The verdict: The old wives tale is not advised in the traditional medical world.
The science: The staple ingredient contains an enzyme that turns into allicin, which is said to have antifungal properties.
Possibly the most popular method we’ve heard about, “plain yogurt doesn’t treat yeast,” says Dr. Dweck. Because it’s cool, it gives a soothing effect, which can alleviate uncomfortable symptoms like itching.
The verdict: If you do use this method, it should be used on the external surface only. “Putting it inside the vagina is probably not a great idea because bacteria can grow and it can actually cause an infection,” she says. “It’s not scientifically proven.”
Probiotics are known to restore good pH levels.
The verdict: The vagina works hard to maintain its pH levels. Suppositories could mess with your pH levels even more. If you do want to take a probiotic, do it orally.
Tea tree oil
You might have heard soaking a tampon in tea tree oil and inserting it for an hour, is an effective way to treat BV.
The verdict: it is not OB-GYN recommended. However, tree tea oil-type products are commonly used externally.
[ READ MORE: COURTNEY TRIES OUT THESE AT-HOME REMEDIES ]
While there’s a lot of holistic advice roaming around on the Internet, your safest bet is always to see a doctor. For yeast infections, over the counter anti-fungal creams will solve your woes. For more serious infections like BV and UTI, antibiotics are usually the prescribed route.
Why can’t you just treat them with your food supply at home? The biggest risk with using food inside the vagina is the chance of worsening your infection. Food can be contaminated, with pesticides, chemicals or bacteria, so it’s important not to trust your food supply, even if it’s organic, as your main aliment.
The biggest risk with using food inside the vagina is the chance of worsening your infection. Food can be contaminated, with pesticides, chemicals or bacteria, so it’s important not to trust your food supply, even if it’s organic, as your main aliment.
Despite the increase of women turning to more natural and environmentally-conscious remedies and products, it’s always safer to stick to the science when it comes to vaginal infections.
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Lea Ceasrine is a contributor to the Public Goods Blog, a publication about health, sustainability and people making an impact. Check it out for a wide range of topics: everything from non-GMO foods and fair trade to travel and diet trends.