Tr(eat) Her Right: A Vaginal Health Issue

By Nombuso Nkambule (@hrh_nombuso)

A change in diet can improve the scent and taste of your vaginal juices because what you put into your body is what comes out of your body. Your natural vaginal secretions may smell like what your secretions contain, caffeine and certain medications are strong offenders in this regard.

 

I have always believed that there is a certain sanctity to a woman’s nether regions. A certain mystique and aura that continues to keep men spellbound to us, but along with all the romanticized notions of a woman’s, to put it very crassly, pussy is some serious misinformation and embarrassment.

I’d like to address this issue of misinformation and embarrassment in the best way I know how: professionally. I recently completed my reproduction block at school, it’s my fourth year of medical studies and although my composure around the subject is learned, I too used to squeal in embarrassment at the idea of really knowing my own vagina and the thought of looking at it with a mirror was enough to make me stutter and swallow my words.

But the only way you can ever learn about anything, is to study it, understand it and to take care of it. I’m not saying you need to run amok with mirrors between your legs, I’m just saying take the time to educate yourself on your vaginal health.

 

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Let’s have a quick biological breakdown of the basics. The vagina is lined by squamous epithelium, this is the same type of skin layer that lines the rest of your body’s skin. In women who have reached puberty, it is the sugar property of this thickened skin layer that allows the normal flora (lactobacilli) to live in the vagina.

These lactobacilli are the good bacteria that we want in a normal and healthy vaginal system. The produce hydrogen peroxide, which is and acid and this gives the vagina its acidic environment with a pH of less than 4,5 which is protective to your vagina’s health.

Douching and using soap bars (which are alkaline or a base) to clean your vagina are not recommended because they disrupt the pH of the vagina, decrease the number of protective lactobacilli and make the vaginal ecosystem vulnerable to infections like Candidiasis (yeast Infections). These products and even others like the use of typical antibiotics disrupt the lactobacilli and disrupt what is a natural and effective process. Would you shave off your eyebrows only to draw them back on again? (Well that’s actually debatable, but I hope that some people answered, ‘no’) disrupt the job of the lactobacilli by inserting and soaking and scrubbing with products that were never meant to be there.

 

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The natural vaginal odour is variable and the vagina usually has some sort of smell. However, if the odour is particularly foul and ‘offensive’ to the nose, I would advise a consult with a doctor to check for any infections because foul odour is a symptom of several kinds of vaginal infections. Bad odour can be distressing and so a trip to the doctor is always in your best interest as many sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) are treatable and curable.

Don’t be embarrassed by the consultation and don’t waste your time and medical aid by trying to please the doctor with half-truths or by waiting until you’re almost halfway out the door before you muster up the courage to share your real and embarrassing concerns about your vaginal health.

Doctors are professionals who are taught to maintain a patient-centred approach in the consultation where they treating patient as whole persons without prejudice, and not just as a bag of disease. Doctors know that it may be embarrassing for you to discuss such intimate concerns, but they abide by the Hippocratic oaths of do no harm, do for the good of the patient and maintain confidentiality.

 

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This is all for the good of the patient. So tip number one, be honest with your doctor and never delay a trip to the doctor out of embarrassment.

If you don’t have any infections and and simply don’t particularly like the odour of your vaginal discharge, try something as simple as this old wives tale which is tip number two: a change in diet. Drinking enough water for your body is good for your health and health practitioners advise people to drink plenty of water because water literally flushes out your system and your secretions.

A change in diet can improve the scent and taste of your vaginal juices because what you put into your body is what comes out of your body. Your natural vaginal secretions may smell like what your secretions contain, caffeine and certain medications are strong offenders in this regard. For a more pleasant smell (and for that matter, taste) try water, cranberry juice and pineapple juice.

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On a more serious health note that is of particular concern in South Africa because of it’s prevalence, Pap Smears to screen for cervical cancer are important in every women’s life. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that women are screened with a Pap smear for cervical cancer every three years if they have ever been sexually active, from the age of 20 until they turn 70. In South Africa, The Department of Health offers 3 Pap smear screens in a lifetime at ages 30, 40 and 50.

Pap smears are of particular benefit because the mortality cause by HPV infections and cervical cancer can be preventable. There is also a HPV vaccine for girls and the HPV vaccine campaign was recently launched in March by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Taking care of and protecting your vaginal health ecosystem is good for your physical, sexual and preventative health measures. When it comes to your vagina, the rules of engagement are simple: educate yourself and take care of your vagina because a healthy vagina is a happy vagina.

26 Comments
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