Originally published for Shape by Mirel Ketchiff
You’ve heard that cranberries and cranberry juice can help ward off UTIs, and you may have even heard a rumor that eating pineapple can affect the way you taste below the belt. But those aren’t the only foods that have a huge impact on your vaginal health. Read on for more.
Women who eat an apple a day report better sexual function (which includes their sexual satisfaction, ability to orgasm and ability to get aroused), compared to those who don’t, according to a study in the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics. You can thank phloridzin, a phytoestrogen found in apples.
Yogurt and kefir
These dairy products offer a double benefit for vaginal health. First, their probiotics bolster your healthy vaginal microflora, thereby helping prevent infections like urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections; and second, the extra dose of calcium may help improve PMS symptoms, research shows.
Polyphenolic catechins—found in green tea—may kill the E. coli bacteria that cause UTIs, according to research in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. Plus, the caffeine in green tea may help ease PMS symptoms, Alyssa Dweck, M.D., an OB-GYN at the Mount Kisco Medical Group in New York, adds. (But don’t overdo it; too much green tea could lead to liver damage.)
Whole grains, legumes and vegetables
What do all these foods have in common? They’re rich in fiber. “Fiber is a prebiotic, so without enough, you won’t be nurturing the good bacteria in your bowel,” says Jennifer Gunter, M.D., director of the Center for Pelvic Pain and Vulvovaginal Disorders at Kaiser Permanente. “And the best way to keep your vagina healthy is to keep your colon healthy, as most bacteria comes from the colon.” She recommends aiming for 25 grams of fiber a day, about the amount found in a cup of cooked black beans (15 g), a cup of cooked quinoa (5 g) and a sweet potato (5 g).
Three ounces of salmon contains about three-quarters of your daily value for vitamin D, plus a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids. “Both nutrients are important for general health,” says Dweck. They’ve also been linked to heart health, and Dweck says that any food that’s good for your heart is also good for your arousal, since better overall circulation also promotes better blood flow below the belt. (Remember when Shailene Woodley told you to give your vagina some vitamin D? Yeah, don’t do that.)
Back to the basics with this one. “Hydration is a way to keep the vaginal area moist and lubricated,” says Dweck. And the easier it is for you to get and stay wet, the more aroused you’ll be.
Women who eat two or more servings of fruit a day are 11% less likely to develop uterine fibroids, noncancerous masses that can cause pelvic pain and irregular bleeding, than those who eat fewer than two servings a week, according to a study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Plus, fruit delivers a healthy dose of fiber.