Vaginal dryness - women will know it when it happens. It may manifest itself as pain during sexual intercourse or vaginal itching and burning that didn’t happened in the past. All a woman knows is that it is disrupting the quality of her life and her sexual fulfillment yet most women do not bring up the situation with their doctor. Whether because of embarrassment or thinking it is an inevitable part of growing older so just accept it, vaginal dryness or other symptoms of vaginal atrophy should not be kept in the dark.
Even though vaginal dryness is one of the most common problems a woman will face during and beyond the menopausal years affecting as many as one in three women, women of all ages are susceptible when their hormones are out of balance. The changes occurring in the vagina are a result of declining estrogen levels. Many women may assume that once menopause begins that vaginal dryness begins immediately. It actually may not start until several years after menopause is over when estrogen decreases significantly. Estrogen is a hormone that helps keep the tissues of the vagina lubricated and healthy. But as estrogen plummets, the vaginal tissues begin to shorten and narrow resulting in less flexibility and elasticity, less lubrication and can be more easily injured.
How can a woman still enjoy a fulfilled and enjoyable sex life without the nuisance of itching, burning or pain occurring in the vaginal area? Fortunately, there are solutions that can be done to help relieve the symptoms of vaginal dryness that do not rely on a prescription to fix it.
·Change hygiene regimen and products – Avoid feminine hygiene products such as personal hygiene sprays containing chemicals. The chemicals can be irritating to delicate tissues lining the vagina. Taking a daily shower using unscented soap (avoid scented body washes) and water is sufficient in keeping the vaginal area clean and healthy.
·Do not douche – Douching can change the necessary balance of vaginal flora (bacteria that live in the vagina) and natural acidity in a healthy vagina.
·Stay hydrated – Be sure to be drinking at least six to eight glasses of water each day to help keep vaginal tissues moist.
·Use unscented, white toilet paper – the simpler, the better – no scents or colors which could be irritating to the vaginal area.
·Avoid dyes and perfumes – when washing underwear, use unscented laundry detergents, avoid dyes, fabric softeners and anti-cling products that could cause irritation.
·Consume foods with healthy fats – In order to make adequate levels of sex hormones, the body needs omega-3 fatty acids which are believed to help keep vaginal walls healthy. Fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, and tuna are high in fish oils. Omega-3’s are also found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, and olive oil which could help vaginal dryness.
·Phytoestrogens – Phytoestrogens are plant-based natural estrogen replacements that are though to provide a boost to a woman’s hormones and prevent vaginal dryness. They are found in foods such as soybeans, soy milk, fermented soy products, tofu, flaxseed and flaxseed oil and red clover. Other foods containing phytoestrogens but in smaller amounts are cherries, legumes, apples, nuts and seeds.
·Vitamin E – When taken orally, vitamin E is helpful for rejuvenating dry vaginal tissues. Most women are probably not deficient in vitamin E but in order to overcome vaginal dryness, an oral vitamin E supplement of 400 to 600 International Units (IU) daily may help. Foods to consume containing vitamin E include all nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocados, wheat germ and all vegetable oils.
·Vaginal lubricants – Many women may experience instant relief by simply using a lubricant sold at drugstores. Vaginal lubricants, which last about 20 minutes, can reduce vaginal friction by bringing added moisture reducing painful sex.
· Vaginal moisturizers – Vaginal moisturizers differ from lubricants in that they can provide longer lasting vaginal moisture similar to natural vaginal lubrication. When used regularly for relief of dryness and/or pain during sex, the effects of them can last for three to four days.