10 Ways to Safely Relieve Vaginal Dryness
Vaginal dryness is an uncomfortable and often painful condition that occurs naturally before, during and after menopause. Menopause causes estrogen levels to decline, causing thinning and drying of the vaginal walls.
If you are suffering from vaginal dryness, do not be discouraged — regaining vaginal lubrication can be achieved! Its just a matter of helping your body re-balance after the hormonal changes that menopause brings.
Here are some safe things you can experiment with and try on your own that do not require a prescription or doctor’s office visit. That said, it is always important for you to discuss your symptoms with your doctor to be sure that there aren’t other factors causing vaginal dryness or pain with intercourse such as infection, tears, allergic reaction to a soap, lubricant or condom, or another medical issue.
1. Enrich Your Diet with Fatty Acids
A diet high in fatty acids aids in the production of vaginal lubrication by helping the body produce the necessary hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, that are essential for alleviating vaginal dryness. Fatty acids include omega-3s which can be found in a variety of foods such as raw pumpkin, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, salmon, mackeral and tuna. You can also take an omega-3 supplement to give your body an extra boost!
This is often overlooked, but can be the most enjoyable way to decrease vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse. Because of the lower levels of estrogen, it can often take menopausal women a longer time to become aroused and lubricated. Regular sexual arousal and sexual activity can actually increase your body’s estrogen production and, thus, increase vaginal lubrication. So spend more time being intimate with your partner prior to intercourse and engage in whatever foreplay meets your fancy, and you may be surprised with the results!
3. Use a Lubricant
Because regular sexual activity can boost estrogen production, avoiding intercourse is not the answer. Find a lubricant that works for both you and your partner and use it during foreplay and intercourse. There are many different lubricant options out there, and no one product fits all. There are brands that can be purchased at your local grocery store and ones that you can buy at a specialty sex shop. There are also certain natural products that are great lubricants including jojoba, coconut oil, vitamin E and aloe.
4. Vitamin E – Inside and Out!
Vitamin E is a menopausal woman’s best friend. Taken internally, it acts as an anti-oxidant that will fight free radicals and help to balance hormones. Vitamin E oil can also be used topically as a lubricant during intercourse, as well as on a daily basis to alleviate vaginal dryness and itching.
5. Avoid Anti-Histamine Containing Medications
Sometimes addressing vaginal dryness can be a simple as discontinuing a medication that has vaginal dryness as a side effect. Because anti-histamine containing medications dehydrate your body at the cellular level, they are a major contributor to vaginal dryness. Drugs that contain anti-histamines include OTC and prescription allergy medications, cold and flu medications and OTC sleeping aids. As always, talk to your doctor before stopping any medication.
6. Stay Hydrated — And Not Just with Water
During menopause, hydration becomes of utmost importance. Drops in estrogen and progesterone make it harder for the skin cells all over your body to keep a proper water balance, leading to cells that become dehydrated. Staying properly hydrated during menopause can sometimes mean more than just drinking your 64 (or more) ounces of water per day. It’s important to add in electrolytes like sodium, potassium and magnesium to help your cells keep water inside of them. Coconut water is a great way to get the proper ratio of electrolytes, or you can try an electrolyte replacement drink.
7. Enhance Your Vaginal Flora
The proper balance of vaginal flora is extremely important when trying to alleviate vaginal dryness. The good bacteria in your vagina create the proper pH and keep the cells lining the vaginal wall healthy. Taking a daily probiotic supplement is an easy way to get in the proper “good guy” flora. Look for a supplement that contains the strain lactobacillus and has at least 5 billion CFUs. Another great way to enhance your vaginal flora is by eating cultured foods such as yogurt, kimchi or sauerkraut.
8. Support Your Adrenal Glands
Hormonal changes that occur during menopause put additional stress on your adrenal glands. When you adrenal glands are stressed, libido can decline as well as vaginal lubrication. Support your adrenal glands by taking a daily B-complex vitamin and engaging in a regular form of stress reduction. Try activities like deep breathing, yoga, meditation, listening to music or anything that helps you relax.
9. Take a Hormone-Balancing Supplement
Herbal hormone-balancing supplements are very effective at reducing menopausal symptoms, especially vaginal dryness. Unlike hormone replacement therapy, which can introduce unwanted side effects, herbs work with your body to help it re-balance on its own. There are many herbal hormone-balancing supplements, but I recommend a combination of the herbs Phlomis umbrosa, Cynanchum wilfordii and Angelica gigas Nakai as this combination has shown a 59% decrease in vaginal dryness occurring during menopause.
10. Regular Exercise
Twenty minutes of cardiovascular activity, at least three times per week, helps to maintain not only cardiac health and blood flow (to the vagina, as well) but also hormone balance. Estrogen and testosterone — two hormones that decline with age and menopause — have a direct effect on vaginal atrophy and dryness. Regular exercise helps to maintain hormone balance by stimulating the adrenal glands and ovaries.
Dr. Kinney, owner of KinnCare Inc. is a practicing Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in caring for patients suffering from anxiety, depression, gastro-intestinal disorders, hormonal imbalances and adrenal fatigue. Using personalized diet, lifestyle modification, genetic testing and counseling, homeopathic remedies, and herbal medicine, she is able to balance and boost the body’s natural regenerative capacity and help her patients overcome disease. She received a bachelor of arts from Vanderbilt University and is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine (UBCNM). Dr. Kinney is currently vice president of the Maryland Naturopathic Doctors Association and an active member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. She enjoys running, yoga, reading, and spending time with her husband and 2 little girls. For more information about her practice visit www.kinncare.com or follow her on facebook.