Healing Vaginal Dryness (Inner + Outer Guide)
Vaginal dryness is a common problem amongst women, especially those who are perimenopausal, menopausal, or postmenopausal. It is also commonly experienced by women with low levels of estrogen, such as breastfeeding mothers and those who have had a hysterectomy or chemotherapy. In most cases, vaginal dryness not only causes pain during intercourse, but also can make it uncomfortable to sit, stand, exercise, urinate, or even work. Its effects are widespread and, although it seems relatively innocent, vaginal dryness has the potential to deeply affect both physical and emotional health and our concept of ourselves as women and sexual beings.
On a physical level, vaginal dryness can alter the appearance of the vagina and vulva as the skin becomes thinner. Vaginal discharge can also change, becoming more watery and discolored, sometimes with an unfamiliar and slightly unpleasant odor. Irritation and a burning feeling can appear as a result of the hormonal changes taking place. Vaginal dryness can also greatly affect how a woman feels on an emotional level. Changes to our bodies are often difficult to accept, and the pain and discomfort felt can cause a loss of self-confidence, particularly sexual confidence.
Vaginal dryness is a condition many women do not feel comfortable speaking about. However, it is a common issue many women experience and can often be addressed through the integration of holistic lifestyle practices, herbal medicine, and supplementation.
When hormonal cycles are interrupted, such as during breastfeeding, menopause, and hormonal birth control use, changes in vaginal moisture can occur. Estrogen is responsible for the thickening and moistening of the vagina. When estrogen levels are depleted, vaginal dryness can ensue.
Additionally, pre-menopausal women who have had their ovaries removed during a hysterectomy will experience early onset menopause. Menopause is associated with changes in hormonal balance, which leads to vaginal dryness as a symptom.
Women who undergo chemotherapy will also experience hormonal changes that are dramatic and abrupt. This causes more intense symptoms. Chemotherapy can damage the ovaries, preventing them from producing estrogen. As mentioned, estrogen is responsible for vaginal lubrication; therefore without it, the vaginal lining becomes more fragile, thinner, and less elastic.
Multiple medications have vaginal dryness as a side effect. Some cancer treatment medications may cause vaginal dryness. Antihistamines and other allergy medications can dry out all of the body’s mucous membranes, which can lead to dryness in the vaginal walls. Birth control pills and asthma medications can cause the body to produce smaller amounts of vaginal lubricants. Lastly, certain ulcer, antidepressant, and high blood pressure medications can contribute to vaginal dryness symptoms.
Specific Health Conditions
Women at any age who are suffering from cancer of the pelvic organs, breast cancer, depression, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, uterine prolapse or high blood pressure may be especially prone to chronic vaginal dehydration.
Your vagina is capable of cleaning itself, therefore douching and using other products containing harsh chemicals are not necessary and can cause damage. Soaps, most specifically fragrant ones, containing high amounts of chemicals and dyes, can be the sole cause of vaginal dryness. To take proper care of your lady parts, only wash your labia (peripheral portion) with natural products. Some women also develop an allergic reaction to the latex in condoms, which can disturb natural functioning - look for natural brands that don't contain irritants.
Stress + Anxiety
Stress and anxiety dramatically slow down the production of sex hormones and reduce blood flow, dropping your sexual desire and limiting your body’s natural ability to lubricate during sex. Integrate stress relief activities such as deep breathing, walks in nature, unplugged time.
Lack of Exercise / Circulation
A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to vaginal dryness as it slows blood flow and the movement of energy and life force through the body. Move as often as possible - daily walks and stretching also help to keep the body flowing.
Exercise helps to prevent vaginal dryness by increasing blood circulation and balancing hormones. Exercise stimulates the adrenal glands and ovaries, two organs responsible for hormonal balance. Moving your body daily (even for long walks) helps to keep blood moving. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous, but activity is key in supporting circulation and fluidity. It is important to keep in mind that excessive weight loss or exercise can cause or exacerbate vaginal dryness.
Constant high impact exercise puts excess stress on the body, which negatively affects hormonal balance - aim for a range of low to high impact activities.
Your vagina is self-cleaning. Therefore, you should not wash your vaginal area more than twice a day. It is important to avoid toxic soaps or creams, especially those containing harsh chemicals since they disturb the vagina’s pH balance and wash away protective vaginal fluids. Also avoid douching, as that can lead to vaginal dryness.
Use: mild, non-toxic, non-comedogenic soaps for cleansing. Dr. Bronners is great!
The lymphatic system works directly with the circulatory system. The goal of these systems is to keep blood and lymphatic fluid levels in balance and flush toxins out of the body. The toxins include excess hormones that disturb balance and cause vaginal dryness. The lymphatic system also carries immune cells throughout the body to help defend against infections, which are common in vaginal dryness states.
Try: Lymphatic massage, dry brushing, or using a gua-sha tool for moving stagnation.
When it comes to managing symptoms of vaginal dryness or preventing the onset, your diet is the most effective place to start. Vaginal lubrication comes from secretions of the glands in the cervix and vagina, and vaginal fluid comes from the bloodstream. Vaginal fluid droplets are rich in sodium, potassium, calcium, and other electrolytes and proteins that seep through the vaginal cells into the vaginal lumen or canal. Two factors that enhance vaginal lubrication are staying hydrated and consuming adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and proteins.
Consume: avocado, nuts & seeds, flax, hemp, wild caught fish, olive oil & coconut oil.
As a general rule, drink half of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces per day. (So a 130-pound woman should drink at least 65 ounces of water daily.) Chronic dehydration causes many health risks, and vaginal dryness is one of them.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
EFAs help the body produce the hormones necessary for alleviating vaginal dryness. Mood disorders, including anxiety, can also be the cause of vaginal dryness. EFAs improve symptoms of mood disorders and restore structural integrity to brain cells that are critical in performing cognitive functions. They also help insulate nerve cells and produce molecular messengers involved in immunity and the functioning of the central nervous system.
Food sources: Atlantic mackerel, raw pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, herring, Alaskan salmon, flax seeds, sardines, hemp seeds, anchovies, natto, egg yolks.
Foods that contain isoflavones can help regulate declining estrogen levels, which increases vaginal lubrication. Isoflavones work by stimulating estrogen receptors to provide a useful estrogen-enhancing effect when levels are low before during and after menopause.
Food sources: Flaxseed, soy, Japanese arrowroot, chickpeas, mung beans, cherries, nuts, apples, and celery.
When olive oil naturally increases vaginal lubrication. It works by enhancing blood circulation, which brings the nutrients and oxygenation needed to produce natural lubrication.
Phytoestrogens are plant-based sources of estrogen. Increasing natural estrogens in the body helps to relieve vaginal dryness and other symptoms associated with the condition.
Food sources of phytoestrogens that will increase vaginal lubrication include: cherries, wild yams, oats, red clover, barley, apples, pomegranates, carrots, alfalfa, and licorice root.
Probiotic Rich foods
Vaginal bacterial makeup varies according to a woman’s reproductive stage.
Beneficial food sources include: Raw sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, natto, and miso. If dairy is tolerated, kefir is another excellent source of naturally-occurring probiotics.
Vitamin A Rich foods
Vitamin A supports the health of vaginal walls, relieves vaginal dryness, and enhances general well being. These benefits are due to beta-carotene helping maintain tissues, skin and mucous membranes. Vitamin A also protects the body against vaginal dryness by increasing low estrogen levels.
Great food sources of vitamin A include: Beef liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, broccoli, eggs, and organic butter.
Lubricating + Hydrating Herbs
Black cohosh is currently used to lighten menopausal symptoms like vaginal dryness. This herb contains potent amounts of phytoestrogens, which helps relieve vaginal dryness by introducing plant-based estrogen into the body. one of the most effective herbs for female lubrication.
Best taken in tea, infusion or tincture form.
Chamomile is a viable remedy for atrophic vaginitis. Washing with a chamomile mixture may help improve the symptoms of this condition, including vaginal itching, discharge, dryness, and pain during urination. Its natural moisturizing effects are useful for reducing dryness in the vagina.
Try: soaking chamomile tea bags and gently cleansing your vagina with them once they’ve cooled.
Nettle possess many pharmacological effects that are beneficial for people’s overall health. This is because it is a potent antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial and analgesic that can alleviate many types of infections and ailments. Although it’s not a popular remedy for vaginal dryness, some women have reported that it works.
How to use:Boil 1 cup of nettle leaves in 1 pot of water for 15 minutes. Let the tea cool, strain it and then dip a cotton pad into it and rinse your vagina.
Maca This adaptogenic root raises estradiol (a form of estrogen) levels. It helps with vaginal dryness, depression, memory, concentration, and energy.
Sprinkle in powder form on top of meals, smoothie and in drinks.
Dong Quai has an estrogenic effect on the body, meaning it may help regulate hormone levels and relieve menopausal symptoms, including vaginal dryness. It is used as a natural alternative to synthetic-hormone based birth control options due to its ability to balance hormones naturally.
Best taken in tincture form. 3 x daily for a therapeutic dose.
Supplements for Inner & Outer healing
Sea Buckthorn Oil A lack of essential fatty acids is a contributing factor to vaginal dryness. Sea Buckthorn oil contains omega 3-, 6- and 9-fatty acids, along with beta-carotene, and trace minerals. Sea Buckthorn oil not only promotes healthy regeneration but also provides nutrients essential for the proper functioning of the membranes in the vaginal tract.
Take sea buckthorn in capsule form daily.
Vitamin B12 Vitamin B12 is helpful in improving vaginal dryness and improving the function of the adrenal glands, which regulate many hormones. B12 also helps to recycle circulating blood and maintain nervous system functioning.. It's helpful when used in conjunction with folic acid, to support the body system function properly.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that fights destructive free radicals and provides lubrication from the inside out. This vitamin has been shown to increase blood supply to the vaginal walls, improve menopausal symptoms, reduce itching, and stop the thinning of the vaginal walls.
Vitamin E can be taken internally in capsule form as well as externally by applying the fluid directly into the vagina to calm vaginal dryness. If using topically, the greatest benefits are found when applied once or twice a week.
*Vitamin E oil can also be used as a lubricant during sexual intercourse.
Vitamin D3 This supplement decreases the vaginal pH, which is ideal because vaginal fluid is healthiest when slightly acidic. It also reduces dryness associated with vaginal atrophy. Vitamin D also fights aging on a cellular level and has anti-inflammatory and metabolism balancing effects.
Yoni (Vaginal) Steam A yoni steam works by using gentle steam containing dried organic herbs to the outer tissues of the vagina (vulva) while sitting on a special seat. The warmth and moisture of the steam alone increase circulation to the vulva, causing it to open up and expose the inner labial mucous membranes. These tissues are very porous and absorbent, which then allows the specific herbs to infuse their benefits. The result is increased vaginal health, circulation, lubrication and a balanced connection to yourself.
Beneficial herbs that can be used when yoni steaming: Mugwort, witch hazel, motherwort, yarrow, nettle, lavender, calendula, rose petals, dandelion, calendula, red raspberry, chamomile, marshmallow. Add more of the mineral rich hydrating herbs like nettle, red raspberry and marshmallow and less of the others.
Evening Primrose Oil Containing essential fatty acids, this herb helps treat vaginal dryness.
How to use: For the greatest benefits, insert a punctured capsule into your vaginal cavity before bed, and let it be absorbed into your body overnight.
Comfrey Root Sitz Bath This will keep vaginal tissues flexible, strong and soft. Comfrey ointment is another way to increase strength and lubrication of the vaginal walls.
How to use: Put dried comfrey root into a tea bag and place in the bathtub as you are filling it up. Sitz for 5-10 minutes several times a week.
Slippery Elm Making a gel using this herb will help to lubricate, heal and nourish vaginal walls.
How to use: Slowly heat 2 tablespoons (30 mls) of slippery elm powder in a cup (250 mls) of water, stirring until thick. Cool (you can even chill it) before spreading over and inside the vulva and vagina.
Honey is a natural moisturizer to heal and nourish the skin. It relieves skin dryness by attracting moisture from the atmosphere and sealing it into the skin. This makes it an effective treatment when experiencing vaginal dryness. When using it directly on the skin, it must be diluted with water.
How to use: Mix one cup of water with one cup of honey and store in a glass jar. Place the solution onto your vagina every morning and wash off with warm water.
Follow this holistic guide to address all of the root causes and symptoms of vaginal dryness. Healing can be found through natural supplements, products, and dietary changes that support the body both internally and externally.