We hear it on TV commercials, we see it in ads and we read it on labels: “pH balanced”, but what exactly does that mean?
pH, or potential for hydrogen, is a measurement scale of acidity and alkalinity. Readings from 0–7 are considered acidic, pH from 7.0–14 is considered basic, or alkaline with 7.0 considered neutral.
Now what does that have to do with feminine health you ask? It’s important for every woman to not only understand the pH scale and how it affects their whole entire body but specially the fact that your vagina is considered an acidic environment. This low pH provides protection from invasions from bad bacteria and infections.
For optimal vaginal health we like to say, “The vagina is a self-cleaning oven” and to leave it alone, washing only the vulva (the outside bits) and back end. However as we all know if you want to wash with more than water, it’s pretty hard to keep cleansers out of the vagina. This is why it is best to use a pH-balanced cleanser, which is better at preserving the acid mantel (the vagina’s protective barrier) which pH ranges from 3.5-4.5.
What’s wrong with bar soap or body wash? No matter how natural the soap (yes, even ones from petted Himalayan goats) soap belongs nowhere near your most precious parts. To be effective at removing sweat, oil and grime, soap and body washes are formulated with high pH (8-10). When high pH cleansing products come into contact with mucosal tissues, it removes the acidic mucus mantel that protects the vagina from bacterial invasions, which in turn, may lead to vaginitis or yeast infections.
We need to maintain this protective acid mantel to ward-off bacterial imbalances as very little can survive in an acidic environment. But what happens if something does survive and thrives? Per Elizabeth G. Stewart, M.D. book entitled “V” A Doctor’s Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health, “the most common- and annoying – vulvovagainal symptoms women experience: odor, itching, unusual discharge, and dryness.”
If you suspect an imbalance, you can restore a healthy vaginal environment by simultaneously starving the yeast and promoting vaginal flora (the friendly bacteria). Simply reduce your intake of sugar (yeast’s favorite food). Don’t forget that dried fruit, fruit juices and alcohol (sorry ladies, that includes wine) break down to sugar. In addition to cutting sugar, consume yogurt or take probiotics. You can find a high quality probiotic at your local natural grocer in the refrigerated supplements area.