Vaginal dryness most often occurs during menopause, when vaginal tissues lose their suppleness due to decreasing levels of estrogen. The lining of the vagina may become thin and dry, with a tendency to tear, making intercourse and other friction uncomfortable and even painful. Adding certain foods to your diet may supply nutrients to help restore vaginal tissue moisture and prevent atrophic vaginitis, or vaginal dryness. Always consult your health practitioner before using foods to treat serious diseases.
Along with menopause, there are other causes of vaginal dryness. A common cause is hormone treatments that reduce estrogen levels in an attempt to prevent or slow the development of breast cancer, or relieve endometriosis or fibroids. Vaginal dryness may also occur after receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatments, notes Medline Plus. Even though menopause is the most common reason for this condition, women of all ages are susceptible when their hormones are out of balance.
Recognition and Prevention
If you are suffering from vaginal dryness you may experience burning, itching or pain during or after sexual relations. There may be a discharge and a feeling of bruising or general soreness. Certain lifestyle changes may reduce some of the problem and help you become more comfortable. Wash with unscented soaps and use cornstarch instead of talcum powder. Cornstarch is unscented and has no added chemicals. Avoid all scented soaps, detergents, fabric softeners and lotion. Stop douching, which may contribute to your problem by stripping delicate tissues of natural oils and lubricants. Use vitamin E oil, instead of over-the-counter lubricants, as it is high in nutrients that nourish the vaginal wall. Change condom brand or use a different contraceptive to avoid spermacide gels, which can aggravate the problem. Check with your doctor about which of your medications may be contributing to your condition and ask for a different medicine.
Phytoestrogens are plant-based, natural estrogen replacements that are thought to provide a boost to a woman's hormones, helping to prevent a variety of menopausal and menstrual symptoms, including vaginal dryness. Numerous research results have shown the efficacy of adding phytoestrogens to the diet to improve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness; however, more research is necessary to fully ascertain the safety of phytoestrogens on women who are estrogen sensitive. Phytoestrogens are found in foods such as soybeans, soy milk, fermented soy products, tofu, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, and red clover. Additionally, phytoestrogens are present in cherries, legumes, apples, nuts and seeds, although not in quantities as high as those found in soy products. Some people are sensitive to soy and may experience digestive upsets. If this happens, try eating only the fermented soy products like miso, nakka and tempeh, which are less likely to upset your stomach.
Vitamin E oil is helpful for rejuvenating dry vaginal tissues when taken orally and when used as a topical application. Getting vitamin E from your diet may not provide a large enough quantity to supply your body with what you need to overcome vaginal dryness; you may want to take an oral vitamin E oil supplement. The University of Virginia suggests 400 International Units to 600 IU daily; however since each person is individual in her needs, talk to your health practitioner for a recommended dose specific to your case. Additionally, you can insert vitamin E oil gel caps vaginally to deliver a topical application directly to the area where it is most needed, suggests "The Natural Menopause Handbook"; one or two gel caps daily is the recommended topical dose. Foods to consume that contain vitamin E are all nuts, seeds and nut butters, avocados and all vegetable oils including wheat germ oil. Add some of these foods and healthful fats to your diet every day.
Healthy fats, especially those supplying omega-3 fatty acids are thought to help keep vaginal walls healthy. Fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, smelts and tuna are high in fish oils; however, they can also be high in mercury. Smaller fish and those caught in the waters off the Northwest coast of the United States and Canada are considered lower in mercury content. Omega-3 oils are also found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, borage oil, evening primrose oil and olive oil.
- University of Virginia Health System: Alternative Complementary Therapy for Midlife Women
- MedLine Plus: Vaginal dryness treatment
- The Natural Menopause Handbook: Herbs, Nutrition, & Other Natural Therapies; Amanda McQuade Crawford
- Minerva Ginecologiche; The Effects of Phytoestrogen Therapy on the Endometrium in Postmenopausal Women