A healthy vagina produces mucus it its upper walls that bathes the vaginal walls and inner labia, a process that naturally increases when a woman is sexually aroused. The lubrication increases comfort during sex, and protects the vulva and vagina from becoming itchy and painful due to dryness.
As a woman ages and enters menopause, changes in her estrogen level affect the amount of moisture the vagina produces often causing female dryness. The vaginal walls become fragile and friction can be painful and cause damage to the thinning vagina. Further, women may not realize that douching washes away natural moisture, and even soap can be too harsh for some women.
Many doctors may recommend solutions like vaginal estrogen therapy, or use of vaginal dilators if the female dryness develops into dyspareunia (painful sex).
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Avoid dehydrating substances such as alcohol, caffeine, and antihistamines.
- Don’t smoke, as smoking destroys estrogen in the body.
- Avoid chemicals in bathing, laundry, and feminine products. These can irritate the vagina exacerbating female dryness.
- Vitamin A, beta carotene, B vitamins, zinc, and phytoestrogens are all beneficial in treating female dryness. Foods high in phytoestrogens include soy, apples, nuts, flaxseed, celery, alfalfa, and whole grains.
When choosing a natural vaginal lubricant, “You want a lubricant that’s water-soluble, unscented, colorless, odorless and tasteless,” according to John Willems, M.D., associate clinical professor of Obstetrics/Gynecology at the University of California, San Diego. Oil-based lubricants don’t dissolve as readily, and may cause a vaginal infection. Further, glycerin is not a good choice of remedy for female dryness because it may cause yeast infections and can be harmful to diabetics.