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Sahara Desert in Your Lady Parts?

Sahara Desert in Your Lady Parts?

Dry Vagina! Dry Vulva! Dry Vagina!

Let’s just get to the point.

When we open up conversations about menopause, which to this day is still considered taboo to many people, although we talk about the common symptoms such as hot flashes, weight gain, insomnia and anxiety, quite often we still won’t step into the realm of our “lady parts”.  Talking about it gets us just about as uncomfortable as our nether regions become when our estrogen levels decline.  Menopausal women aren’t the only ones not talking about their dry vulvas and vaginas. Even physicians don’t bring it up unless a woman specifically asks about it.  Add in the medical misogyny that surrounds women’s health, and it’s no wonder things can get slightly uncomfortable at the doctor’s office.

According to the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ajog.org): “Genitourinary syndrome of menopause, a new term for a condition more renowned as atrophic vaginitis, is a hypoestrogenic condition with external genital, urological, and sexual implications that affects >50% of postmenopausal women. Due to sexual embarrassment and the sensitive nature of discussing symptoms, genitourinary syndrome of menopause is greatly underdiagnosed.”

From endocrine.org: “What if you want to inform the public about a medical condition, but television producers won’t let you utter a word in the condition’s name? Public distaste for the “vagina” portion of vulvovaginal atrophy was just one of the tricky issues that led to two medical societies to convene a consensus conference to discuss the terminology. The members of the conference agreed that “the term genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) is a medically more accurate, all-encompassing, and publicly acceptable term than vulvovaginal atrophy”.

GSM is more accurate because the decrease in estrogen and other sex steroids can lead to changes to a variety of structures: the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, vestibule, introitus, vagina, urethra, and bladder. Symptoms can include genital symptoms of dryness, burning and irritation; sexual symptoms of lack of lubrication, pain and impaired function; and urinary symptoms of urgency, dysuria, and recurrent urinary tract infections.

Following the consensus conference, the boards of directors of both The International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health and The North American Menopause Society formally endorsed the new term, and it is increasingly being adopted by other professional groups.”

Since our vulva and vaginal health is so very important to our sex life, physical and psychological health, as well as our own personal happiness, it’s time to say Adieu to the taboo! Let’s have the talk!

What exactly is happening down there?

The hormone estrogen helps maintain the fluid that keeps the lining of the vagina lubricated, healthy, thick, and elastic.  When estrogen levels decline, this reduces the amount of moisture available. As well, estrogen decline can lead to vaginal atrophy (thinning of the lining).   It can happen at any age, for several different reasons, and can have a major impact on your sex life, including itching, burning and painful intercourse (dyspareunia).

Although we’ll be discussing vaginal health and menopause, some other possible reasons for this drop in estrogen can be attributed to:

  1. Child birth and breastfeeding
  2. Radiation or chemotherapy for cancer treatments
  3. Surgical removal of the ovaries
  4. Anti-estrogen medications used to treat uterine fibroids or endometriosis
  5. Douching
  6. Allergy and cold medications
  7. Birth control pills
  8. Sjogren’s Disease, which is an auto-immune disease that attacks moisture producing cells in the body.
  9. Certain antidepressants
  10. Insufficient foreplay before intercourse

So, what’s a Menopausal girl to do?

As a holistic health and hormone coach, I recommend that women first take a look at their lifestyle and health habits. We’ll get to supplements and lotions that can help with our vaginal health a bit later, but those should be looked upon as just that, a “supplement” (something that completes or enhances something else when added to it). Supplements should not be the only course of action when addressing our menopausal symptoms and health.  From a holistic stand point, you’ll want to be sure you are doing all the good things your body needs to maintain a healthy balance of your internal environment.

Here are a few things to consider when looking at your symptoms of hormone imbalances in the menopause years:

Starting with your diet, are you eating whole organic foods and drinking lots of water, while reducing or eliminating toxins (pesticides, parabens and more), processed foods and sugars? No calorie counting, no yoyo “dieting”, just concentrating on what you are eating versus how much you are eating? Are you aware of which foods may help with hormone balance?

Download my Free Guide: Eat Your Way to Hormone Health

What about movement? Are you exercising regularly without over-exercising? Exercise puts stress on the body and raises your cortisol levels, so, intense exercise is not necessarily a peri/menopausal woman’s friend. Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi and HIIT might benefit you and your hormone balance.

Speaking of stress? How are your stress levels in general? Stress is one of the main culprits when it comes to hormone imbalance. Finding ways to reduce stress levels such as meditation, mindfulness and breathing exercises could be very beneficial in helping with hormone balance and overall good health.

Sleep should be near the top of your list as well. Getting between 7-8 hrs. of ZZZ’s each evening should be a goal you set for your best menopausal health.

Did you know that our skin is our largest organ and absorbs whatever we put on it? Did you also know that the average woman uses 12+ skin and beauty care products per day on average? Many of these products include ingredients that are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, causing hormone imbalances, or even cancer. As these products are not well regulated by the FDA, we each need to be our own best advocate when it comes to our personal health.  EWG.org is a wonderful site where you can check the ingredients in the products you use.

Since my passion is to educate women on holistic options for their menopausal health and well-being, I’ve made it my mission to search out products and resources that support women’s health, especially through the peri to post menopause years. In that regard, and specifically for our vaginal health, I’d like to share the following information on products and supplements that could be very beneficial to you and your magical lady parts! This includes things you may already have in your pantry!

 

Things that can help remedy your vaginal dryness:  

I’ve done the research for you!

 

Lubricants from your pantry: 

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil:  Pure coconut oil is a natural moisturizer and does not contain added chemicals that may cause skin irritation. It is a thicker oil, which means that it tends to stay on the skin longer, reducing the need for reapplication. This can make coconut oil a cost-effective option for personal lubrication. Coconut oil is also widely available in both health and grocery stores.

Although no scientific research has been done into the safety or effectiveness of coconut oil used as a lubricant, several studies have been done to show that it is generally safe applied to the skin. Of course, if you have an allergy or sensitivity to coconut or coconut oil, avoid using it on your body. Before using coconut oil, it can be helpful to perform a patch test. To do this, rub a small amount of the coconut oil on the inner skin of the forearm and wait for 24 hours to see whether there is a reaction. Stop using coconut oil if you experience itching, swelling, irritation or discomfort.

Important info:

  • People using latex-based contraceptive devices should avoid coconut oil as a lubricant, however. This is because the oil can break down the latex in these devices, making them less effective. This goes for any oil-based lubricants!
  • Vaginal lubricants can also disrupt the natural pH balance inside the vagina, which may increase the risk of infections. Women more prone to vaginal infections may wish to speak to their doctor before using coconut oil as a lubricant.
  • It is also worth noting that oil-based lubricants such as coconut oil can be messy to use and may stain clothing, underwear, and bedding.

Vitamin E Oil:  Just crack open a capsule and apply directly to the inside and outside of your vagina. *Note: Since this is an oil, avoid using with latex-based condoms

 

Things to watch for when choosing a commercial moisturizer or lubricant:

  • Watch for Harsh chemical ingredients which can be toxic to vaginal tissue and its microbiome. (The microbiome is the balance of microorganisms that naturally inhabit the vagina.)  Vaginal exposure to toxic lubricant ingredients can lead to discomfort, irritation, and increased risk of infection from even short-term exposure. Some lubricant ingredients also have the potential to cause longer term chronic health effects including cancer and reproductive problems from repeated exposure over many years.

These chemicals include: Chlorhexidine gluconate, Parabens (commonly methylparaben and/or propylparaben), Cyclomethicone, cyclopentasiloxane and cyclotetrasiloxane, and Undisclosed flavors or fragrance

  • pH: The pH of a lubricant represents how acidic or alkaline the product is. Ideally, the pH of a vaginal lubricant should be compatible with a healthy pH of the vagina – generally in the range of 3.8-4.5.  A high vaginal pH (above 4.5) is associated with increased risk of bacterial vaginosis.  Unfortunately, many commercially available lubricants have pH levels far exceeding 4.5.
  • Osmolality– Osmolality refers to a substance’s ability to draw moisture out of tissues and cells. Exposure to a lubricant with a higher osmolality than normal vaginal secretions can result in vaginal tissue which literally shrivels up because the moisture in those cells is pulled out. This process leads to irritation and a breakdown of the mucous membrane barrier which protects the vagina from infection. Disrupted vaginal mucous membranes have been associated not only with irritation and discomfort but also with increased risks of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV.  Unfortunately, many currently marketed lubricants have high osmolalities which are detrimental to vaginal tissue.

 

NATURAL & SAFE  MOISTURIZERS & LUBRICANTS:

Here are some safe natural products for your best vaginal and sexual health:

VAGINAL Moisturizer and Self-Care:

MEDICINE MAMA VMAGIC

Boldy Pure Vulva Care

Exfoliate

Did you know that grooming is part of vulva care? Whether you shave, wax or keep it natural our grooming polish can be an easy first step to starting your vulva care routine. Finely milled and super gentle, this polish helps to prevent ingrown hairs and irritation while softening and hydrating anywhere you shave or wax.

Cleanse

When thinking about how to cleanse your vulva, it’s important that you understand the difference between the Vulva & Vagina. One is self cleaning (Vagina) the other can be cleansed with a gentle, fragrance free cleanser and warm water (Vulva).

Traditional body washes often contain fragrance or harsh surfactants, which is why if you decide to cleanse, we recommend opting for a vulva wash specifically designed for that region. Easily incorporate our vulva wash into your shower or bath routine.

Hydrate

Without proper care, the vulva can lose suppleness and hydration, resulting in discomfort, irritation, and even pain during intimacy. Triggered by various factors including (peri)menopause, birth control, breastfeeding, and even friction from clothing can lead to unnecessary discomfort.

Their award winning VMAGIC® Vulva balm helps to restore hydration and support vulvar skin no matter what age or stage you are at. Try their on-the-go version, Lips Stick, post grooming or any time you need some easy to swipe, travel friendly moisture.

Click here: MEDICINE MAMA’S VMAGIC

SUPPLEMENTS FOR HORMONE BALANCE & VAGINAL HEALTH

Femmenessence is a company that takes seriously its mission of providing clinically proven nutraceuticals for optimal health.

Specifically for perimenopausal women, Femmenessence’s product, MacaLife has the highest success rate in published clinical trials of any perimenopausal herbal supplement in the world and is the only to demonstrate statistically significant effects on hormones. It works for 8 out of 10 women within 2 days to 8 weeks (the first box) with the majority within 3 weeks.

Clinical trials have shown that MacaLife reduces symptoms in 8 out of 10 women, supporting:

  • Normal hormone balance*
  • The reduction of hot flashes and night sweats*
  • Dryness and lack of desire*
  • Balanced mood*
  • Healthy energy levels*
  • Sleep*
  • Heart health*
  • Hair, skin and nails*

  • MacaLife® contains their own scientifically proven combination of maca phenotypes specifically to support hormone balance in women and perimenopause. It also has increased bioavailability and concentrated, with some key active ingredients at levels up to 10 times higher than raw maca.
  • Maca has been used by Peruvian’s for over 2000 years, however they never realized that the different colors of maca that grew were different. Research over the last 20 years has verified that there are in fact 13 different (pheno)types that can be different colors, have different DNA, and unique active ingredient profiles. Most importantly research has proven that phenotypes can have different effects in the body. For example, most of the maca found in stores has the ratio of phenotypes that is more ideal for just energy and better suited to men versus women.

 

If you are Post-Menopausal, Femmenessence has a product for you as well: MacaPause.

MacaPause has the highest success rate in published clinical trials of any post menopausal herbal supplement in the world and is the only to demonstrate statistically significant effects on hormones. It works for 17 out of 20 women within 2 days to 8 weeks with the majority within 3 weeks (first box)** and addresses the root cause of hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and other menopausal symptoms by balancing your body’s own hormone production through the Hypothalamus. Most women see significant improvements in the first box with even greater health benefits after 3-4 months including heart, bone and mental health.

MacaPause Benefits:

  • Normal hormone balance*
  • The reduction of hot flashes and night sweats*
  • Dryness and lack of desire*
  • Balanced mood*
  • Healthy energy levels*
  • Sleep*
  • Heart health*
  • Hair, skin and nails*

 

A little more about FEMMENESSENCE:

  • Environment: Organic and sustainable agriculture, and environmentally focused business practices.
  • Health Impact: More effective, clinically proven, safer health solutions. A Medical Team of experts in Functional and Integrative Health and multi-media education, available to empower, support and personally guide our customers at no cost to them.
  • Industry Impact: Establishing a company of empathy and wisdom, that is committed to doing everything to support our community, and leads the way in standards towards a self-regulating industry of quality, efficacy and trust.
  • Social Impact: The creation of manufacturing operations with our partners in third-world countries, ensuring year-round employment, better working conditions, and the injection of 5 times the capital, and the establishment of schools in the local communities.

 

My magical ladies, as you can see, there is no need to suffer.

Even if you are choosing to avoid hormone replacement therapy due to health or personal reasons, your hormone-free and holistic options for relief and a healthy happy vagina are numerous.

Your vulva & vagina deserves your loving care and attention,  and you deserve to be happy!

Cheers, Love & A Happy Healthy Vagina!