Guest blogger Jackie Lynch gives us her top tips for keeping vaginal tissue healthy through nutrition.
Eating for relief
The menopause affects everyone differently. One of the things I see every day in my nutrition clinic is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to managing your symptoms, because no two women have the same experience. The one symptom that does affect most women however, with varying degrees of severity, is vaginal dryness. But there are lots of ways that the right nutrition can help to address this.
As with so many menopause symptoms, it’s the drop in oestrogen around this time that causes the problem. It reduces levels of collagen, the structural protein which keeps our skin plump and elastic. This includes the vaginal tissue which can become thinner and dryer, causing itching, discomfort and painful sex. Eating for vaginal skin health should follow the same principles that you would apply for the skin on your face and the rest of your body. So here are my top 4 foodie tips to help you get there, plus 1 key thing to avoid.
C is for Collagen
Eating plenty of foods rich in vitamin C is essential, because the body uses it to produce collagen, which keeps your skin strong and healthy. Start by doubling your intake of vegetables, because these are a brilliant source of vitamin C. A red pepper contains about twice as much vitamin C per 100g as an orange, and broccoli, cabbage, kale and other leafy greens are all great options too. Fresh parsley is also packed with vitamin C, so adding a tablespoon to your salads or sprinkling over cooked vegetables will add a big boost to your diet.
Applying moisturiser to our face and body is something that most women do automatically, and if you’re reading this chances are you’re also using a vaginal lubricant like Sylk. But the lubrication needs to come from the inside as well as the outside if you want your skin to stay in great shape- this applies to the vaginal tissue too. Essential fatty acids play a key role here, because they act as natural lubricants and support the integrity of our cell membranes, ensuring that they retain the water which keeps them plump and elastic. Make sure your diet contains plenty of foods rich in omega 3 by eating oily fish like salmon, sardines or mackerel 3 times a week; add a spoon of flax seed to your morning cereal and snack on walnuts and almonds.
Isoflavones found in soya are phytoestrogens which are plant compounds that mimic the effect of oestrogen in the body. Some research suggests that they may help to relieve vaginal dryness. Opting for fermented soya products like miso, tempeh or natto is likely to be more beneficial than processed soya products like milk or yoghurt. Other sources of phytoestrogens include lentils, chick peas, fennel and flax seed, so rotating these throughout the week might make a material difference to your symptoms.
Hydration Will Help
Our skin needs plenty of water to retain its elasticity and our vaginal tissues are no exception. If they’re deprived of water, this will contribute to the atrophy (shrinking) that causes the dryness and itching that can be so uncomfortable. The amount of water we need will vary, depending on age, build, level of physical activity and the temperature of the environment, but the equivalent of about 6-8 glasses of water is probably about right for most people. Herbals teas will count towards your total and it’s worth remembering that fruit and vegetables are also full of water if you’re finding it challenging to drink that much. Consider downloading a hydration app if you tend to forget to hydrate yourself. This will help to keep you on track.
We all know that eating too much sugar isn’t good for us, but here’s another great reason to help you step away from that bar of chocolate! Refined sugar is horribly ageing for the skin. In excess it can lead to a process called glycation which degrades the collagen in our tissues and causes the skin to become slack and wrinkly. Be good to your vagina and limit your intake of biscuits, cake and confectionery.
Jackie Lynch, Nutritional Therapist
Nutritional Therapist Jackie Lynch is passionate about supporting women in midlife and her WellWellWell nutrition clinic is based in Notting Hill, London. We’re pleased to support her podcast The Happy Menopause for practical diet and lifestyle advice for women going through the menopause. Jackie is also the author of Va Va Voom: the 10-Day Energy Diet and The Right Bite: Smart Food Choices for Eating on the Go. Her new book, The Happy Menopause: Smart Nutrition to Help You Flourish will be published in 2020.