You need to start by knowing what your vagina's pH should be.
You'll probably be surprised to know that your vagina is acidic. How acidic you ask? To put things into perspective, a lemon has a pH around 2.3, an orange has a pH of 4.3, and the pH range of the normal vagina is between 3.5 to 4.5. Yes, your vagina is as acidic as citrus fruit.
Why is the vagina so acidic and how does it get that way?
It's actually one of those "Circle of Life" situations that involves baseline vaginal acidic pH that promote acidophilic (acid loving) bacteria that produce lactic acid (a common one being Lactobacillus acidophilus) to maintain the acidic pH. The acidic environment is ideal for the acidophilus bacteria but unfavorable for other bacteria and yeast. This circle can be broken by many things including antibiotics, douching, lack of estrogen, and prolonged menstrual cycles. A break in the cycle results in decreased lactic acid production, alkalization of the vagina, and overgrowth of organisms that can cause conditions like vaginitis (irritation and/or infection) and bacterial vaginosis (overgrowth).
A low and acidic pH is the cornerstone of a healthy vagina and is achieved mainly through the production of lactic acid. Besides keeping the vagina healthy, lactic acid is also used as a food preservative because of its powerful antibacterial properties.
How can you maintain the pH balance of your vagina?
A major component of maintaining acidic pH is estrogen. Normal estrogen levels of a woman of reproductive age maintain the multiple cells layers of the vagina. When these cells are shed into the vaginal canal, much like your skin flakes, the acidophilus bacteria change the glycogen from the shed cells into lactic acid. This explains why it's not uncommon that women with lower estrogen levels (perimenopause, menopause, discontinuation of hormone replacement, prolonged use of birth control) can be more prone to vaginal and bladder infections. Aside from maintaining normal estrogen levels, you should avoid things that
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Dr. Karyn Eilber MD is a physician in Beverly Hills with over 20 years of experience in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.