Vulvovaginal symptoms are some of the most common, yet least talked about, aspects of health for many women. Whether it’s pain, itching, discharge or urinary problems, these issues can greatly affect our sex lives and overall sense of well being. If you don’t have these problems right now, please read on for the sake of prevention, save for future reference, and/or pass this on to a friend who may benefit.
Issues like vaginal dryness, low libido and a tendency to yeast infections or UTIs can happen due to a variety of reasons at any time in life. Commonly these can occur with a change of hormones, and is referred to in the medical world as “GSM” or genitourinary syndrome of menopause.
Here are the top 10 naturopathic approaches that I’ve found to be highly effective for most women dealing with these problems.
(FYI – some of the specific brands mentioned can be found in our online store at FullScript)
- Moisturize topically/internally: Use a simple oil such as Vit E oil as a liquid, a suppository (Carlson Labs “Key-E” suppositories), or you can apply easily by piercing a gel capsule and squeezing the oil onto your vulvar skin. Other great options include cocoa butter, or coconut oil (also mildly antifungal), or an herbal salve such as Vital V (by Moonmaid Botanicals).
- Lubricate well before sex: Women take a lot longer to become aroused than men do, so don’t rush it… take time for plenty of foreplay to allow your body to warm up. Also use a natural lubricant whenever needed, such as Good Clean Love or Organic Glide, to prevent irritation and tearing of your tissues (be sure to check for condom compatibility if you need contraception).
- Estriol (a weak but effective form of estrogen): When vaginal dryness is not resolved by the above steps, a low dose local estrogen can be safe and highly effective. We prefer bioidentical “Estriol” (E3) instead of the conventional brand Estrace which is a bioidentical estradiol (E2) that is most often stronger than needed, contains parabens, and is quite messy to use. Unfortunately, estriol is not available at regular pharmacies and must either be given as a compounded Rx, or a company called Bezwecken sells over the counter products with estriol (and DHEA) for vaginal use.
- DHEA: Local use of DHEA, as a cream or suppository, is another option that will usually help with both low libido and vaginal dryness. Watch out because it is an androgenic hormone and too much can lead to acne or hair growth, so it’s important to start low and slowly increase to find the right dose. (Julva is a nice option for a topical cream, start with only one half or one quarter of the recommended dose)
- Hyaluronic Acid (HA): This is a great option for women who prefer to stay away from hormones and the other moisturizers don’t provide enough relief. Most popular in products for facial skin to help reduce wrinkles and dryness, HA can be compounded in a suppository for vaginal health, or is available as an over the counter product called Revaree as well.
- Probiotics (both orally and vaginally): Our vaginal flora is critical for maintaining the balance of good bacteria to help fend off bad bacteria and yeast. I prefer a high dose oral blend with 100 billion per cap for oral use, combined with an option like Femdophilus capsules that can be inserted vaginally.
- Boric Acid or Yeast Arrest (by Vitanica): I’ve long wished that all women who are prone to yeast infections (or it can work for BV too) could know about Yeast Arrest. This natural suppository has boric acid as well as tea tree oil, probiotics and other herbs and homeopathics and is super effective at treating and preventing infections. It’s messy (so wear a panty liner) and must be used twice a day for about 7 days, but it is less toxic than regular OTC creams and actually restores normal pH balance. Also take oral probiotics, and I recommend using vaginal probiotics for 2 weeks afterwards to be sure to prevent recurrence. (NOTE: Thanks to Juliana Kramer local LAc for also telling me several years ago about another natural option called Yin Care, which is a chinese herbal blend that can be applied to an organic cotton tampon)
- D-mannose: This is another supplement that I wish all women knew about. In addition to the popular cranberry, d-mannose is extremely effective at both preventing and treating UTIs, and is very safe. It is a 5-carbon sugar (vs the usual 6-carbon sugar that you are familiar with, so it does NOT raise blood sugar or feed infection) that bacteria will bind to instead of adhering to the walls of the bladder. When you also drink lots of water to flush your system, the urine will carry out the d-mannose and bacterial infection with it.
- Herbal remedies: A variety of herbs can be used orally, or in a vaginal suppository, rinse or steam. There are too many to list here but consider a blend with uva ursi and berberine orally for UTIs (treat early to try to prevent the need for antibiotics), or you can use garlic or oregano for yeast.
- Pelvic Physical Therapy: This is a specialization within the world of physical therapy that offers much needed support for people with all kinds of pelvic issues (pain, constipation, urinary incontinence, etc). By working directly with your tissues internally and externally, it is possible to change chronic patterns so you can experience more normal function of your pelvic floor (less pain, more control), and prevent future problems as you age.
- NOTE: Janette Cariad of Nurturing Health Physical Therapy specializes in Pelvic PT, Lymphedema and pain that has not responded well to other treatments, and she is currently accepting new patients right here at The Women’s Vitality Center in downtown Berkeley. Contact her for more info here: https://nurturinghealthphysicaltherapy.com
Looking for more guidance?
Would you like more support for your vulvovaginal symptoms? We warmly invite you to schedule a “Vitality Discovery Call” so we can get to know you and help you figure out your best next steps from here.