There are all kinds of ideas out there about various foods changing the smell or taste of the vagina. For example, “eat pineapple if you want your vagina to taste sweeter”. What is true and what is myth? Read on to find out…
There is no data whatsoever that any amount of fruit will change how your vagina tastes or smells. Not pineapple, not watermelon, not oranges, not cherries. NO FRUIT. The vagina smells the way it does due to byproducts from lactobacilli – the dominant bacteria of the vagina. Lactobacilli produce lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide which protect the vagina from harmful bacteria and some viruses. These bacteria are not impacted by fruit in our diet. They are impacted by hormonal shifts and blood which is why you may feel the odor of your vagina changes at different times in your cycle.
Pungent foods like garlic, asparagus, and curry are all metabolized in our system and can come out in sweat, urine, or breastmilk. Most of us have had the experience of eating a garlic filled meal and still smelling like garlic the next day. Or the classic example of how your urine smells after eating asparagus. So it makes sense that your vagina would take on some of these odors as well. And it does…kind of. The vagina itself doesn’t actually smell after eating foods like this. Vaginal secretions don’t take on smell the same way urine (a waste byproduct from your kidneys) does. But, because sweat can be impacted by these foods and we do sweat in our groin around our vulva, it can give the illusion that our vaginal odor has changed as well.
A common thought for women with chronic yeast infections is that a high sugar/carbohydrate diet makes this worse. Chronic yeast can be quite miserable, so it makes sense that women are willing to try all kinds of diet changes to help. And while it is healthy to limit sugar in the diet (particularly processed sugar) there is actually no data that this makes a difference in terms of frequency of yeast infections. In fact, studies have shown that the amount of glucose (a type of sugar) in the vagina doesn’t change after consuming high sugar meals – at all. Vaginas do have glycogen (a type of storage sugar) and glucose in them. In fact, vaginal fluid is about 3% glycogen. However, this sugar is produced by epithelial cells in the vagina in response to estrogen. This sugar is food for the lactobacilli bacteria that dominate the vagina and part of what keeps our vagina healthy. But again, eating high amounts of sugar or carbohydrates doesn’t impact this.
Yogurt, kombucha and sauerkraut have long been touted to help improve gut bacteria. But do they help with vaginal bacteria? Unfortunately, not really. These foods do increase levels of lactobacillus but it’s the strains that are found in the gut, not the vagina.
There is some data that eating fermented foods especially when taking antibiotics can help prevent antibiotic related diarrhea – a condition that happens when some of our good bacteria are killed off. But there is no clear data that this strategy helps with preventing yeast or other vaginal infections.
FOODS THAT DO HELP THE VAGINA
There is no magic food that will heal you of all vaginal woes or make you smell like roses and watermelon. But generally eating a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables in a wide range of colors with lean protein and complex carbohydrates is your best way to go. Processed foods, trans fats, and simple carbohydrates tend to sap our energy and leave us feeling full and bloated. And when your body and your gut feel good, generally your vagina will feel good too!
Dr. Quimby is the co-founder of FemEd – a female health education platform that educates females of all ages about their bodies.
She is also a former professor at USC Keck school of Medicine where she led the OBGYN clerkship. She is passionate about education and empowering her patients and her students through knowledge and shared decision making.
She is currently a full time OBGYN at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles.
Dr. Quimby has received accolades for teaching and leadership. She has been named Top Doctor by both Pasadena and Los Angeles Magazines. She is a regular speaker throughout the community giving talks to both the public and other physicians. She has contributed to LAist, SELF, and several other news media sources.
Her special interests include: preconception counseling and improving sexual health
When she’s not educating the public on all things female health she can be found traveling with her 2 young daughters and ever supportive husband.