Problems with vaginal dryness?
As you approach menopause, the withdrawal of estrogen causes changes to the vaginal wall. The result can be vaginal dryness, making intimacy quite uncomfortable. There are many over-the-counter lubricants available which can ease your discomfort. You may also want to consider an intravaginal low-dose estrogen and testosterone cream. Available by prescription, these products are routinely used to keep the vagina healthy.
Other vaginal conditions
Beyond dryness, there are other vaginal conditions you should be aware of. Chemical imbalances can also lead to chronic yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis (BV). Antibiotics can wipe out the normal flora of the vagina, making you more susceptible to a yeast infection. As a precautionary measure, it’s often recommended that women use over-the-counter Monistat while taking an antibiotic, or take probiotics a supplement of the beneficial bacteria that help ward off yeast. You can find probiotics at compounding pharmacies or many health food stores.
Bacterial vaginosis, sometimes mistaken for a yeast infection, is characterized by a gray discharge with a fish-like odor. If you suspect you have BV, see your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment.
A relatively common vulvar skin condition, called lichen sclerosis, can cause significant itching, and sometimes bleeds. Often it is diagnosed by a simple skin biopsy in the area, and is treated with topical creams of corticosteroids and/or testosterone on the labia.
Solutions: What you can do to ease your midlife symptoms
For help with problems related to vaginal dryness, schedule an exam with your health care provider. Your discomfort may be caused by a hormone imbalance. Here are some self-help steps you can take to get back in balance and improve your overall health. We’ve also included some health options to talk over with your provider.
- Try an over-the-counter lubricant. Talk to your doctor about prescription intravaginal low-dose estrogen and testosterone creams.
- Eat foods high in Vitamin C red peppers, oranges, pine nuts, roasted sunflower seeds. Great for skin protection, leading to fewer wrinkles and less skin dryness overall.
- Eat a healthier diet, free of processed foods. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where the most nutritious foods are found. Check the labels and avoid foods that are loaded with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), refined carbohydrates and sodium (salt). All can contribute to more imbalance symptoms.
- Practice portion control. Honor your cravings, but do so in moderation.
- Eat at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit each day. The more colorful ones are packed with valuable nutrients. Dark green and leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and collards have been shown to help in memory recall and other mental functions.
- Choose organic whenever possible to avoid preservatives, pesticides, hormones and other substances that disrupt hormone balance.
- Whole foods are healthiest, so pick the orange instead of the orange juice. You will get more hormone rebalancing nutrients and fiber to keep you healthy.
- Limit your caffeine intake; drink less coffee and soda.
- Drink more pure water and green tea.
- Load up on berries that packed with anti-oxidants blueberries, blackberries, cranberries and strawberries. Fresh or frozen, they reduce oxidative stress which assaults the cells of the body. So, “berry up” to reduce inflammation and improve your brain cell signaling.
- Avoid saturated and trans fats and choose olive oil and canola oil instead.
- Choose foods high in Vitamin C red peppers, oranges, pine nuts, roasted sunflower seeds. Great for skin protection, leading to fewer wrinkles and less skin dryness overall.
- Boost your omega-3s a beneficial fatty acid found in oily fishes, walnuts, canola and flaxseed oils.
- Spice up your diet with herbs that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties turmeric (also known as curcumin), garlic, rosemary, and cayenne.
- Go for a walk, take the stairs and park farther away. Exercise gets your endorphins moving and helps alleviate symptoms associated with menopause.
- If you’re a smoker, seek the support you need to quit. On average, women who smoke experience menopause symptoms two years earlier than non-smokers. And smokers’ symptoms are often stronger and more troublesome.
- Chemical disruptors can also throw off your balance, so avoid perfumes and go fragrance-free.
- Make time to do the things you love, whether it’s relaxing with a good book or pursuing a favorite hobby.
- Get your life in order; getting rid of clutter can reduce your overall stress and help you manage midlife challenges.
- Reduce your stress with massage therapy, join a yoga class or meditate.
- Get more rest and a better night’s sleep. For tips, see the Trouble Sleeping symptom page.
- Talk to a Chinese medical practitioner about herbal therapy.
- Ask about black cohosh, an herb that has helped some women with hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. To learn more, see the Vitamins, supplements and herbs page.
- See your health care provider for a comprehensive exam and full assessment of your overall physical, mental and emotional health.
- Discuss over-the-counter progesterone options with your health care provider.
- Ask your provider to evaluate your hormone levels, thyroid and adrenals.
- If hormone therapy is recommended, consider bioidentical therapy which matches your body’s hormone structure.
- Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about adrenal support vitamins. Increasing your intake of B & C vitamins, particularly vitamins B5, B6 and B12 can be very helpful. Health food stores and compounding pharmacies are also good places to look for adrenal support vitamins specially formulated for your needs. Don’t be tempted to buy cheap products, invest in yourself.
- You are unique, so your provider should create an individualized plan for you detailing the type, timing and dosage of your therapy.