I don't know what it is, yet the older I get, the more interested I am in being intentional about taking care of my vagina. I think a big part of it is because, back when I was "out here", I didn't give much thought to how much that part of my body did for me. Oh, but with age, prayerfully comes wisdom. These days? Oh, trust me, I am super conscious about doing all that I can to keep my va-jay-jay happy because y'all, truer words have not been spoken when I say that when "she's" happy…I'm happy.
Several moons back, I actually wrote about the kinds of foods we all should eat if we want to keep our vaginas nice and healthy (check out "The Foods Your Vagina's Been Craving"). Today, let's explore the opposite—the foods that can actually cause all kinds of drama down below, if we're not careful. For the record, the intent is not to get you to no longer enjoy some of your favorite foods, so much as I'm hoping that you will reconsider before having an extra piece or drink that's made up of these ingredients—so that you and your vagina can be in optimum health, both inside of the bedroom and out.
It really does suck that something that is so much fun to eat isn't the best thing for us, but that's how life goes sometimes. The reasons why sugar is problematic as hell is because it can do everything from cause us to gain weight and trigger heart disease and type 2 diabetes to put pimples on our face and even increase the chances of us becoming depressed or being diagnosed with cancer. The reason why your vagina frowns on too much sugar is because we've got good and bad bacteria in that area of our body. Well, something that bad bacteria enjoys consuming even more than we do is sugar and when it gets too much of it—BAM! A yeast infection is sure to be on its way.
Ever since I heard someone say that humans are the only mammals to drink another mammal's milk and then have the nerve to do it past being a baby's age, that has given me a totally different perspective on the stuff. While cheese and ice cream are still two huge guilty pleasures of mine, I must admit that when I go without them, I feel much better. Anyway, if dairy is your thing, it's important to keep in mind that it can actually pull calcium out of your system, up your cholesterol levels, put more sodium into your body, increase the risk of prostate cancer in the men you love and cause you to become lactose intolerant as well. And why does your vagina roll its eyes at dairy? It's because foods like cheese can actually disrupt the gentle bacterial balance inside of your vagina; when that happens, it's another way to end up with an infection.
3. White Stuff
If it's white, it ain't right. Food-wise, that is. The main problem with things like white bread, pasta and rice (except for like jasmine rice) is it's been so heavily processed that there are barely any nutrients in it (although it still contains a ton of carbs that ultimately turn into sugar). Eat too much of this stuff and you could gain a ton of weight with nothing beneficial to show for it. Not only that but white foods have a tendency to spike your blood sugar levels. When that happens, your vagina becomes more vulnerable and definitely more susceptible to bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.
Common sense isn't that common. A wise person once said that, right? A married woman once said to me that while her hubby used to always be interested in having sex, when she decided to eat raw onions—a favorite food of hers, by the way—he had been going down on her less. She thought it was a random coincidence when, actually, probably not. Onions are good for you in the sense that they are packed with nutrients (including vitamins B and C, potassium, and the compound sulfur) and they're able to put cancer-fighting compounds into your system, as well as control your blood sugar and improve your bone density.
Still, when it comes to your va-jay-jay, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is if something affects the way your breath smells, it's most definitely gonna affect the way your vagina smells and even tastes to a slight degree. And onions, specifically? They have a reputation for being particularly pungent. Before sex? Hard pass.
5. Junk Food
A couple of years back, I actually wrote an article for this platform about why junk food is not good for us (check out "Why You Should Consider Leaving Fast Food Alone"). A main reason why it's problematic, from head to vagina to toe, is it suppresses your immune system. When that happens, your body cannot fight off free radicals, viruses and infections. In fact, if you eat a lot of junk and you notice that your vagina has been itching a lot all of a sudden, go cold turkey on that kind of food and see if that helps. Oftentimes, the culprit is your diet. Real talk.
I don't know about you but, to me, there is nothing like some roasted asparagus tips that have been drizzled in butter, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Chile. The cool thing about this particular veggie is it's actually pretty good for you. Not only is it loaded with Vitamin K and folate, it's also got a fair amount of vitamins A and C, along with other antioxidants and dietary fiber. This means that asparagus can help to keep you regular, lower your blood pressure and improve your digestive health overall. So, why should you consider laying off of it, I'd say a day or two before having sex? There's something in it that makes urine wreak and sometimes cause our vaginal secretions to not be very pleasant smelling either. Not only that but it throws our vagina's pH balance off which can—you already know—trigger an infection.
There are few foods that are more complex than coffee. While, on one hand, it is able to do things like burn fat, make you more alert (at least temporarily), increase your physical performance, reduce your risk of certain cancers and even having a stroke, coffee also can trigger insomnia, make you anxious, irritate your stomach, make your colon lazy and become addictive. And when it comes to your vaginal health, like onions, it can also give your vagina an unpleasant odor. Plus, the caffeine in coffee has an odd way of hindering your body from fighting candida as strongly as it should. An overgrowth of candida is what causes a yeast infection. So yeah…push the java back, just a bit.
8. Red Meat
Much like coffee, there are some good and then not-so-good things about red meat too. Let's go with the good part first. Because it is high in iron, Vitamin B12 (something that a lot of Black women are low in) and other minerals, consuming it in moderation can be smart; especially if you are anemic or borderline anemic. The flip side to this is you've got to make sure that you eat leaner cuts because red meat can also be high in saturated fat which can cause a sorts of health issues (including heart disease) up the road. The main reason why your vagina would probably wish that you'd go without a few more hamburgers is because saturated fat can trigger bodily inflammation; that can definitely lower your system's immunity and also make your vagina susceptible to an infection.
9. Fried Foods
I have an air fryer and it really has changed my life. That said, I must admit that I'm someone who has a bit of a weakness for fried foods. I live in the South, so some good fried chicken or even some seasoned fries are like catnip to me. Still, I know that anything that is heavily fried in oil can clog my arteries, increase my diabetes risk, and might even put the toxic substance acrylamide (which happens as the result of high-temperature cooking) into my system.
Besides, it's not like my vagina is all that thrilled whenever I have a hush puppy, some mozzarella sticks, or a plate of fried green tomatoes (I told y'all that I was southern). For one thing, the fat in fried foods can throw off my vagina's pH balance. Secondly, fried foods are actually directly linked to bacterial vaginosis—both for me and for you. Something to ponder, the next time you decide to fry something up real quick.
10. Stuff with Preservatives in It
The long short of what preservatives is, is they are chemicals that are put into foods and drinks in order to make them last longer. The reality is a lot of the food that you see on the aisles at grocery stores are loaded with preservatives and some of them are pretty bad for your health. For instance, nitrates which are used to preserve meats can lead to colon cancer if consumed too often and sodium benzoate which are in a lot of sodas and packaged foods can increase ADHD, oxidative stress, allergies and inflammation. We already discussed that inflammation is definitely not the friend of any vagina, so try and stick to fresh and organic foods, as much as you possibly can. Your vagina will certainly thank you for doing so.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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What would you do if you just got laid off from your corporate job and you had a serendipitous encounter with someone who gave you the opportunity of a lifetime? Tamara Taylor was faced with that decision in 2013 after she was let go from her sales profit and operations coach job in the restaurant industry and met a then-up-and-coming stylist, Law Roach, on a flight to L.A. She and Roach struck up a conversation, and he shared how he was looking for someone to run his business and was impressed by her skills. While she took his business card, she was unsure if it would lead to anything. But, boy, was she wrong. Two weeks later, after packing up her home to move back to her hometown of Chicago, she called Roach; he asked if they could meet the following day, and the rest is herstory.
Taylor founded Mastermind MGMT, an agency that represents some of Hollywood’s best “image architects” like Roach, Kellon Deryck, and Kollin Carter, who are responsible for creating unforgettable style and beauty moments for celebrities like Zendaya, Megan Thee Stallion, Taraji P. Henson, and more. Taylor and her company possess an array of functions, but her biggest role is to be her client’s advocate. We hear endless stories about how creatives aren’t paid or underpaid in the entertainment industry, but Taylor ensures that her clients get their piece of the pie. The entrepreneur opened up about her company and her non-profit, Mastermind Matters, in an exclusive interview with xoNecole.
“I always say that I'm an artist advocate first, deal closer second. So my primary focus is to just make sure that the artist is getting everything that they deserve, whether it's compensation or, you know, certain accommodations, but just making sure that they have everything that they need to be able to show up and provide the best service that they're hired for,” she explained.
“So you know, in the beginning, it was hard because I didn't have any experience, and the artists who I was working with at the time–we were learning together, meaning neither of us had assisted anyone. We didn't have mentors in our specific fields. So every deal was like a new learning experience for us from the styling side and also from the business side, and so it took, you know, doing some research, using some very creative tactics, to find out information in the industry and just starting to request accommodations that I knew other artists were granted, who maybe didn't look like my artists.”
Photo courtesy of Tamara Taylor
Ten years later, there’s still not many people who are doing what Taylor is doing. However, things have gotten easier thanks to the research and connections she made in the beginning. During Mastermind MGMT’s ten-year anniversary celebration, she announced her non-profit, Mastermind Matters, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that focuses on helping young entrepreneurs through a 12-week program. The program is divided into “two routes.” The first route is for aspiring creative artists who want to start a business from their talent and all the things they need to learn about business, such as taxes, life insurance, etc. The second route is for practicing creative artists who are already in the industry but need resources such as how to plan for retirement or how to sustain themselves if they can’t work for a short amount of time, i.e., the pandemic.
“I just feel that I'm able to have a business and be successful because of their art as well. And so there are things that I know, I tried to teach it to them but understanding that I can only do so much because I'm not a subject matter expert in those fields,” she said. “So I at least want to be able to provide the resources, and then if they make their grown decision not to do it, then that's on them. But you know, I could be guilt-free and taking advantage of the resources that I'm also providing to them.”
Taylor continues to be an innovator in her industry by always pushing the boundaries of creativity and thinking one step ahead of everyone else. The Chicago-bred businesswoman is moving into the tech space thanks to a new invention created with her clients in mind, and she is looking forward to bigger collaborations in the future. Follow Mastermind MGMT on Instagram @mastermind_mgmt for more information.
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Feature image courtesy of Tamara Taylor