Here I go talking about vaginas again…
But I love my vagina.
It's one of the ways I feel tapped into my feminine power as a woman and I appreciate it for what it is able to do and what it is made to do. However, for most of my adult life, I've struggled with maintaining the overall health of my vagina, beginning with bouts of bacterial vaginosis, or BV, that would occur roughly twice a year. I'd be prescribed antibiotics for seven days, followed by a 24-hour tablet to treat the yeast infection that followed because of the harsh antibiotic regimen, and I'd be healthy for about six months and then it would start all over again.
I always heard from my doctor at the time that BV was very common among sexually active women--and it is. Prevalence of BV cases amongst women between the ages of 15 and 49 is said to be around 21.2 million per year. What exactly is BV? Bacterial vaginosis is an infection that can be a result of sexual activity but is not sexually transmitted. In fact, this form of infection is often caused by the naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina becoming unbalanced in some sort of way, creating symptoms like abnormal odor, itching, burning, or discharge. About 84% of women experience no symptoms at all.
Within the last year or so, I realized that my recurring BV was becoming even more common, and I could not for the life of me understand why I had to lie on the examination table with my legs up, patiently awaiting that speculum over and over again. It seemed like everything disrupted my pH balance: soap, sex, periods – everything. It was embarrassing and it made my excitement for sex dampen just a little. In its last appearance, I decided to get a second opinion, because I felt that pumping my body full of antibiotics and depleting my vagina of its good and bad bacteria to the point of a yeast infection was not a good move and would be an even worse move if I developed a resistance towards the medication.
I decided to look up a holistic gynecologist center in Atlanta and see if they had any opinions on the matter. My doctor there had one: cut the sugar. It surprised me that I had never heard that suggestion before by my previous doctor, especially after the initial visit stemmed into several visits intended to clear up my recurring infections. Sugar was the culprit.
It promoted bad bacteria while disabling my body's ability to ward off bacteria from entering my vagina. This is also why my pH balance was always out of whack and whenever it would become unbalanced, my body could not work to stabilize it. Thus, hello disruption of my normal flora and hello bacterial vaginosis.
My doctor gave me a list of suggested foods to help bring my vagina back to a state of happiness.
Here is an example of the low to no sugar grocery list I try to abide by when stocking up every couple of weeks:
Some of these items are mainstays and are always in my pantry or in my freezer to have on hand, but when I grocery shop for myself, I typically go with the two protein/veggies/fruit, eggs, Greek yogurt, and granola rule. It's a great way to keep my budget in check and I can mix, match and add variety to what I keep on hand to cook at home.
In addition to eliminating sugar, I was told to add a probiotic to my daily supplement intake (kind of pricey, but so awesome). I had to say goodbye to sugar and as someone who is pretty addicted to the addictive substance, it was hard, but what is helping me is getting rid of it slowly. I have a pretty toxic relationship with sodas, but I do my best to get my sweet tooth fix in other ways, for example with fruit. When you're used to living a life on the go and grabbing whatever's easiest to eat, on top of drinking caffeine as a means to counteract your lack of sleep, a difference in diet can be a soft shock. However, I'm loving the more awake I feel throughout the day and how healthy and happy my vagina has been these past few months. No harsh meds necessary.
Keeping that grocery list in mind, below are some easy, simple dishes that are quick, healthy, and most of all: low on sugar.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner for beginners, you ain't even know…
Yogurt Breakfast Bowl
One of my favorite ways to start the day is with a filling breakfast and I've found that one of the best ways to do that is with a yogurt bowl. I love yogurt bowls because the added ingredients counteract the tartness of Greek yogurt. And yes, in order to get the full breadth of its benefits, you must go with Greek - plain Greek to be exact. It might be very tempting to gravitate towards Chobani brands of yogurt where the fruit and its syrup is already in the container or the Yoplait fruit flavored varieties, but those psuedo healthy options are chock full of added sugar, diminishing much of the health benefits of eating yogurt. So if you're going to start your day off with yogurt, do it right and go plain Greek. Get your sweetness from the fruits you decide to add.
Avocado & Strawberry Arugula Salad w/ Poppyseed Dressing
Salad dressing is typically a very unhealthy way to consume a very healthy eating alternative. It usually has a lot of fat and sugar and for that reason, I typically stray away from the ones on the aisles and either do a balsamic vinegar or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. For a recipe like this, however, poppyseed dressing is usually my dressing of choice. Most poppyseed dressings can contain as much as 1/3 cup of sugar, if not more. So I tend to go this route when dressing my fruit salad. If being a mixtress in the kitchen with your dressing isn't your thing, find a dressing at your market and compare labels to pick the lesser sugar demon.
After a long day at work, I'm hardly the person who wants to cook an elaborate meal. Spaghetti carbonara is one of my go-to meals because it's quick and easy. White pasta has more sugar than whole wheat pasta due to its refinement process, so if you're trying to get even more health points, reach for whole wheat in the pasta aisle for this recipe.
What are some of your favorite holistic ways to keep your body in check? And which of these recipes do you want to give a try? Share below!