Although it can be an embarrassing topic, vaginal dryness, thinning of vaginal tissue and lack of lubrication is often the bane of women’s lives. This condition affects the health and quality of life of for women of all ages.
Many women remain silent about their problem of vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy, yet it is a common condition. Nearly half of all women over the age 40 have suffered from vaginal dryness at some point in their lives. And two-thirds of women over the age of 60 list vaginal dryness as one of the top two sexual health problems, along with lack of libido.
Why is this a problem? First of all, without adequate lubrication, sexual intercourse becomes uncomfortable and even painful. In addition, drying out of the mucus membranes increases the risk of bladder and urinary tract infections.
Range of problems
Healthy vaginal walls are always coated in a thin layer of moisture and mucus. Without adequate lubrication, vaginal tissues become dry, thin and prone to tearing. Obviously, lack of lubrication makes intercourse uncomfortable and even painful. However, other health problems can also occur such as incontinence, bladder infections and pelvic floor prolapses. Lack of vaginal lubrication can also make women vulnerable to getting a vaginal infection called bacterial vaginosis.
The most common signs and symptoms of vaginal dryness include, irritation and pain during sex, itching and stinging around the vaginal opening and in the lower third of the vagina and urinary tract infections. Another symptom is the occurrence of bleeding or spotting during sex as a result of the thinning of vaginal tissue.
Causes of vaginal dryness
Most vaginal lubrication consists of a clear fluid that seeps through the walls of the blood vessels encircling the vagina. When you’re sexually aroused, more blood flows to your pelvic organs, creating more lubricating vaginal fluid. But hormonal changes at peri menopause, menopause, and childbirth, and even breast-feeding, can alter this natural physiological process.
‘Maintaining healthy vaginal secretions and vaginal elasticity requires adequate key nutrients such as essential fatty acids, vitamins A, C and B’
There are other contributing factors that may affect healthy vaginal lubrication. Stressful situations, whether physical or emotional, constrict blood vessels that supply essential nutrients and oxygen to the vaginal tissue. Lack of these essential nutrients can lead to dryness. Maintaining healthy vaginal secretions and vaginal elasticity requires adequate key nutrients such as essential fatty acids, vitamins A, C and B.
Changes in vaginal moisture also occur in response to low estrogen levels. Estrogen is essential in keeping vaginal tissue supple and elastic. Adequate estrogen levels give the tissue its ability to produce slippery-smooth lubrication. Anytime a woman’s estrogen level is altered, for whatever reason including a hysterectomy or impaired ovarian function, vaginal thinning and dryness may occur.
Peri menopause and menopause are stages in a woman’s life cycle when estrogen levels may be fluctuating. Estrogen production can also be affected after childbirth and during breast-feeding.
Many other factors contribute to vaginal dryness. For instance, adrenal exhaustion, emotional stress, excessive consumption of coffee, alcohol, and sugar, nutritional deficiencies and steroid-cortisone drugs, antihistamines and asthma medications dry out the mucus membranes. In addition, chemotherapy and breast cancer treatments such as tamoxifen and Arimidex, an aromatase inhibitor, can exacerbate vaginal dryness.
One little known side effect of oral contraceptives is reduced vaginal lubrication. The alteration of natural hormone production caused by taking ‘The Pill’ has many consequences. Lack of healthy vaginal moisture can be one of them.
Beware of vaginal estrogen creams
Since it is the hormone estrogen that causes the vagina to thicken and moisten, the medical approach is to prescribe an estrogen vaginal cream. But estrogen applied in the vagina is quickly absorbed into the blood stream and transported to other tissues.
Long-term exposure to high levels of estrogen can pose some risk to women diagnosed with breast cancer or at high risk of breast cancer by potentially elevating estrogen levels excessively. Estrogen can easily and quickly be absorbed through the vaginal tissues into the bloodstream and cause estrogen excess, which is most commonly experienced as painful breasts or bloating.
Commercial lubricants – bad idea
‘Chemicals in commercial lubricants may contain fragrances, the antibacterial agent chlorhexidine, propylene glycol, glycerin, and parabens’
Commercial lubricants are widely advertised as a solution to vaginal dryness. But beware! The chemicals used in them can irritate the delicate vaginal tissue. Potential ingredients include fragrances, the antibacterial agent chlorhexidine, propylene glycol, glycerin, and a group of preservatives called parabens, (often listed as methy-, butyl-, ethyl- and propyl-paraben).
Some lubricants such as K-Y Jelly and Replens can alter the pH balance of the vagina, which would increase the risk of certain vaginal infections.
Natural, organic solutions
When it comes to healing delicate vaginal tissue and restoring healthy lubrication, it is vitally important to choose a natural, organic product.
You especially want to use one that is specifically formulated to effectively and safely resolve the problem.
Royal Jelly is another of the gifts from the bees. It is the food given to create the queen bee. Royal jelly is loaded with minerals, vitamins and protein, which can repair body tissue as well as enhance immunity.
When pure Royal Jelly is used as a daily food, its plant hormones, which stimulate weak estrogenic actions within the body, help to alleviate vaginal dryness. In addition, Royal Jelly can help with other symptoms of hormonal imbalance including hot flushes, night sweats and bone loss.
Goji berries can be considered the wonder berry par excellence. They are renowned for being rejuvenating food as they contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids. Consuming Goji berries daily will support the body to regain hormonal balance and especially helps prevent and reverse vaginal dryness.
Sea Buckthorn Oil supplements have been shown to combat vaginal dryness. Taking Sea Buckthorn Oil improves the epithelial integrity of vaginal mucus membranes. It is a derived from an orange berry native to Russia and China, also found in northern Europe and Canada.
Used in Chinese medicine for more than 1000 years, Sea Buckthorn is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin E, and carotenoids.
The pomegranate has for thousands of years been renowned as a powerful elixir for women’s health, hormonal balance, beauty and fertility.
A product called MoisturePom is an organic pomegranate lipid complex made from extracts of pomegranate fruit and pomegranate seed. Additional ingredients include organic extra virgin olive oil, organic cocoa seed butter and organic coconut oil. This combination of key organic ingredients provides a synergy that repairs and regenerates healthy vaginal tissue and lubrication.
A clinical study investigating alternatives to vaginal estrogen creams, found that MoisturePom relieved vaginal dryness and atrophy and had a positive effect on incontinence and pelvic floor muscles. The best news of all was that MoisturePom proved to be as effective as estrogen creams but without raising estrogen levels. It is applied vaginally with an applicator.
Homeopathic Remedies have a long history of providing relief from vaginal dryness. Some of the recommended remedies are Byronia, Follicullnum, Licopodium, Natrum Muriaticum, and Sepia.
It is essential to read the specific descriptions for each remedy to choose the one that best describes you.
Coconut Oil is a wonderful healing lubricant. It can also heal sensitive tissue and help resolve vaginal yeast and bacterial infections. One suggestion is to make a small ball out of coconut oil and freeze it. When you need to use a vaginal lubricant, it can easily be inserted vaginally.
Nature has provided many safe and effective solutions for vaginal dryness. Although considered a sign of ageing, it is more an indication of chronic stress and hormonal imbalances. A holistic approach, which includes nutrient dense organic food, meditation, a balanced exercise program and specific supplements that nourish and restore vaginal tissue, offers women a path to hormonal wellbeing. #
Sherrill Selman ND, is internationally known as an expert in women’s health and author several self-care books including Hormone Heresy reveals the real reasons for an age-old problem and provides natural solutions. www.drsherrillsellman.com.