Vaginal dryness is a problem that can affect women of all ages. Thinning of the lining of the vagina resulting in symptoms of dryness is very common as women age and can occur before, during and after menopause. There are several medical prescription treatments to alleviate vaginal dryness that involve topical and oral estrogens. There are also natural home remedies, dietary supplements and lifestyle changes that can help, as well as over-the-counter lubricants that are natural and help to alleviate symptoms of vaginal dryness.
These are things that you can try on your own, and experiment with, that do not require a prescription or doctor's office visit. That said, it is important for you to discuss your symptoms with your doctor to be sure that there aren't other factors causing dryness or pain with intercourse such as infection; tears; allergic reaction to a soap, lubricant or condom; or other medical issue
Your diet is probably the first place to start in terms of managing symptoms of vaginal dryness. Vaginal lubrication comes from glands in the cervix, as well as vagina, but a majority of the vaginal fluid is actually from the blood stream and forms droplets of fluid rich in sodium, potassium, calcium and other electrolytes and proteins that seep through the vaginal cells into the vaginal lumen or canal. Staying well hydrated is critical, as well as eating a healthy diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids and proteins.
A diet high in fatty acids may aid in producing additional vaginal lubrication. Raw pumpkin, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and fish (especially salmon, mackerel and tuna) are great choices that are high in fatty acids. Vitamin A and B supplements and beta-carotene also have high levels of omega 3 fatty acids. You should also eat foods that contain isoflavones, which can help regulate declining estrogen levels. Foods high in isoflavones include flaxseed, soy, legumes, cherries, nuts, apples and celery. I also recommend that women supplement with a multivitamin/multimineral with additional B complex vitamins. Poor diet and hydration definitely effect vaginal secretions, blood flow and lubricity. We know that drinking plenty of fluid is good for our skin. Well, the lining of the vagina is basically skin. So think what’s good for your face is also good for your vagina!
Regular exercise is also important. Twenty minutes of cardiovascular activity, at least three times per week, helps to maintain not only cardiac health and blood flow (to the vagina, as well) but also hormone balance. Estrogen and testosterone - two hormones that decline with age and menopause - have a direct effect on vaginal atrophy and dryness. Regular exercise helps to maintain hormone balance by stimulating the adrenal glands and ovaries.
Vaginal lubrication occurs naturally and also increases with sexual stimulation and arousal, due to the increased blood flow to the genital area. It is important to always make sure you are adequately lubricated during sexual intercourse, to prevent trauma to the lining of the vagina or urethra and also prevent infection. There are certain products that are natural that are great lubricants including jojoba, coconut oil, and aloe. A vitamin E suppository may be an additional option.
The good news is, ladies, you are not alone out there. This is an extremely common problem that all women face as they get older. There are medical options that you should discuss with your doctor and there are also things that you can do on your own at home that are easy, healthy and safe to optimize vaginal health and lubrication.