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What Impacts Your Vagina Smell?

The vagina smell varies due to hygiene, the menstrual cycle, and overall health or lifestyle changes. Despite little scientific evidence to support it, many believe the foods consumed can affect the vagina’s smell. Some foods change the scent down there, but it’s often due to the sweat glands surrounding the vagina, or the altered smell may be due to hormonal changes. Let's explore the reasons your vagina's smell might change.

What changes the smell of my vagina?

You may have noticed that urine smells differently after eating foods such as asparagus, so it makes sense that you’d wonder if your diet may change the scent of your vagina. The smell down there may vary throughout the month, but often the stronger scents you might notice are from sweat. The vagina doesn’t produce sweat, but the vulva does.

The vagina is inside the body, while the vulva is outside, although the female organs are often collectively called a vagina. The vagina and all surrounding areas, such as the groin, skin, and vulva, contain healthy bacteria and sweat glands. Increased odors in your sweat can occur after eating spicy foods, onion, and garlic, but other factors can change the smell of your vagina.

Why does my vagina smell?

Like each person's skin, each vagina has a unique odor, from little to no scent to somewhat musky. The smell may vary or become more robust due to sweating, during the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy, or after sex.

Various bacteria make up your vagina flora and exist in a delicate balance to maintain the proper acidity and pH level. An imbalance can change the smell, since this healthy pH prevents infections that can contribute to a foul odor. Changing the food eaten wouldn’t impact the bacteria, but hormonal shifts can.

Often short-term shifts in your pH level will cause vaginal odors such as:

  • Metallic. During menstruation, the period blood may give off a metallic, coppery smell.
  • Sweet to bittersweet. The scent of molasses may signify changing pH levels.
  • Slightly sour. This yeasty odor may be a sign of an increase in the acidity of your vaginal flora.
  • Ammonia. This scent could indicate dehydration or urine residue.
  • Chlorine. The odor may be due to ejaculation in the vaginal canal after sex, shifting the pH level.

The vagina is a mucous surface, meaning better hydration can hydrate those membranes and help dilute more pungent smells. However, an unpleasant or foul odor that doesn’t resolve on its own or other symptoms such as discharge may indicate an infection or other underlying medical condition.

Does what I eat alter my vagina smell?

Foods eaten can alter the odor of sweat in the groin area, making it seem like vaginal odor has also changed. Although there is little scientific evidence to confirm a correlation between diet and vagina smell, many believe that foods high in alkalines, can affect the normal slightly acidic vaginal pH levels and change the odor.

Other foods that some think impact the vagina smell include:

  • Coffee, cheese, or sugar. Intake of an excessive amount may disrupt the pH value and increase yeast bacteria, resulting in more potent odors.
  • Onions. As well as garlic, curry, and other strong-smelling foods may excrete in the sweat glands.
  • Choline-rich foods. Some feel that excessive intake of egg yolks, red meat, and liver contributes to a fishy odor.
  • Alcohol. Excessive intake can lead to dehydration and decrease vaginal lubrication.
  • Cinnamon and celery. Believed that the alkaline nature helps neutralize any excessive acidity and balance the pH.
  • Watermelon. Used to flush out body toxins to help balance pH levels.

Vagina smell during pregnancy

Pregnancy brings many changes to your body, including increased blood flow to the vagina and changing hormone levels, which can affect the pH level. In addition to potential changes in your diet and a heightened sense of smell, these changes may cause you to notice new smells.

Fluctuating hormone levels may make pregnant women susceptible to bacterial vaginosis, a common cause of unpleasant vaginal smells that require medical treatment.

An altered vaginal odor, often metallic or musty, may continue postpartum as the uterus releases blood and mucous to return to its pre-pregnancy state.

Caring for your vagina

It’s normal to be concerned about how your body smells, but your vagina shouldn’t smell like flowers. The vagina is pretty much self-cleaning, but if you’re looking to improve your feminine hygiene, there are some things you can do to reduce unpleasant odors.

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The Internet has multiple articles claiming one food or another will alter the smell of your vagina, most with little or no scientific rationale to support the claim. Take it as an encouragement to eat a healthy, varied diet to improve your overall health. See your healthcare provider if you are concerned about abnormal smells, rather than trying to eliminate the scent with diet alone.

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