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Your Guide to Vaginal Dryness

When your vagina isn't properly lubricated, it can feel itchy and irritated, making some daily activities

uncomfortable and sexual intercourse less pleasurable.  During menopause, vaginal dryness is a common cause of discomfort or pain during sex.
 
Vaginal dryness is a common condition, affecting women of all ages.  Vaginal dryness most often occurs during and after menopause, affecting 10-40% of women.  Common signs and symptoms of vaginal dryness include itching, burning, a feeling of pressure, pain or light bleeding during sex, or urinary frequency and urgency. Many experts agreed that vaginal dryness is one of the important sign of vaginal atrophy (Atrophic Vaginitis).

Causes

A variety of conditions can cause vaginal dryness.  Reduced estrogen levels are the main cause.  Estrogen keeps vagina healthy by maintaining normal vaginal lubrication, elasticity, and acidity. These factors serve as a natural defense against vaginal and urinary tract infections. If estrogen level goes down, this natural barrier will be breaking down and resulting in a thinner, less elastic and much more fragile vaginal lining.

But when estrogen levels decrease, so does this natural defense, leading to a thinner, less elastic and more fragile vaginal lining.

Estrogen levels can fall because of:

  • Menopause
  • Childbirth
  • Breast-feeding
  • Various cancer therapies
  • Surgical removal of the ovaries
  • Immune disorders
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Premature ovarian failure
  • Pituitary and hypothalamus issues
  • Allergy
  • Cold medications and some antidepressants

Pathological Mechanism

Vaginal dryness is often induced by deficiency of estrogen, progesterone domination, poor vaginal blood circulation, or lack of androgen hormones, oxytocin, prostaglandins, nitric oxide and cGMP release in the vaginal/arterial parasympathetic erectile nervous endings. 
 
When there is a lack of the androgen hormones androstenedione and testosterone and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, the clitoris and G-spot nerves will become desensitized, and women will experience erectile dysfunction of the clitoral, G-spot, and urethral spongy tissues, thin vaginal lining, making it difficult or impossible to achieve sexual pleasure and orgasm.
 
Therefore as a result, when you suffer from vaginal dryness, you will experience vaginal abrasions during intercourse or masturbation.  Thus, vaginal dryness causes intercourse pain and vaginal loosening.
 

Menopause

Perimenopausal and menopausal women with vaginal dryness often tell us they feel like their bodies — and their lives — are drying up. Your body relies on the hormones estrogen and progesterone to produce adequate lubricating secretions for your vagina. During perimenopause and menopause, when hormones are shifting, it’s very common for some women to experience vaginal dryness as fewer secretions are produced.  Because progesterone levels tend to diminish first as women enter perimenopause, some women experience a relative increase in estrogen levels, and they may need to balance that shift with progesterone supplementation.  Others, particularly women who are near or past menopause, may experience a drop in both estrogen and progesterone levels. Given that one of estrogen’s many responsibilities is to keep the vagina lubricated, it’s very common for a drop in estrogen to lead to vaginal dryness.
 

Sjogren’s Syndrome

Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease that attacks healthy tissue. Typical symptoms of  Sjogren's syndrome are dry eyes and mouth. For some women, it can cause vaginal dryness too.
 

Stress

There is a deep connection between emotions and sex hormones in the body and brain.  A woman needs about 20 minutes of thinking about sex before her body fully responds physically. When women are stressed, the last thing they think about is time for feeling sexy.  This can often lead to low libido and vaginal dryness.
 

Douching: Good or Bad?

Standard douching disrupts the normal chemical balance in your vagina and can cause inflammation.  This may cause your vagina to feel dry or irritated.  Instead, douche with infusions made from antiseptic herbs such as calendula, garlic, goldenseal, fresh plantain, St. John's wort, or tea tree oil, along with herbs such as comfrey leaves to soothe irritation.
 

Natural Remedies

There are many other herbs that help alleviate vaginal dryness.  Aloe vera is helpful for infections and is known for its healing effects.  It can be applied topically to relieve itching or taken internally or used in a douche.  Calendula and vitamin A vaginal suppositories are soothing and healing.  Pau d'arco contains natural antibiotic agents and has a healing effect.  Effective treatment of vaginal dryness has also been achieved with isoflavones and black cohosh.

Helpful Tips:

  • Occasional vaginal dryness during intercourse may mean that you aren't sufficiently aroused
    Make time to be intimate with your partner and allow your body to become adequately aroused and lubricated. It may help to talk with your partner about what feels good. Having intercourse regularly also may help promote better vaginal lubrication.

  • Avoid certain products
    Though you may be willing to try just about anything to relieve your discomfort, avoid using the following products to treat vaginal dryness, as they may irritate your vagina:



    • Vinegar, yogurt or other douches


    • Hand lotions


    • Soaps


    • Bubble bath


  • Stay hydrated
    This may seem obvious, but if you’re chronically dehydrated, your body is going to have a hard time staying lubricated. Remember that all caffeinated and alcoholic beverages can dehydrate you, too. So, drink plenty of water whenever possible.

  • Eat a balanced diet
    Eating a well-balanced diet, including an appropriate amount of healthy fats, will support your overall health and make sure your body is making as much estrogen as it can. Also be sure to eliminate simple sugars and food sensitivities.

  • Increase soy isoflavones in your diet
    Many women respond very well to daily intake of whole soy foods, which are high in isoflavones and lignans known to be helpful for vaginal dryness. While soy and flaxseed contain some of the highest levels of phytonutrients helpful for vaginal dryness, there are many other foods that contain phytoestrogens which, by mimicking the body’s natural estrogens, serve as a buffer when levels fluctuate. Adding these foods to your diet could give you the extra little hormone boost you need
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