9 natural methods to combat vaginal dryness and increase lubrication, according to an OB-GYN
- Vaginal lubrication can decrease due to low estrogen levels and is a common symptom of menopause.
- Vitamins A, B, and E, as well as supplements like vaginal DHEA, can help increase lubrication.
- If vaginal dryness persists after attempted treatments, see a doctor.
Natural vaginal lubrication is largely driven by the hormone estrogen and plays a crucial role in both sexual intercourse and vaginal
You can use store-bought lube to help with vaginal dryness, however, some lubes can actually pull natural moisture and worsen dryness. So, it's important to look for lubes that promote vaginal hydration.
Another option is vitamins and supplements that can help increase female lubrication naturally by boosting estrogen levels.
Important: You should always consult a doctor before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen to avoid dangerously high doses.
Here's what you need to know about vaginal dryness and how to boost your body's natural ability to self-lubricate.
What causes vaginal dryness?
- Hormone fluctuations due to menstrual cycles, childbirth, and breast-feeding
- Acne medications
- Hormonal contraceptives
- Certain autoimmune disorders like Sjogren's Syndrome
- Dietary imbalances
If you are experiencing vaginal dryness, it should be dealt with as soon as possible, Sadaty says. Seek out medical support if dryness is persistent or painful.
"If you allow dryness and vaginal thinning to go on long enough, sometimes it's harder to fix it," Sadaty says. "At some point, it's difficult to restore the anatomy."
Here are some natural ways to combat vaginal dryness and increase lubrication:
1. Take vitamin A
This vitamin is important in the development of mucous membranes, which include the lining of the vagina. "It is helpful in terms of moisture and collagen production," says Anita Sadaty, MD, attending physician in obstetrics and gynecology at Northwell Health System in New York.
2. Get more vitamin B
Vaginal secretions can be altered by both hormonal and dietary factors. Proper immune function is important when it comes to vaginal health, and vitamin B complex – a supplement that includes all eight types of vitamin B – boosts immune function.
It can be taken as a supplement or absorbed through food sources including poultry, fish, potatoes, and bananas. But too much can be dangerous. It can lead to a lack of muscle control, stomach issues, and painful lesions.
3. Increase beta-carotene intake
Beta-carotene is a provitamin, meaning your body uses it to make another vitamin, in this case, vitamin A. As stated above, vitamin A helps fend off vaginal dryness.
Beta-carotene is found in foods including carrots, dark-green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, and winter squash. Though it is not toxic in high doses, too much can cause the skin to take on a yellow-orange hue among other side effects.
4. Eat more omega-3 fatty acids
"In general, essential fatty acids will help improve the architecture of the vaginal mucosa," Sadaty says. A 2012 study found omega-3 to significantly reduce vaginal dryness for six months among postmenopausal breast cancer survivors with vaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis), which is a thinning, drying, and inflammation of the vaginal walls.
Sadaty says although there have been concerns that high levels of omega-3s may lead to blood-thinning or excess bleeding, research does not support that claim.
5. Incorporate vitamin E into your diet
This is another vitamin that can help promote vaginal lubrication. A small 2016 study of 52 postmenopausal women showed vitamin E vaginal suppositories helped the majority of subjects with symptoms of vaginal atrophy, including dryness. Vitamin E can also be ingested from various foods, including plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
"Foods like pumpkin and sunflower seeds are all good for dryness," Sadaty says. When sourced naturally through food, vitamin E carries no risk. But in supplement form, high doses of vitamin E might increase the risk of bleeding by interfering with the blood's ability to clot. This could potentially lead to a hemorrhagic stroke, or bleeding in the brain, though this is rare.
6. Try a vaginal DHEA treatment
Your body produces the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which in turn helps produce other hormones including estrogen. DHEA levels peak in early adulthood and decrease with age. For vaginal dryness, a doctor may prescribe a synthetic version of DHEA as an oral treatment or a topical cream.
A 2016 study spanning 12 weeks found vaginal secretions improved in participants by 86% to 121% over the placebo effect. However, DHEA treatments may have some risks, including an increase in the risk of hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast and ovarian cancers. It should also be avoided if you have high cholesterol.
7. Look into estrogen treatments
There are two types of estrogen treatments for vaginal dryness:
- Systemic hormone therapy: This treatment comes in pill, skin patch, ring, gel, cream, or spray form and is absorbed throughout the body. Women with a history of clotting issues or breast cancer should avoid using it.
- Low-dose vaginal estrogen products: This treatment option comes in cream, tablet, or ring form and has an added advantage of lowering the risk of hormone-sensitive cancers because there is less danger of too much estrogen being absorbed into the bloodstream. "There is estrogen absorbed into [the blood] but it's not measurable," Sadaty says. "In general, it is considered safe. Even women who've had breast cancer can use it judiciously."
8. Apply topical hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid is a molecule that exists naturally in your skin and is key to keeping it moist.
9. Relieve stress
One of the most important factors in balancing your hormones is a low level of stress, Sadaty says. Research is still limited, but stress, anxiety, and depression are thought to make vaginal dryness worse.
To combat this, Sadaty recommends the "big three" — exercise, balanced diet, and sufficient sleep. Research shows exercise plays a key role in happiness and emotional resilience. Studies have also found that sleep not only reduces stress by recharging and restoring the body but leads to greater life satisfaction.
And while a particular diet can be an important stress-management tool, there are also foods rich in the previously mentioned vitamins that can drastically reduce dryness, including vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.
Vaginal lubrication is a key aspect of overall health and sexual satisfaction. Those who have issues with it may have estrogen deficiencies, which can be treated with vitamins, supplements, hormone treatments, and creams.
People who experience vaginal lubrication issues should seek medical counsel as soon as possible. Always consult a medical professional before taking supplements or medications.
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