“Down there” is one of the most sensitive parts of our bodies but we usually only think about caring for our private parts during our annual gynecological checkup. That’s because we are shy about talking about this part of our body until there is a problem, or trying to avoid pregnancy. Think about it: We don’t use code words for our mouth or heart but it’s hard for many of us to say the word vagina–much less type it. Here are some tips on how to keep our female genitals healthy– and what to do if a problem crops up.
Care and Cleansing: Easy Does It
We don’t need special cleansers for our vagina; just a gentle washing with plain water is plenty. In fact, gynecologists tell women not to douche or wash with an alkaline soap, which can throw our bacteria out of balance. Just be sure to gently pull the folds your vulva apart so you wash thoroughly. Your doctor may prescribe a vaginal wash containing lactic acid bacilli to restore the pH of the vagina if needed.
What to Wear
Lingerie ads tell women we will be more attractive if we wear slinky, silky, clingy underwear. However, comfortable cotton underwear is healthier because air can circulate and there is less chance of a bacteria or fungal infection. Be sure to change your underwear every day and when it gets wet or damp. In addition, avoid wearing protective pads unless they are necessary. And when you wash your undies, make certain to rinse out all the soap.
I Have an Infection, Now What?
If you are among the one in five women who have urinary tract infections (UTI), you know it can be a painful experience. UTIs usually develop when bacteria from the large intestine, such as E. coli, leave the anus and get into a woman’s shorter urethra and on to the bladder. This can easily happen if you don’t clean before sex or if you forget to wipe from front to back. Cranberry juice or cranberry pills can help calm a UTI, although the medical evidence is mixed.
The D-Mannose Supplement
Holistically minded gynecologists may also recommend taking D-Mannose if you feel a UTI kicking in or you are prone to infections. This supplement works differently than cranberry, which changes the acidic balance of your bladder. In fact, experts say D-Mannose prevents bad bacteria from clinging to cells on the walls of the bladder so the infection isn’t able to grow. Moreover, preliminary studies suggest that this natural supplement could be effective.
D-Mannose is made from a type of sugar found in fruits like cranberries, black and red currants and peaches. Stores like Whole Foods sell D-Mannose powder, which tastes sweet when mixed with water, and capsules.
If you think you have an UTI or another infection, check with your doctor or health advisor. As women we need to be very careful to follow up with doctors as illness often goes undetected in our private areas. Please be conscious to set appointments yearly with a gynecologist or as recommended to maintain health.
 Dermatocare.com, “How to take care down there–Just for females!” Dr Surbhi, MD, November 2015
 WebMd.com, “Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
 VeryWellHealth.com, “Can Taking D-Mannose Prevent a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)?” Cathy Wong, ND, August 2018