As the name suggests, vaginal odor is a condition where the afflicted person suffers from a foul odor that originates from the vagina. It is perfectly normal for a bit of odor to originate from the vagina, but a persistent “fishy” smell could be indicative of a more serious underlying problem. In such cases, the odor is also accompanied with the following symptoms:
- A burning sensation accompanied with an incessant itch.
- Vaginal discharge.
Causes of Vaginal Odor
It is no misconception that the internal plumbing for women is a lot more high maintenance compared to their masculine counterparts. This is enumerated by the sheer number of causes that may result in vaginal odor:
There may be a noticeable amount of vaginal odor during “that time of the month” which may be highly noticeable if you engage in sexual activity at that time. Please note there aren’t any adverse health effects that may result from having sex during your period, besides the unpleasant odor. Some women use a chemical douche to suppress the odor. Health professionals strongly advise against that because such products tend to disrupt the natural pH level of the affected area, making the region vulnerable to bacterial infection.
- Bacterial vaginosis
If there is increased growth among the bacteria that naturally occurs inside your vagina, it will increase the potency of vaginal odor. It can have any of the following reasons:
- Poor hygiene: If you do not clean your lady part regularly or if you leave your tampon in there for extended periods of time, this will increase the fauna in your vaginal area, causing odor.
- Over-washing your vagina: Please note that cleaning your vagina too often may disrupt the pH level inside your vagina, making it conducive for bacterial growth. It is best that you consult your OBGYN to determine you frequently you clean your privates.
The home remedy section in the latter part of this article will provide you with several effective suggestions to help combat bacterial vaginosis.
- Accumulation of sweat
Just like any other part of your body, there are sweat glands in your vaginal area as well. A steady accumulation of sweat around your vagina may cause am umpleasant odor. This may be caused by the following:
- Exercise: Strenuous physical activities, like exercise or manual labor will cause you to sweat from all parts of your body, including your vagina. When you have a shower after your exercise, take an extra few seconds to clean your lady part.
- Tight clothing: If you wear clothes and underwear that is too tight, it does not allow your vaginal area to ‘breathe’ and air out naturally. Hence the accumulated sweat has no way of escaping, resulting in odor. You should consider wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear (more commonly known as “granny panties”) during the course of the day. You should also sleep in the nude and allow your vagina to air-out during the night and lose the accumulated sweat.
- Sexual activity
Yes, having sex may cause you to have vaginal odor as well! Following are the main reasons why:
- Allergic reaction to bedroom products: Sexual activity exposes your vagina to a wide variety of chemicals, such as lubes, stimulants or even the spermicidal gel that is present on the outside of a condom. If you feel a general irritation followed by odor, you may consider switching products.
- Semen: Semen tends to alter the pH level inside your vagina, which as discussed earlier may result in vaginal odor. Unless you are trying to conceive, you may ask your partner to consider using a condom during sexual intercourse. If he is resistant to the idea, you may consider skipping the post-coital cuddle and wash out the semen from your insides. Also make sure that your partner cleans his penis with soap and water before intercourse so that there is minimal transfer of bacteria from his penis to your vagina.
- Condoms: Even if your partner uses a condom, it is still recommended that you clean out your vagina because particularly vigorous sexual activity may cause parts of the condom to stick to your vaginal walls, which may in turn be colonized by bacteria and resulting in bacterial vaginosis.
- STI: Trichomaniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is caused by a protozoan parasite that may be transmitted during unprotected sexual contact. This causes a foul smelling vaginal discharge, along with an incessant itch and painful urination. You will need to seek professional medical advice do cure yourself of this affliction.
- Anal intercourse: Just simple anal intercourse will not cause bacterial vaginosis, however vaginal intercourse right after anal intercourse will cause bacteria to be transferred from your anus to your vagina, causing bacterial vaginosis. Consider switching condoms between such activities to eliminate this cause!
- Hormonal changes
Hormonal changes caused by mensruation, menopause or even pregnancy may cause vaginal odor with a foul-smelling watery discharge. There are topical creams that can relieve such symptoms, which are only available with a prescription.
Spicy food that contains a lot of chillies and peppers tends to increase the amount of vaginal discharge, thus increasing the associated odor. Research suggests that people who consume a lot of blue cheese, broccoli, cabbage, fish, garlic and onion may suffer from vaginal odor. There are a couple of ways you can counter that:
- The most obvious solution would be reducing the amount of the odor causing food that you consume.
- Research shows that consuming yogurt or other dairy based foods containing a significant amount of probiotic bacteria can reduce vaginal odor by counteracting the odor causing effects of the aforementioned foods.
- Sugary foods and excess caffeine causes dehydration, which may result in excess vaginal odor as well. Consider cutting down the said intake!
- Eating a lot of meat can also cause you to emanate a fishy odor from your vagina. Such women should consider having a more balanced diet.
People who are suffering from vaginal odor due to dietary factors simply have the odor without symptoms that indicate bacterial infection such as painful urination, itchiness and irritation.
- Excess pubic hair
Pubic hair can trap and emanate vaginal odor. Anthropologist and evolutionary biologists suggest that this trait used to attract mates in per-historic society. However societal ideals have changed a lot since then, hence you should consider waxing, trimming or shaving your privates to eliminate odor.
- Laundry products
Sometimes there may be vaginal odor because of an allergic reaction to certain laundry detergents or fabric softeners. Consider switching brands if you believe that this might be the source of your affliction.
- Fragrant soap and body wash
The fragrance is soap or body wash is caused by chemicals which may again hamper the natural pH level inside your vagina, causing bacterial growth. Try switching to some natural or fragrance-free products to see whether it improves the condition.
- Toilet seats
Toilets, whether it is located in the privacy of your own bathroom or the one located at the mall is an absolute cesspool of bacteria and you should be extremely careful while using them. Please keep the following things in mind while using them:
- Before using a public toilet, please tear off some toilet paper, pour a few drops of hand sanitizer on it and wipe down the toilet seat before you sit down on it.
- Do not flush the toilet while you are sitting down, or the bacteria from the water can easily slosh over your vagina, causing infection!
- Rectovaginal fistula
If the odor emanating from your vagina is similar to that of fecal matter, you may be suffering from a relatively rare condition, known as rectovaginal fistula. This is caused by an abnormal opening between the rectum and the vagina, causing some fecal matter to enter the vaginal cavity. This can only be fixed via surgical procedures.
- Choice of feminine hygiene products
Sanitary pads and even panty-liners may cause vaginal odor and other associated vaginal problems such as itchiness and general irritation if they are not changed over extended periods of time. You can consider switching to tampons and if you use panty liners, make sure that they are soft. If you are not comfortable using tampons, then change your pad as frequently as possible to minimize vaginal odor.
- Foreign objects lodged inside your vagina
Just because you switch from pads to tampons, it is not guaranteed that you will be rid of vaginal odor permanently. Sometimes women forget about the tampon that is left inside the vagina or even after they remove it, they may not realize that a part of the tampon may have torn off and may be sticking to their vaginal walls. These bits can be colonized by the bacteria (as they will not have to deal with the hostile pH level of your skin) resulting in bacterial vaginosis. To avoid odor in the future, make sure that you change your tampons frequently and also make sure that you clean your vagina while you are making the switch to ensure that there aren’t any bits of the old tampon left in there!
Both cervical and vaginal cancer may cause odor causing vaginal discharge. Your physician will refer you to an oncologist who will proceed to treat the symptoms with a combination of surgery, chemical and radiation therapy.
Home Remedies to Get rid of Vaginal Odor
Although there is precious little you can do in case of vaginal odor caused by cancer of rectovaginal fistula, but cases of vaginal odor caused by bacterial vaginosis can be easily cured with the help of the following home remedies.
As mentioned earlier, consuming yogurt regularly helps reduce cases of vaginal odor. However, you may also apply it topically to get rid of the odor really fast. There are a couple of ways you can incorporate yogurt for a healthier vagina:
- Yogurt bath: While preparing your bath, simply add a cup of yogurt into the bath water and then take a bath as you would normally. Play just a little extra attention to your privates and use the water to thoroughly rinse the area.
- Direct application: Take a tampon and dip it in a cup of yogurt and insert it inside your vagina. Leave it overnight, or for at least three hours before you take it out and then thoroughly rinse the area with lukewarm water. This method will get rid of vaginal odor overnight (literally)!
- Citrus fruits
Feel free to increase the amount of citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons etc. in your diet. They are rich in Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants that inhibits the growth of bacteria inside your vagina. Consuming citrus fruits is also a great way to fortify your body against urinary tract infections (UTIs).
- Liquid chlorophyll
Liquid chlorophyll is a natural internal deodorant and can be used to suppress or even eliminate vaginal odor. It is readily available in your local health food store and the usual recommended dosage is 1 tablespoon (15 ml) mixed in an 8 oz. glass of water and taken twice a day. It does have a few harmless side effects such as:
- Your tongue may start having a blackish hue.
- Your urine and feces may start having a greenish tinge.
- Leafy green vegetables
If you cannot get hold of liquid chlorophyll, you can always consider adding some leafy green vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, lettuce, etc. to your diet to get rid of vaginal odor.
- Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is well-renowned for its anti-microbial properties and can be used to eliminate the odor causing bacteria from your vagina. There are a couple of ways you can apply this remedy:
- With a tampon: Following is how you can use tampon, olive oil and tea tree oil to get rid of vaginal odor:
- Take a fresh tampon and dip it in olive oil.
- Add a couple of drops tea tree oil on the tampon. Make sure that it is evenly distributed.
- Insert the tampon inside your vagina and leave it in there for about an hour and then take it out.
The above treatment should be repeated at least once a day.
- Create a vaginal wash: Add 6 drops of tea tree oil into an 8 oz. cup of water and use this to wash your vagina daily after taking a shower. This should get rid of vaginal odor in a few days.
- Baking soda
Sodium bicarbonate, more commonly known as baking soda is purported to remedy the pH imbalance that is encouraging bacterial growth inside your vagina. There are a couple of ways you can use baking soda to eliminate bacterial vaginosis:
- Mix a teaspoon of baking soda into an 8 oz. glass of water and drink it daily.
- You can also mix baking soda in water and use it as a vaginal wash, in exactly the same way as described in the previous section.
- Cranberry juice
Cranberry juice is acidic in nature, which helps maintain the pH level that would discourage bacterial growth. Simply drinking one glass of natural, undiluted cranberry juice everyday should go a long way towards eliminating vaginal odor!
- Indian gooseberry (Amla)
Indian gooseberry, known as amla in the Indian subcontinent can help eliminate vaginal odor in exactly the same way that cranberry juice does. Simply chew on pieces of amla every day or have a glass of amla juice daily to get rid of vaginal odor.
- Apple cider vinegar (ACV)
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is also known for its anti-microbial properties that can be used to get rid of vaginal odor. Besides killing the bacteria, it also reduces the pH level on your skin, making it hostile for bacterial colonies. There are a couple of ways you can use ACV to get rid of vaginal odor.
- Mix two cups of ACV in your bath and soak yourself in it for about twenty minutes. If you cannot procure any ACV, then you can add a cup of white vinegar and a cup of salt into the bath and use that instead.
- Mix two tablespoons of ACV in an 8 oz. glass of water and drink it daily.
Some people are allergic or overtly sensitive for ACV, if you are one of them then this treatment is not right for you. Before drinking the ACV solution, we would recommend that you step into the bath first. If you feel a burning sensation, step out of the water immediately and take a shower and then implement an alternate remedy.
For best results, use organic ACV that has the “mother of vinegar” inside the bottle.
It might seem a bit confusing to see garlic listed as a cure for vaginal odor, because we earlier mentioned it as a potential cause of the contamination. If your vaginal odor is simply caused by your diet, then obviously incorporating garlic will make matters worse. However, if the odor from your vagina is caused by bacterial infection (which as stated earlier will be associated with irritation, itchiness and painful urination) then you can utilize garlic’s anti-microbial properties to remedy the situation. Following are the ways you can do that:
- You can incorporate garlic as part of your diet. Asian and south-Asian cuisine makes extensive use of garlic in most of their dishes. If that is not an option for you, you can consider chewing on a peeled garlic clove every day.
- Take a few peeled garlic cloves and use a pestle and mortar to create a paste. Apply it all over your vagina as a vaginal cream and then wash it off after a couple of hours.
- You can take a piece of garlic clove, tie a cheesecloth around it and insert it inside your vagina and leave it in there for a few hours. Rinse the area afterwards.
- Boric acid
Boric acid is available in any pharmacy and can be used effectively to get rid of bacterial vaginosis. The logic behind using it is the same as using ACV, which is to reduce the pH level inside your vagina to make the area inhospitable for odor causing bacteria. To prepare the treatment, you will need the following ingredients:
- Boric acid
- Gelatin capsules (“00” size)
After a quick trip to the pharmacy to procure the aforementioned ingredients, simply fill the capsules with boric acid and store them in an air-tight container. Simply insert a capsule inside your vagina before you go to bed. Rinse your vagina the following morning.
This treatment should be applied every other day.
If you stay hydrated, it will help flush out bacteria from all parts of your body, including the vagina. The ideal amount for women is about 1.8 liters (about 0.5 gallon) of water per day. Women who are overweight or those who live in tropical climates should drink even more!
Aluminum sulfate, more commonly known as alum has been used to purify water, pickling food materials and as an after-shave disinfectant over the last few centuries. The astringent and anti-microbial properties of alum can be used to combat bacterial vaginosis as well! Following are some ways you can do that:
- Alum sticks: Alum sticks are usually available in grocery stores, pharmacies and health food stores. Simply purchase a stick, soak it in water and use it to rub the mouth of your vagina, twice a day. Be sure to be gentle while you do it!
- Alum powders: You can either directly purchase some alum powder, or you can break off a piece of alum and grind it to form a fine powder. Either way, once you have the powder handy, you can dissolve half a teaspoon of it in a glass of water and use it as a vaginal wash. You can also mix ¼ teaspoon of alum powder into a glass of water and drink it twice daily.
- Guava leaves
Guava leaves contain tannins and they also have anti-oxidant and anti-microbial properties that can help fight bacterial vaginosis. You can use guava leaves to create a highly effective vaginal wash with the help of the following steps.
- Take 10 regular sized guava leaves and boil them in a liter of water till about half of the water evaporates.
- Let the water cool down to room temperature and then strain it.
- Rinse your vagina twice a day with this water for maximum effect.
It is no secret that both black and green teas are rich in tannins and anti-oxidants, but it is a little known fact that it also has mild anti-microbial properties! Hence you can prepare some tea, have it cool down to room temperature and use that daily as a vaginal wash after you take a shower. Doing so cure bacterial vaginosis in less than a week!
- Epsom salt
Epsom salt has astringent and anti-bacterial properties that can be used to combat vaginal odor caused by bacterial vaginosis. Simply add a tablespoon of Epsom salt into a bathtub filled with lukewarm water and soak yourself in it for ten minutes. Taking this bath twice a week can be a long term cure for bacterial vaginosis!
- Self-made herbal supplement
As stated in several of the treatments mentioned so far, one common remedy of bacterial vaginosis is to lower the pH level of your vagina, so that it is not as conducive for bacterial growth. You can easily make a herbal supplement to help you achieve that. You will need the following ingredients:
- “00” gelatin capsules.
- Comfrey root powder.
- Echinacea root powder.
- Golden Seal root powder.
- Myrrh gum powder.
- Slippery Elm bark powder.
- Yellow Dock root powder.
All of the above ingredients should be available at your local health food store. Once you have them all, mix equal parts of all the powders. Then, add an added part of the Golden Seal root powder.
Fill the gelatin capsules with the powder mixture and take two capsules, three times a day for 2 weeks to get a long-term cure for bacterial vaginosis!
- Lavender essential oil
Besides suppressing vaginal odor with its aroma, lavender essential oil can cure bacterial vaginosis as well! It has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties that can kill the bacteria and cures the itch as well.
Take a glass of water, add one tablespoon of witch hazel and about ten drops of lavender essential oil and mix it thoroughly and use it as a vaginal wash after taking a shower. Repeated daily use will provide a long-term cure for bacterial vaginosis!
The anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric have been known to practitioners of eastern medicine over several centuries. Such properties have been documented in Ayurveda (the ancient treatise of traditional Indian medicine) and in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as well!
Simply mix one teaspoon of turmeric powder into a glass of warm milk and drink it daily right before you go to bed!