Dry down there? You’re not alone, around 17 per cent of women experience vaginal dryness during sex. But rather than jumping to store-bought lube, there are natural remedies.
There are some things in the health world we talk about with anyone and everyone (or is that just me?). And then there is vaginal lubrication. This natural bodily function is incredibly important (not to mention helpful) yet it doesn’t always get as much conversation around the dinner party table – especially when there is an issue in that department, like vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness, also known as vaginal atrophy, is the inflammation, dryness and thinning of vaginal walls, which can lead to sex becoming more painful and although you may not want to chat about it with your friends (or anyone), there is a lot that can be done to help.
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.
According to gynaecologist and medical director of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, Dr Elizabeth Farrell AM “the most important factor in vaginal lubrication and secretions is the hormone, oestrogen. The vagina maintains its own health by its particular microbiome especially during the reproductive years. Vaginal secretions and lubrication are altered and diminished where women are lacking in oestrogen, e.g. breastfeeding, post-menopause and other hypo-oestrogenic states,” she tells Body+Soul.
And most importantly, Dr Ferrell says, there are a variety of ways to combat a lack of vaginal lubrication.
“For vaginal dryness a number of products are used, including lubricants, natural oils and hormone therapies. In Australia we use vaginal oestrogen therapy, but overseas there are other oral and vaginal preparations such DHEA vaginal gel (Praesterone). Other products such Replens (a vaginal moisturiser) or the hyaluronic acid gel have been used. These are used only when oestrogen is lacking.”
While there are a wide range of prescription or other pharmaceutical products to assist dryness, for those that would prefer to pursue something a bit more au naturale, there are also a variety of natural remedies to help some women in boosting their vaginal lubrication too.
Dr Farrell and Naturopath from Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, Sandra Villella shared with Body + Soul their tips to boost vaginal lubrication naturally.
“Phytoestrogen foods such as freshly ground linseed in cereal may help vaginal secretions,” says Dr Ferrell.
Linseed (also known as flaxseed) contain phytoestrogens (plant-based female hormones) called lignans. Your gut bacteria (microbiota) act on lignans, enabling them to have a weak oestrogenic effect. As lignans are found in seeds’ cell walls, you must grind the seeds to release the lignans.
As a naturopath, Villella, recommends the use of linseed (freshly ground) regularly to assist with vaginal dryness.
“There was a study done in the late 1990s by some of the clinicians at Jean Hailes that showed how two dessert spoons or 25grams of freshly ground linseed plumped up the vaginal cells, so they were particularly good for the vaginal atrophy (vaginal dryness.) For the last 20 years I have been recommending this pretty consistently,” she says.
Villella has even developed recipes that incorporate the 25g of freshly ground linseed within them.
“I have created one recipe, a linseed, banana and date muffin, which are, in-house, called our juicy vagina muffins” she says.
But if baking isn’t your thing, you can also use the recommended daily dose of ground linseeds by sprinkling them on your breakfast cereal, or by adding it to smoothies.
Oils as a natural lubricant
While some women may have used store-bought lubricants to assist with vaginal dryness through intercourse, due to certain ingredients used within them, they are not always safe or desirable for all women to use.
Because of this, natural oils such as olive and almond oils in the place of lubricant could be preferable, says Villella. But a very important note: these oils are not safe to be used with condoms, so plan ahead.
For all of the soy loving ladies out there, here is another reason to celebrate its goodness!
“Consuming between 25-50g of tofu, or another whole soy equivalent per day can improve vaginal lubrication,” says Villella.
“The issue with this is, that only 1/3 of women have the particular bacteria in the gut that can convert the phytoestrogen that is found in soy into a more active form which can be beneficial for them in regard to boosting vaginal lubrication,” she says.
According to Jean Hailes, Native North American women have used black cohosh for menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms, and it is now the most extensively researched of all herbs used for managing menopausal symptoms, available in many different formulations, which vary in quality and efficacy.
Black cohosh, taken orally (by mouth) or topically (as a cream or pessary), may be useful for treating vaginal dryness, both of which are only available from naturopaths.
With this treatment, like any on this list, always seek medical advice prior to commencing to ensure it is safe (and the best option) for you.
Shona Hendley is a freelance writer and ex-secondary school teacher. You can follow her on Instagram: @shonamarion.