Category Archives: health

3 Common Vaginal Imbalances That Should Put Sex on Pause

These infections happen — and they’re pretty common

When we call out sick from work with a cold, we tell our friends and co-workers exactly what’s going on. But, stigma often keeps us from telling our close friends, and even partners, when we have a vaginal imbalance or infection.

I’ve had enough hushed conversations with friends to know that sometimes having an imbalance feels like you can’t catch a break. And once you’re on the roller coaster of experiencing everything from burning pee to itchiness, it can feel like things will never even out.

You probably won’t pass people on the street yelling, “Bacterial vaginosis, again!” but you can bet that you’re not alone.

We’re here to take a look at the three most common imbalances — urinary tract infections (UTIs), yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis (BV) — and why it could be a good idea to pause your sex life when they occur.

NOT THE SAME AS STISFor the record, BV, yeast infections, and UTIs are not considered sexually transmitted infections (STIs). People who aren’t sexually active can get them. However, sexual contact might be the cause or the reason why they’re constantly reoccurring.

I sat down with Lily and Maeve*, friends who were willing to dish about their own experiences for the greater good. I also turned to Kara Earthman, a women’s health nurse practitioner based in Nashville, Tennessee, for all the clinical details.

How sex affects urinary tract infections and the other way around

vaginal imbalances

Let’s start off with UTIs, which are often characterized by:

  • pelvic pain
  • a burning feeling when you pee
  • cloudy urine

UTIs affect your urethra so they aren’t technically a vaginal imbalance. But, they often occur because bacteria around the vagina gets into the urethra since they’re very close in proximity, says Earthman.

For Maeve, UTIs tend to happen after having a lot of consecutive sex, waiting a little bit to pee after sex, not drinking enough water, or after drinking a lot of alcohol or caffeine.

“One thing I’ve realized,” she says, “is that if I feel symptoms coming on, I need to take care of it right away. I had an experience where [a UTI] escalated really fast and I had to go to the ER after having blood in my urine.”

Since these chronic UTIs put her on high alert, she knows exactly what to do for her body. “Now, I basically run to the bathroom to pee after sex. I actually take a UT bioticprophylactically each day to decrease my chances of getting a UTI.”

Maeve also sang the praises of the urinary pain relief medication that she takes to reduce pain until antibiotics kick in. (Don’t worry if you notice your pee has turned a quite vibrant orange…that’s normal when taking UTI pain relief meds.)

According to Earthman, recurring UTIs can also occur if you don’t practice proper hygiene. But what is “proper hygiene” anyway? Earthman describes it as:

  • drinking a lot of water
  • wiping from front to back
  • urinating before and after intercourse
  • showering after intercourse, if possible

Be sure to also clean sex toys before and after use as well, especially if they’re shared. And even in the spur of the moment, it’s a good idea to take a minute to wash your hands if it’s been a while.

So, when is it safe to try natural remedies and when should you head to the doctor?

Earthman says if you feel symptoms of a UTI coming on, you can start by drinking more water and cutting out caffeine and acidic foods.

If your symptoms persist through a full day or begin to worsen within the day, she recommends seeing a healthcare provider. UTIs, unlike BV or yeast infections, can quickly turn into kidney infections, which can sometimes be life-threatening.

If you also have a fever, chills, or flu-like symptoms with a UTI, Earthman says to head straight to your provider or your nearest urgent care (or even ER, if need be).

WHEN IS IT AN ANATOMY THING?If Earthman’s patients are following proper hygiene protocols and still experience recurring UTIs, she tends to wonder if a structural abnormality is the root cause. Only a specialist can determine that, so Earthman often refers her patients to a urologist or a urology gynecologist.

You and your partner may be passing yeast infections back and forth

vaginal imbalances

Next up, yeast infections. Common symptoms include:

  • itching
  • cottage cheese-like discharge
  • pain during sex

While yeast infections left untreated aren’t dangerous in the same way UTIs can be, they’re certainly uncomfortable.

Since it’s possible for bacteria to be passed back and forth during intercourse, using condoms or the withdrawal method, which decrease amount of sperm in the vagina, can help decrease your risk.

But, as our friend Lily learned the hard way, be sure to use plain condoms. She shares, “[Once] there was one condom left, so my partner at the time and I used it. I was trying to be better about using condoms with him, because his semen seemed to make the yeast infections worse. But I realized after sex that we had used a grape flavored condom. I was basically just sitting there waiting to get a yeast infection. A day or two later, there it was…”

According to Earthman, recurrent yeast infections are often linked to a weakened immune system. For example, people with diabetes often battle chronic yeast infections. Frequent antibiotic use can also hinder your body’s ability to keep vaginal flora in check, allowing for yeast overgrowth.

How can you prevent them?

There’s a laundry list of things to avoid but they’re all pretty easy. Earthman advises:

  • avoiding scented soaps and laundry detergents (that includes bubble baths and bath bombs!)
  • changing out of sweaty underwear or wet bathing suits as quickly as possible
  • only cleaning your vagina once a day with a mild soap or warm water
  • wearing cotton underwear
  • taking a daily probiotic

Blood and semen can also alter the pH of the vagina, so Earthman recommends making sure that when you have your period, you’re changing pads and tampons out fairly regularly.

If you’re experiencing recurring yeast infections, you’ve got options

You can take an over-the-counter antifungal like Monistat. Earthman recommends using the three- or seven-day regimens instead of the one day. It’s more of a hassle, but it tends to work better.

For more complex and long-term yeast infections, your provider might prescribe fluconazole(Diflucan).

If you’d like to keep things natural, there are vaginal suppositories like boric acid that can sometimes provide relief.

Lily swears by Yeast Arrest. “I’ll put in a suppository like Yeast Arrest at the first sign of itching, and I’ll use a three-day over-the-counter antifungal if it gets worse. I take that with me on vacation, just in case. And if I really can’t kick it, that’s when I’ll call my doctor for Diflucan. Diflucan always seems to work, but I like to try other things first.”

The most common imbalance and how to prevent it

 

vaginal imbalances

As Earthman puts it, “Recurring BV is the bane of my existence! It probably keeps our office in business [because] it’s all too common.”

Symptoms of BV are fairly obvious. Discharge is thin white, grey, or greenish, and often comes with a fishy smell.

Could your partner have anything to do with it? Earthman says that, yes, occasionally there are bacterial strains that you and your partner can pass back and forth.

The only way to really know if you have these specific strains is to have a culture taken of vaginal flora, so that both partners can be treated. She doesn’t advise taking cultures immediately for BV since they can be pretty costly and most strains will respond to one or two antibiotic types.

Otherwise, because BV is another type of vaginal imbalance, there are standard prevention measures you can take. Earthman recommends a lot of the same prevention measures as she does for yeast infections, such as:

  • avoiding scented products
  • wearing cotton underwear
  • daily probiotic
  • using condoms or withdrawal method

When it comes to treating BV, there are a few natural options

First off, it’s possible that BV will resolve on its own. Earthman shares that the less you do, the better — the vagina is self-cleaning and really doesn’t need much.

She recommends taking probiotics, noting that although they can be expensive, they’ll eventually pay for themselves if they keep you out of the doctor’s office. Earthman also highly recommends cleaning sex toys before next use.

You could also experiment with home remedies for BV, ranging from yogurt to boric acid.

Some parting advice

Vaginal imbalances are normal and nothing to be ashamed of. And while it’s true that they can put sex on pause, nobody should feel inclined to have painful, uncomfortable, or lackluster sex. It’s so important to be able to talk to your partner about either abstaining from sex or having nonpenetrative sex until you’re feeling better.

It’s always OK to take a break and focus on getting back to feeling like your freshest, healthiest self.

TRACK YOUR VAGINAChanges throughout the month are normal, so keeping track of things like changes in discharge and smell can help you know when something’s gone awry. We like tools and apps such as Clue, Labella, and Monthly Info.

Perhaps these lifestyle and hygiene tweaks will be enough to send you on your way. Or, maybe your provider can recommend a more rigorous course of treatment to knock out a stubborn infection. In any case, getting to know your body better can help you advocate for what you need.

Let’s face it: The vagina has a super delicate balance of flora and pH. It’s totally normal for something like a panty liner or sperm to throw your whole system off. But the more we talk about it, the more we’ll realize how normal it actually is.

15 Morning Drinks to Get Your Day Started

The benefits of water are well known, but experts say reaching for H2O before your morning cup of coffee could jumpstart your system just when you need it most.

After going several hours without a sip, a serving of water first thing can hydrate the body while aiding digestion and metabolism. Here’s what experts advise.

The body’s ‘gold standard fluid’

Water does wonders for our wellness. Angela Lemond, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, calls it “the gold standard fluid for the body.”

“An adult body is around 55-60% water,” she said, so “drinking water everyday is vital for the body to work correctly.”

Lemond has heard theories that drinking two glasses in the morning on an empty stomach can aid digestion and other functions. While no studies she’s seen confirm this, it does make “some biochemical sense.”

“Our bodies are pretty dry when we wake up in the morning,” she said. “Drinking a couple glasses of water to allow the body to rehydrate allows for better digestion when you do eat. It also helps with moving the lower bowels for regularity in the mornings.

“If you are not properly hydrated, body processes do not work as efficiently.”

morning drinks

Did you know most of us start our mornings already dehydrated?

Think about it: Sleeping seven or eight hours a night is a long time to go without water. And that’s not counting other factors that might be at play — like maybe a few too many glasses of wine the night before.

So, by the time you wake up, your body is likely, already slightly dehydrated.

The good news though? This can be easily fixed.

While water is always the best option to start your day, other healthy libations can have a beneficial role.

Find out the best drinks to sip first thing in the morning for hydration, hangovers, energy, boosting your metabolism, and more.

 

1. Make over your morning glass of water

morning drinks

The benefits of drinking water (at least 2 cups) first thing in the morning are plenty. Besides flushing out toxins and providing some much-needed hydration, this amount of water can increase your metabolism.

Freshen your cup with hints of vitamins

But who said your morning cup of water has to be plain? Infuse your water with lemon (or other citrus), herbs, cucumber, and fruit.

Bonus: Lemon water also provides a dose of immune-boosting vitamin C — just 1 ounce of lemon juice contains nearly a fourth of your recommended daily vitamin C intake.

Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

We know even just the idea of drinking apple cider vinegar (ACV) can result in raised eyebrows, but here’s why you should. Apple cider vinegar has been proven to lower blood sugar and aid in weight loss. Initial studies also hint that ACV can help kill pathogens.

To reap the benefits of this metabolism-boosting beverage, simply mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into your morning glass of water.

Go for sparkling or coconut

Sparkling water can be a hydrating and fun option, but just make sure you’re drinking the pure, unsweetened stuff.

Refreshing coconut water is also a good option, and packed with plenty of nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants.

2. Hydrate while boosting your metabolism

Not feeling like downing H2O when you wake up? While we strongly recommend starting the day with a glass of water, here are some alternatives your body will also be okay with.

Boost your metabolism with green tea

Sipping green tea comes with several health benefits thanks to its high dose of antioxidants. One of these benefits is a big boost to your metabolism. Studies have shown that green tea not only increases metabolic rate, but can also help burn fat.

Hold off hunger with bulletproof coffee

While coffee alone has been shown to benefit metabolism, drinking a cup of bulletproof coffee first thing in the morning will provide double duty.

This is because both coffee and MCTs (medium-chain fats) have an effect on metabolism. When it comes to making bulletproof coffee, try coconut oil (a rich source of MCTs) or MCT oil, but be sure to not replace a nutritious breakfast with this delicious morning starter.

 

3. Feeling fatigued? Drink this for energy

Amp up your energy with vegetable juice

If your morning caffeine just isn’t doing the trick, think about switching your cup of coffee for a glass of green juice.

Hear us out. The nutrients found in vegetables — specifically leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach — are proven to promote energy levels.

Vegetables that are especially high in iron aid in delivering oxygen to your cells and fighting fatiguehead-on.

Get a cleaner buzz with Yerba mate

For a cleaner caffeine buzz without those coffee-associated jitters, consider a cup of yerba mate. This South American tea-like beverage contains an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins, and amino acids.

The unique chemical makeup of mate’s active compounds (all 196 of them!) provide a boost of sustained energy without the negative side effects.

Go big with goji berry juice

This small superfood packs a big punch. With vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and eight essential amino acids, goji berries are one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet.

Start your day with a glass of goji berry juice for a dose of vitamins with a side of serious energy.

Studies have shown that drinking goji berry juice results in:

  • increased energy levels
  • improved athletic performance
  • better mental focus
  • decreased stress and fatigue

4. What to sip on for a sensitive stomach

Settle your tummy with ginger tea

Ginger is a popular common cure of stomach woes, and for good reason. Sipping on ginger tea first thing in the morning can ease stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

To make ginger tea, add a few tablespoons of finely grated fresh ginger to a cup of boiling water and steep for five minutes.

Soothe your stomach with aloe juice

Aloe is widely known to help heal cuts, skin issues, and too much time in the sun, but this plant can be helpful for stomach issues as well.

The anti-inflammatory properties in aloe vera juice help to reduce gastrointestinal inflammation and have been proven beneficial to those experiencing IBS

 

5. A cup of this will cure your hangover

morning drinks

Try to drink some tomato juice

If you partied a little too hard the night before, starting your morning with a (virgin) Bloody Mary might be your answer. Tomatoes not only provide plenty of hydration (they’re 95 percent water), but have been scientifically proven to help reverse the effects of alcohol.

Sip on bone broth

While it seems that bone broth is the answer to everything these days, it can certainly help tame those hangover woes.

This nutrient-dense broth is packed with all of the electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals that your post-party body needs. The electrolytes found in bone broth (magnesium, potassium, and calcium) are great at replacing the sodium and potassium that is lost from drinking alcohol.

 

6. Get a full breakfast in with these smoothie recipes

For a morning beverage on-the-go that’s also packed with enough substance to call itself breakfast, make yourself a simple breakfast smoothie.

Consider this vitamin-packed tomato smoothie if you’re not feeling your best self.

Want a metabolism boost? Blend this fruit smoothie with a surprising and refreshing addition of green tea.

Or choose from these four immune-boosting smoothies that are packed with fiber, vitamins, and protein.

What morning drinks should you avoid?

Staying hydrated is simple with these healthy morning beverage options. But what drinks should you steer clear from?

It’s recommended not to drink soda (or other drinks high in refined sugar), energy drinks, alcohol (yes, even Mimosas!), or coffee on an empty stomach. These drinks can all be severely dehydrating and provide some unwelcome morning jitters.

From metabolism-boosting green tea to fatigue-fighting goji berry juice, which drinks are you most excited to try?

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