Drops in estrogen levels after age 50 cause up to 70 percent of us to experience itchiness, odor, and painful sex. And winter’s dry air worsens the issue. Luckily, a few science-proven tricks can help you deal with discomfort fast!
Fix Your Flora
“Lower estrogen levels impact the balance of microflora, or bacteria, present in the vagina, which contributes to pain and odor,” says holistic pharmacist Sherry Torkos, B.Sc.Phm., R.Ph. Taking probiotics with lactobacillus, a healthy bacteria found in the vagina, can improve the vagina’s pH and protect its sensitive tissues. Boost the effects with a product containing cranberry, which optimizes vaginal health by blocking infection. Try: Kyo-Dophilus Cran+ Probiotic ($19.94, Vitacost). Check with a doctor before supplementing.
Moisturizers are not just for your face, explains Lauren Streicher, M.D., medical director for the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause and author of Sex Rx ($10.32, Amazon). In fact, using a moisturizer specifically created for the vagina has been proven in clinical trials to increase lubrication and elasticity for three days after application. Dr. Streicher’s pick: Replens Long-Lasting Vaginal Moisturizer ($11.96, Amazon). “It has a dual function: Not only does it increase moisture in the vagina by 60 percent, it helps normalize the vagina’s pH— which changes post-menopause, making women prone to infection and irritation.”
“So many women with vaginal dryness go untreated out of fear that vaginal estrogen products are going to have side effects, and that’s simply not the case,” assures Dr. Streicher. Local suppositories, rings and creams slowly secrete estrogen just in the vagina to keep tissues supple. Options include twice weekly creams; biweekly inserts and the estrogen ring, which lasts three months.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.
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