March 7, 2024 – Let’s start with this: Your vagina “is naturally self-cleaning, meaning that it does not need to be washed or rinsed in order to be ‘fresh,’”

That’s the bottom line from Karen Adams, MD, an OB-GYN and clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Yet, there is a common misperception that vaginas need to smell and taste extravagant to indicate that its healthy, according to Heather Irobunda, MD, an OB-GYN with NYC Health + Hospitals. “People have this expectation that their vagina is supposed to smell like roses, or chocolates, or orange cream sickles,” Irobunda said. “The vagina is meant to smell like a vagina.” 

Despite this, vaginal health gummies are all the rage on TikTok and Instagram, touted by celebrities and influencers who tout the supplements’ ability to get your vagina in optimal shape by improving its pH balance, taste, odor, and freshness. With these products being sold at major US retailers – like Amazon, Target and Ulta Beauty – experts like Adams and Irobunda are bringing opposing views on just how safe, effective, and necessary these sweet-as-candy supplements are in getting your vagina in its “most favorable state” – a controversial earmark in itself. 

The vaginal biome, or vaginal flora, is filled with microorganisms that shape the way your vagina functions. A healthy vagina has a pH balance of around 4.0. ‌The pH scale measures the acidity of a substance. It ranges from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic, 7 being neutral, and 14 being the most basic. For example, battery acid has a pH of 0, water has a pH of 7, and drain cleaner has a pH of 14.

The vagina organically produces probiotics, or “healthy bacteria,” such as lactobacillus, along with small amounts of yeast, Adams said. 

The vagina also contains “bad bacteria,” which can cause a disruption in your pH balance when it outgrows good bacteria. If this happens, an infection called bacterial vaginosis (BV) can occur and lead to a change in your vagina’s natural taste and odor.

Many vaginal health gummies, which, as health supplements are not licensed by the FDA, contain good bacteria. Lemme Purr, vaginal gummies created by Kourtney Kardashian Barker, contains Bacillus coagulans, or SNZ 1969. It is a clinically studied probiotic that is not naturally found in your body and has been found to make it through the trek from your highly acidic stomach to your vagina. “SNZ 1969 is a powerful, stand-alone strain in supporting the vaginal biome, especially in preventing the overgrowth of harmful bacteria, including ones that lead to bacterial vaginosis,” according to Leona Fox, a certified functional medicine nutritionist and advisor for Lemme Purr.

Lemme Purr is also sold in capsules that contain SNZ 1969, along with three types of lactobacillus strains. “Four key strains present in Lemme Purr encourage the balance of vaginal bacteria and promote optimal pH levels for a healthy, vaginal environment,” Fox said. “This, in turn, helps maintain normal vaginal taste and odor.” 

But, again, some experts stress that vaginas do not need additional products to function properly. 

There is also the age-old myth that eating pineapples can boost the taste of your vagina, which is false, said Adams. But there are foods with natural probiotics that can boost the number of good bacteria for your vagina, Irobunda said. These include sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, and other fermented foods

One critical note: if you find your vagina smelling “fishy” or you notice green or gray watery discharge, this is a tell tale sign of bacterial vaginosis. Do not reach for vaginal health gummies. Instead, consult your doctor immediately, as these types of vaginal infections require specific treatment and antibiotics from a licensed medical professional.

Other tips for a naturally healthy vagina include ditching your underwear before bed (let your vagina breathe!) and solely using water to clean both your vulva and inside of your vagina, said Irobunda. If you do choose to use soap, make sure that it is unscented. Upping your water intake can also help. “Hydration is key because people do see differences in terms of the character of their vaginal discharge,” Irobunda said. 

Most importantly, always try to differentiate between insecurities about the natural state of your vagina vs. a serious vaginal infection. “I’m especially concerned that young women – teens – might buy into this idea that their vagina is ‘smelly’ or ‘tastes bad,’” said Adams. “This is absolutely harmful to young women! Our vaginas are normal and perfect just as they are.” 

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