Hygiene 101: Maintaining Your pH
Acidic and basic are two ways to describe how strong chemicals are, just like hot and cold describes temperature. A substance that is neither acidic nor basic is neutral.
The pH scale measures basic or acidic something is. It ranges from 0 to 14. A pH less than 7 is acidic, a pH of 7 is neutral, and a pH greater than 7 is basic. Acidic substances are really strong like vinegar, lemon juice, stomach acid and soda. Basic substances are really alkaline (weaker) like laundry detergents, bleach and bath soaps. Pure water is neutral, with a pH of 7.0. When chemicals are mixed with water, the mixture can become either acidic or basic.
There was an excellent article on Dr. Oz's website discussing the vaginal pH. According to Lauren Streicher, MD. pH refers to the vagina's acidity level. A vaginal pH of 3.5-4.5 indicates that there is a perfect amount of good bacteria (lactobacilli) and no overgrowth of the bad bacteria that can cause odor, irritation, and sometimes infection. At its extreme, the result of too much bad bacteria is bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV, not yeast, is the most common cause of abnormal vaginal discharge. But it’s not just about an irritating discharge. Women with BV are at risk for many more serious medical conditions including preterm delivery, post-hysterectomy infection, and an increased tendency to acquire STD’s such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. They also have an increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease and subsequent infertility.
So, what makes pH rise higher than 4.5? There are a surprising number of triggers that can upset the vaginal ecosystem:
- Menstruation: Blood has a pH of 7.4, so during your period, vaginal pH becomes elevated.
- Tampons: Since they retain the fluids that cause pH to increase, tampons can contribute to the problem, especially if you “forget” a tampon and leave it in too long.
- Intercourse: The pH of semen is 7.1 to 8.
- Douching and cleansers: Any vaginal infusion of water or other fluids can affect vaginal pH. The pH of water is 7, and fragrances and perfumes can also irritate the vagina.
- Menopause or pregnancy: These are times where hormones fluctuate, which is associated with elevated pH.
According to Dr. Streicher, "Many women who suffer from recurrent BV infections find that their period is the event that sets them in motion time after time. Some women ask how something as natural and normal as menstruation can cause a problem since women are intended to have periods ? The answer is, while most women’s bodies can tolerate this period of pH elevation, in some women, even a slight imbalance can tip the scales, causing a funny odor or a much more serious problem."
Items that Help to Maintain a Healthy pH
WARNING: Before using any of these products, CHECK WITH YOUR PARENTS/DOCTORS FIRST!!!!