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11 Things Everyone With A Vagina Should Know About Food

Hey, you are what you eat.

1. Yogurt with live cultures or probiotic supplements may help prevent yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.

Some doctors recommend yogurts with probiotics or probiotic supplements to women who suffer from chronic yeast infections, which are caused by the candida fungus. Probiotics are live microorganisms, often called "friendly bacteria," that may help fight infections caused by "bad" bacteria and boost digestive health. They are sometimes added to yogurts and available in supplements. Those in the lactobacillus family are some of the most frequently used.

However, the evidence that yogurt can really stave off yeast infections is still inconclusive, said D.C.-based family physician, Djinge Lindsay, MD, MPH. (The FDA has not approved any health claims for foods with probiotics.) "A lot of the studies that have been done were with small groups of women," and their infections weren't all the same. "Some women were chronically infected, some women just got infections once in awhile. And the amount of lactobacillus," she added, "varied widely across the studies."

Still, though, eating plain, fat-free yogurt isn't likely to hurt you. "It's a fairly benign remedy to try and some women do report improvement with it," said Lindsay. Probiotics are generally considered safe, but studies on long term effects and how they impact people with other health issues are limited.

One more thing to keep in mind: The most effective way to get your probiotics might not be to eat them. Several studies have found that vaginal suppositories containing lactobacillus may help treat bacterial vaginosis.

2. Sauerkraut, miso, and kimchi are also good sources of probiotics.

3. Eating a lot of sugar may make you more prone to yeast infections, especially if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

4. Cranberries may be slightly beneficial to your bladder, but they're not a reliable measure for preventing UTIs.

Raise your hand if you've ever been told to drink cranberry juice to help your UTI. Researchers have been examining cranberries' impact on UTIs for at least a hundred years, focusing on their potential ability to prevent E. coli bacteria (the primary culprit behind UTIs) from sticking to cells on urinary tract walls.

But while doctors have been recommending cranberries as a preventative measure against UTIs for decades, the latest research suggests that this advice is misguided. In 2012, researchers reviewed 24 studies examining cranberries' impact on UTIs. The results may surprise you: While cranberries can keep bacteria from adhering to bladder walls and may be slightly effective in preventing UTIs, the study ultimately concluded, "Cranberry juice cannot currently be recommended for the prevention of UTIs."

Recommended methods of preventing UTIs include peeing after sex, wearing loose-fitting and breathable underwear, and drinking plenty of water.

Even if cranberries are not a UTI panacea, they are still a good source of essential vitamins like C, E, and K, so incorporating them into your diet isn't likely to hurt you. But steer clear of sugary cranberry cocktail juices. Try making this healthy whole wheat cranberry banana bread or a cranberry banana smoothie.

5. Caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, and artificial sweeteners can irritate your bladder, especially if you suffer from interstitial cystitis (IC).

6. Strong smelling foods like asparagus, garlic, and curry can make your crotch sweat stinkier.

7. Red meat might make you smellier than usual, too.

8. Pineapples might make your vagina smell and taste better, but it's not scientifically proven.

9. Water keeps your membranes ~lubricated~ and your odors diluted.

10. Flax and soy may improve vaginal dryness in post-menopausal women.

11. The smell of Good & Plenty may actually get your juices flowing.

Guys, this is not a joke. If you haven't been feeling the heat lately, you might want to hit the candy store. In 1998, Dr. Alan Hirsch of the Smell & Taste Research and Treatment Foundation in Baltimore wrote in his book Scentsational Sex: The Secret to Using Aroma for Arousal that the scent of Good & Plenty candy, especially when mixed with a cucumber perfume, sexually arouses women.

(Hershey Foods Corp., the maker of Good & Plenty, was not particularly excited about the discovery. A spokesman told the Baltimore Sun, "We weren't involved in the study. We prefer not to comment.")

Keep in mind that there's only so much any one food can do. “Broadly, as long as you’re generally physically healthy, you should have a healthy vagina,” said Lindsay. But if you have specific concerns about your vagina, be sure to see your doctor.