Vaginal atrophy or vulvovaginal atrophy is a condition where the vaginal walls start thinning, drying out, and becoming inflamed. It’s usually because of a drop in estrogen levels, especially during menopause. It can also happen after a woman gives birth. Atrophy can cause constant irritation and pain during intercourse. Its symptoms can affect urinary function as well, causing burning and incontinence. These natural treatments can help alleviate these symptoms and provide relief.
Why You Should Consider Natural Treatments
The most common way to treat vaginal atrophy is with prescribed estrogen replacement. These can be in the form of oral pills, topical creams or vaginal rings. Oral pills, especially when supplemented with progestin, are considered harmful because the estrogen could increase the risk of the following conditions.1
- Breast cancer
- Endometrial cancer
- Blood clots
- Heart attacks
Vaginal estrogen in the form of topical creams or vaginal rings have less risk but it still has the potential to cause these problems. Women who have a history of cancer, uterine fibroids, or are older than 60 are not recommended to go through with estrogen treatment for any reason because the risks outweigh any potential benefit.2 If you fall into any of these categories, it’s worth exploring some natural options which can provide relief with little to no side effects.
Note: Before trying any of these remedies, do make sure to consult your healthcare provider to check if these options are right for you.
6 Natural Treatments For Vaginal Atrophy
1. Sea Buckthorn Oil
This oil is often used in Asian countries as a remedy for genital and uterine inflammation. Studies show that sea buckthorn oil, taken orally, significantly helps increase lubrication and works as an effective topical treatment for post-menopausal women. It also helped reduce other menopausal symptoms like night sweats.3 Scientists theorize that the fatty acids in the oil could help improve vaginal lubrication and reduce inflammation.
That’s right. The natural yogurt sitting in your fridge could contain bacteria that help your symptoms. Studies have found that a low amount of lactobacillus (the bacteria present in most probiotics) was associated with symptoms of vaginal atrophy. Researchers suggest that probiotics could be an effective way to keep the bacterial environment in the vagina dominated by lactobacillus.4 Hence it could make a safe alternative to prescribed treatments.
3. Vitamin E
Studies show that vitamin E as suppositories show success in treating vaginal atrophy. Researchers note that it does take longer to show results but it can be just as effective as topical estrogen creams.5 This makes a great option for women who can’t use hormone-based therapy because of a history of cancer or other factors.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is another suppository supplement that can alleviate symptoms of atrophy. Women who received the suppository reported significant improvement which was medically proven as well. Results showed that vaginal pH as well as dryness improved with the help of this treatment.6 Vitamin D, like vitamin E, is a great option for women who can’t or don’t want to opt for hormone therapy.
5. Black Cohosh
Black cohosh is a herb well known for easing menopausal symptoms. Studies show that it can improve vaginal blood flow, and raise interest in sex especially in the early stages of menopause. This means that it could raise libido and improve lubrication.7 It’s possible that black cohosh could be used as a preventative for vaginal atrophy.
6. St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort is a plant which has been used in medical treatments since ancient times. Research suggests that preparations and extracts using this plant can be an option for treatment if women are reluctant to try prescription treatment.8 9
More Tips To Keep In Mind
Other than these supplemental treatments, there are a few lifestyle changes you can adopt as part of treatment:
- Try to maintain a healthy weight and body mass index. However, don’t drop the weight too quickly.
- Exercise may help promote blood circulation and balance out hormone levels. Excess exercise can lead to dryness so don’t overdo it.
- Avoid using douches, or any feminine hygiene products that are scented. Vaginal atrophy already makes you vulnerable to infections and these products make it worse.
Vaginal atrophy can be frustrating and painful to deal with, but fortunately, these natural treatments and lifestyle changes can help alleviate your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
|↑2||Menopausal Estrogen Therapy Benefits and Risks Vary by Age, WHI Analysis Suggests. National Cancer Institute|
|↑3||Larmo, Petra S., Baoru Yang, Juha Hyssälä, Heikki P. Kallio, and Risto Erkkola. “Effects of sea buckthorn oil intake on vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” Maturitas 79, no. 3 (2014): 316-321.|
|↑4||Brotman, Rebecca M., Michelle D. Shardell, Pawel Gajer, Doug Fadrosh, Kathryn Chang, Michelle Silver, Raphael P. Viscidi, Anne E. Burke, Jacques Ravel, and Patti E. Gravitt. “Association between the vaginal microbiota, menopause status and signs of vulvovaginal atrophy.” Menopause (New York, NY) 21, no. 5 (2014): 450.|
|↑5||Emamverdikhan, Aazam Parnan, Nahid Golmakani, Sayyed ASajadi Tabassi, Malihe Hassanzadeh, Nooriyeh Sharifi, and Mohammad Taghi Shakeri. “A survey of the therapeutic effects of Vitamin E suppositories on vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women.” Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research 21, no. 5 (2016): 475.|
|↑6||Rad, Parastou, Mitra Tadayon, Mohammadreza Abbaspour, Seyed Mahmood Latifi, Iran Rashidi, and Hamdollah Delaviz. “The effect of vitamin D on vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women.” Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research 20, no. 2 (2015): 211.|
|↑7||Mohammad-Alizadeh-Charandabi, Sakineh, Mahnaz Shahnazi, Jila Nahaee, and Somaei Bayatipayan. “Efficacy of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa L.) in treating early symptoms of menopause: a randomized clinical trial.” Chinese medicine 8, no. 1 (2013): 20.|
|↑8||Ghazanfarpour, Masumeh, Ramin Sadeghi, Robab Latifnejad Roudsari, and Talat Khadivzadeh. “Effects of flaxseed and Hypericum perforatum on hot flash, vaginal atrophy and estrogen-dependent cancers in menopausal women: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine 6, no. 3 (2016): 273.|
|↑9||Liu, Y-R., Y-L. Jiang, R-Q. Huang, J-Y. Yang, B-K. Xiao, and J-X. Dong. “Hypericum perforatum L. preparations for menopause: a meta-analysis of efficacy and safety.” Climacteric 17, no. 4 (2014): 325-335.|