Mon | Aug 20, 2018

pH what?

Published:Monday | December 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Jody-Anne Lawrence, Lifestyle Reporter

We are constantly bombarded with advertisements telling us about having the right pH but how many of us know what it is or why it is important?

The measure of pH tells how acid or alkaline something is. According to general practitioner Garth Rattray, a pH of 7 (like pure water) is neutral. A pH of less than 7 (like citrus fruit) is acidic. While a pH of more than 7 (like bleach) is alkaline.

Therefore, it is not only a woman's vagina that is measured by a pH. A woman's vaginal pH according to Dr Garth Rattray should be acidic.

"The pH of the vagina is around 4 - a little more or a little less at times. If the pH of the vagina is off balance it can cause a reduction of the normal (good) bacteria that live there and protect the vagina thus causing fungal and bacterial infections," noted Rattray.

When it comes to these feminine washes there is nothing medically wrong with them as you do not insert them into the vagina. Douches are a 'no no'. Once you have inserted something inside the vagina, you are contaminating the pH balance.

"A vaginal wash is a misnomer. They are really vulva washes and wipes. They are fine as long as they are not inserted inside the vagina and as long as they do not cause irritation. They do not maintain the vaginal pH (because they are only to be used externally) but they can help to maintain hygiene," he mentioned and continued. "However, douches change the natural vaginal pH and, therefore, do not allow the vagina's natural acidic environment to deal with little problems that may occur. Douching increases a woman's chance of getting a vaginal infection. Douching should not be done unless it is prescribed by a doctor."

How to maintain a healthy pH:

Do not use douches

Engage in a healthy lifestyle - eat lots of vegetables, fruits, complex carbohydrates, drink lots of water and do some regular exercise.

Most of the time, wear underwear that 'breathe' - like 100 percent cotton. Shower regularly and change damp or wet underwear as soon as possible.

Clean the vulva with a mild soap using your hands (not rags).

During the menses, change tampons/pads often.

Use a barrier method for contraception (like a condom) especially if you are prone to frequent vaginal (fungal or bacterial) infections. Remember that semen is alkaline and will reduce the (needed) acidity of the vagina.