We’re all living in constant battle with our stress levels, and the year 2020 has not made it easy on us. Hopefully by now, we’ve been able to breathe at least one marginal sigh of relief, and we’ve been capitalizing on all the wellness practices that make us feel as zen as we can. Besides changes in appetite, lowered immunity, and skin issues, stress can also wreak havoc on our vaginal health. Here’s what to look out for.
Similarly to how we may carry tension in our jaws, neck, or shoulders, we can carry tension in less obvious places. Our pelvic floor is a hammock-shaped sling of muscles that runs from the tailbone to the pubic bone. Both men and women have a pelvic floor, but in women, it helps to support not only our bowels and bladder but also our uterus. When we are constantly clenched, it can cause uncomfortable tension that can impact our core strength, as well as affect the feeling of cramps.
Because stress can inhibit our body’s immune response, this also affects the well-balanced system that is our vagina. Stress and poor sleep (which is often a result of stress) can cause vaginitis and other infections due to an imbalance of healthy bacteria. When our good bacteria become out of balance, the growth of bad bacteria is often expedited, resulting in infection.
Vaginal discharge is totally normal and is our body’s way of naturally cleaning itself. It’s how we rid ourselves of harmful and dead bacteria, and it’s part of daily life. However, when we are stressed and are experiencing an overgrowth of harmful bacteria or other pathogens, we may experience more discharge than usual, and it may even be smelly or a thicker consistency. Sometimes this is accompanied by itching and the feeling of dryness within the vaginal wall.
Studies show that prolonged exposure to psychosocial stress and the related hormones (i.e. cortisol and adrenaline) can increase glycogen in the vagina, which is an energy store and a type of carbohydrate or sugar. This can throw a wrench in estrogen-related processes within the vagina, as well as contribute to infection as bad bacteria feed on sugar.
If an infection occurs, reach out to your doctor for treatment. Oftentimes, medication or antibiotics are necessary to help eradicate the infection. Getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet with plenty of fiber, and taking probiotics can help mitigate stress and promote vaginal health.
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