Unpleasant vaginal odors are a right pain. Getting rid of the vaginal odor and discharge become paramount when it happens.
Like many women out there, I have also endured unpleasant odors and weird colored discharge. I worried incessantly whether if something was wrong down there.
After years of research and experimenting, I finally hit jackpot and would like to share some of the things that have worked for me and others with you today.
Here are 9 main types of vaginal odors and the tips that worked for reducing or even eliminating completely the unpleasant odors.
Musky Like An Oxen
It is natural to have a musky vaginal scent for most women, and if your discharge looks anything from being clear to white, you don’t have much to worry.
The muskiness can get accentuated when there is increased blood circulation, i.e after a heavy workout or becoming sexually aroused.
Some women can be embarrassed by their muskiness, and try to get rid of the musky smell by douching or using scented feminine deodorants or sprays.
However, doing so can upset the delicate bacteria balance within our vaginas, potentially worsening the condition.
The best ways to get rid of vaginal odor that smells musky are to:
- Wash the vulva regularly with water or mild unscented soap. Read here on how to properly clean the vagina.
- Wear underwear that is made of breathable material, like 100% cotton or linen.
Speaking of clothes, choose loose clothings to allow ventilation. Wearing tight pants can cut off blood circulation as well as increase humidity between legs.
That can exacerbate the musky odor.
With regards to vaginal discharge, the color, smell and volume differs according to hormonal changes within the body.
If it is clear or off white in color, with no bad smell and does not make you itch, you can feel rest assured that your body is working fine.
In the unfortunate event that you have heavy discharge, you may want to consider the following:
- Bring extra underwear with you and change them when they get uncomfortably wet.
- Instead of using a panty liner (read here for reasons to avoid commercial panty liners), consider using reusable cloth pads made from organic cotton. They are more breathable, as they do not have the plastic backings that most commercial panty liners have.
Metallic Rock And Roll
Many women report their vagina odor being metallic in smells before and during their period. This is to be expected as the blood flow contains iron.
However, it can be distressing for women, especially those who are more sensitive to smells or experience heavy flow during that period of the month.
The best ways to get rid of vaginal odor that smells metallic are to:
- Consider using a menstrual cup during the cycle.
2. Again with the clothing advice – wear loose and breathable clothing and underwear to promote ventilation of air. This simple act can decrease vaginal odors dramatically.
Pale red/brown colored discharge is pretty common during and after menstruation. They are typically normal discharge that is stained with the menstrual blood.
However, if the smell is really off, like something rotting, you need to seek immediate medical attention.
For the more common situation, try to increase your water intake. As you go to the toilet more often, more discharge gets flushed out along the way.
Do remember to wipe the vulva area dry to feel fresher.
Something Smells Fishy
If your vaginal discharge starts smelling fishy, it may be prudent to suspect a potential infection.
One potential infection is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). BV is a result of overgrowth of atypical bacteria in the vagina.
People with BV tend to have increased discharge volume, and can experience vaginal discomfort (burning sensation or even pain). The color of the discharge can range from cloudy, reddish to yellow/green.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can also cause fishy smelling vaginal odor. Discharge typically is yellow/green in color, often accompanied by itch in the genital region.
The best ways to get rid of vaginal odor that smells fishy are to:
1. Seek medical treatment.
Treatment options for BV typically includes prescription oral antibiotics (e.g. metronidazole or tinidazole), vaginal gels (e.g clindamycin cream) or vaginal suppositories (nystatin based), usually for a period of 5 to 7 days.
Treatment options for Chlamydia is prescription oral antibiotics.
The two most common antibiotics, as recommended by NHS, is azithromycin (2-4 tabs at once) and doxycycline (2 tabs a day for a week).
If you are pregnant or have allergy issues, doctors typically only prescribe either erythromycin, amoxicillin or azithromycin.
Treatment options for Gonorrhea is usually a combination of prescription antibiotics. Antibiotics like ceftriaxone or cefixime is given in the form of injections, in conjunction with oral antibiotics such as azithromycin.
2. Put a hold on your sex life.
While on treatment for STDs, it is prudent to refrain from sexual activities during and a least for a week after treatment.
If you have an existing history of infection, the risks of recurrence is higher.
You also want to make sure that your partner is also cleared of the infection, or choose a partner who had been tested negative for STD recently.
3. Make dietary changes by boosting your immunity.
- Try taking unsweetened cranberry juice or cranberry extract.
- Drink a cup of Echinacea tea/ Green tea daily.
- Add more garlic into your meals
- Lay off sweetened beverages and snacks. Sugars are prime food for the bad bacteria that perpetuates the vaginal odor.
- Drink enough water to flush toxins out of our body
4. Increase probiotic levels within the body.
Take 2 cups of plain unsweetened yogurt daily, or homemade kimchi or sauerkraut for the vegans/vegetarians to increase these amazing microorganism in your body.
These precious probiotics have been linked with helping the body to maintain optimal microbiota environment, thus getting rid of vaginal odors. Read here for more info on the debate of whether probiotics work in getting rid of vaginal odor.
5. Clean properly and don’t over-wash.
When over-washed, the vulva area can feel tender and tight.
Try to use lots of warm water and mild unscented soap (if soap is a must) and wash around the vulva area. Read here for the proper way to clean your vagina.
6. Use quality cloth pads during menstruation
If you are having your period and an infection at the same time, I would not recommend using a menstrual cup.
Instead, consider using quality cloth pads that allows breathability and will not harm your vaginal environment. Read here for my top recommendations for quality cloth pads.
7. Choose breathable underwear and loose clothings
Many synthetic fabrics like polyester can be waterproof. What happens is that moisture gets trapped and provides an optimal humid environment for bad bacteria to thrive.
It also traps the smell due to the poor ventilation, and making it difficult to get rid of fishy vaginal odor.
I like these underwears for their breathability and comfort. They dry extremely fast – a testament to its breathability and are perfect to bring on the go.
They are a tad expensive but well worth the investment as they can be quite durable when washed and dried appropriately.
Sometimes, our underwear can end up reeking of a strong ammonia/chemical stench.
It can be due to stress urinary incontinence, or as a result of over indulgence in fermented or strong smelling foods like blue cheese.
Stress urinary incontinence is fairly common in women, especially those who have been pregnant. Little acts of sneezing, laughing, or even brisk walking can sometimes cause small gushes of urine.
The urine stains our underwear, undergoes further interactions with the heat and bacteria between our legs throughout the day and viola!
Strong ammonia scented vaginal odor.
The best ways to get rid of vaginal odor that smells like ammonia/chemical-ish are to:
- Bring extra pairs of underwear and change regularly.
- If bringing extra pairs of underwear is a challenge, consider using quality cloth pads and changing them regularly as an option.
- Practice pelvic floor muscle and core exercises. These exercises can strengthen the core and pelvic floor muscles, making leaks issues of the past.
- Drink enough water to flush toxins out, resulting in less smelly urine.
Stale/Salty Like Teen Spirit
The stale/salty vaginal odor can come about when we don’t practice good toilet hygiene. Some people may not clean their genitals properly after doing number 1 and/or 2.
There are people who also do not have the habit of wiping their genitals dry after going to the toilet. Poor toileting hygiene can lead to worsening of vaginal odors.
In addition, some women with trichomoniasis report thin discharge (can be white or yellow/green in color) with vaginal odor that smells salty/stale.
Trichomoniasis is brought on by a parasitic infection, affecting the urinary tract, vagina, or digestive system. It is considered one of the more commonly cured STDS.
The best ways to get rid of vaginal odor that smells stale are to:
1.Seek medical treatment.
- Usually, women with trichomoniasis is treated with prescription oral antibiotics (metronidazole or tinidazole).
2. Practice safe sexual habits.
- Engage in monogamous relationship with a partner tested negative for STDs.
- Refrain from sexual activities during and at least 1 week after treatment.
3. Dietary Adaptations
- Eat one citrus fruit daily. High on vitamin C, these fruits can help ward off infections by strengthening the structural integrity of your cervical walls.
- Boost immunity with teas like Green Tea, and Echinacea tea
- Drink enough water to help flush out potential infections
4. Make a habit to practice good toileting hygiene
- Wash with water if that option is available
- Wipe dry from front to back (vulva to anus)
- Tap dry instead of rubbing. The skin around the vulva can be sensitive. Rough wiping can cause skin to break, which may result in infections and inflammation.
- Make sure no remnants of toilet paper gets left behind in your genitals.
If your vagina odor smells like rotten meat or something dying, please approach your gynaecologist immediately. This should be checked out ASAP.
It could be a sign of something more like prolapsed fibroids, fistulas or even cancer.
Better be safe than sorry. 😉
Hopefully, it could be due to a forgotten tampon left inside for days, or a possible infection. Some women associate BV with a rotten smell rather than a fishy smell.
The best ways to get rid of vaginal odor that smells like something rotten are to:
1. Seek medical attention.
- If vaginal odor is due to an infection, the medical intervention is usually prescription oral antibiotics.
2. Avoid using tampons (which you may forget to remove).
- Tampons are highly absorbent, they may stick to the uterus walls and leave remnants behind within the uterus when removed.
- The remnants are great breeding spots of bacteria and infection!
3. If it IS a forgotten tampon, remove it!
- If you can’t find it, you will have to go to a doctor to get it removed. The doctor may also recommend a course of antibiotics just in case.
4. Reduce environmental hormones/pollutants
- Avoid plastics containers.
- Drinking from plastic bottles can pose considerable health risk when there is leeching of chemicals like phthalates, bisphenol-A/bisphenol-S (BPA/BPS) into the water. These industrial chemicals are known environment hormones.
- If you must, choose BPA/BPS and phthalate free material instead, or consider using glass bottles.
5. Maintain a diet rich in green leafy vegetables
- Choose cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, and low in red meats (especially of animals that are growth assisted with growth hormones).
Yeasty. Beer Night
One of the more common vaginal odor is one that smells yeasty, like bread or beer.
In a healthy vagina, small amounts of yeast exists naturally. Yeast infections occur when there is an overgrowth of yeasts in the vaginal environment.
The best ways to get rid of vaginal odor due to yeast infections are to:
1. Seek medical attention.
- Typically, the medical intervention is to prescribe topical antifungal creams or oral antifungal (fluconazole) for those suffering from chronic yeast infection.
- Research appears to indicate that maintenance therapy with OTC antifungal vaginal creams or suppositories (using a drug type called azoles) are effective as well.
2. Adjust to a low sugar diet.
- Sugar is food for yeast. The Standard American Diet is loaded with simple carbs and sugar. One of the easiest and most useless form of sugar we take into our body are sweetened beverages.
- Fruit juices are no better due to the high sugar content.
- If you like your flavored drinks, consider swapping for a green smoothie by increasing the veggie content for a more refreshing taste, or seeping lemon slices/peppermint leaves in pitchers of water instead.
3. Increase intake of probiotics.
- Some common probiotics are plain unsweetened yogurt, kefir, kimchi etc.
- Some women swear by swiping plain unsweetened yogurt in their vulva area, and for the less squeamish, swab some yogurt inside the vagina. I am not a fan and can’t say that I recommend topical application.
4. Try taking unsweetened cranberry juice or cranberry extract
- They contain antibacterial and antifungal properties that can help reduce infection risks.
5. Wear loose clothing made of breathable materials.
- Besides sugar, yeast also thrive in humid and moist conditions. If you like, you can also choose to go sans underwear for that extra ventilation!
6. Change regularly.
- Again, if you have an infection, and is currently having your menses, consider using a quality cloth pad and changing it regularly.
Menstrual cups are great normally, but generally not advisable to wear if there is an ongoing infection.
Chlorine like smells are often reported after sex. This could be due to the type of lubricants used, or even choice of condoms. This is rather normal, and the odor usually dissipates within 24 hours.
The best ways to get rid of vaginal odor that smells bleach-y are to:
1. Avoid various sex practices like oral to vaginal, or vaginal to anal contact.
2. If lubricants are used, choose water based ones.
- Try to avoid oil-based ones as they can increase vaginal irritation, and been linked to increased latex condom breakage. This can result in sexually transmitted infections, which can worsen vaginal odors.
- If you HAVE to use oil based lubricants, consider choosing condoms made of polyurethane as they are more resistant to breakage due to oil.
3. Speaking of condoms, be aware of potential material allergy. Some people may be allergic to the material like latex, and that can cause unnecessary inflammation and stressor to the delicate cellular structure within.
4. Wash genitals properly before and after sex.
5. Avoid douching to prevent disruption of the delicate microbiota balance within the vagina!
6. Air it! Short of sounding like a broken radio, it is important to note that wearing loose and breathable material can help to get rid of vaginal odor rather effectively due to the ventilation.
Foods related - Sweet/Garlicky
There are certain foods that have been known to accentuate the vaginal odor intensity. Citrus fruits like grapefruits and oranges eaten in copious amount have been linked with sweet smelling vaginal odor.
People who are on special diets, like the high protein, low carb diet, can go into a state of ketosis where they may smell sweet due to the ketones breakdown.
On the other end, people with metabolic illnesses such as diabetes may also have sick sweet smelling or foul smelling vaginal discharge as a result of their medical condition.
Foul smelling odor can also result from eating too much strong smelling food. Overzealous people can sometimes overdose on raw garlic, onions or asparagus, resulting in a strong vaginal odor that can be off putting.
The best ways to get rid of vaginal odor that smells food-y are to:
- Establish that the smell is not due to medical conditions. If it is due to medical conditions, seek medical attention to resolve the fundamental problem.
- Eat strong smelling foods in moderation. Usually food related vaginal odors are due to over consumption of a certain food group.
- Drink enough water to help flush out the strong smelling molecules.
- And yes, you guessed it, wear loose and breathable clothings and underwear~
There are, of course, many other remedies out there like using diluted apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil to apply at affected areas.
You may be curious why I am not listing them in my recommendations.
I am not recommending these remedies because there are often risks of inflammation due to inappropriate dosage or hygiene gaps.
That being said, there seems to be benefits in using apple cider vinegar by using it as a bath and as a nutrition drink in combating infections.
Stress Matters. Learn To Relax.
Often, our vaginal odor is an intimate gateway to understand the state of own health.
If a woman is under heavy stress for prolonged periods of time, it can often affect the intensity of her vaginal odor.
After all, immunity can be compromised under stressors, and the body becomes more susceptible to all sorts of infections and inflammation.
Taking time to relax, decompress and de-stress plays a vital role in getting rid of vaginal odors.
Try establishing a good sleep routine that allows you to get enough sleep.
According to TCM principles, it is best to sleep before 11pm, as the body starts its rejuvenation process then.
Avoid having reversed days and nights. Some people unfortunately cannot avoid graveyard shifts due to the nature of their work.
Boost immunity by increasing Vitamin C intake, as well as getting adequate sleep to make up for the switch.
In addition, I believe very strongly in the adage that we are what we eat. And that our body is a miraculous amazing piece of engineering that seeks to balance itself when it goes off.
When we feed ourselves properly, and make appropriate lifestyle choices (sleep well, relax, dress comfortably), our body will naturally rebalance itself for the most optimal health!