Let’s take a trip down memory lane, back to your days in biology class… and no, we’re not referring to your sexy teacher! We’re talking about that important lesson about the pH scale. If you were too busy fantasising to pay attention, then lucky for you we have all the facts (now adult-friendly) right here.
First things first, pH (which stands for power of hydrogen – nbd) is a scale used to measure the acidity or alkalinity (read: soapiness) of a water-based substance. It extends from super acidic at 0 to super soapy at 14. For example, lemon juice has a pH of 2, bleach is around 12 and water is considered neutral at a pH of 7. In terms of the human body, pH levels specific to each body part are carefully maintained by self-regulating microorganisms and mini ecosystems as follows:
- Vaginal: pH3.8-4.5 (acidic)
- Rectal: pH7.0 (neutral)
- Semen: pH7.0-8.5 (slightly alkaline)
LIFE GAVE US LEMONS
Typically, the level of acidity in your vagina will change through the course of your cycle but should always remain acidic at below pH4.5. This is regulated by lactic acid, produced by good bacteria called lactobacillus. This little beauty not only manages pH but actually forms a biofilm and releases antimicrobial substances, physically blocking pathogens from clinging to the vaginal wall. Pretty impressive, right?
This precious, protective colony of lactobacillus can easily be reduced which will limit its ability to maintain acidity. This can lead to infections, diseases and overgrowth of bad bacteria. It’s important to know what can affect your own lactobacillus so that you can avoid all those nasty side effects. You guessed it, girl. We’ve got the list right here:
Fun fact! Blood is pH7.4 and neutralising to the vagina. This, along with the associated flushing of the vagina, can diminish lactobacillus levels. Women who experience monthly bouts of thrush or bacterial vaginosis may find the trigger is their period and rooted in pH.
Lactobacillus require glycogen (found in the cells of the vagina) to produce lactic acid. Low estrogen levels result in less glycogen and therefore less lactobacillus and higher pH. The human body truly is a wonder! Certain medications and medical conditions can cause low estrogen levels which is also common to prepubescent and postmenopausal women.
You guessed it. Semen is all kinds of trouble when it comes to vaginas! As previously mentioned, semen is alkaline which protects sperm from the acidity of the vagina. It acts as a neutraliser to ensure sperm reach their destination unscathed, leaving the vagina susceptible to bad bacteria.
It’s not all the boys’ fault! Even our own bodies are looking out for those little guys. During ovulation, our cervical mucous it triggered by sexual arousal to become less acidic and more sperm friendly. Ever feel a little itchy after sex? That’s your lactobacillus fighting off the bad bacteria and returning your vagina to its optimum acidity.
Not spoken about enough and caused by more than you can imagine (full post coming soon)! In this case, what’s important is that lactobacillus needs moisture to survive. Too dry and they’re unable to produce the lactic acid you need.
Surprisingly, it’s over washing that’s the issue here. Most people will tell you that douching should, in most cases, be avoided and strong soaps are devastating to good bacteria. You can even unintentionally overdose on soap if you bath regularly, which is why showering is recommended. If you feel the need to freshen up, just use a little water! Alternatively, find an intimate cleanser that is strictly pH3.8-4.5.
The same is true for sexual lubricants. Make sure to pick one that has the correct pH for your vagina (like OSKE, of course) and avoid any that ambiguously state “hypoallergenic”, “optimal pH” or nothing at all. Most commercial brands are not pH regulated specifically for the vagina and can cause plenty of issues.
If you’re on medication, always bear in mind that antibiotics will kill good and bad bacteria. While lactobacillus is naturally restored quite quickly, an infection can get in first and lead to thrush or bacterial vaginosis. Taking a probiotic with and after medication is always advisable.
If by now the intricate wonder of vaginal acidity hasn’t bowled you over, then prepare for the grand finale! You’re about to find out why this fragile balance is so important.
Lactobacillus is what keeps bad bacteria in check. Low acidity levels give Candida albicans (which causes thrush and yeast infections) and bacterial overgrowth (which causes bacterial vaginosis) a chance to flourish. This in turn prevents your good bacteria from fighting back and perpetuates the growth of bad bacteria. No thanks.
As we’ve discussed, acidity and alkalinity play an important role in conception. Any imbalances will disrupt these mechanisms and may lead to subfertility or infertility.
HIV & Sexually Transmitted Infections
Ready to be wowed? Studies have shown that, in the heterosexual transmission of HIV, lactic acid and naturally acidic cervical mucous can deactivate HIV. As you now know, semen neutralizes pH levels and in fact puts women at higher risk of contracting HIV and other pathogens. Scientists believe that the transmission of HIV can significantly be reduced if acidity levels are maintained during and after sex. But until proven, be sure to keep safe!
GET IT GURL
Rest assured, we got you girl! OSKE was specifically created with a pH of 3.5 (spot on) to ensure it is absolutely vagina-friendly. Although this may seem like an obvious move, very few products on the market have taken the same into consideration. We perfect the acidity level of OSKE using only citric acid which is natural, edible and non-toxic. This is just one of the reasons why we say OSKE is made for women, and your #BabeBits.
It’s easy to be amazed by the human body, right? If you’ve experienced issues with acidity, or if you know of any tips and tricks to regulate it, let us know in the comments below.