Vagina smells like vinegar: 22 Causes, 12 Home remedies

Sometimes your vagina smells like vinegar.  Now the smell of vinegar is pungent and is unbearable.

You feel unhappy as this affects your self-esteem. When the discharge smells like vinegar, it may even create complications in your relationships. A very embarrassing position indeed, but you are not alone!

You will be surprised to know that every woman goes through this situation.  A smelly vagina is a common phenomenon.  It also a temporary condition and goes away in few days

Vagina odour:

vagina smells like vinegar
Vagina smells like vinegar
Image source: baby-pedia.com

Normally the odour originating from Vagina is different from other parts of the body:

  • Is described as musky, sour smell
  • Is affected by sweat, and internal organ smell
  • Can be affected by urine.

Your Vagina smells like vinegar because of many reasons. Since Vagina is in the organ located very near to the anus, the wastes which leave the body leave traces of smell that cause the vagina to smell.

Another problem is an infection! This condition leads to vinegar smelling discharge from the vagina.  Vaginal smell is especially apparent after sex and during your periods.

22 causes why Vagina smells like Vinegar:

So what does it mean if your discharge smells like Vinegar?  Here are a few causes explained in detail.

Bacterial Vaginosis:

Bacterial Vaginosis is neither a SIT disease nor a communicable one.

This problem occurs due to increase in bad bacteria in the vaginal area.  This situation occurs in females in the age group 15 to 44.

The symptoms are itching, pain with watery discharges and hence Vagina smells like vinegar.

Menstrual cycle:

There is a mild smell when you have your periods.  This odour is very mild hence it will not be perceived by others around you.

However, it becomes apparent if you experience heavy bleeding. Then due to nature, your vagina smells like vinegar. The blood that is discharged comes into contact with the air around and creates a different smell that can be perceived by all.

Also, vinegar smell is detectable when you use a bathroom or change clothing.

Doctors strongly advise that you should not interfere with vagina during your periods!   However, you can take some precautions so that others do not detect that your vagina smells like vinegar.  To achieve this just follow these tips:

  • First, check if the odour that you detected is regular.  Take further action only when this odour is pungent or concentrated.
  • Change sanitary pads regularly.  Many doctors advise changing every 4 to 5 hours.
  • Take a bath once or twice a day when you have your periods.  The traces of menstruation blood present in groin area will thus get washed away, and there will be no vinegar-like smell that affects other’s olfactory nerves.
  •  Do not use the female spray to block the vaginal smell.  These products may temporarily block foul smell but may ultimately cause irritation and bacterial infections which may again make your vagina smell like vinegar.
Urine:

During the process of breaking-down proteins in the liver, Ammonia is produced.  This ammonia leaves the body through urine.

Ammonia smells like vinegar, and since it leaves through the anus very near Vagina, hence your Vagina smells like vinegar when urine is passed out.

Pregnancy:

During pregnancy the odour of the vagina is different.  Vagina smells like vinegar during pregnancy due to the following reasons:

  • Urine may become the concentrated solution. Also when the embryo is growing, the uterus exerts pressure on the bladder, and there may be urinary continence, at times. This urine can make vagina smells like vinegar.
  • In early stages of pregnancy, the vinegar like the smell of vagina is apparent to most women.
  • Sometimes Bacterial vaginosis can occur, and it is a cause for concern as it may affect pregnancy.
  • Another unique fact is that pregnant women crave for a different variety of food.  So if they take foods rich in nitrogen like asparagus, their urine would have traces of ammonia that gives a vinegar-like smell to the vagina.
Sweating:

Sweat consists of 99% water 1% of other substances like ammonia.  The vagina is also surrounded by a particular type of sweat glands called Apocrine glands. Hence sweating occurs in the groin area.

Sweat is odourless. As it gets exposed to bacteria, it adopts a distinct smell, reason why Vagina smells like vinegar.

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Sweating is high during sultry conditions. It may also increase when you are doing a strenuous activity like exercising.

You can dissipate this vinegar smell caused by sweating through the following methods.

  • Wearing cotton, so sweat evaporates
  • Avoiding tight panties and pants.
  • Washing the area with lukewarm water
Menopause:

When you enter Menopause, the body goes through several significant changes.  The production of progesterone and estrogen reduces; you experience hot flashes, urine leakages, vaginal dryness and many more problems like postmenopausal atrophic vaginitis.

Hence after Menopause, your Vagina smells like vinegar due to all these reasons.  Most menopausal problems, which cause the foul vaginal smell, can be managed by lubricants having a higher percentage of water.  The doctor, however, suggests other therapies that can give relief.

Rectovaginal fistula:

Usually, large intestine and vagina are not connected.  Rectovaginal fistula occurs when both get connected abnormally.  Bowel faeces like stool and gas may leak from large intestine to vagina.  Since waste smells of vinegar, your vagina also smells similarly.

The causes of Rectovaginal fistula are:

  • An injury during childbirth
  • Radiation treatment in the pelvic region
  • Surgery of pelvic region that has caused complications
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

You can confirm that you are suffering from this condition by observing

  • Vagina smells like vinegar
  • Regular occurrences of urinary tract infection
  • Passage of stools through the vagina
  • Pain during sex
  • Irritation in the vulva, anus area

Most rectovaginal fistulas heal by themselves.  Sometimes this conditions warranties surgery.   It is best to take advise from a Specialist.

Trichomoniasis:

Trichomoniasis is a condition where the vagina is affected by the Trichomonas parasite.  The vagina discharges a bad smelling white, yellow, green or grey fluid.

Other symptoms include itching, burning sensation and pain during sex.

Other STI diseases and infections:

Sexually transmitted diseases like Chlamydia and gonorrhoea affect vagina.  These diseases and other infections cause pelvic inflammation and give out the odour that smells fishy.

Vagina smells like vinegar because there is a white or grey discharge.

Dehydration:

Urine contains waste of body in a solution of water.  When you are dehydrated, this water content in the body reduces.  The Urine is hence a concentrated solution, and that has excess ammonia that smells like vinegar.

You know you are dehydrated when

  • You feel very tired
  • You feel extremely thirsty
  • You feel dizzy
  • There is the decrease in urination.

The panties you wear will hence smell of ammonia for a long time. Drinking water is the only solution to avoid vinegar-like smell in the vagina at such times.

Vaginal cancer:

The vagina is also known as the birth canal.  It is the route through which sperm goes to fertilize the egg.  It is also the route for a fully formed baby to come out of its mother’s womb.

In Vaginal cancer, there is abnormal growth of cells that cause severe pain and vaginal bleeding.

The discharges are the reason why the vagina smells like vinegar.

Cervical cancer:

Cervix is the lowest part of the Uterus.  Cervical cancer is caused due to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).  This cancer can spread to other parts of the body.

The symptoms of this disease are:

  • Heavy bleeding during periods
  • Bleeding from vagina even after you have entered menopause
  • Low back pain
  • White vaginal discharge
  • Vagina smells like vinegar
Weighty issues:

Women with weight issues will have problems like excessive sweating and urinary continence.  Both these issues can make their vagina smell like vinegar.

Foods:

When you take nitrogen filled foods like broccoli, eggs, protein, meat and others, the liver breaks it down and creates ammonia as a byproduct.

These products are released as wastes along with urine. Traces may remain on the anus and vagina smells like vinegar because of this.

Forgotten Tampon:

Tampons prove useful when you are not in a position to change sanitary pads often.  For example, it is helpful to women who are active in sports activity, even during their periods.

Doctors suggest that Tampons should be changed every 4 hours and surely before 8 hours.  If by chance you have forgotten to remove a tampon you will surely perceive the unmistakable vagina vinegar smell on your person after some hours.

It is better to seek doctor’s help to remove this tampon

Personal hygiene:

Do you wash your panties using bleach to keep it fresh?  The bleach can at times react with the sweat secreted and hence your vagina smells like vinegar.

Medications and antibiotics:

Sometimes the medications you take can affect the number of bacteria in the vagina.

Antibiotics can create changes in the vaginal odour and discharge.  Antihistamines can cause vaginal dryness and reduce secretions.  This could be one of the reasons why vagina smells like vinegar.

Vaginal creams:

Vaginal creams usually contain estrogen.  They are used when your body is not able to produce necessary quantity of this hormone.   These may cause discharges. As a result, vagina smells like vinegar.

Vitamin and mineral deficiency:

Deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals can lead to vaginal discharge and dryness.  Zinc and vitamin E are vital for vaginal well being.

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If your body has a deficiency of these two vital nutrients, it is better to take supplements on the advice of your doctor.

Hormonal changes:

Vagina smells like vinegar due to hormonal changes and imbalances. Hormonal changes occur in women at every stage of their life. They affect every stage of life. These hormones cause vaginal secretions

  • When you have your periods
  • Ovulation takes place.
  • These secretions may not have the pleasant smell and sometimes mimic the smell of vinegar.
  • Hormones again make vagina smell like vinegar at the Menopause stage when there is a watery, smelly discharge.
 Vaginal discharge – colour and odour:

There are the different type of Vaginal discharges depending on different conditions and situations.

The colour of discharge changes according to the unique condition.  Here is a list to understand why your vagina smells like vinegar

  1. Candidiasis – a yeast infection caused by candidiasis mould
  2. Uterine cancer –  the vaginal discharge may be pink-brown, and hence vagina smells like vinegar.
  3. Foreign objects in vagina – vaginal pain, sometimes fever, watery discharge to clear the object
  4. Chlamydia is a SIT disease cause painful urination that smells like vinegar
  5. Vaginal yeast infection  – cases white clumpy discharge
  6. Pre-mature labour – where delivery takes place before 37 weeks.  The symptoms include vaginal bleeding,  contractions and cramps
  7. Vaginitis – causes vaginal redness and inflammation in Vagina and white or greyish vaginal discharge.
  8. PID or pelvic inflammatory disease is a SIT disease and causes pain. Your Vagina smells like vinegar when you are affected by the PID disease
  9. Gonorrhoea – causes spotting, painful urination and discharge from the vaginal region.  Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted disease.
  10. Cervicitis –  is the inflammation of the cervix.  The discharge is yellow or blood red due to which your vagina smells like vinegar.
  11. Trichomoniasis  is another SIT disease that causes the vagina to discharge a foul-smelling liquid
  12. Endometrial cancer – It is the cancer of the uterus.  Vaginal discharge and pelvic pain are the symptoms of this disease
Vagina and pH levels:

The normal vagina should be in the pH range 3.8 to 4.5, slightly on the acidic side.  Before puberty and after menopause the pH is higher than 4.5.

pH levels of the vagina should be slightly acidic to inhibit the growth of vaginal diseases caused by microbes such as bacteria.  If the pH levels increase above 4.5, there is a risk of bad bacterial growth leading to diseases like bacteria vaginosis, Trichomoniasis and more.

Changes in pH levels thus indirectly create vaginal discharges that are foul smelling, and your vagina smells like vinegar because of this.

Home Remedies to treat vagina that smells like Vinegar:

If your vagina smells like vinegar, it means there is an issue there.  It could be serious or normal depending on the cause of the discharge that smells like vinegar.

Normal discharges can be cured using various home remedies.  Here are some time-tested ones to solve this embarrassing problem.

Baking soda:

Baking Soda acts as a natural deodorant.  It maintains pH levels that are necessary to keep bacteria from multiplying and causing diseases in the vagina.

Just mix a cup of baking soda to your bathtub and soak for few minutes. After taking your bath, wear your underwear only after pat drying the area.

Fruits and vegetables:

Eating of fruits and vegetables has always been recommended for all types of ailments.  They are a great source of minerals and vitamins, very necessary to be healthy.

Some fruits are especially good for vaginal well-being.  They also strengthen and moisturize vagina which can reduce foul-smelling vaginal discharge.

  • Vitamin C boosts up the immune system.  Intake Vitamin C to avoid bacterial and other microbial infections that cause vagina odour can be kept away.  Vitamin C is present in guava, citrus fruits, kiwi, green and red papers
  • Leafy vegetables prevent vaginal dryness.  Add appropriate amounts of cabbage, kale, spinach, swiss chard, mint and Amaranth to your daily diet.
Water:

If your vagina smells like vinegar, the first thing to do is dehydrate yourself.

Drink lots of water.  All the waste in the body is drained out by water through urine.   Drinking water dilutes the urine, and the foul smell of waste caused due to certain chemicals is minimized.

Know that a hydrated vagina is well lubricated and so it does not smell so badly.

Probiotics:

Probiotics have an important role in keeping your stomach in order. Probiotics are dietary constituents that help in digestion by introducing beneficial bacteria into the body.

So, why are we talking about Probiotics here? Because they help keep vaginal odour away.

How? They introduce the beneficial lactobacillus bacteria which fight vaginal infections like Candida.  They also restore a normal pH level in the vagina.

Miso, curd, sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi are some examples of Probiotics.   Consume them in appropriate quantities on a daily basis to get the best results.

Dry fruits, nuts:

Dry fruits and nuts like Almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds are rich sources of vitamins and minerals.

  • Flax seeds are rich in omega -3 fatty acids boost estrogen and stopping vaginal dryness in the process
  • Almonds and pumpkin seeds provide zinc.
  • Sunflower seeds, hazel nuts, badam and walnuts are sources of Vitamin E
  • Most nuts and dry fruits help regulate periods cycle, remove dryness that may lead to bacterial growth
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Garlic:

Garlic is a wonder vegetable, and hence a separate point can be mentioned of its uses.

Most people think that the bad smell of garlic causes the vaginal smell.  But you will be surprised to know it does the reverse. It has antifungal and antibiotic properties and keeps infectious microbes at bay.

Garlic can be consumed in a raw or cooked form.  Whichever way you eat it, there are benefits galore.  You can also combine garlic oil and coconut oil and spread in the vaginal area for relief from irritation.

Neem leaves and bark:

In India, the value of Neem tree is known for ages.  Researchers abroad are waking up to the fact that the Neem tree has many antimicrobial properties(antiviral, antifungal and antibiotic properties) to boosts up our immunity system.

Consumption of neem bark or leaves can block SIT infections like Chlamydia and gonorrhoea. It improves immunity, and it also is known to fight against fungus like Candida.

So if your vagina smells like vinegar, you can consume neem bark directly or take them in the form of neem oil tablets that are now widely available.

Turmeric:

Vaginitis refers to inflammation of the vagina.  This caused by bacterial and yeast infections.  Your vagina smells like vinegar due to the discharge caused due to vaginitis.

Turmeric is a spice from Asia, that has an anti-inflammatory ingredient called curcumin.  This ingredient can reduce vaginal inflammation created by most vaginal infections.

Curcumin is also suggested by doctors as an antioxidant to combat hormonal imbalances during menopause.

To obtain the health benefits of turmeric, you can either eat it as a capsule or add it to your foods. Mix Turmeric powder with coconut oil and apply in the vaginal area. This dispels vaginal dryness and infection creating microbes.

Apple Cider Vinegar:

Apple Cinder is antibacterial and antiseptic at the same time.  It is one of the effective ways to fight bacterial infections.

This vinegar helps restores acidic properties that destroy bacteria in your vagina.

Take advantage of this miracle home remedy to wash your smell vaginal worries away. Add a cup of apple cider to your bath water and soak for some time.  Wash off and pat dry before wearing your clothing.

Likewise, you can drink this vinegar daily and intake its antiseptic and antibacterial properties into your system.

White Vinegar:

White Vinegar breaks down odours and maintains normal pH balance in the vagina.  Adding it along with sea salt in your bath can help cleanse your body including the vagina.

Tree oil:

You can also use essential oils when your vagina smells like vinegar.  Tree oil is Antifungal and antibacterial essential oil.  You can dilute it with water or coconut oil and massage in the vaginal area.

Some people are allergic to tree oil. So first test a diluted solution in a small area of skin. Check results for skin irritation or scarring after 24 hours.  If you don’t find any skin problems after applying you can use it on the vagina.

Some people add it to their tampons and insert inside the vagina.  This may not be a right choice and doctors do not recommend this treatment.

Lifestyle:

If your vagina smells like vinegar, just adopt few changes to your lifestyle to remedy the situation.

  • Wear clean loose fitting cotton clothes.  Cotton clothes are breathable, and the extra sweat in the groin plus bad vaginal odour just evaporates away
  • Change immediately after strenuous exercise.
  • Avoid strong-smelling deodorants.  The chemicals in the deodorants may irritate the delicate skin cells on the vagina.
  • Don’t douche.  It can do more damage than good as there is fear of foreign objects entering the vagina.
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid excessive sugar. Sugar leaves deposits around the body and attracts bacteria.
  • Weight reduction to avoid sweating.

Vaginal odour is the cause of discomfort.    Sweat, urine or infections are the main miscreants causing this.

Most times these home remedies help make vagina smell normal.

In case your vagina smells like vinegar even after trying these remedies then it is a cause for concern.  It may mean a severe infection or a dreaded SIT disease.  At such times it is better to take a doctor’s appointment.

References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/vagina-smells-like-ammonia
  2. https://www.livestrong.com/article/72406-rid-menstrual-period-odor/
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rectovaginal-fistula/symptoms-causes/syc-20377108  

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