Why Does My Vagina Smell Like Garlic?

If you have an unusual smell down there, it may be a sign of infection or a change in the balance of bacteria. But it’s usually not anything to worry about.

If you’ve recently eaten onions or garlic, it could make your vagina smell like that. Similarly, strong-smelling foods can cause sweat that lingers in your vulva.

Vaginal Odor

Hands up if you’ve heard some uninformed noise on the internet suggesting that your vagina should never smell — but in reality, every female’s vulva releases a unique odor that’s completely normal. That odor comes from the bacterial flora living in your lady bits that produce certain scents based on their metabolic needs and the environment.

A tangy, fermented smell is a common one and means that your good bacteria are doing their job of keeping your pH levels healthy and preventing infections. This is especially true during menstruation, pregnancy and after sexual activity when pH levels change.

Strong, chemical-like odors are also normal and may mean that you have some residual urine in your vulva. They can also be caused by a bacterial infection like thrush. Yeast infections are often accompanied by itching, burning and thicker, clumpier discharge that looks like curdled milk.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor to get a diagnosis and treatment. Using douches, feminine deodorants and sprays can alter your vulva’s pH levels, which can cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and lead to infections. Also, high-absorbency tampons can leave a lot of cotton in your vagina, which can be a breeding ground for bacteria that causes toxic shock syndrome. The best way to prevent these infections is by practicing good hygiene and always wearing a condom during sexual activity.

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Copper Smell

A sour or fermented odor is normal and a result of your healthy vaginal bacteria producing lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide to keep harmful bacteria at bay. If the odor is strong, it could be due to food you’ve eaten that contains strong-smelling ingredients, such as onions or garlic. This type of odor typically dissipates within 24 – 48 hours.

A copper-like smell may be a sign of a forgotten tampon (it happens more than you might think). The discharge from a missed tampon can cause a foul odor resembling rotten meat, which usually disappears as soon as you or a healthcare provider removes the tampon. It’s also possible that you’re menstruating and the smell is a result of period blood containing iron.

An unpleasant odor that doesn’t dissipate or may be accompanied by itching, burning sensations or abnormal vaginal discharge should be evaluated by your gyno immediately. The odor could be an indication of a bacterial infection, such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) or trichomoniasis (trich), which are both treatable with antibiotics. BV can also be associated with itching, burning sensations and a thin, fishy-smelling discharge. Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to a skunk-like odor or a musty or dirty smell, as well as an abnormal vaginal discharge. In some cases, douches or other hygiene products can affect the pH levels in your vulva and allow harmful bacteria to overgrow, leading to an infection.

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Sweet Smell

The vulva is a place that is naturally home to many different bacteria, and these are a source of the smells that we can produce from down there. As the bacterial population fluctuates throughout the month, due to hormones and menstrual cycles, our own personal odour can change from day to day.

Occasionally, this can be due to diet, particularly if you have been eating lots of oranges and pineapples, which give off a sweet odour that may be mixed with vaginal discharge. It is also possible that the odour you are experiencing is due to an infection, such as thrush, which can be a cause of a garlic-like odour and also cottage cheese-like discharge. This infection is treatable, and a doctor will be able to prescribe an antifungal medication that can help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your vulva.

If you have noticed a shift in the way your body smells from day to day, or the odour is persistent and unpleasant, it is worth seeking out medical attention. It is not uncommon for a sudden change in the way that your vulva smells to be a sign of an infection, but it’s important to take any unusual odour seriously, as it could indicate a serious problem with your health. A doctor will be able to diagnose you perfectly, and ask you about any other symptoms or changes that have been occurring in your life, so they can recommend the best course of treatment.

Garlic Smell

Every woman has a natural scent, and it’s totally normal for your vulva to have a slightly garlicky smell. But, if you notice that your vagina is suddenly smelling pungent, it could mean that something is out of balance and needs to be fixed.

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Garlic-smelling discharge is typically caused by a yeast infection called bacterial vaginosis (BV). This is common, especially during the reproductive years and affects women of all ages. It’s usually treatable with antibiotics, but you may have to deal with the odor temporarily while your body is flushing out the infection.

Another cause of a sudden garlicy vagina is eating onions or garlic-heavy foods. These strong-smelling foods are excreted through sweat glands all over your body, including in the vulva. Then, those odors are mixed with your pee and comes out the other end in your discharge, says gynecologist Dr. Mary Jane Minkin.

Hormone changes during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause can also cause a temporary change in vaginal odor. This happens because there’s an increase in estrogen, which can throw off the pH balance in your vulva. To keep your vulva smelling fresh, try using a pH-balancing gel, wearing loose clothing, not douching, and staying hydrated. Also, avoid scented feminine hygiene products and sprays. They can eliminate the good bacteria that keep your vulva healthy and balanced.

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