How Do Weed, Alcohol and Smoking Affect Vaginal Chemistry?
Substances like THC, alcohol, and nicotine can substantially alter our body and brain chemistry in various ways. What you may not have thought about is how weed, alcohol, and smoking can impact your vaginal chemistry.
While using substances is a personal decision, it’s important to know how these decisions can impact your body and health. Here’s a breakdown of how marijuana, alcohol, and smoking can affect your vagina.
There have been a host of products in recent years containing CBD or THC claiming to do everything from enhance sexual pleasure to relieving menopause symptoms and vaginal infections. Cannabis molecules in cannabinoids like CBD and THC bind with our body’s endocannabinoid receptors and also interact with the body’s natural cannabinoids.
There are many endocannabinoid receptors in the female reproductive tract, clustering most densely in the uterus but also found throughout the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and vulva. These interactions can help reduce inflammation, but can also produce dryness.
*May* cause vaginal dryness
Just like how weed can make your mouth dry, it can also dry out the mucus membranes in your vaginal canal. Of course, not all strains of weed will give you dry mouth (and the ones that do are the ones that potentially could cause vaginal dryness), and there hasn’t been enough research conducted to establish this phenomenon as anything more than anecdotal.
May help with Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, is the overgrowth of certain bacteria in the vagina, resulting in symptoms like a fishy odor, excess discharge, itching, pain, or burning. While more research still needs to be done, cannabinoids may have various antibacterial properties that may assist with bacterial overgrowth. If you have BV, you should always consult with your doctor, but CBD at the very least doesn’t interfere with traditional treatments like boric acid.
A glass or two may help you relax before sex, but what are the affects of alcohol on your vaginal health?
Can cause vaginal dryness
Alcohol dehydrates your body and increases fatigue, thus also drying out the mucus membrane in your vagina.
Excessive amounts of alcohol consumption may change the way your vagina smells. Along with promoting inflammation, the sugar in alcohol can also mess with your bacterial flora and increase the risk of infection and BV.
Increased likelihood of Bacterial Vaginosis
As mentioned previously, alcohol may increase the rate of bacterial vaginosis. Studies have shown that heavy drinking women of reproductive age have higher rates of BV, although the causality still needs to be further investigated. The occasional drink or two won’t mess up your vaginal pH, but the fact that alcohol consumption increases your sugar levels and promotes bacterial growth means that it’s important to keep things in moderation.
Smoking cigarettes or vaping nicotine
We know smoking cigarettes is bad for our health- it’s also apparently bad for your vagina.
Increased likelihood of Bacterial Vaginosis
The chemicals in nicotine – whether you’re smoking or vaping it – depopulate the healthy, good bacteria your vagina needs, such as Lactobacillus, and promote the growth of unhealthy bacteria. Foul odors in the vulvar area and in vaginal discharge can be the result of low levels of Lactobacillus strains. Studies have shown that along with the depopulation of Lactobacillus, smoking can be a risk factor for BV due to how it interferes with estrogen production and also produces trace amounts of benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide (BPDE).
Increases risk of infections
You may have already heard from your primary doctor or gynecologist that smoking increases your overall risk of infection. Cigarette smokers not only tend to have low levels of Lactobacillus, but may also have high levels of biogenic amines like cadaverine, agmatine, putrescine, tyramine, and tryptamine, which actually boost the virulence of infective agents you come into contact with.
Bacterial vaginosis (which isn’t an infection) isn’t the only thing smokers are at higher risk for; regular smoking can also make you most susceptible to urinary tract infections. Plus, due to the increased risk of infection overall and the changes nicotine use causes to your vaginal ecosystem, it also raises your susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as:
- Herpes simplex 2
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Trichomonas vaginalis
If you’re a sexually active smoker, it’s essential to get regularly screened for STIs.
Menopause and aging come with hormonal changes that impact your vagina. One common change is vaginal atrophy (VA), where the vaginal skin produces less lubrication and becomes thinner, making sex uncomfortable or even painful. Smoking can compound VA; in one study of healthy postmenopausal women, smokers were more likely to have worse VA than nonsmokers. Smokers are also more likely to go into earlier menopause, at an average age of 48.5 years compared to 50.5 for nonsmokers.
Clara Wang is a freelance writer based in Nashville, TN but often found abroad. She mostly muses about the three best things in life: Food, sex, and music. Her work has been featured in publications such as Eater Austin, Eater Nashville, Giddy, Buzzfeed, Refinery29, the Austin Chronicle, the Austin American Statesman, and the Daily Dot.