What causes bad vaginal odour?

If you have sensitive skin or an allergy, check with your doctor about the best way to approach your vaginal hygiene. NET PHOTO

It is said that sometimes, a man’s semen may cause a foul vaginal odour. How true is this? Sabrina 

Dear Sabrina, 
A healthy vaginal canal, even without sexual intercourse, usually has a mild musky scent. However, eating certain types of foods including those with spices (onions or garlic) and a lot of meats may alter the scent. Also, consumption of drinks that contain coffee, a lot of dairy or alcohol may alter the scent.

Bad hygiene practices or wearing tight clothes that do not support good air circulation to curb excessive accumulation of body sweat can also cause vaginal odour.

Some people may notice a stronger vaginal odour after sexual activity, especially if the woman has a vaginal infection such as bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as trichomoniasis or gonorrhoea. Semen alone or after interacting with vaginal fluids may also cause vaginal odour.

Semen is mostly made up of sperm, proteins, fructose (to help energise the sperm for transport), and a mixture of chemicals including citric acid and calcium. However, it is the basic amines such as putrescine, spermine, spermidine and cadaverine that are mostly responsible for the mild ammonia swimming pool or bleach-like odour and flavour of semen.

It is true that semen may not always smell the same and this may depend on one’s diet, hygiene, and whether one has regular sex (masturbates) or not. Frequent masturbation, just like protected sexual intercourse can help normalise the scent. 

Consumption of certain foods, especially red meat, garlic or drinking a lot of alcohol or caffeine can also cause semen to have a pungent scent. Minimising the consumption of such foods and instead eating more fruits such as pineapple and oranges can make the scent more pleasurable.

Lack of ejaculation, which makes the substances that contribute to the scent of semen get more concentrated could also lead to a strong scent.

However, extremely foul-smelling semen may be a sign of infection, possibly a sexually transmitted infection, and infections involving the prostate gland or foreskin if one is not circumcised. Treatment of these infections, good foreskin hygiene or circumcision could normalise the scent.   

Why does my stomach growl?
My stomach growls a lot which I have been told is a result of hunger and the presence of worms in one’s stomach. I have taken deworming tablets but without any change. Is there another cause? Jacob

Dear Jacob
Although stomach growling can be embarrassing especially when in public, it is usually harmless and may stop without treatment. 

It is true that most tummy noises result from the presence of too much gas or intestinal contents which contain a lot of fluid with the latter happening especially when one is about to suffer from diarrhoea.

Excess abdominal gas can result from swallowing more than the usual amount of air as a result of talking while eating, smoking and chewing gum. 

Eating foods that cause the accumulation of gas such as beans or foods that are hard for some people to digest properly including dairy (lactose intolerance) can also cause excessive abdominal gas and sounds.

Disease conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, gall stones and constipation may also be associated with too much abdominal gas and the related abdominal noises.

Diarrhoea, though mostly caused by infections such as viruses, bacteria and parasites, lack of enzymes that digest particular foods such as dairy (lactose intolerance), inflamed bowel conditions (ulcerative colitis) and medications including antibiotics may cause stomach noise before one eventually one gets diarrhoea.

To avoid growling caused by gases and fluidly intestinal contents, one has to target and deal with the cause, even when it is harmless and likely to correct itself. One should also avoid staying hungry for long periods, taking dairy or beans and other measures to keep diarrhoea at bay (washing hands before eating).
If the measures do not help or the condition persists, a doctor should be consulted.