A Short Story:
I know what it's like when you have an infection or a heavy period. You're desperate to get rid of it-- so you use over the counter medication or a pharmaceutical. What's in the cream? Who cares! Or, your period comes and you have important stuff you need to get done or a beautiful white dress you want to wear. So you use tampons, never thinking of what ingredients may be hiding in there.
What I was using for or in my vagina never used to cross my mind, that is, until I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. In Paraguay, it took anywhere from a couple hours to an all day bus ride to get to the capital city where we could visit our Peace Corps doctor. This wasn't always a practical option. I lived in a rural area as you can see below!
One day, I was with two female agriculture volunteers and one of them was complaining about a yeast infection. She mentioned something about putting a garlic clove up her vagina, and my ears had to do a triple take. "You're gunna put what where?!" I asked laughing. She explained that garlic is a miracle worker for vaginal infections and that I should try it the next time I had an infection.
I dismissed it as something my hippy peace corps volunteer friends did. But the time came when I had an infection. My options: take a sweaty three hour bus ride in 110+ degree heat with no air conditioning, or peel a clove of garlic and place it in my vagina. Desperate times call for desperate measures! I choose the garlic clove.
Within a minute of inserting the garlic clove, I could taste garlic in my mouth. Yes, you read that right. This changed the way I thought about what I put in my vagina from that point on.
It turns out the vaginal canal, because it's covered in mucous membranes, is one of the most highly absorbent body parts. The oils, and therefore many of the healing properties of the garlic, were absorbed into my genital tissue and then into my blood stream almost immediately. That's why I was able to taste garlic in my mouth. The next time I saw the girl who recommended this nifty little trick to me, I asked her if she experienced the garlic in the mouth thing too. "Of course!" she said.
Why this Story Matters:
Federal standards which govern the safety and regulation of personal care products-- ranging from make-up to feminine douches-- have not been updated since the 1930's. That means we could be consuming extremely hazardous personal care products and are totally uninformed about it. For some really weird reason, tampon companies are not required to list all the ingredients in tampons. And, fragrance, natural or otherwise, is usually code for: synthetic chemicals that will hurt you! This impacts both men and women, but mostly women since women on average use more personal care products than men.
Fortunately, toxic-free make-up choices have become mainstream. But toxic-free feminine hygiene products are still hard to come by and not really talked about.
Moral of the story:
Everything we put in or on our bodies, especially highly absorbent body parts like the vagina, gets absorbed into and circulated by our blood stream, impacting all of our body systems. So, it's important to be cautious and think twice before putting most commercially available feminine products anywhere near our vaginas.
A blog post on the endocrine system is coming up next! We'll take a closer look at how synthetic chemicals impact our bodies. And, I'll share some companies that offer feminine hygiene products that won't do you any harm!
Lelba, Nneka, and Paul Pestano. “Study: Women of Color Exposed to More Toxic Chemicals in Personal Care Products.” EWG, 17 Aug. 2017, www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2017/08/study-women-color-exposed-more-toxic-chemicals-personal-care-products.