When you dine on certain dishes, you can sometimes expect that the scent of your lunch might linger longer than you’d like. But while you may think that the odor would stay somewhere logical (like your mouth or your fingers, for example), you might be shocked to discover that the scent seemingly has made its way to your lady parts. So if you’re asking yourself why your vagina smells like garlic, there’s a reason that your vaj might smell like shrimp scampi.
This Is Why Your Vagina Has Different Scents
If you have a vagina, then you know that it’s not an odorless entity. No, far from it. And depending on the day, it might have various scents, some pleasant and others, well, not so much. “Vaginal odors or discharge are one of the most common complaints seen in the office setting by gynecologists,” Dr. Heather Skanes, MD, an OB/GYN with Oasis Women’s Health in Birmingham, AL, tells Romper. While the most common cause of vaginal odor is bacterial vaginosis and other infections (candida/yeast or trichomoniasis), according to Dr. Skanes, scents can waft from your vag due to sweating or even urinary or anal incontinence, too.
Here’s Why Your Vagina Smells Like Garlic
Unless you’ve been having some sexually-oriented food fun with your partner that involves inserting items into your vagina, it shouldn’t typically smell like garlic. But if you’re getting garlic bread vibes when you take a whiff, there is an explanation. “Garlic is a volatile organic sulfur containing compound, and it's the sulfur part that has the smell,” Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, MD, an OB/GYN with the Yale School of Medicine explains to Romper. “It can get into cells reasonably easily: so it's not an impossibility that it could get into the vaginal cells.” So yes, that means that if you eat something that is particularly garlicky, (like garlic-infused oils), some of that smell might, well, infuse your vag, too. And per the Cleveland Clinic, strong-smelling foods, like fish and, you guessed it, garlic, can affect vaginal odor as well.
And Here’s Another Reason Your Vagina Smells Like Garlic (That Has Nothing To Do With Food)
If your vagina is smelling like you put one too many cloves of garlic in your Sunday gravy, (but you haven’t been eating the veggie — yes, garlic is a vegetable), it might be B.O. That’s right, that smell might be attributable to sweating more than anything else, and there’s a name for it: bromhidrosis.. “Bromhidrosis is a condition in which an individual suffers from excessive body odor due to sweat,” Dr. Skanes explains. Interestingly enough, the garlic smell isn’t emanating from inside your vagina, but rather from your overall groin area due to excessive sweating. Says Dr. Skanes: “People with this condition can make dietary changes such as avoiding high protein diets, garlic, onion, alcohol, and curry.”
If Your Vagina Isn’t Smelling Fresh As A Daisy, This Is When You Should See Your Doctor
Garlic isn’t the only smell that can make you question your reproductive health. There are others — like fish, for example — that can be downright stinky… and can require a visit to your ob/gyn to uncover the cause. “There are more concerning causes of vaginal odor such as vaginal/cervical ulcers, fistulas, or malignancies,” says Dr. Skanes. “For this reason, if you are experiencing an abnormal vaginal odor, a vaginal examination should be performed.”
Dr. Minkin agrees, adding: “Most of the time when I get a complaint about an odor, it is in general related to a vaginitis, and not to be gross, but the most bothersome odor for women is the ‘dead fish’ complaint, often associated with bacterial vaginosis (BV) but also sometimes seen with trichomonas.” You see, it all comes down to a disruption in the normal vaginal flora, something that happens when you get BV or yeast infections. Interestingly enough, there are some foods which are associated with these changes, according to Dr. Skanes. “Foods high in trimethylaminuria (like red meat, egg yolks, soybeans and seafood), putrescine and cadaverine (lysine rich-foods) are associated with bacterial vaginosis,” says Dr. Skanes. “Taking probiotics or eating yogurt daily can improve vagina health and decrease incidence of BV/vaginal odor.”
You might be surprised to discover that your vagina smells like a clove (or four) of garlic. For the most part, it’s not anything to really worry about. But if the scent sticks (or the smell gets worse), you should speak to your healthcare provider to ensure that it’s not something more serious.
Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, MD, an ob/gyn with the Yale School of Medicine
Dr. Heather Skanes, MD, an ob/gyn with Oasis Women’s Health in Birmingham, AL