Why Your Vagina Smells Like Onions — And What To Do About It

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Picture it: a sweltering July day. You showered before you left the house. You even used soap, clever girl that you are. You put on deodorant and gave yourself a mist of your favorite perfume.

Now you've been outside all of five minutes and you swear you can smell onions. You sniff your pits. Nope, they smell as fresh as a baby's behind.

You sit down at work and the truth reveals itself in a gust of stank: the bad odor is coming from your vagina. That's right, you've got a case of onion vagina, and you've got it bad.

Why does my vagina smell like onions?

Onion vagina is a real thing! It's also nothing to be ashamed of.

There are many different types of vaginas and many things that go wrong with them. Onion vagina is common and may be caused by any number of things.

Let's break down what's making your vagina smell and how to stop that onion odor for a healthier vagina. 

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Here's a list of 10 common reasons why your vagina sometimes smells like onions (and what to do about each situation):

1. A forgotten tampon

While it doesn't happen often, people do forget that they've got tampons up there.

The smell of stale menses co-mingling with rotting cotton fibers? Yeah, it produces a stinky tang that's your body's way of being like, "Oh my God, you monster trash person, please rectify this situation."

What to do about it: To cure the smell, remove the tampon and take a nice shower or bath.

2. The food you ate

Why do I smell like garlic down there? You know how when you eat garlic or onions you taste onions and garlic for days? That stuff stays in your mouth. We all know that. I mean, the fact that these foods make our breath stink is practically why Altoids were invented (and thank heavens for them).

But did you know that the food you eat can also make your vagina smell? It's true! Onions, asparagus, garlic, and curry are some of the most common foods known to change the way your vagina smells.

Dr. Debora Nucatolah, the Medical Director at Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, says that eating garlic and onions can create a smell in your vaginal discharge that lasts for 24 to 48 hours.

What to do about it: Wanna banish that smell? The only cure is time. Give it a week and that hard-working vagina of yours is sure to right itself, bacterially speaking.

3. Sweat

Guess what? Humans sweat. Guess what sweat does? It cools you down — and it also happens to stink. Guess what else has a smell? Your vaginal fluids.

Sweat and vaginal fluids mixing together create a very heady aroma. It's different for everyone. For some, it smells like stale kitty litter, for others, it can smell supremely of onions.

So, how do you get rid of the onion smell? 

What to do about it: To banish this odor, change your clothes frequently, shower often, and wear natural, breathable fibers.

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4. Medication

Because medical science is a miracle, many folks have pills that they take to help keep them healthy and well. However, sometimes these medications can do stuff like make your vagina smell like an appetizer at a fancy French restaurant that's been left out in the sun for a couple of days. Barf.

Medications like antibiotics kill off what's making you sick, but sometimes they can kill off your vaginal flora, too. This unbalancing of your woman cave can produce stinky aromas.

What to do about it: The smell should go away on its own when you're done taking the medication. If it doesn't, go to a doctor.

5. Bacterial vaginosis (or another form of infection)

When the normal pH and bacteria of your vagina changes, it can mean a one-way ticket to BV city. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an increase in the levels of Gardnerella vaginalis bacteria in the vagina.

BV can make your vagina smell like onions, so if you notice gray unusual discharge along with the onion smell, that could be a sign you've got BV.

What to do about it: BV usually goes away on its own if you keep up with good hygiene and don't stick anything up there for a bit. But if it doesn't go away, see a doctor who will put you on antibiotics to help clear up the situation downstairs. 

6. Trichomoniasis

Another type of infection that might cause your vagina to smell like onions is trichomoniasis, typically considered a sexually transmitted infection.

It is caused by infection with a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Although symptoms of the disease vary, most people who have the parasite cannot tell they are infected.

What to do about it: To cure this condition, it's important to see your doctor. You'll get a course of antibiotics to treat the infection. Of course, antibiotics might make the smell worse before it gets better, but you'll be on the road to health and non-onion vagina soon enough. Also, use a condom next time!

7. Poor hygiene

Your vagina can take care of itself with the "good" bacteria it grows. But it still needs some upkeep. If you have body odor, vaginal odor isn't far behind.

If you don't wash your vagina often or change your underwear daily, this may be the reason for an unpleasant odor to form. Poor hygiene can not only give your vagina a bad odor but it can also cause some serious infections.

What to do about it: Keep up with simple hygiene. Wash your labia and vaginal area regularly with water and change your underwear daily. Also, try to wear breathable cotton underwear instead of sexy silk and satin ones for a while. 

8. Rectovaginal fistula

If you're smelling onions, you may have a rectovaginal fistula, an abnormal opening between your rectum and your vagina. However, this is a very uncommon and rare condition where the lower portion of your large intestine leaks into your vagina.

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You may notice bowel contents leaking through, and it may cause gas or stool to leave through your vagina. This can cause unusual odors, which you may mistake as vaginal odor.

What to do about it: See a doctor if you suspect you have this condition. Surgery is the most common treatment for a fistula. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to eliminate any infection or anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce sensitivity and irritation.

9. Yeast infection

A yeast infection can cause thick, white discharge. Although yeast infections often do not smell, in some cases it may have an unpleasant odor, like onions.

You may also experience some itching, burning, and redness around the vulva.

What to do about it: Go see a doctor and they will prescribe you antifungal medication. In the meantime, avoid any scented feminine hygiene products, tight-fitted clothing, refrain from douching, and change your pad or tampon frequently.

10. Hormonal changes

Hormone levels in the body change throughout the menstrual cycle, as well as during pregnancy and menopause.

When there is an increased level of estrogen in the body, which throws off your pH balance, you may notice a vaginal odor becoming more pungent and detectable. There can be a high level of estrogen due to birth control, pregnancy, or ovulation. If your hormone levels are out of wack, your vagina will be, too.

What to do about it: See a doctor, who can prescribe you topical medication to eliminate the odor. You may also want to see an endocrinologist to make sure your hormones are balanced.

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When To See A Doctor:

If something isn't right with your body, it is always a good idea to seek medical advice from your doctor. However, sometimes the conditions are so minor you may not have to make an appointment (for instance, if you just need to wash your vagina more often or change your diet). 

But if you can't figure it out on your own, a doctor can help. Your health is important, and the earlier you find out the problem, the easier it will be to solve it.

You can also take preventive measures to keep your vagina healthy, including good hygiene, practicing safe sex, wearing cotton underwear, and eating a healthy diet.

RELATED: Here's Why Your Vagina Smells So ... Different ... After Sex

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer and the Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, and true crime.