Why Does My Discharge Smell Like Onions? 6 Reasons Why

Why Does My Discharge Smell Like Onions? 6 Reasons Why

How many times have you given a puzzled glance ‘downstairs’ because things seemed a tad… different?

No doubt our bodies—especially the reproductive system—are intricate and fascinating.

But onion-smelling discharge? That’s a new one. 🧅

Discharge plays a crucial role, acting as a self-cleaning mechanism for our vaginas.

It can also be one of our greatest messengers for letting us know when something is off.

And that includes bringing along distinct aromas. 👃

But understanding the reasons can help us embrace these moments with knowledge and confidence.

So, what does it mean when your vagina smells like onions?

Turns out there are some pretty logical reasons for it.

In this article: 📝

  • Why does my discharge smell like onions?
  • What does it mean when your vagina smells like onions?
  • What STD smells like onions?
  • How to stop smelling like onions down there

Why does my discharge smell like onions?

Smelly discharge can be influenced by a myriad of factors.

Sometimes, it may be an infection. But it could also be down to the foods we relish, like onions and garlic (yes, a garlic vaginal smell is also possible).

Additionally, shifts in the bacterial balance within our vaginas, combined with perspiration, can result in our discharge smelling like onions.

Then there’s wearing non-breathable fabrics or tight clothing that can trap moisture and warmth—a bacteria’s favorite combo.

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Really, an oniony odor is a testament to the intricate interplay of factors within our bodies.

What does it mean when your vagina smells like onions?

A reflection of your dietary choices, a bacterial red flag, or a sign you may need to switch up your wardrobe?

Here are the prime reasons for an onion vaginal smell:

1. Diet’s influence

You are what you eat, and sometimes, that reflects in how your vagina smells.

Eating foods heavy in onions, garlic, or certain spices can influence the aroma of sweat, breath, and vaginal discharge.

Even vinegar can have an influence.

This is down to the strong-smelling compounds these foods contain, which, when broken down in our bodies, can influence our more intimate aromas.

Sure, you’d need to consume quite a lot, but still, it’s worth noting that your favorite savory meals might leave a lasting impression—just not in the way you thought.

2. Bacteria’s role

Your vagina harbors diverse bacteria—namely the beneficial Lactobacilli—which maintain your vaginal pH balance and keep things in order.

And it does an exceptional job at it too. 🥇

But, imbalances can happen, leading to an occasional shift in this bacterial balance towards the dark side.

Often, this results in bacterial vaginosis (BV) which typically results in a strong fishy vaginal smell.

Still, if combined with sweat, it can lead to an altered scent—including discharge that smells like bleach.

3. Clothing choices

Tight-fitting clothing or synthetic fabrics can trap moisture and warmth, creating a breeding ground for bacteria.

This combination might sometimes result in an onion smell down there.

4. Hormonal changes

Menstruation, pregnancy, postpartum, perimenopause, menopause—our bodies face hormonal fluctuations a lot.

And these can directly affect how discharge looks and smells.

Hormonal fluctuations can alter the pH balance of the vagina, making it more susceptible to bacterial growth (as we mentioned above).

And it’s not uncommon to experience a strong odor after ovulation due to an increased level of estrogen in the body.

Combine any of these stages with a diet rich in strong-smelling compounds like onions or garlic, and you’ve got all the makings for a strong vaginal aroma.

5. Hindered hygiene

We don’t need to tell you the pivotal role personal hygiene plays in maintaining the overall health of our intimate areas.

But poor hygiene can happen for a plethora of reasons, from mental health issues to lack of access to cleaning facilities—and it’s no small matter either.

The vagina is self-cleaning however, should be regularly washed with warm water to remove any build-up of discharge.

A lapse in proper cleaning can lead to the accumulation of sweat, dead skin cells, and other debris around the vulva.

And this spells only good things for bacteria, causing them to grow quickly and totally off balance.

As bacteria break down this mixture of matter, they can release compounds leading to distinct odors, including an onion-like scent.

Moreover, remnants of urine, menstrual blood, or other bodily fluids can mix with the natural vaginal discharge, further intensifying the aroma.

6. Forgotten tampon

Hey, we’re all a little guilty of leaving a tampon in longer than we should.

A few hours is one thing, but an extra day (or two)… could lead to a vaginal smell very similar to rotting onions or meat.

This is namely down to a combination of old blood, built-up bacteria, and natural vaginal secretions.

First things first, don’t be embarrassed. If anything, this is a sign of deeper stuff going on for you.

And the fact that it’s made our list of reasons shows you’re not alone.

Depending on how long your tampon has been in, you may need to enlist your doctor to help you remove it to ensure no pieces remain.

If you have any of the following symptoms, ensure you seek the guidance of a medical professional as soon as possible:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • A red rash
  • Flu-like symptoms

They can also help rule out a possible infection, including potential symptoms of toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

What STD smells like onions?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a very real risk of enjoying a thriving sex life. One that is worth being clued up on and aware of.

Not least of all, because many sexually transmitted infections and diseases don’t come with symptoms at all.

But when they do, it’s often vaginal itching, rashes, pain, and unusual discharge.

The top contender for strong-smelling discharge? Trichomoniasis—a parasitic infection that mainly affects the vagina and the urethra.

(Affecting 2.1% of women in the US), it can result in a foul, fishy vaginal smell.

An onion-like aroma isn’t typically a textbook symptom of trichomoniasis—or any particular STD, for that matter— but any persistent, unexplained change in vaginal odor should be flagged by your doctor.

Early detection and treatment are vital for any health condition.

The good news is, trichomoniasis is highly treatable with antibiotics.

How to stop smelling like onions down there

So, now that you have a fair idea of why your vaginal discharge smells like onions, what does treatment look like?

Here are some steps you may consider to restore your discharge back to its normal scent:

  • 🥙 Dietary adjustments: Limiting strong-smelling foods like onions and garlic could help reduce the odor. You don’t have to avoid them entirely, but maybe moderate the quantity.
  • 🚿 Practice good hygiene: Regularly wash your labia and groin with mild, unscented soap and water. Douching, though, is not recommended as it can disrupt the natural pH and bacterial balance of the vagina.
  • 👗 Switch up your wardrobe: Opt for breathable cotton underwear and avoid tight-fitting clothes when possible. This can help reduce moisture and decrease the chance of bacterial overgrowth.
  • 🍆 Practice safe sex: This includes going for regular STI checks and using condoms. If you do suspect an STD is the reason for an onion vaginal smell, it’s recommended to avoid sex completely until the infection clears—the same goes for sexual partners.
  • 🩺 Consult your healthcare provider: If the strong discharge smell persists or if you have other symptoms like itching or discomfort, seeing your doctor is essential. It’s always better to rule out any potential medical conditions. Your well-being is paramount.

Discharge can be an uncomfortable topic for some, but embracing it allows us to better understand and be in tune with our bodies.

When you’re faced with the occasional unexpected scent, just think of it as another facet of your body’s intricate workings.

Knowledge is empowering, and understanding the ‘whys’ behind these moments can help you approach them with confidence.

And, most importantly, enlist help when needed—and that includes reaching out on Peanut.


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