Promoting Better Gut Health
Maintaining a healthy gut is about more than just a healthy diet and ensuring you eat your five a day. Studies show that probiotics can help with maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal tract. This can contribute to keeping common GI illnesses at bay. If you suffer with bloating, constipation or diarrhoea, finding the right probiotic could help you get things under control.8
What Is An Imbalanced Vagina
Much like the human microbiome , a womans vagina is home to many different types of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms. For example, two healthy strains of bacteria that are found in the vagina include L. crispatus and L. iners.
When theres an imbalance in microorganisms present in the vagina, meaning theres more than an ideal amount of harmful microbes in proportion to beneficial ones, a woman has a higher chance of developing certain vaginal conditions.
The two most common problems that are linked to an imbalance in microbes in a womans reproductive system are bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. Preventing and helping to treat these issues are why most women choose to take a probiotic, especially if these problems keep returning and dont respond well to other treatments.
Its now possible to take probiotic pills by mouth, as well as suppository capsules that are inserted into the vagina, in order to help balance the ratio of bacteria present in the vagina. But are they safe and effective? Lets find out more.
What Exactly Is Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal condition that creates a grey and watery discharge, which can smell unpleasant. It caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria, known as pathogens.
In the same way that our gut microbiome is made up of a mixture of friendly probiotic bacteria, and a small number of harmful pathogenic bacteria, so too is the vaginal microbiome. When pathogens outnumber good bacteria in any microbiome, it is known as dysbiosis, which can lead to infection. You may like to read more about gut dysbiosis and how to address it in the article what is dysbiosis?
If you are diagnosed with BV, it is likely that your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. This may bring temporary relief however, over time the antibiotics can actually make dysbiosis worse. Read our article about taking probiotics with antibiotics.
BV is usually caused by an overgrowth of Gardnerella vaginalis, though Prevotella, Mycoplasma hominis, and Mobiluncus can also be implicated in BV infections. A healthy vagina contains plenty of bacteria from the Lactobacillus genus. Read this article to find out more about Lactobacillus.
Women are often unaware that they have BV, as in 50% of cases it does not produce symptoms. However, if left untreated it can lead to other complications, such as reduced fertility, increased risk of miscarriage, and reduced birthweights when pregnancy does occur.
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Vaginal Probiotics For Uti Prevention
The obvious, if more squeamish option is to put the probiotics directly where they are needed- in the vagina and vulva.
This is nothing new- women have been using yogurt in their nether regions for decades to treat infections. This is still a natural way to bump up your lactobacilli population and many alternative health practitionersrecommend this.
If you go this route, stick to plain live active culture yogurt free of added sugars and flavoring. Generally, vaginal probiotics are used sporadically or for ashort period to prevent or treat an infection.
More mainstream medical research is coming from investigating this topic. One study showed that weekly suppositories of L. rhamnosus GR-1 and B-54decreased recurring UTIs from six per year to only 1.6 on average.
Prebiotics worked just as well they decreased the number of 1 UTIs to only 1.3 per year. This means that if feeding our bacterial guests well allows them to grow and thrive. . Other studies showed that vaginal suppository containing lactobacilli repopulated womens vaginas for several months after use. .
Importantly, these studies show that not only do probiotics effectively treat UTIs and vaginal infections, but they also have few, if any, side effects. . When women complained, these were no worse than the complaints of women using placebos. This means that probiotics are pretty safe!
The Experts Are Begging You: Stop Buying Vaginal Probiotics
Drugstore shelves and the internet are full of curious new products claiming to support vaginal health. Whether it’s the “vajayjay spray” with probiotics and prickly pear extract recently endorsed by Oprah, or an obscure “odor-eliminating film” to freshen already-healthy and self-cleaning nether regions, it seems everyone is trying to sell something to make vulvas either “smell and taste like nothing” or cure uncomfortable symptoms that should be seen by a doctor.
Some practices, like vaginal douching and steaming, are already widely known for doing more harm than good. But other purported wellness products are more confusing. Vaginal probiotics sound like they’re based on science they’re touted as a way to introduce live microorganisms into your vagina to improve health. We know that there is some evidence that shows certain probiotics can be good for our gut but can vaginas really benefit from them, too, or are they just another way for companies to profit from vaginal shame?
“I see patients with complex vaginitis cases every single day and almost every one of them is taking probiotics or had previously taken them and abandoned them due to lack of efficacy,” says Jen Gunter, M.D., an ob-gyn famous on social media for calling out products you should not put in your vagina. “Obviously if these products worked I wouldn’t be seeing these patients.”
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Causes Of A Yeast Infection
Several things can cause yeast to multiply, creating an imbalance in the vaginal microbiome. Some of the most common causes are:
- Antibiotic medications: These antimicrobials are excellent at killing harmful bacteria that cause infections. Unfortunately, antibiotics also kill beneficial bacteria, which can throw off the balance of the microbiome. When this happens in the vagina , it can result in a yeast infection.
- Hormonal changes: Pregnancy, menstruation, and the use of hormonal contraceptives or hormone or estrogen therapy cause hormone levels and the balance of yeast in the vagina to shift.
- Diabetes: Elevated levels of sugar in your urine and vagina can encourage the growth of yeast in this area.
- Weakened immune system: Living with a chronic disease or using medication that suppresses your immune system can cause vaginal yeast to grow.
Probiotics For Yeast Infections
If youre taking an antibiotic or experience chronic yeast infections, probiotic supplements may help prevent a yeast infection or even treat an existing one. Lactobacillus, the main bacteria found in healthy vaginal flora, may be especially effective at improving symptoms of a yeast infection and balancing out the bacteria and pH level of the vagina.
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How Common Are Yeast Infections
Approximately 75% of women will experience a vaginal yeast infection at least one time in their lives.
Research has shown that probiotics may support the natural balance of your microbiome and help with yeast infections. Probiotics contain bacteria that can help restore the balance of the vaginal microbiome. However, more research is needed to support this benefit.
Probiotics are found in fermented dairy products and foods, such as yogurt and kimchi. They also come in the form of supplements and suppositories.
Probiotics Are Very Important Duh
Bad bacteria must overcome many obstacles to get to our vaginas or bladders and wreak their havoc.
Pathogenic bacteria start life in our gut and move to the vagina and periurethral area by attaching to these organs walls. However, probiotics block this process by creating large biofilms, or sheets of good bacteria that form a barrier on the vaginal and bladder walls.
Lactobacilli make the vagina acidic and unwelcoming to infection-causing bacteria and make hydrogen peroxide, which kills bad bacteria.
Moreover, they also wake up the immune system, which brings in reinforcements to combat the bad bacteria and produce mucus, another barrier preventing bad bacteria from grabbing onto the vaginal walls. . It is like an action movie in our vaginas!
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Culturelle Digestive Daily Probiotic
Image courtesy Walmart
Culturelle® Digestive Health is the only product available that contains 10 billion live active cultures of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. This powerful probiotic strain has helped thousands experience relief from occasional digestive problems like upset stomach, gas and diarrhea by balancing good bugs in your system.
Inulin also helps promote healthier digestion by increasing calcium absorption while lowering inflammation levels
Why Do People Use Vaginal Probiotics
People may turn to vaginal probiotics because of two common problems:
- Bacterial yeast infection. A fungus called candida normally lives in balance with other microorganisms in your vagina. But in a yeast infection, the candida grows so much that it overcomes healthy bacteria. You might notice itchiness and discharge that looks like cottage cheese.
- Bacterial vaginosis . Here, certain harmful bacteria grow enough to outnumber healthy bacteria like lactobacillus. You might notice a fishy smell, especially after your period or after sex, along with a gray-greenish discharge. Scientists donât know why BV happens. Itâs the most common vaginal infection in women of childbearing age.
Others might use probiotics to maintain vaginal health, even when they have no obvious problems. But some doctors warn there could be dangers in introducing new bacteria and other microorganisms into your body.
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What Is A Yeast Infection
A yeast infection, or candidiasis, is a fungal infection that occurs when too much yeast grows in a specific area of your body.
Yeast normally lives in many places within the body. One type of yeast that lives in the digestive tract, mouth, and vagina is candida albicans. When its in balance with the other natural flora in your body, candida does not cause any problems. But when candida overgrows, it can cause an infection.
A vaginal yeast infection, vaginal candidiasis, and vulvovaginal candidiasis are all the same thing: an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina. Vaginal yeast infections are a type of vaginitis, a condition that refers to an inflammation of the vagina. Yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis are among the most common types of vaginitis.
How Do I Choose The Right Probiotic For Vaginal Health
The best way to choose a probiotic for vaginal health is to talk to your doctor. They can help you select the right product based on your needs.
There are many different types of probiotics on the market, so it’s important to do your research before purchasing one. Probiotics come in different forms, such as capsules, tablets, powders, and liquids.
When it comes to probiotics for vaginal health, look for products that contain Lactobacillus. This is a type of bacteria that helps keep the vagina healthy by maintaining its pH balance.
Probiotics with Lactobacillus can help treat and prevent yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and UTIs.
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Antibiotic Bv Treatment Often Leads To Recurring Bv
The typical treatment for BV is antibiotics, and there are a variety of reliable antibiotic combinations that eliminate BV.
The problem is that the BV often comes back! Post-antibiotic recurrence of BV is almost expected. So far, doctors havent found a combination of antibiotics that always prevents BV from returning. This reinfection after antibiotic BV treatment has led scientists and many women to try probiotics to BV for goodand to have a lower chance of BV regrowth.
Probiotics are considered safe and should probably be taken both during antibiotic treatment, and after antibiotics, since they help maintain or regrow normal healthy bacteria after theyve been wiped out by the antibiotics.
Yeast Infections & Bacterial Vaginosis
About 75% of women will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime and almost half will have repeat infections.1 They occur with an overgrowth of candida, or yeast, in the vagina thats typically kept in check by the good bacteria in healthy vaginal flora.
Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection in women ages 15-44. In BV there is an overgrowth of certain bacteria causing an imbalance of the good and non-beneficial bacteria normally found in a womans vagina. 1
The Battle of Yeast and Bacteria
Though separate conditions, the nature of yeast infections and BV can often lead to a seemingly never-ending cycle between the two. Typically, it goes something like this:
This phenomenon isnt limited to BV and Yeast Infections. UTIs, another bacterial infection commonly treated with antibiotics, and yeast infections follow a similar pattern.
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Do Probiotic Supplements Benefit Vaginal Health
Some scientists believe taking probiotics might help to restore a healthier balance of bacteria in the vagina. That works in theory and in some lab experiments.
But what works in the laboratory doesnât always work the same way in the human body. It may not be as simple as introducing healthy bacteria in the form of a pill or suppository.
So far, there’s little evidence to suggest that these supplements improve vaginal health. This may change as scientists learn more. But for now, antibiotic and antifungal medications are the only treatments known to be effective for vaginal bacterial and yeast infections.
How Do Probiotics Influence The Vaginal Flora
One of the main contributions of probiotics in the vaginal flora is to collaborate in the recovery of the balance of the ecosystem. When there are not enough probiotics, infections reappear due to a lack of defenses. There are women who suffer from chronic vaginal discomfort.
At the same time that they stop the advance of pathogenic bacteria, they also produce lactic acid. With this work, they control a low level of acid in the vaginal pH.
In short, these microorganisms are there exclusively to care for and protect the vagina. Although it is true that imbalances exist and diseases such as bacterial vaginosis appear.
In cases where the contribution of probiotics in the vaginal flora is diminished, it is possible to make a reinforcement with supplements. You can get them in pharmacies to take orally and in vaginal ovules.
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Reminder: What Are Probiotics
Probiotics are good bacteria that are naturally found in your body and are imperative for keeping your GI system in check they also play a role in everything from immunity to muscle strength to your mood. While you’re born with a whole bunch of them, factors such as a poor diet, antibiotics, and more can reduce probiotic levels. Hence why many people these days opt for getting an extra dose, be it from a diet rich in fermented foods and/or taking a probiotic supplement.
Probiotics Can Aid Digestion And Help Maintain Gut Health
What are the benefits of taking probiotics? Bacteria have a reputation for causing disease, so the idea of tossing down a few billion a day for your health might seem literally and figuratively hard to swallow. But a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that you can treat and even prevent some illnesses with foods and supplements containing certain kinds of live bacteria. Northern Europeans consume a lot of these beneficial microorganisms, called probiotics , because of their tradition of eating foods fermented with bacteria, such as yogurt. Probiotic-laced beverages are also big business in Japan.
Some digestive disease specialists are recommending probiotic supplements for disorders that frustrate conventional medicine, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Since the mid-1990s, clinical studies suggest that probiotic therapy can help treat several gastrointestinal ills, delay the development of allergies in children, and treat and prevent vaginal and urinary infections in women.
Self-dosing with bacteria isn’t as outlandish as it might seem. An estimated 100 trillion microorganisms representing more than 500 different species inhabit every normal, healthy bowel. These microorganisms generally don’t make us sick most are helpful. Gut-dwelling bacteria keep pathogens in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function.
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Possible Negative Effects Of Probiotic Use
Annually, over one billion doses of probiotics areadministered worldwide, and those administered for urogenital health have beenwell tolerated . In addition,the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and female genitourinary tract are inhabitedby Lactobacillus . Yet, endocarditisand bacteremia caused by lactobacilli are extremely rare. Most cases occur in patientswith chronic diseases or debilitating conditions that provide direct access tothe bloodstream from a leaky gut. Only 1.7% of 241 cases of bacteremia,endocarditis, and localized infections associated with Lactobacillus that were investigated by Cannon et al. were considered to have apossible link with heavy consumption of dairy products . Only one case hada Lactobacillus isolate that wasindistinguishable from a probiotic strain. There was no connection between thespecies of Lactobacillus isolated andthe type of infection or mortality. A recent study that directly instilled asix-strain bacterial product into the intestine of patients with severe, potentiallyfatal pancreatitis portrayed probiotics as being dangerous . However, theproduct had never been proven to be probiotic, it was administered as a drugunlike 99.9% of probiotics, the randomization process led to patients withmultiorgan failure being given large doses of live bacteria, and the authorsfailed to provide a rationale for the study in an appropriate animal model. Allthis led to unwarranted adverse publicity for the field of probiotics .