Supplementing with probiotics has become a popular way to improve digestion and gut health. Probiotics are strains of bacteria that have a positive effect on gut health. They help to balance the gut microbiome and are found naturally in fermented foods and nutritional supplements.
Recently, researchers have discovered the potential benefits of probiotics on women’s health. From supporting gut health and immunity, to enhancing vaginal health and protecting from UTIs, probiotics can offer many health benefits for women.
The Gut Microbiome
Within your gut are trillions of microorganisms that collectively make up what is referred to as your “gut microbiome.” This community of microorganisms plays a very important role in health, and depends on a delicate balance in order to thrive.
Researchers agree that the ideal ratio of gut bacteria should be approximately 90% “good” bacteria and 10% “bad” bacteria. Unfortunately, however, due to poor diet and lifestyle, many people have the inverse ratio of 10% “good” bacteria and 90% “bad” bacteria. This can lead to numerous health issues, including impaired digestion, weakened immunity, and even mood disorders, as many hormones are produced in the gut with the support of friendly gut bacteria.
The Vaginal Microbiome
Just as you have a microbiome in your gut, over 50 different species of microbes live inside your vagina. Many of these microbes are a type of bacteria called lactobacilli. Research shows that these bacteria assist in maintaining vaginal health and preventing infection.
A lack of lactobacilli and an overgrowth of other microbes can cause an imbalance in the vagina. This imbalance can occur for a number of reasons, including unprotected sex, changes in hormones, having your period, or simply not maintaining good hygiene habits. This can result a fishy odor, vaginal discharge, discomfort and itching.
Probiotic Strains That Support Women’s Health
Some scientific research suggests that probiotics may help prevent and treat imbalance in the vagina. One study found that women who ate probiotic yogurt containing lactobacillus acidophilus had more lactobacillus bacteria in their vaginas than those in the study who did not. The study found that these women were also less likely to experience bacterial vaginosis (BV) than the women who did not consume the probiotic yogurt.
The strains that have so far been identified to support women’s health include:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus reuteri.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is the most-researched of these strains of probiotic when it comes to establishing and maintaining a healthy vaginal balance. According to the research, these strains stick to vaginal surfaces and make it more challenging for harmful bacteria to grow. Lactobacillus may also stick to harmful bacteria directly, killing and preventing the harmful bacteria from spreading.
These beneficial bacteria can be found in fermented foods, like yogurt, or taken in supplement form. Supplementing with a good multi-strain probiotic is a good way to ensure that you get a diverse profile of beneficial strains of bacteria in amounts that are sufficient enough to offer real benefits.
While more research is still needed, early research suggests that using probiotics may be useful in treating and establishing a healthy vaginal balance. Furthermore, probiotics are safe and typically have no side effects, but offer numerous benefits to gut health and health in general. This makes probiotics an easy way to protect and enhance vaginal health, while also offering numerous other potential benefits.