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Medically Reviewed By Dr. Amanda Olson,DPT, PRPC
It is common knowledge that probiotics promote the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract to improve gut health. More recently, however, women’s health experts are also recommending probiotics for improved vaginal health.
Just like a healthy digestive tract, the vagina depends on a healthy pH balance to function optimally. This balance depends on the appropriate amount of good bacteria and bad bacteria.
With over 50 different types of bacteria inside the vagina, imbalances can occur for several reasons, resulting in uncomfortable conditions such as Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), Yeast Infections, Trichomoniasis, or Urinary Tract Infections.
Bacterial Vaginosis is the most common source of vaginal imbalance. Symptoms include itching, a burning sensation when urinating, a gray-colored vaginal discharge, and an unpleasant fishy odor.
Antibiotics are normally necessary to treat BV. However,promising results are also emerging from studies and show that ingesting lactobacilli (good bacteria) orally, in the form of probiotics, can significantly help to rebalance the pH and soothe symptoms.
A daily probiotic supplement, like Flora Bloom Probiotics for Women from Intimate Rose, not only helps in treating Bacterial Vaginosis but also greatly lowers the risk of a recurring infection.
In one recent study, a group of women who were given probiotics as well as antibiotics to treat Bacterial Vaginosis over 30 days, saw cure rates close to 90 percent. Whereas those who received only antibiotics recorded a cure rate closer to 40 percent.
Trichomoniasis is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections that upset the vaginal pH balance. Symptoms include a yellow to green-colored discharge with an unpleasant odor, as well as itching, soreness, and a burning sensation when urinating.
Antibiotics are prescribed for treatment. And even though probiotics are not considered a preventative treatment for Trichomoniasis, it is worth noting that the presence of Bacterial Vaginosis can significantly increase the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections such as Trichomoniasis.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) happen when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra. Symptoms include passing small amounts of urine that can be pink in color, peeing more frequently, and discomfort or pain in the pelvis or pubic bone area.
Although the urethra is close to the vagina, UTIs are not usually caused by the same bacteria responsible for vaginal infections.
That said, a healthy vaginal pH balance can prevent harmful bacteria from entering the urinary tract.
Flora Bloom Probiotics for Women from Intimate Rose, for example, also contain added cranberry and D-Mannose, which make it more difficult for bacteria to adhere to the urinary tract walls, preventing an infection from taking hold.
Most vaginal yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of fungus known as Candida, which is a natural fungus found in the vagina and usually kept in check by good bacteria such as lactobacilli. An imbalance occurs when Candida outnumbers lactobacilli and creates an environment for the fungus to grow.
An imbalance of vaginal bacteria can be caused by a weak immune system, a course of antibiotics, pregnancy, or oral contraceptives. Symptoms include itching, irritation, a vaginal rash, burning during urination, and a thick white discharge.
A course of antifungal medication, in the form of topical cream or oral tablets, is normally prescribed as treatment.
It is also thought that a regular probiotic supplement for vaginal health can significantly reduce the risk of yeast infections.
Scientists have proven that certain strains of probiotics are more helpful than others when it comes to maintaining a healthy vagina. The strains Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus Reuteri are specifically known to adhere to the vaginal wall and prevent harmful bacteria from growing.
When deciding to use a probiotic supplement, make sure to check the ingredients for the above strains. And follow the instructions carefully. Some probiotics are for oral use, while others are used as vaginal suppositories.
In addition to using oral probiotic supplements, it is also suggested to reduce foods that feed the growth of unhealthy bacterial like sugar, yeast, and fermented foods.
Alternatively, increasing prebiotic foods that naturally promote the growth of good bacteria in the body are recommended to enhance the probiotic supplements in balancing vaginal microbes. Prebiotic foods include fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole-grain foods.
While research into using probiotic supplements for vaginal health is ongoing, results are proving positive, with little to no known risks for healthy women. A regular intake is suggested for optimal results, along with some simple dietary changes.
Always consult with your health practitioner if you are considering adding a probiotic supplement to your daily healthcare routine.
Anukam K, et al. (2006) - Augmentation of antimicrobial metronidazole therapy of bacterial vaginosis with oral probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14: Randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16697231/
A Hallen, C Jarstrand, C Pahlson – Treatment of Bacterial Vaginosis with Lactobacilli - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1523530/
Mayo Clinic – Yeast Infection - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/yeast-infection/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20379004
Mayo Clinic – Urinary Tract Infection - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447