We have all heard about the many benefits of taking probiotics and their ability to help “good” bacteria thrive within our gut microbiome, but were you aware that there is actually probiotics for the microbiome in the vagina as well?
You probably never even realized, but your microbiome is actually working day in and day out as your personal defense against urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. The millions of bacteria in the vagina need to be maintained in order to keep a woman’s body in balance.
Why It’s Important to Have a Healthy Vaginal Microbiome?
The vaginal microbiome in the body serves as a protective barrier against sexually transmitted infections, bladder infections and cervical cancer. Your vaginal microbiome even supports fertility and ensures you have a healthy pregnancy.
In order for your microbiome to successfully do its job, there needs to be a balance of healthy vaginal bacteria called Lactobacillus, which are figuratively known as the “vagina experts.” Their sole purpose is to keep the vagina healthy by producing lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide and other substances that prevent the growth of yeast and other unwanted organisms while stimulating healthy cervical mucus.
But as dynamic and powerful as your microbiome might be, it is also as delicate as a rose and can easily become disrupted by the slightest change. This fragile balance can be disrupted by a variety of different factors that include sex, stress, vaginal wipes and even being on your period.
These factors can raise the pH levels in your vagina creating an environment where bacteria and yeast can grow and throw off your vagina’s balance, making it vulnerable to infection. For this reason, some women may use probiotics to help them keep their vaginal microbiome in a healthy state.
What Are Vaginal Probiotics?
Just like the probiotics used for the bacteria in your gut, vaginal probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are useful for maintaining the overall balance of the “good” bacteria in our vagina and providing protection against infections.
Since the balance of the healthy bacteria in our vagina can be easily disrupted, supplementing them with probiotics, especially with ones that contain vital bacterial cultures like Lactobacillus rhamnosus (GR-1) and Lactobacillus reuteri (RC-14) are essential in preventing and fighting bacterial and fungal infections while making sure your immune system is working to the best of its abilities.
Lactobacillus, which is the good bacteria, feeds off the sugar that naturally exists in the vagina. In exchange, they produce lactic acid, which helps your you vagina maintain an optimal low pH balance between 3.8 and 4.5. At this pH level, only good bacteria and yeast will flourish, resulting in a well-balanced vaginal flora.
Even though probiotics help to maintain the balance of healthy vaginal flora, research shows that healthy women already have a lot of lactobacilli in their vaginal tract. So, where should you draw the line to determine if and when you should use probiotics? And most importantly, how are you to make sure that you’re picking the best female probiotic for you?
How to Choose the Best Probiotic for Vagnial Health
When choosing the right probiotic for your vaginal health, you should make sure you chose one that will cater to your specific needs. You should make sure that the probiotic not only has the specific bacteria needed to balance vaginal flora, but you should also make sure that the amounts present in the bacteria are adequate enough to support your needs.
If you wish to ward off infection and maintain your natural flora, Lactobacillus and Acidophilus are two specific bacteria cultures that do just that. But before you begin taking your probiotic, you should be aware of how much live cultures are in your probiotic first.
Younger women who are somewhat healthy typically need fewer billion live cultures. Older women, women who are currently on antibiotics, women experiencing a yeast infection and women living a sedentary lifestyle produce less healthy bacteria, so they will need a higher dosage.
Always remember that diversity is the key to ensuring probiotics work effectively. The more live strains within your probiotics the better, but be sure not to mistake the number of strains with the number of live cultures, which are in billions.
Strains are the different types of good bacteria, while the number of live cultures determines how much of a strain is present. Even if you decide to take a probiotic with a lower dose, you should still consider taking one that contains many different live cultures.
Everyone is different and there are different ways you can take your probiotics. Your probiotics can either be inserted through the vagina or taken orally, so before determining which probiotic to take, make sure you have a conversation with your gynecologist to help you choose the best female probiotic for you.