All About Vaginal Probiotics
Lactobacilli are good bacteria that live in your vaginal microbiome. It is capable of fighting off infections. If you take probiotics that contain specific lactobacilli strains, it can help in supporting your vaginal microbiome’s health. Even though it’s a new area of study, early evidence shows that if you are suffering from BV or recurrent thrush, vaginal probiotics can be very beneficial. Read on to learn more about vaginal probiotics.
Most people know that probiotics are great for your gut health. But, they don’t know that there is a new type of probiotics in the market aimed specifically to improve vaginal health. Like in your gut, billions of bacteria live in your vagina that makes up the vaginal microbiome. This is your vaginal ecosystem. In some cases, the vaginal microbiome loses its ability to fight the infections like BV and thrush off. It can also affect your likelihood of contracting STI, developing some type of gynecological cancer, or carrying a pregnancy to term.
In an ideal situation, the good bacteria present in your vaginal microbiome fight off the harmful bacteria. However, things like overusing feminine hygiene products, hormonal fluctuations, and unprotected sex can disrupt the pH level of your vagina (this should be in the range of 3.8 to 4.5). If this happens, you are more likely to develop conditions like BV and thrush.
How do vaginal probiotics work?
Even though this is a relatively new field of research, there has been promising evidence in the past few years indicating that vaginal probiotics can help support your vaginal microbiome. A study showed that in the cases of women with BV, the vaginal microbiome was restored after taking daily oral intake of Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 for two months. Both of these are clinically proven probiotic strains.
Another study found that oral probiotics treatment in combination with antibiotics leads to a lower BV recurrence rate compared to the use of only antibiotics. So, this shows that taking vaginal probiotic supplements every day can help keep your vagina healthy.
Some types of probiotics are taken orally, whereas others are administered vaginally. When taken orally, the bacteria must survive the journey through your digestive system and reach the vaginal microbiome alive. After it has reached the vagina successfully, it has an opportunity to colonize and decrease the population of harmful bacteria.
Why is the strain of the bacteria important?
When it comes to vaginal probiotics and the conditions they are trying to treat; you have to consider the specific bacteria strain. Lactobacilli is the most critical bacteria present in your vaginal microbiome. They create hydrogen peroxide and lactic acid that keep the vaginal pH acidic and prevent the overgrowth of yeasts and harmful bacteria.
Lactobacillus is a genus encompassing several different species, which means they are made of several different strains. So, each of these strains has a different function. Lactobacillus acidophilus is the most researched, and researchers think this specific strain could improve vaginal health. Other key players include L. plantarum, L. reuteri, and L. rhamnosus.
Why should you take vaginal probiotics?
Vaginal probiotics have to be taken when you are experiencing symptoms of thrush or BV like unusual vaginal discharge or discomfort. If you think that there is some issue with your vaginal microbiome, taking a vaginal probiotic can help you get relief.
Usually, the vagina is very capable of taking care of itself and doesn’t need your help. But in some situations, you will be better off taking vaginal probiotics. Here are some of these situations:
- You are experiencing thrush or bacterial vaginosis
- You are suffering from a refractory vaginal infection
- You have just completed a course of antibiotics but haven’t gotten any relief.
Apart from taking vaginal probiotics, you can also maintain the health of your vaginal microbiome through other ways like practicing safe sex, changing your tampon frequently (every 4 hours or less if you have heavy flow), and avoiding vaginal douches.
Everyone has a different body and a vaginal microbiome. Taking probiotics won’t cause any known harm. However, if you suspect that you have some kind of infection, you should talk to your doctor first.
Probiotics are more beneficial for women who are suffering from BV or persistent, recurrent thrush. But, if you want to do more for your vaginal health, vaginal probiotics would do the job.