Probiotics have been widely touted for a number of health benefits, from gum health to gut health and everything in between.1 While research is still being done about these “good” bacteria, the growing popularity of taking probiotic supplements warrants attention. Are probiotics for women an important part of women’s health? Let's investigate the connection between women’s health and probiotics.
Vaginal Health and Probiotics
The vagina is full of naturally-occurring healthy bacteria and other microorganisms that help maintain vaginal health.2 It is commonly believed that a bacterial imbalance in the vagina can lead to a number of health issues, such as a yeast infection.2 The two most common issues that can be caused by a vaginal imbalance are bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.2 The first, bacterial vaginosis, happens when the amount of “bad” microorganisms, like Gardnerella vaginalis and Prevotella, overtakes the amount of “good” microorganisms.2 While research about this issue is still being done, most experts connect bacterial vaginosis back to microorganisms.2
The second of these common health issues is the vaginal yeast infection. Like bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections are also caused by an imbalance, but rather than microorganism overgrowth, the imbalance is caused by the Candida fungus.2 The Candida fungus can live inside a healthy vagina without causing issues, but yeast infections may occur when there’s a fungus overgrowth and the amount of Candida is greater than the amount of healthy vaginal microorganisms.2
So what do probiotics have to do with bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections? If you’ve taken a trip down the supplements aisle recently, you’ve probably noticed a number of probiotics marketed for women’s health, or vaginal health specifically. These probiotic supplements—both oral and vaginal—are promoted for their ability to cure vaginal imbalance issues such as bacterial vaginosis. The theory behind using probiotics to achieve vaginal balance is that by introducing more “good” bacteria like lactobacilli to the vagina, this supplementation will rebalance vaginal flora and clear up the related health issues.2
And it’s not just probiotic supplements that are touted as vaginal treatments, there are a number of home remedies that claim to do the same.
Many of these home remedies may be appealing, unfortunately there’s just not enough evidence to prove that they work! What’s more, trying to use probiotics to cure a vaginal imbalance may end up causing even more problems.2 For now, the only treatments for bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections that have been proven to work are antibiotic and antifungal treatments.2 However, studies around probiotics and vaginal health are ongoing, so keep an eye out—perhaps one day in the future, we'll know more about the science behind probiotics and their connection to women's health.2
Overall Health and Probiotics
Whether taken as a dietary supplement, applied topically, or consumed via fermented foods, probiotics might have a number of health benefits, but the research around probiotics and vaginal health specifically is still evolving.1 However, probiotics are in a bit of a grey area, and research in general is inconclusive when it comes to direct connections between probiotics and overall health.1
That being said, probiotics have a long history of being used safely, and a study by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has shown encouraging evidence of their health benefits.1 For instance, some believe that probiotics can help support a healthy immune response.1 Many also believe that probiotics can help the body maintain healthy levels of microorganisms.1
When it comes to probiotics for women and overall health, it’s important to note that there are different groups of microorganisms that can be referred to as “probiotics.”1 The most popular of these microorganisms are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.1 If you’re curious about integrating a probiotic into your overall health routine, talk to your doctor about the options available.
We hope this article on probiotics for women has helped you understand the connection between microorganisms and women’s health. Before starting to take probiotic supplements or any other supplements, consult your doctor or a trusted healthcare provider.
- Probiotics: What You Need To Know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics-what-you-need-to-know. Accessed 2/24/21. Referenced text indicated in source PDF.
- Should you use probiotics for your vagina? Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/should-you-use-probiotics-for-your-vagina-2019122718592. Accessed 2/24/21. Referenced text indicated in source PDF.