What Probiotics Can Do for Your Vagina
You may have heard that probiotics play an important role in managing your gut health, but did you know they can positively impact your vaginal health, as well? Probiotics have been shown to decrease your vaginal infection risk by protecting against bacterial overgrowth.
Many brands tout billions of strains of probiotics within each capsule, but that doesn’t guarantee they contain the strains needed to keep your vagina’s pH balanced. Different strains provide different benefits, so it’s important to know which you should be looking for.
Shopping for optimal vaginal health
Lactobacillus acidophilus is the most important strain for vaginal health, while lactobacillus rhamnosus and lactobacillus reuteri are secondary strains to consider. They’re easy to find in many probiotics, which are usually labeled as being for “women’s health” or “vaginal health.”
These strains are most effective when they’re live and active. While many shelf-stable probiotic brands contain the right strains for your vaginal health, it’s possible these strains can be killed off or weakened during the manufacturing process. They’re extremely sensitive to heat, and even storing them in warm temperatures can impact their strength. You never know how the probiotics were stored when transported, which makes it risky to buy shelf-stable versions.
If you haven’t had any recent infections or problems in your vagina, a probiotic is likely not needed.
An easy way to ensure you’re getting live cultures of the probiotics you need is to purchase yogurt with these particular strains. However, if you’re sensitive to dairy, don’t enjoy yogurt or can’t find one with the strains you need, check in the same area for refrigerated probiotics. Store these products in your refrigerator to keep the strains alive, and always use them before the sell-by date.
Oral vs. suppository probiotics
Traditionally, probiotics are taken orally, which may not alleviate vaginal infections or pH imbalances in all women. However, if you suffer from frequent yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis (BV), probiotic options are available for vaginal insertion. A 2011 study found that vaginal suppository forms of probiotics that contained the optimum strains for vaginal health helped women who suffer from recurrent BV.
It can be difficult to find vaginal suppositories with the right strains in the United States, but it’s not impossible. As a result, many women have taken to inserting oral capsules vaginally, which is not recommended. If you do find a brand online that offers vaginal suppositories, talk to your OB-GYN before you purchase any.
Should I take a probiotic to boost my vaginal health?
If you haven’t had any recent infections or problems in your vagina, a probiotic is likely not needed. You can still enjoy probiotic benefits from yogurt, kimchi and other foods. There’s no need to rush out and buy capsules. But, if you suffer from persistent BV or yeast infections, probiotics with live strains of lactobacillus acidophilus have been shown to provide relief and prevent new infections.