Probiotics for Vaginal Health: Should You Take Them?
Probiotics for Vaginal Health: Why They’re Important
Probiotics have recently taken center stage in the past decade or so because of their ability to support gut health and the immune system. What’s less known is that these supplements can also support vaginal health by supplying beneficial bacteria that keep harmful bacteria at bay.
Making probiotic supplements a part of your day is an easy way to support an important part of your health you might not have at the forefront of your wellness routine.
Read on for more info on probiotics and how they can support vaginal health.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that can support a healthy bacterial ecosystem in places like your skin, gut, and vagina. Your body is full of microorganisms that help keep you healthy and functioning, and probiotics work to ensure that you have the good bacteria you need.
While our microbiome (i.e. our ecosystem of good and bad bacteria) works as much as it can to maintain itself, a lot of people can benefit from probiotic supplements because they don’t eat enough probiotic (or prebiotic) foods from diet alone to fully support the microbiome in everything it does.
Additionally, digestive health issues, a round of antibiotics, and many other factors can cause imbalances in our good and bad bacteria.
Probiotics are good bacteria that work in the gut to help keep bad bacteria in check — this is one of their most well-known functions, and doing this can support proper digestion as well as overall immune system strength.
But one of the most unique functions of probiotic supplements is their ability to help support a different ecosystem of bacteria and yeast: the vaginal microbiome.
What Is the Vaginal Microbiome?
The vaginal microbiome is a diverse ecosystem of over 50,000 types of microbes inhabiting the vaginal canal. This flora works to help maintain a healthy vagina by keeping bad bacteria in check. When your levels of good bacteria dwindle, an overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast can occur, which can increase your risk for certain issues.
The vaginal microbiome is generally home to two main species of Lactobacillus bacteria, which are good bacteria. These strains of bacteria are thought to release lactic acid, which can help maintain the balance of the ecosystem.
What Causes an Imbalance in the Vaginal Microbiome?
An imbalance in the vaginal microbiome can happen for a few different reasons, including:
A change in hormones
An imbalance can cause you to notice that your vaginal discharge changes. Additionally, you may feel itchy or a general sense of discomfort in the vulva region.
How Can Probiotics Support Vaginal Health?
Probiotics may not be able to completely prevent infections caused by an imbalance in the vaginal flora. Antibiotics still maintain their reputation as the best treatment for infections.
Still, probiotics play an important role in your vaginal health — taking vaginal probiotics can help create an optimal environment in your microbiome and support vaginal health and a healthy vaginal pH balance.
Can Support the Vaginal Microbiome
Some studies have suggested that adding strains of lactobacillus bacteria into the diet can benefit the vaginal microbiome.
For instance, some research shows that probiotic yogurt can lead to higher levels of beneficial lactobacillus bacteria in the vagina.
Helps Promote a Balanced pH
Understanding the pH level of your vagina can allow you to understand whether you have a balanced vaginal microflora. This pH level explains how acidic or alkaline a substance may be on a 10-point scale, and a pH below 3.8 or above 5 (aka outside of normal range) indicates an imbalance.
Having a balanced pH level can help support vaginal health in several ways, including protecting from infection and supporting fertility.
There are a few other ways to maintain an ideal vaginal pH:
Avoid douching. The vagina is self-cleaning, and douching can end up raising your pH and causing an imbalance.
Use protection when having sex. Using protection during sex can help prevent pH changes caused by semen while also offering the bonus of protecting from STIs.
Take probiotics. Taking high-quality probiotics that contain the right strains can help maintain a pH-balanced environment.
Can Support General Vaginal Wellness
Probiotics can help you sustain a healthy vaginal environment — the same research showing the presence of more beneficial bacteria with probiotics also showed that probiotics could support healthy vaginal flora composition and a healthy vaginal environment in general.
May Help Combat Vaginal Odor
Balanced vaginal flora can also help with unpleasant odors, such as a fish-like odor. Generally, abnormal vaginal odor stems from an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the vaginal canal, and probiotics can help supply your body with more beneficial bacteria to keep these levels in check.
What Probiotics Can Women Take for Vaginal Health?
Probiotic supplements are available in the form of pills, capsules, suppositories, and gummies.
There are a few main factors to consider when looking for the best probiotics for vaginal health:
Choose a probiotic with reliable strains. Choosing specific probiotic strains, such as spore-forming bacillus coagulans (e.g., SNZ-1969 coagulan which survives stomach acid barrier and is clinically studied for vaginal health) or lactobacillus strains that have been studied in clinical trials is one way to support your vaginal health. Lactobacillus acidophilus is the most clinically-researched strain, but lactobacillus reuteri, bacillus coagulans, lactobacillus rhamnosus gr-1 can also help promote a balanced microbiome.
Opt for a probiotic with the correct number of colony-forming units (CFUs). When choosing a probiotic, aim for 1 billion colony-forming units (CFUs). A high-quality probiotic may have anywhere from 1 billion to 10 billion CFUs per dose.
Choose a high-quality probiotic you can trust. If you choose to take probiotic supplements, choose a brand with clinically-studied formulas for high-quality products. Lemme gummies are backed by a medical team that prioritizes health, nutrition, and science.
How Often Should Women Take Probiotics for Vaginal Health?
If you're considering probiotics after a vaginal infection, getting medical advice from your women's health provider is the best idea. They can help guide you through the proper dose of probiotics, how often to take your supplement, and any other necessary information or guidance.
However, for general wellness support, taking a probiotic supplement daily may be beneficial. In any case, you should always follow the instructions on your specific supplement and consult your doctor if you have questions.
The Bottom Line
Including probiotic supplements in your daily routines is one way to care for yourself and promote overall health. Vaginal probiotics may help you replenish the balance in your microbiome, keeping bad bacteria in check and supporting vaginal health.
Looking for more ways to support your wellness and boost your self-care ritual? Explore Lemme’s collection of gummies that can help you beat bloat, power through your day, and more.
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The vaginal microbiome: New information about genital tract flora using molecular based techniques | National Library of Medicine
Why do lactobacilli dominate the human vaginal microbiota? - Witkin - 2017 - BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology | Wiley Online Library
Vaginal microbiota and the use of probiotics | National Library of Medicine
The role of probiotics in vaginal health | PMC
Vaginal pH Value for Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment of Common Vaginitis | PMC