Should You Use Probiotics for Your Vagina?

Probiotics contain living microorganisms that naturally exist in your body. They are frequently used to treat intestinal disorders, but it is still debatable whether they have any positive effects on the health of the female reproductive system.

Key takeaways:
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    Natural vaginal microflora (Lactobacilli) helps to maintain a healthy vaginal pH range and inhibits the growth of other bacteria and viruses.
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    Vaginal probiotics should contain Lactobacilli.
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    According to research, vaginal probiotics can be beneficial for vaginal infection treatment and reduce the relapse rate of the infections, help to alleviate atrophic vaginitis symptoms, and may prevent the progression of cervical cancer.

In the media, probiotics are frequently portrayed as an easy way to prevent or treat a wide range of clinical problems. But are they truly beneficial? And do you need to use probiotics?

The natural pH of the vagina

Lactobacilli are the most common bacteria in healthy vaginal flora. It can produce lactic acid and H2O2, acidifying the vaginal environment to natural pH of 4.5, and inhibiting the growth of other viruses and bacteria. Furthermore, Lactobacillus metabolites can induce the host to create anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial substances. Lactobacillus clings to the vaginal wall and can actively compete against infection. These “good” bacteria play an important role in defending against vulvovaginal infections.

What to look for?

There are two ways to increase your intake of probiotics: with food products (dairy products, like yogurt, cheese, etc.) or with supplements. If you want to take probiotic supplements for vaginal health, you need to look for Lactobacillus strains, such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus gasseri, which have been shown in trials to be beneficial for vaginal health.

The risks of probiotics

There are no FDA regulations for probiotics that are offered as dietary supplements. As a result, the information on their labels regarding what's in them and how they function may not be accurate.

Ways to take probiotics

Orally

The reason for using oral probiotics in the treatment of gynecological conditions is the ability of these microorganisms to survive through the digestive system and climb to the vaginal tract following excretion from the rectum. Probiotics taken orally may have extra benefits for vaginal health by balancing gut microbiota and reducing the spread of urogenital infections from the rectum to the vaginal system.

Vaginally

Probiotics can be administered vaginally for a direct and targeted colonization action to restore the poor vaginal microbiome.

The benefits of probiotic treatment

An alteration of the healthy vaginal flora is linked to vaginal infections. Normal flora is low during vaginal infections, hence probiotic Lactobacillus strains can be used orally or vaginally to treat and prevent infections such as:

Bacterial vaginosis

Metronidazole and other antibiotics are used as the standard treatment strategy. However, there is more and more proof now that probiotics can effectively alleviate bacterial vaginosis. According to several studies, using probiotics either alone or in combination with antibiotics improves the cure rate and lowers the recurrence rate of bacterial vaginosis. However, given the evidence is debatable, more study on this subject is necessary.

Yeast (Candida) infection

According to studies, probiotic therapy used in combination with antifungal medications increased the short-term cure rate and decreased the one-month relapse rate. However, there was no noticeable impact of probiotic use on the long-term (three-month) cure rate. The authors stressed the need for additional research due to the poor quality of the studies.

Atrophic vaginitis

Due to lower estrogen levels (during perimenopause), some women feel symptoms, including vaginal dryness, discomfort during sexual intercourse, frequent urination, and urinary tract infections. There is a decline in Lactobacillus and an increase in other bacteria, particularly after menopause. Recent research has shown that probiotics and estrogen work together to reduce the symptoms of atrophic vaginitis.

Human Papillomavirus

Research has shown that Lactobacillus may kill cervical cancer cells. Scientists determined a correlation between the rise in Lactobacilli and the decline in the detection rate of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, cancer, and high-risk subtype HPV infection. Lactobacillus has received a lot of interest as a viable non-chemotherapy alternative therapy for treating cervical cancer and restoring and maintaining normal vaginal flora.

When should I use probiotics?

If you have recurrent vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis or yeast infection, or you have low natural vaginal flora, it is beneficial to try using vaginal probiotics.

In conclusion, vulvovaginal infections are connected to the disruption of natural vaginal flora. The use of probiotics is associated with increased rates of successful treatment and recurrence prevention of vulvovaginal infections. It helps to alleviate symptoms of atrophic vaginitis and might delay the progression of cervical cancer. However, all these benefits are still debatable and need further research. If you have recurrent vaginal infections or feel any discomfort in the private area, contact your doctor.

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