A Guide to Probiotics For Women's Health
Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide an array of health benefits by maintaining the balance between the good and bad bacteria in the gut. They keep your immune system in robust shape and ward off infections and illnesses.
Probiotics for women are always extremely important! Women are more susceptible to digestive disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome, and so it’s vital to keep your gut microbiome in good shape. Women need to ensure their vaginal microbiome remains as strong as their gut microbiome, which is why probiotics are crucial for women. Balancing your vaginal flora keeps vaginal diseases at bay. A slight imbalance in the flora can regulate itself, but a serious imbalance may lead to gynaecological diseases.
That’s why probiotics for women are designed to target both gut health and vaginal health, while also boosting the immune system. Probiotics can either be derived from fermented foods or supplements.
Why Do Women Need Different Probiotics?
Hormones play a vital role in balancing women’s health. Every set of hormones affects their digestive and reproductive health. Therefore, often times women need probiotics that are slightly different to those designed for men.
Women benefit from different probiotics because they are more prone to certain health conditions. Women often experience urinary tract infections. The urethra of women is shorter which makes the passage of bacteria easier. Probiotics for women with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium help arrest urinary tract infections.
Women go through vaginal PH imbalance during several instances like menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and throughout their life which gives rise to vaginal infections such as Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) and Yeast Infections. Probiotics for women that contain strains of Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus jensneji, and Lactobacillus gasseri help the upkeep of vaginal microbiome health and reduce the risk of BV and Yeast Infections.
While probiotics benefit both men and women, specific probiotic strains are required to address the unique women’s health issues.
How Do Probiotics Benefit Women?
Probiotics help women in maintaining vaginal health, gut health, and fertility. Probiotics provide multiple benefits to women.
Helps maintain gut health
Probiotics help maintain gut health in women by enhancing the growth of beneficial bacteria and inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. This will help improve digestion, and immunity, and reduce the risk of certain other health conditions specific to women.
When available in adequate quantities, probiotics will take over the gut and shield it from bad bacteria. It will also help digestion and breakdown of food which will enhance the absorption of nutrients and reduce digestive disorders like constipation, gas, and bloating.
Probiotics for women will boost the immune system and reduce gut inflammation. This will benefit women with irritable bowel syndrome which causes chronic inflammation and digestive disorders.
It will also control the levels of hormones that are beneficial for gut health. It regulates the production of serotonin, the happy hormone that contributes to proper digestion and mood regulation.
Manages Mood Swings
Mood swings during menopause and the menstrual cycle are very common in women. Probiotics will help control these mood fluctuations. Probiotics help regulate the gut microbiome which enhances the production of neurotransmitters and other molecules that affect mood.
Studies have shown that some strains of probiotics increase the production of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter that calms the brain. Research has also shown that probiotics help in minimising the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
In respect of mood control, a lot depends on the individual’s gut microbiome, the probiotic strains used, and other factors.
Improves Vaginal Health
Several species of microbes dwell in the vagina. Many of them are a type of bacteria known as lactobacilli. These bacteria are the reason for your vaginal health. An imbalance in these bacteria can cause infections. It happens during the menstrual cycle or menopause when women undergo hormonal changes. It also occurs if women do not have safe sex with their partner or when they do not pay attention to good hygiene.
Microbial imbalance in the vagina can result in a fish odour, discomfort, burning, itchiness, and discharge besides varying the pH balance of the vagina.
Vaginal imbalance can result in serious issues in women’s health. It can cause bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infection, or trichomoniasis. It may also cause urinary tract infections. However, the pathogens that cause urinary tract infections and vaginal imbalance may vary.
Bacterial Vaginosis: is caused by a lack of lactobacillus bacteria in the vagina, leading to a fishy odour, burning sensation, itchiness, and discharge. Antibiotics are recommended to treat the condition, and probiotics for women in addition to antibiotics are recommended for better results.
Yeast Infection: is caused by a fungus called candida albicans, and can be caused by a disrupted immune system, diabetes, oral contraceptives, or therapies that enhance oestrogen levels. Treatment includes antifungal medication for a short duration, topical creams, ointments, oral tablets, and vaginal suppositories.
Trichomoniasis: is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause redness, soreness, itching or burning in the vagina, and vaginal discharge with a fishy odour. It can be treated with antifungal medication or a combination of both medication and topical applications.
Probiotics may not be recommended to reduce this infection, but keeping BV in control with probiotics is a prudent step to avoid this infection.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): is caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract through the urethra and spreading in the bladder. Symptoms include frequent urination, burning sensation, change in urine colour, a strong odour of urine, pelvic pain, and urinary system blockage. Antibiotics are recommended to treat UTIs, but keeping the vaginal flora healthy can prevent infection.
Good For Skin Health
Maintaining blemishless, radiant, and smooth skin is an integral part of women’s health. Probiotics improve gut health by maintaining the gut microbiome balance. This has positive effects on overall health including skin health. Probiotics help improve skin health by
- Reducing inflammation which is a key factor in many skin issues like eczema, acne and rosacea.
- Strengthening the skin barrier which is the outermost layer of the skin. It helps protect the skin against damage through external sources and dehydration. It helps prevent conditions like dryness, redness, and itching.
- Fighting harmful bacteria. Probiotics prevent bad bacteria from colonising the skin. This will be beneficial for women who are prone to acne which generally occurs when bad bacteria outnumber the good ones.
Probiotics help in improving fertility in the following ways.
- It helps improve the gut microbiome which is the key factor for hormonal imbalances that lead to fertility issues. It balances the gut microbiome which restores hormonal balance to improve fertility.
- Chronic inflammation is another reason for fertility issues. Probiotics helps in reducing inflammation which in turn helps resolve fertility issues to some extent.
- Probiotics help improve the absorption of nutrients like iron, folate, and zinc which are crucial for fertility.
- Vaginal infections can contribute to a great extent to fertility issues. By maintaining vaginal health, probiotics help in improving fertility.
Probiotics help improve overall health by maintaining the gut microbiome balance. Probiotics for women help with specific issues like balancing hormonal levels, reducing inflammation, enhancing nutrient absorption, and supporting vaginal health. These benefits have a positive effect on women’s health including fertility, digestive and skin health.
There are many different food sources of probiotics, including yoghourt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and kombucha. When choosing probiotic-rich foods, it's important to look for products that contain live and active cultures, and to consume a variety of different probiotic sources in order to ensure that you are getting a diverse range of beneficial bacteria.
However, probiotics cannot be considered a cure-all but should be a part of health that includes a healthy diet and regular exercise. It is always better to take the opinion of a healthcare expert before making changes to your diet.
What are the food sources of probiotics?
The following are the food sources of probiotics
- Fermented foods like yoghurt and pickles
What are the indications for the need for probiotics?
If you experience any of the following, it is time you consider consuming probiotics.
- You feel ill and sluggish
- Your skin health is deteriorating
- You were on antibiotics and are feeling unusually tired.
Do probiotics improve sleep quality?
Research has shown that gut microbiomes that thrive when we are sleep-deprived can disrupt our circadian rhythm. Diverse gut microbiomes can inhibit the growth of certain microbes that affect sleep. Probiotics will improve sleep quality by restoring the gut microbiome balance.
Is it safe for women to consume probiotics daily?
Probiotics are natural supplements and not medications. It is safe for everyone, including women, to consume probiotics daily.
Can food sources of probiotics and supplements be taken together?
Probiotics like yoghurt can be taken along with probiotics supplements.
Why do women need different probiotics?
Women have vaginal microbiomes in addition to gut microbiomes. They will have to deal with a lot of infections related to the vaginal microbiome imbalance like BV, Yeast Infection, and UTIs. They need strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in probiotics to deal with these infections.