Got a particularly intimate female health issue? You’re not alone.
From bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections to pH imbalance and dryness, many women will have to contend with at least one common vaginal condition at some point in their lives.
Now, you’ve probably heard of the gut microbiome, possibly even the oral microbiome. Well, every woman also has a vaginal microbiome. These communities of microorganisms play a critical role in the maintenance of a healthy vagina.
So, when it comes to supporting your vaginal flora, can probiotics provide a benefit? What is the evidence that these ‘friendly’ bacteria might be able to alleviate or protect against common vaginal health issues?
Firstly, let’s discuss the vaginal microbiome and vaginal probiotics.
What is the vaginal microbiome and why does it matter?
The vaginal microbiome, also commonly known as your vaginal flora, is a term that describes the communities of microorganisms that reside in your vagina.
Your body is teeming with microbes that thrive in those areas of warmth and moisture — predominantly the gut, the mouth and, of course, the vagina. Collectively, these are known as the human microbiome. It is home to in excess of 10 trillion microbial cells — bacteria, fungi, archaea and viruses.
The vaginal flora is a cluster of several dynamic microbial communities. Their structures can change quickly and can have a big impact on vaginal health outcomes. A balanced vaginal flora must be
- Due to their antifungal properties, the authors of another scientific review suggested that the most promising strains of lactobacilli for the treatment of yeast infections are
Whilst probiotics have not been suggested as a primary treatment of yeast infections, clinical trials have promisingly shown that they can be effective, particularly when combined with a traditional course of antifungal treatment — and they certainly present no risks.
How can probiotics help with a woman’s pH balance?
A healthy, balanced vaginal pH level is a slightly acidic 3.8–4.5 on the 0–14 pH scale. That’s the same level as a cup of black coffee, a beer or some tomato juice.
Any higher than 4.5, and you risk the growth of harmful microorganisms within your vaginal microbiome; a high vaginal pH is associated with symptoms like burning, itchiness or unpleasant odour (essentially, bacterial vaginosis, which we discussed earlier) — so you’ll be sure to know if yours is a bit out of whack.
Avoiding things that are likely to interfere with your vaginal pH is the most important way to keep it balanced. Unprotected sex and ‘douching’ (the cleaning of the vagina with water, soap or another liquid) are understood to be amongst the biggest culprits.
But can taking a vaginal probiotic also help to maintain this balance, providing your body with these much-needed bacteria? Fortunately, a number of studies have demonstrated the ability of probiotics to help strains of pH-balancing lactobacilli colonise in the vagina.
- The consumption of a probiotic containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 helped these good bacteria to
- By working to inhibit the growth of bad bacteria and
- A recently-published analysis suggests that lactobacilli probiotics prevented the growth of imbalance-causing bacteria,
If you have particular concerns about your vaginal health or the pH of your vagina, make sure to consult your doctor.
How can probiotics help with vaginal dryness?
At some point in their lives, many women will experience things being a bit drier down there than they’d prefer. This is particularly true for women going through the menopause —
So, can probiotics help with vaginal dryness? There is some limited evidence available suggesting that a well-chosen lactobacilli-containing probiotic
So, vaginal probiotics: what’s the verdict?
The relationship between probiotics and restoring the vaginal flora is still an ‘
For any particular vaginal health worries, always consult your doctor or GP.
At Inspired Health, we provide a