Probiotics for Vaginal Health - Dr. Michael Ruscio, BCDNM, DC

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Probiotics for Vaginal Health

How Probiotics Improve Vaginal Health.

Key Takeaways

  • Probiotics can be a key support for your vaginal health.
  • Just like your gut, your vagina hosts a community of vaginal microbiota residents, including healthy bacteria, yeasts, and even viruses.
  • Using probiotics can help maintain vaginal pH, protect the vagina from infection, and repopulate it with good bacteria.
  • Probiotics help improve outcomes for vaginal bacterial infections.
  • Probiotics may help prevent and treat yeast infections.
  • The best approach for restoring the vaginal microbiome is the same protocol I recommend for restoring the gut.
  • Take probiotics for vaginal health orally.

With all the talk about how probiotics help your digestive health and immune system, you might think that’s all they are good for. But there’s even more good news.

Probiotics can be a key support for your vaginal health as well.

The uncomfortable symptoms of yeast or bacterial vaginosis infections can be caused by an imbalance in your vaginal flora. Supporting your good bacteria with probiotics can provide vaginal health benefits for these conditions.

Vaginal Ecology Basics

Just like your gut, your vagina hosts a community of vaginal microbiota residents, including healthy bacteria, yeasts, and even viruses.

It’s normally home to significant populations of Lactobacillus bacteria. These Lactobacilli produce lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide, which help maintain the acidic pH in the vagina.

In a healthy vaginal ecology, the acidic pH levels and bacteria populations help prevent urinary tract infections (UTI), yeast infections, bacterial infections, sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal discharge, and odor.

Vaginosis (vaginal infection) is a very common condition that results from an imbalance in your vaginal ecology. Vaginosis may be caused by an overgrowth of Gardnerella bacteria or the yeast that causes yeast infections.

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What Causes Vaginal Imbalance?

Your vaginal environment tends to be pretty stable, but a few things can push it over the edge. Some of the most common reasons for a change in your vaginal microbiome or pH balance include:

  • Antibiotic use
  • Use of irritating hygiene products, for example, soaps, body wash, douche, etc.
  • Hormonal contraceptives
  • Semen
  • Wearing underwear or other clothing made from non-breathable or synthetic fabric
  • Natural pH and tissue changes due to menopause
  • Pregnant women may also experience vaginal changes

Symptoms of Vaginal Imbalance

If you’ve had a vaginal imbalance before, you know that you can’t really ignore the symptoms. Common women’s health symptoms of a vaginal imbalance include:

  • Vaginal itching
  • Change in amount or color of vaginal discharge
  • Unpleasant odors
  • Vulvovaginal swelling, or vaginitis
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Pain or discomfort during intercourse

It’s a good idea to check with your gynecology specialist or doctor if you have any symptoms that are new to you, or you are concerned about.

Probiotics for Your Vagina

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Using oral probiotics can help repopulate your vagina with beneficial bacteria leading to better vaginal pH. This provides increased protection from infections.

  • Several systematic reviews of randomized control trials found that for women with bacterial vaginosis, Lactobacillus probiotics helped improve conventional treatment success, and reduced relapses of infection. [1] [2] [3] [4] The same studies found minimal effects of Lactobacillus probiotic species on yeast infections,
  • Another study tested Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a probiotic yeast, for vaginal yeast infections. It helped clear the yeast infections faster, showing this probiotic strain may be antifungal against yeast infections. [5]
  • Another study showed that treatment with Lactobacilli along with conventional treatment helped clear Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) lesions faster than a group that didn’t receive the probiotic.
  • Based on the data so far, the best probiotics for vaginal health appear to be a combination of healthy bacteria and healthy yeast species.
  • It’s common knowledge that cranberry juice can help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), but it seems like probiotics may help prevent them too. Two research reviews found that probiotics help prevent urinary tract infections. [6] [7]

And because probiotics generally have a very low incidence of side effects, using them is safe.

How to Use Probiotics for Vaginal Health

There are hundreds of probiotic formulas available on Amazon and elsewhere online, many specifically marketed for vaginal health. But you don’t have to get overwhelmed. There are only three main categories of probiotic supplements.

Most vaginal probiotic products, like Rephresh Pro-B, usually contain one or more species of Lactobacillus bacteria, like Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus reuteri, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, while some contain Saccharomyces beneficial yeasts.

The research about probiotics for vaginal health shows that Lactobacillus formulas are helpful for preventing vaginal bacterial infections, while Saccharomyces formulas may be valuable for preventing yeast infections.

I recommend using a 3-formula probiotics approach for restoring the gut, and supporting the vaginal microbiome.

Choose one quality probiotic from each of these three categories:

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Some sources recommend using a probiotic vaginal suppository, but at this time there is very little research into the effectiveness of this approach. Also, Use caution with prebiotics if you normally experience bloating, gas, or other digestive problems.

Bottom Line

To rebalance your vaginal microbiome, use the same approach you would for your gut. Include one quality probiotic from each category. Including probiotics for your vaginal health is a good, safe health bet to keep your vaginal microbiome healthy and happy.

References (click to expand)
  1.  2019 Jan 31;19(1):25. doi: 10.1186/s12905-019-0723-4.
  2.  2020 Jan;127(2):287-299. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.15870. Epub 2019 Aug 8.
  3.  2017 Nov 23;11:CD010496. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010496.pub2.
  4.  2016 May;61(3):339-55. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.12472.
  5.  2017 Jan 2;8(1):74-90. doi: 10.1080/21505594.2016.1213937. Epub 2016 Jul 19.
  6. Gilbert NM, O’Brien VP, Lewis AL (2017) Transient microbiota exposures activate dormant Escherichia coli infection in the bladder and drive severe outcomes of recurrent disease. PLoS Pathog 13(3): e1006238.
  7.  2020 Jan;127(2):287-299. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.15870. Epub 2019 Aug 8.

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