Probiotics support women’s health in a number of ways. But with so many options available, from foods with probiotics to probiotic supplements, it can be a bit overwhelming to decide which is best for you. While research is still discovering all the ways probiotics help our bodies maintain balance and wellness, what we do know is that every part of our body is alive with its own unique microbiome. This includes a healthy mix of beneficial viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Probiotics, from foods and from supplements, can add good bacteria to this mix, helping to keep our microbiome in healthy balance.
Most of the attention on probiotics generally focuses on their effect on the intestines. But beneficial bacteria populate many other areas of the body, including the urinary tract. Lactobacilli, for instance, plays a big part in the urogenital flora of premenopausal women. So, supplementing your diet with probiotics that contain this strain can be an easy and safe way to help promote urinary tract health.
Did you know there are over 50 different types of bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus gasseri, that live in the vagina? Changes to the bacteria balance in the vagina can be caused by many factors including menstrual cycles and hormonal changes. These bacterial changes can lead to infections and other issues. A probiotic supplement may help support the vaginal microbiome that can easily skew out of balance.
To understand how probiotics help with weight, it’s important to see how these bacteria work in the gut. Good bacteria are adept at breaking down the foods we consume, particularly in digesting fiber that our gut struggles to process independently. In this intricate process, they produce essential nutrients. Interestingly, this intricate balance of diverse beneficial bacteria in our bodies appears to be associated with weight regulation. Individuals who are overweight often exhibit an imbalance inthese microbes, thus reinforcing the role of probiotics in fostering a healthy weight. Probiotics can be a helpful addition to a healthy weight management plan that consists of a balanced nutrient dense diet, exercise, adequate sleep, hydration, and stress management
Although distinct from your gut, your skin is also swarming with various bacterial strains. Don’t worry: It’s not as scary as it sounds. Strains like Bifidobacterium, Vitreoscilla and Lactobacillus work to keep your skin healthy and protected. Oral probiotic supplements and topical probiotic creams can help add beneficial bacteria that can help support skin health by maintaining a balanced microbiome. Be sure to discuss any skin concerns with your dermatologist before using topical products
As previously mentioned, vaginal health very often starts witha healthy and balanced vaginal microbiome. Probiotics can help with keeping things in balance, which in turn can impact fertility. Good vaginal bacteria help to regulate the pH balance of the vagina, ensuring that it is an environment where sperm can survive. Good bacteria can also help with regulating digestive symptoms related to menstrual cycles. Beyond the vaginal microbiome, probiotics help support healthy weight management, which can also support fertility. Additional research is needed to solidify the correlation between vaginal microbiome and fertility.
Probiotics can help support a healthy and strong immune system, too. Approximately 70-80% of immune cells are associated with the gut mucosa. This allows probiotics the ability to communicate with and affect the immune system. One study found that the probiotic Bifidobacterium animalis BB-12 contributed to helping the body’s immune system and promoted healthy lung and sinus function. Another study suggests that probiotic supplements from birth into childhood could help boost the immune system by supporting non-specific cellular responses.
The digestive system is probably where most people think of the benefits of probiotics. And that’s for good reason. Probiotics are known for supporting gastrointestinal function, helping the body to digest and process foods, regulating the digestive process, and helping to maintain healthy bowel movements.
For instance, a study illustrated bowel frequency improvement in adults with low bowel frequency who were given Bifidobacterium animalis lactis, BB-12 probiotic. Another study showed fermented milk that included the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis helped improve the stool frequency and consistency in female participants. Another study found similar beneficial results to bowel frequency when pregnant women consumed yogurt, a rich source of healthy probiotic bacteria. The impact of yogurt varies based on the type of probiotic strains present and the amount of probiotics. Some studies show no change in intestinal motility or bowel movements. If experiencing challenges with your bowel movements, be sure to talk to your doctor.
Recent research indicates that probiotics offer remarkable benefits for hormonal health. For instance, this animal study discovered that probiotics have the ability to enhance antioxidant efficacy by increasing antioxidant-boosting enzymes such as GSH, which is responsible for production of glutathione (a major antioxidant), thereby potentially contributing to a healthier hormonal balance. Furthermore, evidence suggests that the gut microbiome plays a pivotal role in influencing estrogen levels along with production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA). Limited research shows that probiotics may even have an impact on androgen production.. By incorporating probiotics and prebiotics into your routine, you can potentially optimize hormonal well-being. You can read more about balancing hormones here.
The role of probiotics in pregnancy is an area of ongoing investigation, with mixed findings thus far. Some studies suggest that probiotics may have a protective role in promoting a balanced microbiome during pregnancy. However, not all research aligns with this viewpoint. For example, this study found no significant difference in outcomes between pregnant individuals who took probiotics and those who did not. While research on this topic continues to evolve, incorporating probiotic-rich foods into a balanced diet is a reliable approach for expectant mothers seeking to optimize their gut health.
Probiotics can play a beneficial role in the health of both the mother and the baby during breastfeeding. It’s generally considered safe to consume probiotics while pregnant and breastfeeding, but it’s always recommended to consult with your doctor to address any specific concerns. Most importantly, when choosing a probiotic supplement, it’s crucial to prioritize quality, especially during pregnancy or postpartum.
Let's explore some common questions that arise when it comes to incorporating probiotics into your wellness routine.
Women should consider taking a probiotic anytime optimal health is the goal. However, probiotics aren’t short-term supplements that solve a specific problem overnight. Probiotics, rather, are about your long-term wellness. hether from food sources or supplements, think of taking probiotics as a long-term investment strategy on behalf of your digestive health and immune system. Probiotics, rather, are about your long-term wellness.
While probiotics offer numerous potential benefits for women's health, there are certain situations when it’s advisable to avoid taking them. If you have a compromised immune system or are undergoing immunosuppressive therapy, it’s recommended to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any probiotic regimen.
Additionally, if you have experienced adverse reactions to probiotics in the past, it may be best to refrain from their use. As with any supplement, it's always best to discuss your specific circumstances with your doctor to determine if probiotics are appropriate for you.
When first starting a probiotic, some individuals may experience side effects for a short period of time. When the new strains are being introduced, you may experience temporary feelings of gas or bloating, a normal part of the process as the new microbes are adjusting in the GI tract. Within a few days, the GI discomfort should subside and your digestive system should become more regular.
It’s best to choose a probiotic supplement that contains a blend of bacterial strains and meets high-quality standards. One option worth considering is the probiotic offered by Care/of. Care/of's probiotic supplement is carefully formulated to support digestive and immune health. It contains a blend of scientifically researched strains, including Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus. This probiotic is also gluten-free, soy-free, and vegetarian-friendly.
Some women may benefit from daily probiotic supplementation, while others may only need to take it for a targeted amount of time. The decision as to whether women should take probiotics daily depends on individual circumstances and health goals.
The timeframe for probiotics to start working can vary from person to person, but typically requires consistent use and proper dosing. It's important to understand that probiotics are not a quick-fix solution; they are not a "one and done" situation. While some individuals may notice improvements in their health within a few days, others may require several weeks of regular probiotic intake to experience noticeable benefits.
Probiotics offer a range of potential benefits for women’s health. From addressing areas such as urinary tract health, hormonal health, fertility, digestion, and weight management, the use of probiotics can support women in various aspects of their well-being. It's important to consider individual circumstances and consult with a healthcare provider to determine the best probiotic approach, whether it's daily or intermittent use. Additionally, understanding that probiotics may require consistent use and patience to experience noticeable effects is crucial.