How probiotics impact women’s health
A look at the top symptoms women experience, and how probiotics may help.
The focus on women’s health, and research to help support women’s health issues is only growing. Of course, more research is always needed, but several areas of health symptoms specific to women have been looked at more closely in recent years. With 50% of the planet carrying the biology of a woman, the population demands increased evidence-based tools for women to use to cope with a range of symptoms they experience through the life cycle.
You may have heard a lot about the gut microbiome; the population of bacteria, yeasts and fungi that live in the trillions in the gut. The balance of these microorganisms influences everything from immune function to digestion to mood. The vagina is also home to a delicate balance of microorganisms; over 30 different species of probiotics and yeasts. Many women’s health experts believe that common vaginal symptoms may be caused by an imbalance in this collection of organisms in the vagina. Maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria within the vagina may help reduce the symptoms associated with bacterial vaginosis.
Here is a look at the top symptoms women experience, and how probiotics may help:
Lactobacillus is also a group of probiotic strains that colonize the vaginal tract to keep a healthy vaginal flora balance. There are over thirty species of flora that exist in the vaginal canal. Though fungi, such as Candida albicans naturally occur in the vagina, if there is an imbalance between these yeasts and healthy organisms such as Lactobacillus, a yeast overgrowth can occur, causing a lot of discomfort. This type of growth is called Opportunistic Infection, and re-establishing the delicate balance of flora in the vagina is key to reducing symptoms. Some promising studies have shown Lactobacillus rhamnoses GR-1 to be an effective probiotic for vaginal symptoms. Supplementation with probiotic strains may reduce these symptoms to help maintain vaginal floral balance.
Hormonal changes can wreak havoc on women’s digestive tracts. Many women experience symptoms such as more frequent or loose bowel movements, or constipation. Due to the unpredictability of these digestive fluctuations, they cause great stress and impact quality of life significantly in a woman’s life. Specific probiotics strains, Lactobacillus plantarum and rhamnoses, have been shown to reduce these symptoms for some women.
As with any supplement, it’s important to check with a licensed health professional to evaluate what’s the right supplement for you, or to reduce a specific symptom. You also want to use high-quality, third-party tested probiotic strains. Yes, we need more high-quality studies about how probiotics can help women’s health in general and more importantly, for specific conditions. No supplement will replace eating high-quality foods, prioritising, and getting sleep, exercising and weight training and finding social and mental support through the fluctuations of life as a woman. Probiotics offer an easy, low-risk hack that may help you feel better through the process.
Nishta Saxena, MSc, RD