There's no doubt you've heard they hype about probiotics - these miraculous living things that purportedly boost your gut health and keep your digestive tract working at full speed. Maybe you, like me, went out and stocked up on kefir, kimchi, kombucha and other various fermented foods that start with the letter 'k' in an attempt to hop on the wellness fad and supercharge your health.
Probiotics and gut health have practically become synonymous in the past few years, but turns out probiotics can significantly boost your vaginal wellness too. In fact, adding a probiotic to your daily wellness routine may be one the easiest ways to keep your vaginal flora in tip top shape. If your curious about introducing probiotics to your diet, keep reading to discover why they're so essential to keeping your body in dynamic balance.
Probiotics are living microorganisms, specifically live bacteria and yeast, that help your body maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria within various microbiomes in your body. Like we said above, you've probably heard about probiotics in relation to your gut and digestive tract - these lil superstars have become famous within the wellness community for their role in aiding digestion, promoting the health of your digestive tract's cell lining, mitigating inflammation and supporting your overall immunity.
To put it super simply - your body is full of billions of various strains of good and bad bacteria, and probiotics prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria (known as pathogens) from throwing your body's system out of balance.
Probiotics live in various microbiomes, which is a community of microorganisms living synergistically at different sites on or in the human body. Your gut, mouth, vagina, urinary tract, skin and lungs are all home to specific, highly organized microbiomes.
Like we mentioned above, the overarching benefit of taking probiotics is to keep bad bacteria in check. When your microbiome gets thrown off balance and bad bacteria takes over, a range of negative side effects can likely ensue. Diarrhea, constipation, yeast infections, thrush, bacterial vaginosis, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, eczema, the common cold, ear infections, sinusitis and sepsis are all the result of an overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
By keeping your bacteria balanced, you'll keep infections at bay and support your overall wellness.
Your vaginal microbiome is home to billions of microbes, with approximately 580 different bacterial strains. Like your gut, your vaginal microbiome works around the clock to keep these billions of microbes in pristine balance, but hormonal fluctuations and environmental changes can often throw things out of whack. Probiotics work to maintain the pH level of the vagina, which ensures a hospitable environment for healthy bacteria to thrive and flourish.
The most important bacterial strain for your vagina is called lactobacillus, which composes approximately 80% of the bacterial strains in the vaginal flora. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) and thrush are two examples of "bad" bacteria taking over the "good" lactobacillus bacteria and thus causing an imbalanced vaginal microbiome.
Studies have shown that taking probiotics can prevent these infections altogether and improve symptoms for those who have an active yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. We like to think of probiotics as the easiest preventative care for your vaginal wellness. Instead of using probiotics as a cure to infections, treat them as a part of your daily wellness regimen to prevent infections and imbalances in the first place.
You can take probiotics through dietary supplements that were specifically created to deliver a significant amount of beneficial bacterial strains to your system (see: bac it up, the newest addition to the ohne family). Probiotic supplements make it easy to introduce a large, concentrated dose of the exact bacterial strains your body needs to work properly. When looking for a probiotic, it's important to know what to look for as not every probiotic is made equal. As mentioned above, your vagina's microbiome is largely made of lactobacillus strains, which is why our bac it up probiotics have been specifically formulated with five of the most important lactobacillus strains your vaginal flora needs to stay balanced: lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus crispatus, lactobacillus gasseri, lactobacillus plantarum and lactobacillus rhamnosus.
You can also consume probiotics naturally by introducing specific foods to your diet. Fermented foods like yoghurt, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, kombucha and kefir are probiotic-rich foods that can help boost your health. But remember: balance is key. It's important to treat probiotics as a beneficial supplement to a healthy diet.
In short: if your body is running smoothly, you can be sure the probiotics are working. Absence of infections, no vaginal itchiness or foul odour, smooth and regular digestion, reduced bloating and gas, clear skin, improved mood and a boost in energy are all tell-tale signs that the probiotics you're taking are working.
Do keep in mind that taking probiotics is not an overnight quick fix - it's best to wait one or two months to evaluate how you feel and assess the efficacy of the probiotics you've been taking. Another tip: consistency is your friend. Taking probiotics as a part of your daily routine will help boost the benefits of these hard-working bacteria.
In general, probiotics are considered incredibly safe and won't likely cause any side effects. However, there have been reports of people experiencing short-term side effects after first introducing probiotics to their diet, the most common being a temporary increase in gas and bloating as the microbiome adjusts to the new bacteria being introduced. Other potential short-term symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, headaches or constipation. But again - experiencing these side effects is a rare exception to the case, and these short-term symptoms should subside within a week or so of first introducing probiotics to your diet.
As always - if you have a serious health condition, are pregnant, or are worried about potential allergic reactions, it's best to seek your professional medical advice before introducing anything new to your diet.
Image credit: @naomi.native