Burning in Pelvic Area - Do Probiotics Improve Vaginal Health?
Supplementing with probiotic formulas is an effective way of boosting your digestive health and your immune function. Probiotics describe a strain of bacteria occurring in some foods and supplements. Without the right bacterial balance in your gut, you start to experience issues with digestion.
Probiotics help to balance the bacteria in your digestive system. However, there is recent research that shows consuming probiotic supplements may help with improving vaginal health as well. The science is still far from conclusive, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting it could be useful.
Research on the probiotic strain, L. acidophilus, shows that it can help to treat and prevent vaginal bacterial imbalances. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is an example of a condition that occurs due to bacterial imbalance in the vagina.
Could probiotics be the answer we’ve been looking for to improve female sexual health?
The Amazing World of the Microbiome
It might surprise you to learn that you have more than 50-species of micro-organisms living in your vagina. Most of these microbes are healthy bacteria called “lactobacilli.”
When the other bacteria start to outnumber the lactobacilli, you’ll begin to experience changes in your vaginal health. You might notice a burning in your pelvic area, itching, and female dryness.
There are several reasons why you might experience the onset of a bacterial imbalance.
- Having unprotected sex with a female or male partner
- Changes in hormone levels due to menopause
- Ovulation and menstruation
- Failure to maintain adequate hygiene habits
- Douching the vagina
- Allergies to certain lubricant products
When a vaginal bacterial imbalance occurs, you’ll notice the following symptoms.
- A fishy odor emanating from your vagina that’s worse after sex
- A white/yellow discharge
- Itching of the labia and the vaginal walls
- A burning sensation when you pee
- Vaginal discomfort during menopause
Get Your Gut Back in Balance
Medical professionals state that there is no conclusive, peer-reviewed scientific evidence showing the advantages of using probiotics and the effects on vaginal health. The only recommended course of treatment for restoring your bacterial balance is prescription antibiotics.
However, adding probiotics to your antibiotic therapy helps your vagina recover faster from the imbalance. Repetitive use of a probiotic formula can help prevent the problem from reoccurring.
What Is the Evidence Supporting These Claims?
There is some scientific evidence suggesting the probiotic compounds in yogurt, fermented foods, and vaginal suppositories help to treat and prevent bacterial imbalance in the vagina.
A 1996 study has women consuming Greek yogurt containing lactobacillus acidophilus. The results show more significant concentrations of this bacteria in their vagina than those women who didn’t eat the yogurt.
Women who ate the yogurt were also less likely to experience the onset of bacterial vaginosis. Therefore, we can assume from the results that consuming probiotic foods has a positive effect on boosting the presence of lactobacillus bacteria in the vagina. It’s important to note that this research has no peer-reviewed backing.
Numerous smaller studies show the positive effects of adding probiotic capsules containing strains of lactobacillus bacteria to your diet. These supplements are a one-a-day treatment, and supposedly increase the presence of good bacteria in the gut.
A small-scale study shows that a small group of women with BV received antibiotic treatment for BV for 7-days. The other half of the group received a probiotic alongside the antibiotic for 30-days. At the end of the 30-day treatment, 90% of the women receiving the antibiotic with probiotic treatment beat the BV.
In contrast, in the group only receiving antibiotic treatment, the cure rate was only 40% after 30-days.
Another small-scale study shows 42 healthy women, taking a probiotic only to cure BV. The treatment was a success. Researchers found that 57% of the women using a lactobacillus vaginal suppository, cured the BV.
The research on the use of probiotics to treat BV and other bacterial imbalances is limited. There is no peer-reviewed research to back up any of this evidence. However, the anecdotal evidence clearly shows the advantage of adding probiotics into BV treatment.
What are the Best Probiotic Strains for Vaginal Health?
Lactobacillus acidophilus is the most-studied strain of probiotics regarding maintaining vaginal bacterial balance. Other strains that show a beneficial impact on vaginal health include lactobacillus reuteri and lactobacillus rhamnosus.
Medical experts believe that these bacterial cling to the walls of the vagina, making it challenging for the harmful strains to colonize the vagina. Lactobacillus might also combine with the harmful bacteria, preventing spread in the vagina.
We recommend that you look at getting more beneficial bacteria into your system using whole foods. Consuming probiotic foods like cultured dairy and fermented foods like kimchi helps to boost your Lactobacillus bacteria levels naturally.
Supplements are useful, but you need to ensure you’re eating a healthy diet. If you consume sugar, alcohol, and processed foods in your diet, taking a probiotic supplement isn’t going to make much difference to your gut health.
Look at including fruits and vegetables containing prebiotic fiber in your meals. Fruits like papaya and fermented foods like sauerkraut are the favorite nutrition for your lactobacillus bacteria.
When Should You See Your Doctor?
When BV presents symptoms, they can be anything from mild to severe. Each case is different and requires an individual approach to handling the condition.
Women who experience mild symptoms may find the situation resolves on its own over a few weeks. However, if you notice your symptoms escalating, it’s time to book an appointment with your doctor for a consultation.
BV and yeast infections can lead to the onset of pelvic inflammatory disorder if you don’t receive the treatment you need. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you need to treat the situation as an emergency and seek immediate medical assistance.
- Pain on your lower-back or sides
- A fever
- Nausea and vomiting
The scientific community needs to invest more in the research of probiotics and its effects on vaginal health. We will only have anecdotal evidence on this treatment for vaginal health until we see conclusive, peer-reviewed studies on the subject.