Everywhere you turn you’ll find articles, videos, and memes about the power of probiotics. Probiotics have been touted as the next line of medicine for mental health issues, the solution to chronic inflammation, and might even ramp up your metabolism. Are they really all they’re cracked up to be? Could they really help with all of those health issues?
In a nutshell… it looks like they just might! Plus, it looks like they’re an important addition to our collective diet. For women, they might be even more important.
It’s hard to find a bigger ally for our reproductive health than probiotics. The bacteria in the gut play a surprisingly important role in hormone balance, vaginal health, and can help prevent/reduce UTIs.
Today, with fertility issues and hormonal imbalances at a very high rate, it seems almost too simple that taking a high-quality probiotic supplement could be so effective. But our gut bacteria have been under assault for decades. The over-prescribing of antibiotics and the antibiotic residue found in conventional meats is a huge problem. Our very clean water and great sanitation have both played a role in reducing the strength and diversity of our inner ecosystem. Add that to a high-stress lifestyle and a reliance on processed fast food, and you’ll have a microbiome that is crying out for some support.
For women, this imbalance may be playing a bigger role than for men. Here are three ways probiotics are particularly important for women.
1. Our gut bacteria can help to balance our hormones
When we think about hormone balance, we don’t automatically consider gut bacteria—but we should! Our inner microbes play an important role in balancing many of our hormones, including estrogen and thyroid hormones.
Many PMS symptoms are due to an imbalance of estrogen and it’s usually due to too much estrogen in our system.
When the body is done with excess estrogen, it sends it through the digestive system for disposal. Sometimes that estrogen can be reabsorbed through the intestinal wall and brought back into our body. This is where good bacteria help out.
Certain strains of good bacteria will trap this excess estrogen so it continues along its journey out of the body. It stops the estrogen from being reabsorbed, so the body keeps the balance it was hoping for.
Flora’s Women’s Care Probiotic contains a few important strains of these hormone-balancing good bacteria.*
2. Supports vaginal health (and reduces yeast infections and BV)
The vaginal canal hosts its own smaller microbiome, and its health mirrors your gut microbiome. When one is in balance, so is the other.
A healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina keeps the area slightly acidic which helps to kill off nasty bacteria and yeast that, if they overgrow, could create a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis (similar to a yeast infection, but bacteria-based).
Antibiotics, prescription hormones (like the birth control pill), and some spermicides can wreak havoc on our vaginal microflora. Daily probiotic supplements can help to keep our vaginal flora happy and healthy.
3. Pregnant women seed their baby’s gut with their vaginal bacteria
Babies are fully sterile until they pass through the vaginal canal on their way out into the world and get covered in their mother’s bacteria. These bacteria seed their gut and help grow the diverse and beautiful inner ecosystem that’s so important for our health.
Bonus: gut bacteria are in breast milk too! The body knows how important good bacteria are for babies so during the third trimester, it does something pretty darn remarkable. Our immune system takes some bacteria from the colon, moves it through the bloodstream, and places it into the milk ducts. Now, the mother’s milk is also a probiotic supplement.
Research has found that the right strains of supplemental bacteria can help seed the baby’s gut with the right bacteria and help reduce any bacterial imbalances in the mother. This is especially important if the mother needs a C-Section. These strains of bacteria can reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea following the operation…a symptom most of us would like to reduce following abdominal surgery<1>.
Now that you know that a high-quality probiotic supplement is a cornerstone to our hormonal/vaginal health, the big question is which one?
First of all, use the probiotic supplement that works for you. For women’s health, I love Flora’s shelf-stable Women’s Care Probiotic. It was specifically formulated to include good bacteria that help to balance hormones and protect the vaginal microflora.*
Flora also has a shelf-stable Pregnancy Care Probiotic that was specifically formulated for that wonderful time right before giving birth. It will help balance the vaginal flora to inoculate the baby and help to reduce digestive distress following a C-section.*
It’s time to add some good bacteria to our daily health regimen! Our gut, hormones, and our vaginal canal will thank us!
<1> Chayka, V., et al. 2006. Prevention of disbacteriosis in pregnant and women recently confined with surgical delivery. News of Medicine and Pharmacy 19: 14-15
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.