Probiotics for Vaginal Health
Chances are, you’ve seen or read, news reports on television, magazine or social media about the benefits of probiotics. While it certainly a good idea to be skeptical about claims promising “miraculous” results, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that certain illnesses and health conditions can be treated and even prevented by regularly consuming foods or supplements containing certain strains of live bacteria – also referred to as probiotics.
About Probiotic Therapy
Starting in the 1990s, clinical research studies began to suggest that probiotic therapy could help alleviate gastrointestinal problems, curtail the development of childhood allergies, and for women, treat and prevent vaginal and urinary infections.
As the body of research data in this area continues to broaden and become more reliable and verifiable, scientists are discovering more about the role of probiotics microbes in keeping people healthy and the health benefits that can result from consuming the right type and correct level of them. Two of the most well-studied strains are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and these are the strains that most probiotic supplements include.
Probiotics are generally considered safe for most people as they already are present in a body’s normally-functioning digestive system. While probiotics are not essential for a healthy diet, as health care providers we believe there are some compelling benefits when it comes to using probiotics, especially the lactobacilli strain, for vaginal health.
Probiotics and Vaginal Health
Research evidence is showing that probiotics may be beneficial for maintaining vaginal health. The vaginal area is a finely balanced ecosystem, and disruptions can lead to microbiological imbalances and vaginosis symptoms. Disruptions can be attributed to several factors, including the use of antibiotics, spermicides, and oral contraceptives. Treatment using probiotics such as lactobacilli may help to restore the balance of microflora that helps in preventing bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and urinary tract infections.
In the past, vaginosis was considered by some doctors to be a routine annoyance, but it is now is being treated in a more serious manner due to the possibility of it contributing to conditions including pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy-related complications, and increased susceptibility to AIDS infection. While the scientific and medical research is not definitive at this time, what we do know is that in healthy vaginas, lactobacilli predominate, and a lack of lactobacilli puts a woman at a greater risk for vaginosis. In our view, vaginosis must be medically treated due to the risk it presents for pelvic inflammatory disease and pregnancy-related complications.
Probiotic Supplements for Vaginal Health
Probiotic supplements are available in powdered form, pills, and liquid. In the United States, the majority of probiotic supplements are sold under the category of dietary supplements, which are not required to undergo the testing and approval process that other drugs and medications do. In this case, manufacturers of dietary supplements are solely responsible for ensuring product safety and that any marketing claims being made on packaging or in advertisements are true. Be sure to carefully read the label and product information on any supplements before using.
As the health benefits and treatment success of probiotics are dosage and strain-specific, you may want to consult with a health care provider familiar with probiotics and their use in treatment to discuss your options, receive recommendations for reputable supplement manufacturers, and develop reasonable expectations for outcomes.
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