Regardless of gender, every human has a complex microbiome teeming with trillions of microorganisms that affects everything from mood to digestion. However, there are some intriguing ways in which the gut microbiota of women and men differ—particularly when that delicate ecosystem gets disrupted.
Stress is a common culprit of poor gut health, and research has shown that women are statistically more stressed than men. Add in the biological fact that vaginas have a microbiome all their own, and it's no surprise that probiotics have become a go-to for many women seeking to restore balance and improve their overall health.
How Probiotics Affect Women
Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed in the right amounts, can confer a number of health benefits. They're often referred to as "good" or "helpful" bacteria because they crowd out harmful bacteria in the gut and support a healthy immune system.
There are different types of probiotics, and each strain offers its own unique set of benefits for specific areas of the body. Some common strains include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Probiotics are available in supplement form, but they can also be found in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
While probiotics are beneficial for everyone, there is some evidence to suggest that they may be particularly helpful for women. For starters, women are more likely to be affected by digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome, which can be prevented and alleviated with probiotics.
Women also are reportedly prescribed antibiotics at a higher rate than men, which can wreak havoc on gut health in addition to stress, poor diet, and bacterial infections.
Because probiotics support both gut and vaginal health, they can be helpful in treating and preventing a number of issues specific to women.
Benefits of probiotics for women
There are many different benefits of probiotics for women. Here are some of the most well-documented ones.
They support vaginal health
The vagina is home to a complex and ever-changing ecosystem of bacteria, many of which are beneficial. These good bacteria help to keep the pH level balanced, preventing the overgrowth of harmful yeast and bacteria.
Probiotics can help to maintain this delicate balance by restoring levels of good bacteria that may be low due to antibiotics or other factors. In doing so, they can help to treat and prevent vaginal infections like yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis (BV).
Some probiotics (particularly the Lactobacillus crispatus strain) may reduce the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs).
They improve gut health
Gut health is critical to overall health, and probiotics are a key player in maintaining a healthy gut. Probiotics crowd out harmful bacteria and support digestion, both of which are essential for a balanced microbiome.
In addition, probiotics can help to increase the levels of good bacteria in the gut, which is important for digestion, nutrient absorption, and more. Probiotics have also been shown to improve symptoms of digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Women tend to suffer from these GI conditions more than men because it's believed that their GI systems operate at a slower level, which increases the risk for inflammation. Probiotics can help to reduce inflammation and improve gut health in women with these conditions.
They may help to manage skin conditions
The gut-skin connection is well-documented, and probiotics may be a helpful tool in treating and preventing skin conditions.
Acne, allergic inflammation, eczema, and hypersensitivity reactions have all been linked to gut health, and probiotics can help to improve these conditions by reducing inflammation. Research even shows that women with eczema have a reduced likelihood of passing it to their child if they take probiotics during their pregnancy.
In addition, probiotics may help to protect the skin from damage caused by UV radiation and even promote wound healing.
They may aid in weight loss
Probiotics seem to have an effective impact on weight management, especially in women. One study found that over the course of 12 weeks, a group of overweight women who took a probiotic lost more weight than a group of overweight women who did not. Those same women also continued to lose weight following the study.
This is because probiotics increase leptin levels, a hormone that suppresses appetite. Those researchers did not see the same changes in men, for reasons still unknown.
To sum it up
Probiotics offer a wide range of benefits for women specifically. From supporting vaginal health to aiding in weight loss, these friendly bacteria can have a major impact on a woman's overall health. If you're looking to improve the way you look and feel, incorporating probiotics into your diet is a good place to start.
What are the signs you need a probiotic?
Your body sends a lot of signals when something is out of whack and needs to be addressed. Here are some potential signs that you could benefit from probiotics:
- Chronic stomach and digestive issues like gas, bloating, constipation, heartburn, and diarrhea
- Significant changes in weight that happen without you making intentional shifts to your diet or exercise
- Poor sleep, chronic fatigue, or insomnia
- Eczema and other skin irritations
- Food intolerances that cause bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea
What is the best probiotic for women’s vagina?
The strain Lactobacillus acidophilus helps to maintain the pH balance in the vagina, which is important for preventing infections. More research is needed, but this strain may also help to reduce the risk of BV.
Should a woman take probiotics daily?
Yes, it’s generally recommended that people take probiotics daily in order to receive the supplement's full benefits and restore balance in the gut.
It's also good to note that some people experience mildly discomforting symptoms like bloating, gas, and diarrhea when they first start taking probiotics. These side effects are usually temporary as your gut adjusts to the new supplement. Start with a low dose and gradually increase your intake to mitigate any discomfort.