Most people are familiar with probiotics for gut health, but a new type of probiotics has been introduced in the market, aimed specifically to support vaginal health.
Much like your gut, your vagina is home to billions of bacteria (some good, some bad). These make up your vaginal microbiome, aka your vaginal ecosystem, aka your vaginal flora.
This vaginal microbiome can affect your ability to fight off infections like thrush and BV. It can also influence your likelihood of carrying a pregnancy to term, contracting STIs, or developing certain kinds of gynaecological cancers.
What can disrupt your vaginal microbiome?
The good bacteria in your vaginal microbiome help fight off harmful bacteria, but things like unprotected sex, hormonal fluctuations, and overuse of feminine hygiene products have the potential of disrupting your vagina’s pH (which should be between 3.8-4.5). When that happens, you’re at greater risk of developing conditions like thrush and BV.
How do vaginal probiotics work?
Although it’s an extremely new field of research, promising evidence in the past few years indicates that probiotics may be effective in supporting your vaginal microbiome.
One study showed that the vaginal microbiome in women with BV was restored after 2 months of a daily oral intake of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14, two clinically proven strains of probiotic.
Another study found that treatment with oral probiotics in combination with antibiotics resulted in a lower recurrence rate of BV, compared to antibiotic use alone.
But does that mean you have to take daily probiotics to keep your vagina healthy? Probably not, although there are a few exceptions.
Can you insert oral probiotics?
So, wait: are probiotics for vaginal use? Probiotics can be taken either as an oral supplement, or administered vaginally.
When taken orally, the bacteria need to survive the trip through the digestive system in order to reach your vaginal microbiome alive. Once the bacteria reach your vagina, they have a chance to colonise and reduce the population of bad bacteria.
Daye's ProViotics keep your vaginal microbiome healthy and balanced. You can take them vaginally if you struggle with recurring vaginal infections, but you can also take them orally as a form of maintenance.
Consider quality, not quantity
When it comes to probiotics and the ailment you’re trying to treat, it’s important to consider the specific strain of bacteria.
The most important bacteria in your vaginal microbiome are Lactobacilli. They’re responsible for creating the lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide that keeps your vaginal pH acidic, as well as preventing the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and yeasts.
Now, for a little biology class refresher. Lactobacillus is a genus (aka group) that encompasses many different species, which in turn are made of loads of different strains.
Different probiotic strains have different functions, so there’s no one-size-fits-all, and researchers seem to think that Lactobacillus acidophilus is the specific strain that could promote vaginal health – probably because it’s the most researched one.
L. rhamnosus, L. reuteri and L. plantarum are also key players, so look out for these to find the best probiotic for vaginal health.
Why should I take vaginal probiotics?
Unless you’re experiencing symptoms of BV or thrush (such as discomfort and unusual vaginal discharge) there’s no reason to believe your vaginal microbiome is unhappy, so probiotics may not actually be necessary.
Your vagina does a pretty good job at taking care of itself and doesn’t need help most of the time, but evidence suggests that vaginal probiotics could especially benefit include people who:
Of course, there are plenty other ways to maintain a healthy vaginal microbiome, like avoiding vaginal douches, practicing safe sex, and changing your tampons every 4 hours. Everyone’s body (and vaginal microbiome) is different, and probiotics don’t cause any known harm. If you suspect an infection of any kind, speak to your GP or healthcare provider.
Choose the best probiotic for vaginal health
Probiotics are likely to be more beneficial for women who are dealing with persistent, recurrent thrush or BV, but if you want to be extra sure (and are happy spending the money), there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take vaginal probiotics even if you’re not dealing with an infection.
- Your vaginal microbiome is home to good bacteria called lactobacilli. These are responsible for fighting off infections.
- Probiotics containing specific lactobacilli strains can help support the health of your vaginal microbiome.
- Although it’s a new area of research, early evidence suggests vaginal probiotics can be beneficial for those suffering from recurrent thrush and BV, or who have just finished a course of antibiotics. More research is needed.