What are the benefits of probiotics?
Probiotics are regarded as live bacteria that are able to provide health benefits to the host. They are ingested through foods or supplements and are known to adhere to the bowel wall.
Many of us are aware of the benefits of probiotics in the bowel, but we now know that certain strains of probiotics taken orally are able to survive the gastro-intestinal tract and ascend into the vagina from the rectum.
What are different types of probiotic foods?
If you are looking for foods that contain probiotics or assist in the production of ‘good’ bacteria you won’t have to look far. Here are some but certainly not all of the best probiotic foods:
- Yoghurt: Many of the yoghurts you buy at the supermarket contain probiotics. Read the label and if you see that the yoghurt contains live cultures, then that means it contains probiotics
- Sauerkraut and other fermented foods: Fermented foods are high in organic acid, which supports the growth of good bacteria. Kombucha and natto (fermented soybeans) are also a good source
- Apple cider vinegar
- Brine cured olives
- Cottage cheese
If you aren’t sure whether you’re getting enough probiotics through foods you can also supplement your intake.
How probiotics contribute to a healthy vaginal balance
Vaginal infections can occur when the dominant bacteria in the vagina, Lactobacilli
, become overtaken by other bacteria or fungal micro-organisms. Common predisposing factors that can alter the vaginal flora include:
- Certain medications
- Increased hormone levels
- Poor immunity
- New sexual partners
Healthy vaginal flora, dominated by Lactobacilli
, act as a first line of defence preventing infectious agents from causing damage. Probiotics, particularly Lactobacilli
in the vagina, are believed to work in the following ways:
- Production of lactic acid, keeping the vaginal environment acidic. The acid environment makes it difficult for ‘bad’ bugs to grow
- Production of hydrogen peroxide by Lactobacilli makes a harsh environment for a nasty micro-organism, decreasing the likelihood of them thriving
- Lactobacilli can prevent other organisms from attaching to the vaginal wall and taking hold. It can also compete with and displace other micro-organisms that have already adhered to the vaginal wall
- Probiotics are also thought to stimulate the host’s immune system and activate cells to kill off ‘bad’ micro-organisms
Keep your vaginal flora in check
Here are some ways to prevent vaginal infection and encourage healthy vaginal flora:
- Choose underwear made from natural fibres which are able to breath. This helps to prevent fungus from thriving
- Avoid perfumed products such as feminine deodorant sprays, soap and toilet paper, as they can alter the flora in the vagina
- Wipe from front to back when going to the toilet, as this may help to prevent the spread of micro-organisms from the anus
Did you know?
There are more than 80 species of Lactobacilli
that live in the bowel and vagina!
Read more about Womens’ health.
References available on request