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I guess it was only a matter of time before the health and wellness industry created a probiotic specifically for your vagina. When you think about it, it makes sense: if you've ever had a nasty yeast infection, your GP or pharmacist will usually recommend that you take a regular probiotic alongside the medication to help rebalance your flora while the medicine does its job.
First up, what is a probiotic?
Probiotics are living microorganisms (bacteria) found within the body (think gut, mouth, skin, vagina, etc.) that help maintain or improve good bacteria's growth. Our bodies produce them naturally, and we can also consume them via a variety of foods like yogurt, fermented foods, kombucha and dietary supplements when we need to rebalance our system. Things like medication, overactive hormones, and poor immune health can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria, resulting in digestive issues and infection.
What is a vaginal probiotic?
Vaginal probiotics are similar to your usual probiotic, only geared more towards your vaginal health. Your vagina's ecosystem is a delicate balance of hormones, bacteria and acidity levels. When something disrupts it — medication, increased hormones, poor immunity and new sexual partners — the good bacteria (most of which is lactobacillus) that lives in your vagina is overrun by 'bad' bacteria. When this happens in the vagina ecosystem, in particular, you're more likely to end up with infections like bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and urinary tract infections.
How do they work?
Vaginal probiotics are typically formulated with a range of different good bacteria (like Lactobacillus gasseri (UALg-05), Lactobacillus Plantarum (UALp-05), Lactobacillus reuteri (RC-14) and Lactobacillus rhamnosus (GR-1)) that all work in different ways to help to repopulate and maintain the balance of the vaginal ecosystem.
Do they work?
While there is still some debate over the effectiveness of vaginal probiotics, some early studies have produced promising results. That said, a vaginal probiotic isn't going to prevent you from getting infections completely. It just acts as another layer of defence.
This means if you're a long-time sufferer of pesky UTIs, BV or yeast infections, incorporating one into your diet could help to balance out your vagina's flora and hopefully stave off the frequency of infections.