When you hear the word “bacteria,” you might immediately think of cold and flu season, infections and illnesses. While it’s true bacteria have a hand in making you sick, it’s important to remember that there are millions of strains of microorganisms, and many of them are actually beneficial to your health, like probiotics.
Probiotics are necessary for maintaining health and wellness throughout your entire body. Women in particular benefit from taking probiotics due to the natural changes their bodies experience over the course of a lifetime and the way these changes can disrupt the microbial balance that keeps women healthy.
What are probiotics?
Trillions of single-celled organisms live inside your body and on your skin—and many of these reside in your colon in a delicately balanced ecosystem of bacteria, yeast and fungi. Some of the most important components of this ecosystem are probiotics, or “good” bacteria and yeast. Probiotics are necessary for maintaining health and balance inside the gut and throughout the body.
You are born with many strains of probiotics and are able to introduce more through your diet, like in yogurt or fermented foods. However, this isn’t always enough to keep your body in balance. Antibiotics, health changes, the introduction of a bad bacterium or virus or many other external factors can throw your microbial balance out of whack, leading to health problems.
Since the body is interconnected, the microbiota present in your gut help maintain proper digestion, immunity, mood, skin health, oral health and much more. They can also help maintain healthy balance of the vagina.
Taking probiotics can help regulate imbalances throughout the body. As the bacteria pass through the gut, the microbial ecosystems present in other areas of the body are also balanced.
There are two major groups of probiotics: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Within each group, there are various strains of bacteria that are particularly beneficial for certain parts of your body. For example, Lactobacillus acidophilus supports vaginal and intestinal health, while Bifidobacterium longum is well-known for its ability to regulate constipation and bolster brain function.
Therefore, when choosing a probiotic supplement, you should investigate the strains of bacteria included in the supplement and whether those bacteria can help improve your symptoms.
Why women need probiotics
While some probiotics are marketed toward both men and women of any age, others that are more specifically designed for women may be able to provide additional assistance where general probiotics are lacking, particularly with the female-specific health challenges women face throughout their lives. Probiotic supplements can help bolster your health at the life stages you need them the most:
- Puberty: Teenage girls enduring puberty are very likely to encounter a variety of health concerns, including gut discomfort, skin irritation and blemishes, stress and diet imbalance. These factors can both cause and be worsened by a lack of good bacteria.
- Pregnancy: During pregnancy, hormonal shifts can cause uncomfortable bodily symptoms, such as vaginal infections, digestive issues and acne. Additionally, pregnant mothers need to focus on maintaining or improving their health and immunity to support their child’s development.
- Menopause: Hormonal changes during and after menopause are known to cause urinary discomfort and vaginal imbalances. Additionally, the diversity of Bifidobacterium is likely to decrease after menopause, which opens the door for additional imbalances.
Additionally, probiotics are instrumental in regulating the health of one of the most delicate and unique systems in the female body: the vagina. Lactobacilli make up the majority of the microbial ecosystem in the vagina. Because this vaginal ecosystem can be disrupted quite easily by other health and external factors, it’s important to find ways to regulate this ecosystem and keep the microbiota present in balance through probiotics.
Adding vitamins to probiotic formulas
Many probiotics on the market today include a variety of bacterial strains to promote microbial balance and soothe numerous health issues. In addition to the bacteria, probiotic supplements may also include one or more vitamins and minerals linked to women’s health and the symptoms probiotic strains are intended to rectify.
- Vitamin C can contribute to the clearing and elasticity of the skin.
- Vitamin D can bolster the immune system.
- Vitamin B6 supports hormonal activity regulation.
- Folate is beneficial during pregnancy for optimal fetal development.
- Cranberry can aid in the proper function of the urinary tract.
- Prebiotics, or types of fiber that act as food for the probiotic bacteria, help bolster the probiotics and make them stronger inside the body.
Turn to probiotics for optimal health
Because we live in a world full of antibiotic remedies and processed foods, the microbial ecosystems in our guts are imbalanced and lacking in healthy bacteria, causing a myriad of health problems. When the gut’s microbial ecosystem is in balance, the rest of the body will follow suit.