Most of us think probiotics are targeted only to help with digestive issues, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Supplementing with the right probiotic can have a whole-body impact, especially for women.
Pro is Latin for “promoting,” and biotic is Greek for “life.” It’s the perfect description of the role probiotics play in your health. Probiotics are the good bacteria that line your digestive system, though they aren’t limited to your gut. You can find different types of these microbes all over your body, from your skin to your brain.
Probiotics play an important role in your body’s overall vitality by helping to promote the growth of good bacteria over the bad strains. This aids in the maintenance of regular digestion, cognitive functioning, and promotion of immune system responses.
Keynote: Your gut hosts approximately 80% of the immune cells in your body, which suggests that the quality of the bacteria in your stomach may be connected to the overall quality of your immune system responses.
If you're a woman looking to boost your health in a myriad of ways, we've listed three major benefits of taking probiotic supplements:
Yeast grows naturally throughout our bodies, but when bad bacteria begin to overwhelm our system, infections are more likely to arise. Keeping your microbiome balanced with the right bacteria will help prevent yeast infections from coming back or getting worse.
That said, initial studies have shown the promise of using probiotics for women to help prevent, and possibly even treat, vaginal yeast infections.
That bloated feeling right before your period? You might be able to mitigate it with a good probiotic, which has been shown to help combat digestive bloating and gas. They may even help improve mood.
Even more importantly, a women's probiotic that targets candida yeast overgrowths can help maintain normal hormone levels during your period. When candida overwhelms your system, its waste sends out signals that your body is producing more estrogen than it really is.
This can lead to hormone imbalances that can worsen symptoms of PMS.
Studies are beginning to suggest that a daily probiotic supplement for vaginal health might help balance good and bad vaginal bacteria. One lab study found that the strain of Lactobacilli found in women who don't suffer from UTIs can effectively slow the growth of E.coli.
Other studies found that women who suffer from frequent UTIs were able to mitigate their symptoms with the right probiotic supplement.
Assuming All Supplements Are the Same
Sometimes, it’s easiest to simply go to our local drug store and pick out the first supplement we see. With probiotic supplements for women, however, this can be detrimental to the results we’re hoping for. Each brand is different and offers varying strains, and frighteningly, some include unhelpful fillers and additives.
That’s why it’s crucial to take the time to research your options.
Not Setting a Goal
Before researching, however, it’s important to know what you want to get out of your probiotic supplement. Helpful gut bacteria can promote dozens of regular functions, from digestive to cognitive health and, as we mentioned, female health.
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We recommend knowing exactly which results you’re looking for before moving on to research.
Being Unfamiliar With Strains
Now that you have a goal, you’ll also want to know which strains can help you reach it. Do you need help digesting lactose? You may want to look for strains from the Bifido and Lactobacillus families.
Hoping to support your oral health? L. reuteri could be a beneficial strain for you.
Fellow customers will sometimes have some insightful feedback, so it’s important to check the reviews for the products you’ve narrowed down. Try to find reviews on multiple websites and note the feedback that you find most meaningful.
Word-of-mouth suggestions are also valuable, as is feedback from your doctor.
There are hundreds of probiotic blends on the market that claim to promote digestive health, but also sneak in cheap and unhelpful fillers. If the ingredient list includes artificial colors, hydrogenated oils, magnesium stearate, or titanium dioxide, run the other way.
These fillers can do anything from blocking the absorption of nutrients to affecting your immune system’s normal functions.
As we mentioned above, many new probiotic users often skip this critical step. It’s easy to assume that any probiotic is a good probiotic, and although that’s partially true, many strains specialize in specific areas of the body, and some brands may not be the highest quality available.
Keynote: When stating the name of a probiotic, the genus comes first, then the specific strain. Take, for example, lactobacillus rhamnosus. The genus is lactobacillus, while the strain is rhamnosus. You’ll usually see the first letter of the genus, followed by the full name of the strain: L. rhamnosus.
Here are a few of the most common strains and what they can do for you:
L. acidophilus: This strain of lactobacillus is essential to the maintenance of digestive health. After colonizing the walls of the small intestine, it will begin supporting nutrient absorption and helping with the digestion of dairy foods.
L. rhamnosus: Make sure to include this strain when you travel. It’ll help promote the healthy digestion of new types of foods.
L. plantarum: This strain is especially useful for expectant mothers who want to ensure that their future newborn gets the right probiotics during birth.
The Bottom Line
Choosing a new supplement can sometimes be complicated, but with the right research, you can quickly reap the benefits of healthy bacteria. By talking to your doctor and taking the time to select the best supplement, you could greatly benefit your overall health.