Probiotics and Women’s Health

Probiotics and Women’s Health

By: Lindsey Gardiner, Physician Assistant Student, Case Western Reserve University

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are bacteria and yeast that are good for your health! Bacteria often gets a bad reputation for causing diseases and infections, but our bodies actually depend on millions of bacterial cells for normal functioning.  Our digestive system, for example, is lined with a delicate balance of bacteria to aide in digestion and nutrient absorption.

The two most common types of probiotics are Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.  Both of these are naturally found in many dairy and fermented food products, such as yogurt, cottage cheese, and pickled vegetables.  There are also numerous probiotic supplements available.

Are they beneficial?

YES! There is an ever growing amount of research that shows numerous benefits of probiotics.  One of the most well-known benefits of probiotics is aiding in digestion. Probiotics can help prevent diarrhea, constipation, and help with the absorption of nutrients.  It is thought that probiotics balance the bacterial flora in the gut to regulate more normal bowel movements.

But wait, there is more! Newer research is showing that probiotics can also be beneficial for the vaginal and urinary systems.  The awesome good bacteria can migrate from the colon to the vagina and urinary system due to the close proximity of the structures.  In the vagina, the probiotics produce lactic acid which creates a more acidic environment. This acidic environment serves as a protective barrier to help prevent infectious bacteria or yeast from invading the vagina.   The probiotics also help to restore and maintain the normal bacterial flora of the vagina to provide additional protective measures against infections.

In the urinary system, probiotics are frequently used to help prevent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).  By normalizing the bacterial flora of the gut and the vagina, the pathogens that cause UTIs have a harder time making their way into the urinary tract.

Other reported benefits include boosting the immune system, and relieving symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel syndrome, eczema and other skin conditions, and oral health issues.

Can I take Antibiotics and Probiotics?

Yes! However, make sure that the antibiotic and probiotic are taken at least 2 hours apart.  If the antibiotic is taken at the same time as the probiotic the good bacteria from the probiotic will get killed by the antibiotic.  Antibiotics generally do not discriminate between killing the bad bacteria and the good bacteria, so taking a probiotic while on antibiotics may be beneficial in replacing the good bacteria.

Lindsey Gardiner is a physician assistant student spending time with us at our Richfield office.