What Are the Best Probiotics for Women’s Health?
It appears Americans are getting introspective, but not in the way you may think. We are growing more concerned about our inner balance of microorganisms and the implications that balance has for our health.
Indeed, the demand for probiotics – live microorganisms taken in supplement form or consumed in fermented foods to help maintain or restore a healthy balance of microflora in the body – has nearly doubled over the last decade.
Many aspects of modern living, including antibiotic and birth control use, the consumption of processed foods, refined sugar, and carbohydrates, and exposure to stress and pesticides, to name a few – can disrupt this balance of microflora in our bodies – particularly in the intestinal tract.
A healthy population of beneficial microflora in the gut is essential to good health, as these good bugs create substances that have positive effects in the body and may help to boost the body’s immune response.
Probiotics offer a way to help restore microflora balance. It’s no surprise why probiotics (after vitamins and minerals) are the third most popular nutritional supplement!
And while we most often hear about probiotics in the context of promoting digestive health, the truth is they offer numerous benefits – especially for women.
Why Should Women Take Probiotics?
It turns out that there are a lot of compelling reasons women may want to take probiotics.
Let’s start by taking a look at some facts about women’s health and their concerns:
- More women suffer from gastrointestinal health issues than men.
- Women are more likely to struggle with low mood, feelings of anxiousness, and stress than men.
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common outpatient infections for women, with a lifetime incidence of 50−60% in adult women.
- Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal condition in women ages 15-44.
- Up to 75 out of 100 women have a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their life.
- More women than men die of heart health problems every year – and it’s the number one health issue killing women.
- Women are more concerned with their skin appearance than men.
- Women are more dissatisfied being overweight and more worried about weight gain than men.
Remarkably, research is indicating that probiotics may help to address every single one of these health issues.
6 Ways Probiotics Help Support Women’s Health
- Gut Health
When your gut microflora are out of whack with too few of the good bugs and too many of the harmful ones, it’s more likely to have inflammation or infection. This can damage the gut wall and create larger gaps between the gut-lining cell, making the gut lining permeable or “leaky.” A leaky gut can stimulate an immune cell response and trigger inflammation in the body, which leads to a number of health problems.
Taking probiotics can help restore balance and protect your digestive tract from harmful microflora and improve both gut function and digestion.
In terms of healthy gut function, research suggests probiotics can be helpful in easing diarrhea (related to antibiotic use), constipation, and a number of other digestive issues.
Specifically, the probiotic strain B. lactis was associated with constipation relief in one study. Additionally, research shows that the probiotic strains B. breve, B. longum, and L. acidophilus are associated with the reduction of some irritated bowel symptoms.
The strains B. breve, B. infantis, L. casei, and L. plantarum showed to be helpful with bloating. In general, a multi-strain probiotic that includes strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus is good for gut health support.
Your intestinal tract is lined with millions of neurons, which allows messages to travel back and forth between the brain and the gut. Due to this gut-brain connection, gut health and mood are closely linked.
It’s not surprising then to learn an imbalance in gut microflora and inflammation are causally linked to increased anxious feelings and low mood (which are more prevalent among women). Indeed, research shows that more than 84% of individuals with gut health issues suffer from anxious feelings and 27% low mood. Similarly, stress can cause digestive issues too.
Studies have shown that probiotics helped to mitigate mood issues similar to conventional prescription medication, although more research is needed.
- Vaginal and Urinary Tract Health
In recent years, researchers have been studying the microbiota involved in maintaining both vaginal and urinary tract health.
Studies have revealed that an abundance of different strains of Lactobacillus are associated with fewer microbial infections from bacteria and/or yeast in the vagina. Additionally, the specific Lactobacillus strains, L. rhamnosus GR-1 and L. fermentum B-54 or RC-14 showed to benefit urinary tract health, other research shows.
As declining estrogen levels are associated with higher incidences of infection in the urinary tract and vagina, probiotics may be particularly beneficial for postmenopausal women.
Although more research is needed to be conclusive about probiotics benefits for the vagina and urinary tract, it appears that a multi-strain probiotic, rich in an array of Lactobacilli, would be a good choice for supporting urogenital health.
- Skin Benefits
Similar to how the gut and brain are connected, gut health is also related to skin health. Imbalances in the gut microbiota and resulting inflammation are associated with skin health issues.
Emerging research has demonstrated that oral probiotics may help address certain skin issues, such as acne, eczema, photoaging, wound healing, and psoriasis. Although still in their initial stages, there have been studies on using probiotics topically too, with promising results. Preliminary research found a cream with B. longum lysate helped calm skin sensitivity.
- Heart Health
Probiotics may offer some very important heart health support. Although more research is needed for scientists to fully understand the connection, consuming probiotics is associated with healthier blood pressure. Certain chemicals that the gut bacteria produce appear to promote healthy blood pressure levels. Several of the most promising probiotic strains for healthy blood pressure support include L. bulgaricus, B. breve, B. longum, and S. thermophiles.
Additionally, probiotics may help reduce blood cholesterol, preliminary research has found. Healthy microbiota produce acids that counter cholesterol production. L. acidophilus and B. lactis have been the most commonly used strains to help promote healthy cholesterol. More research is needed though to more fully understand how to use probiotics in humans to support healthy cholesterol levels in the body.
- Weight Management
When researchers observed that grossly overweight individuals had less diversity in their gut microbiota, they began exploring if probiotics could help such individuals achieve a healthier weight.
While research is still in its infancy, one analysis of human studies on overweight people from 2021 found that the intake of probiotics – especially when combined with increased activity for an average of 12 weeks – showed positive effects on weight loss. Specifically, increasing strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium via probiotic supplementation was associated with achieving a healthier weight.
Probiotics for Women’s Health
The research makes a strong case for women to ensure they consume plenty of probiotic foods and/or probiotic supplements. Health experts suggest choosing multi-strain probiotics from reputable manufacturers with third-party testing for general health support.
Of course, it’s important to talk to your doctor first before taking a nutritional supplement.
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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