We've all heard the mention of probiotics if no the raving or doctor recommendation to for probiotic use. But what's all the hype?
Probiotics are trending and there is no end to the trend in sight as their list of superpowers continues to grow!
So let's jump in! These beneficial bacteria are scientifically proven to benefit, support, and maintain help support a healthy microbiome. A microbiome is the delicate balance of bacteria and other microorganisms in the body, a healthy microbiome is a major and important contributor to your overall health. Yes, probiotics help support gut health, but they do so much more than that! Probiotics can positively influence emotional well-being: mood, behavior, and even stress response. But don't think that's where the list stops!
For women, in particular, probiotics come with a specific set of perks. For starters, women tend to be affected by digestive issues more than men, so keeping this balance of bacteria happy is important. Not to mention, probiotics can have an impact on vaginal health (among so many other valuable benefits of probiotics for women). So much so, that probiotics are becoming a popular recommendation from Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialists.
Why women should consider taking a probiotic.
A healthy microbiome supports overall health in many ways, but unfortunately, there are many things that can disrupt the peace within this little ecosystem: Chronic stress (which we ladies are all familiar with), excess sugar, and processed foods can throw the microbiome out of whack. Bacterial infections, parasites, and yeast (not the good kind) can also wreak havoc, although, (full circle) keeping your microbiome healthy and happy can help prevent infections. Isn't that neat?!
That might make you think, if I get an infection, I'll just take an antibiotic. No! Although antibiotics are sometimes necessary to wipe out bad bacteria, antibiotics also mess with your good bacteria - especially those in your microbiome. Taking one course of antibiotics can disrupt your gut flora for up to twelve months!
While men and women are all susceptible to an imbalanced gut, it is an important subject to be on a woman's mind. Women report higher levels of stress than men, are more likely to be prescribed antibiotics and are more likely to suffer from gastrointestinal issues. Not to mention, our vaginal health. The vagina is home to its own delicate microbiome that needs love and care.
The benefits of probiotics for women.
When your microbiome isn't in good shape, it can lead to an assortment of different issues from GI distress to allergies to skin conditions (like acne and eczema) to hormonal imbalances, to vaginal infections, and more. Not to mention all the symptoms and side effects those issues may cause for someone (ie. weight gain, appetite changes, stress, depression, etc).
How to choose a probiotic for women.
Different strains have been studied for different applications, so choosing a probiotic supplement that is targeted to your specific needs is important in order to address the issues you are hoping to have addressed.
While the list of ingredients found on the back of a probiotic supplement can seem confusing or overwhelming, a diverse probiotic will likely contain Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria (and various species within each of those strains, like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis). The quality and quantity of a probiotic supplement should also be involved in your decision. Quality-wise, to make sure a probiotic contains what it says it does—and that those live bacteria actually make it from production to your intestines without dying off—look for professional brands that undergo third-party testing.
And when it comes to quantity, look for a product in the billions of CFUs (or colony-forming units). Probiotics often range from 5 to 100 billion, and you should start on the lower end and increase as they're tolerated (it's also worth noting that the more gut damage has been done, the more CFUs you might need in the appropriate setting).
If you're taking a probiotic for general health, try starting with 20 to 55 billion CFUs (ideally containing both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains). And if you're looking for a probiotic to address your issues, consider talking to an integrative or functional medicine doctor or health care professional. They may be able to point you in the direction of which probiotic for women is best for you.
***If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.***