The Effectiveness of Probiotics for Vaginal Health
According to the Merck Manual, vaginal infections including bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections account for over 10 million physician visits each year. Many, if not most, women will resort to over-the-counter drugs as treatment for their vaginal infections but will find that these are often ineffective in the sense that their symptoms recur over and over again.
The reason: Their vaginal infections are more likely caused by an imbalance of the fauna (i.e., good and bad bacteria) in their digestive and/or reproductive systems. The said imbalance must first be addressed before any over-the-counter and prescribed drugs can be effective, if these are needed at all.
What Are Probiotics?
Before we can understand the role of probiotics in the effective treatment of vaginal infection and the maintenance of vaginal health, we must first understand probiotics. These are live microorganisms in the form of bacteria and yeasts that ward off the harmful effects of other types of bacteria and prevent the overgrowth of yeasts in the digestive (i.e., intestines) and reproductive (i.e., vagina) systems. Probiotics are usually added to yogurt with the most common and most beneficial strain being Bifidobacterium infantis.
What Are Vaginal Infections?
Vaginal infections are usually caused by imbalances in the fragile ecosystem of the vagina, which may start either in the digestive system or in the reproductive system itself. It must be noted that the vagina has a fragile ecosystem wherein a wide variety of yeasts, bacteria and other natural fauna co-exist.
The causes for imbalance in the vagina’s ecosystem include use of antibiotics and contraceptives; changes in hormone levels (i.e., pregnancy and hormone therapy); increase in stress levels; and sexual intercourse. In many instances, two or more causes will lead to vaginal infections, including yeast infections.
There are three types of vaginal infections: (The ranking is loosely translated from mild to severe but individual cases will widely vary)
• Yeast infections are caused by overgrowth of yeast. Symptoms include thick, white and clumpy discharge; itching and burning; and swelling of the genitals.
• Bacterial vaginosis is caused by overgrowth of bacteria. Symptoms include cloudy discharge, skin irritation and itching in the genitals.
• Trichomoniasis is a sexually-transmitted disease. Symptoms include greenish yellow discharge; pain during urination; and soreness and itching.
In all cases, medical consultation is a must for effective treatment especially bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis.
What Is the Relationship Between the Two?
It’s simple: Probiotics can assist in the restoration of the healthy balance between good and bad bacteria as well as in the avoidance of yeast overgrowth in the digestive system and/or reproductive system. The maintenance of healthy fauna in the digestive system is important because yeast overgrowth here can spread to the reproductive system.
The use of probiotics in the effective treatment of vaginal infections is done in two ways. First, drink probiotics-enriched food like plain yogurt. Second, use yogurt as a vaginal wash. It also important to continue drinking plain yogurt even after the symptoms has passed away. Maintenance is the key here.