You’ve probably heard that probiotics are good for digestion. But did you know that these healthy bacteria also play a role in vaginal health? Clinical research indicates that L. acidophilus and other probiotics can support healthy vaginal pH balance to ward off conditions such as bacterial vaginosis. Here’s what women should know about probiotics for UTIs (urinary tract infections) and related conditions.

What Is Vaginal Imbalance?

The vagina is home to more than 50 different microscopic organisms called microbes. The prominent species, lactobacilli, helps clear infection and keep the vagina healthy. If your body has a lack of lactobacilli or an overgrowth of another species, this imbalance can result in itching, discharge, discomfort and/or an unpleasant odor. An imbalance can be caused by various factors, such as antibiotic use, sexual intercourse or even a specific soap or lotion.

How Is Vaginal Imbalance Treated?

Left untreated, vaginal imbalance can lead to complications such as yeast infections, UTIs, bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis. Although your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, you can also support healthy microbial growth in the vagina by taking probiotics.

How Do Probiotics Work?

A clinical study published in 1996 found that women who ate yogurt containing probiotics had an increase in vaginal lactobacilli compared to women who did not consume probiotics. Subsequent studies supported the finding that probiotic supplementation can provide natural bacterial vaginosis prevention by maintaining the ideal pH balance. Evidence indicates the efficacy of taking a probiotic either in an oral capsule or as a vaginal suppository.

Although experts aren’t exactly sure how lactobacilli prevents infection, they believe these organisms adhere to the vaginal walls to prevent harmful strains of bacteria from spreading and growing. These microbes also create an acidic pH, which is not a hospitable environment for infection growth.

What Type of Probiotics Should I Use?

The best probiotics for vaginal health contain a significant amount of lactobacilli so the unbalanced vaginal environment can be replenished. If you already take probiotics for gut health, you’ll need a different formula to support vaginal health since the healthy organisms in the reproductive system are different than those of the digestive system.

Should I Take Probiotics for Vaginal Health?

Use of probiotics is not only safe, it can also effectively ward off recurrent UTIs and other vaginal infections. If you struggle with these health issues, a probiotic could promote an environment that is able to ward off dangerous bacteria. This is especially important if you are prescribed an antibiotic, which can deplete lactobacilli levels and raise the risk for yeast infection.

As with any natural supplement, you should talk to your doctor before you begin taking probiotics. This is especially important if you have cancer, had recent heart surgery or have a compromised immune system.

Can Vaginal Imbalance Be Prevented?

Daily probiotics can help ward off the pH imbalance that leads to uncomfortable vaginal health issues. You can also prevent problems by avoiding tight clothing, drinking enough water, limiting your sugar intake, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and avoiding harsh beauty products and body washes.

Although yeast infections and other vaginal health problems can often be controlled with healthy habits such as probiotics, some issues require medical treatment. See your doctor right away if you experience the symptoms of a UTI or infection along with a high fever, flank or lower back pain, chills, diarrhea or nausea.