While probiotics provide plenty of health benefits for everyone, they are particularly beneficial for women. Whether you're looking for the best probiotic supplements for women or checking to see how your current probiotic compares, we'll explain why they're so important for women’s health and identify the top 5 probiotics on the market today.
What are Probiotics?
Simply put, probiotics are live bacteria that are primarily found along your digestive tract, though they can (and do) live anywhere within your body. In fact, there are trillions of them floating around.
They have the task of supporting your body’s ability to fight off infection and absorb nutrition. As opposed to “bad” or “unhealthy” bacteria that focus on making you sick, probiotics are “good” or “helpful” bacteria that are committed to keeping you healthy. To do this, they work to:
- Get rid of “bad” bacteria, fungi, and yeasts that can cause anything from urinary tract infections and colds to cancer
- Create enzymes that offset the cholesterol production in your bloodstream
- Create enzymes that do nothing but fight off harmful bacteria.
- Stimulate IgA secretion, an immunoglobulin that stops foreign substances from entering your circulatory system, particularly those causing autoimmune disorders, asthma, certain types of cancer, and gastrointestinal, respiratory, and sinus infections.1
- Stimulate the secretion of regulatory T cells that are absolutely necessary for retaining an immune system that is optimally balanced
- Produce vitamin B12, vitamin K2, and butyrate, which all play a significant role in maintaining both women and men’s digestive health
- Ensure the colon remains somewhat acidic, creating an environment that is not welcome to dangerous bacteria and unhealthy pathogens, particularly those that cause bacterial vaginitis and urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Break down indigestible carbohydrates into short-chain fatty acids that provide the body with nutrients and energy
- Promote the production of lactic acid to control the intestines’ pH level to regulate bowel movements and prevent uncomfortable bloating and gas
While probiotics are naturally occurring in both women’s and men’s bodies, your probiotic levels can quickly become unbalanced, leaving you with an insufficient amount that makes you more likely to become sick.
Why are Probiotics so Important for Women’s Health?
In today’s world women are prone to unhealthy diets, significantly high levels of stress, and ardent, often unnecessary, hygiene regimens. In addition, women are often exposed to environmental toxins, birth control methods, antibiotics, and various other things that can completely disrupt their healthy gut flora. (Flora refers to all of the microorganisms, or bacteria, living within the human digestive tract.)
When healthy bacteria is killed off, causing an imbalance between “good” and “bad” bacteria, a hostile environment is created that allows infectious bacteria and yeasts to flourish. This leaves women much more susceptible to a wide variety of infections and conditions, ranging from painful urinary tract infections (UTIs) to constipation. In fact, 70% of your immune system is located within your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which also shows just how important it is to make certain there are plenty of “good” bacteria moving around in there.2
Probiotics also play a pivotal role in maintaining hormonal balance. They are responsible for metabolizing and recycling estrogen, phytoestrogens, and thyroid hormones found in food sources. In turn, this can help reduce the symptoms of PMS, perimenopause, and menopause.3
In addition, probiotics help repair any breaks in your gut lining that allow undigested food particles to leak into your bloodstream, causing inflammation throughout the body. Your glands, which not only produce hormones, but store them and release them into your bloodstream, are very vulnerable to inflammation.
When these glands, particularly the thyroid gland, become inflamed, the production and regulation of key hormones in the body, including ghrelin, insulin, and leptin, is disrupted. Of course, when hormone levels are tampered with, it can wreak havoc throughout your body.
What is the Best Probiotic for Women?
Top scientific researchers all over the world have devoted a substantial amount of time, effort, and money into the study of probiotics, particularly those in the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strain. While we were working to identify the top 5 probiotics for women, we studied the most up-to-date research performed and published by the most well respected sources. Here’s an overview of what researchers have found:
L. acidophilus: One of the most commonly used probiotics, L. acidophilus offers many health benefits that are specifically for women. For example, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports that several studies indicate L. acidophilus can help treat bacterial vaginosis, when given in the form of a suppository. There is also promising research that it may also help prevent infections caused by both bacteria and yeasts. Separate studies have linked high lactobacillus, particularly L. acidophilus, levels in the vagina with a decreased risk of premature childbirth. Finally, L. acidophilus has been shown to decrease the activity of beta-glucoronidase in the body. Beta-glucoronidase is an enzyme that allows estrogen to be reabsorbed into your body. When estrogen elimination is inhibited, quinones can form that damage DNA and increase the risk of breast and colon cancer.4,5,6
B. lactis: This powerful probiotic strain has numerous health benefits for everyone who takes it, including enhanced immunity, improved digestion as a result of its efficiency when breaking down body waste, and helping prevent eczema. Additionally, it has been shown to help normalize blood sugar and cholesterol levels, while decreasing the severity and frequency of respiratory infections and diseases. Recent research shows that L. bactis not only works to prevent the formation of kidney stones, but also improves urinary function and minimizes the overgrowth of Candida albicans, a type of yeast that frequently causes urogenital discomfort, abnormal secretions, and itching in women.7,8
B. coagulans: According to Dr. Ken Alibek, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc, who has studied B. coagulans extensively and currently, serves as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Investigator of AFG Biosolutions, Inc., B. coagulans “may be the most ideal (probiotics strain) in existence." This is due to its effectiveness at treating the pain, bloating, and diarrhea caused by Irritable Bowel Syndrome IBS), as well as preventing respiratory infections, reducing inflammation, and building up the immune system. When used by women, it has been shown to help kill bacteria responsible for causing bacterial vaginosis, as well as reduce residual inflammation in patients infected with Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV-1).9.10
B. infantis: It's largely considered to be the best probiotic for women over 50 when used in conjunction with B.longum. B. infantis has been shown to decrease pain and inflammation, which frequently accompanies aging, as well as reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.11
B. longum: A common probiotic strain, the effects of B. longum were recently examined in a study conducted involving more than 23,000 Japanese women and men over the age of 50. Researchers found that that B. longum was linked to improved bone health and regularity, better memory call, and improved immune function, with the effects lasting for around 20 weeks. A different study linked B. longum to reduced DNA damage, which is important because this damage can trigger the development of malignant cells in the body. Reduced DNA damage also results in decreased signs of aging.12,13
L. gasseri: One of the newest probiotic strains to be identified, research has shown that L. gasseri is primarily linked to microflora in the vagina. When L. gasseri levels get low, there is a link to increased vaginal discomfort. In addition to speeding up weight loss and reducing waist size and abdominal body fat, L. gasseri has been reported to relieve menstrual pain in women diagnosed with endometriosis.14,15
L. rhamnosus: When you are looking for the best probiotic for women’s pH balance, L. rhamnosus frequently lands at the top of the list, especially when it is combined with L. reuteri (discussed below} and/ or L. fermentum (discussed below). For example, a study reported in FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology revealed that L. rhamnosus and L. fermentum significantly altered vaginal flora when consumed orally for 28 days. In particular, asymptomatic bacterial vaginosis microflora was restored to a normal lactobacilli microflora in women treated with a combination of the two. In addition, there was a significant depletion of yeast and coliform bacteria.16
L. reuteri: Along with L. rhamnosus, L. reuteri is one of the most documented probiotic strains for women’s health. A report released by the Canadian Research and Development Centre for Probiotics detailed L. reuteri’s benefits. L. reuteri has been found to inhibit the growth of harmful intestinal and urogenital organisms along the bladder, vagina, and intestines. In addition, through its acid production, it can kill HIV and other viruses, while also disarming toxins produced by Staph. Aureus, which is known as the “superbug” because it results in so many hospitalizations and deaths.17
L. fermentum: As discussed above, L. fermentum can significantly alter vaginal flora when taken with L. rhamnosus. It can also help decrease inflammation that may contribute to disease and chronic fatigue, assists in the digestion and absorption of various nutrients, and effectively lower cholesterol levels. In fact, out of the entire lactobacillus species, l. fermentum has the greatest ability to reduce cholesterol levels.18
Incorporating an effective probiotic supplement into one’s daily program is really an essential part of every woman’s health strategy. Not only will probiotics help to maintain hormonal balance but they, also insure a strong immune system, efficient digestion, balance moods, vibrant energy and strong bones.
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Top 5 Probiotics for women of 2018
We've compiled a list of what we've found to be the top five products in
this category, on the market today.