Probiotics for vaginal health: what they are, how they work, and the best products to try:
Probiotics are simply good (pro) bacteria (biotics) that lend a helping hand to your body’s overall health. While the idea of introducing bacteria to your body sounds pretty counterproductive, the reality is that trillions of good bacteria are already hanging out in our system keeping our immunity in check. Probiotics help with all sorts of things, ranging from our gut health to skin health.
There are also probiotics for vaginal health, which assist in keeping our pH level “down there” on the acidic side (where it needs to be). For the DL on how vaginal probiotics work, we reached out to Dr. Jessica Shepherd, OBGYN and medical advisor for Happy V. Below, she explains what probiotics are and how they benefit the vagina’s microbiome specifically. We’re also highlighting some of the best probiotics for vaginal health on the market.
What Are Probiotics for Vaginal Health?
The vagina (aka the inner canal that connects the vulva and the cervix) has its own microbiome working hard to keep things in order, and probiotics can benefit that microbiome in a few key ways. “Probiotics protect the vagina’s microbiome by producing good natural defenses such as lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and bacteriocins, which keep the pH of the vagina around 3.8 to 4.5,” explains Dr. Shepherd. “Keeping the pH levels of the vagina in this range helps minimize any chances of harmful bacteria from outnumbering good bacteria.”
Dr. Shepherd explains that when certain soaps, bath products, fragrances, and dietary intake or foods change the pH, this allows certain bacteria to thrive. By taking a high-quality probiotic with prebiotics, you can help minimize any future vaginal imbalances and help keep your vagina’s pH balanced. Another major benefit of vaginal probiotics is that they help control yeast growth. When that growth is out of balance, it can lead to — you guessed it — uncomfortable yeast infections. Basically, probiotics prevent that bad, infection-causing bacteria from accumulating.
Do All Vaginal Probiotics Work Similarly?
Though the intention for all vaginal probiotics for women is the same, each does end up working differently. “It’s important to note that not all probiotic formulas are made equally, so how long they may take to work will vary from product to product,” says Dr. Shepherd. “Also, not every individual carries out the same exact lifestyle. Diets, exercise, and intimacy are all factors that vary from person to person, and each affects how and when probiotics work.” She explains that while some may see the effects of probiotics after a couple days, others might need to keep taking them for weeks before they see any change.
Best Probiotics for Vaginal Health
Taking a clinically-studied probiotic at the correct dosage is the single most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to probiotic efficacy. Not sure what to buy? We’ve rounded up some of the best probiotics for vaginal health below.
Dr. Kecia Gaither, a double board-certified OBGYN at NYC Health, says this probiotic is one of her favorites for women. “It offers solutions to issues ranging from digestive to vaginal to urinary all in one capsule,” she says. “It also has cranberry extracts to fend off potential UTIs.”
HUM Nutrition’s potent supplement for vaginal health also combines probiotics (three lactobacillus strains) with cranberry. Each pill helps balance the vaginal microbiome while assisting in optimal urinary tract function.
“This vaginal probiotic contains clinically-proven probiotic strains lactobacillus acidophilus LA-14 and lactobacillus rhamnosus HN-001,” says Dr. Shepherd. “These strains have been shown to help restore the pH balance in the vagina.”
Formulated with eight strains of probiotics for vaginal health, Love Wellness Good Girl helps maintain a balanced vaginal pH and healthy levels of vaginal yeast. It also supports gut health and your immune system.
If you aren’t a fan of swallowing pills everyday, consider these berry-flavored chews instead. Formulated with cacillus coagulans, a lactic acid-forming probiotic, as well as a proprietary fiber blend, these supplements support everything from vaginal health to bowel health.