Those that have never heard of probiotics might have trouble understanding how bacteria can be beneficial in any way. Those that HAVE heard of them might accidentally reduce them to a few spoons of yogurt. There are many things that you probably don’t know about these beneficial types of bacteria and, ladies, the health benefits of probiotics for women might interest you the most.
As we explore the impact probiotics have on our health, we’ll cover several relevant sections:
- Terminology & Naming;
- How They Work;
- Why We Need Probiotics;
- Where To Find Probiotics;
- Health Benefits;
- Benefits For Women;
- Health Risks.
Terminology & Naming
The term “probiotic” stems from Greek and it’s a combination of the words “pro” (for) and “biotic” (life). So, just right off the bat, it’s pretty clear that only good things can come out of them. Well, mostly good things, but we’ll get there later.
Since there are different types of probiotics, there are also different kinds of names attached to them. In fact, anyone who’s ever taken a look at a probiotic supplement probably noticed how complicated-sounding their names are. There is a logic behind the naming process, however, and it’s the one that follows.
- By genus: Or, more explicitly, the kind of bacteria group they belong to. There are several, but the ones most commonly found in supplements are lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.
- By species: Even bacteria come in different forms and shapes. The next part in the probiotic name represents the species.
- The last part of the name is something more artificial sounding and it represents a form of strain designation.
At the end of the process, the name of a probiotic should be something similar to Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1.
It’s very important to know the name of a probiotic because it makes it easy to create a connection between a certain type of ailment and a probiotic kind that can help with it.
How They Work
In truth, the details of how probiotics benefit our health are actually still largely unknown. Researchers are still trying to attribute proper explanations. However, the belief is that probiotics simply act as replacements for the “good” bacteria that get pushed out of your body when taking in antibiotics. This is why doctors recommend that you combine any antibiotic treatment with probiotics that can counter the effects of the former.
Another important function is that of balancing out good and bad bacteria in your gut. Certain types of digestive health issues can find their solutions with probiotic treatments. Although researchers are still on the edge about how exactly they act, they did manage to determine one thing. Probiotics have the ability to guide food through the digestive tract in a way that can soothe various stomach issues.
Why We Need Probiotics
The line between bad and good bacteria is really thin and many people fail to tread it the proper way. There is a general mentality that dictates “all germs are bad” and, as a result, we take measures that result in the rejection of bacteria both good and bad. Eliminating good bacteria can have some hazardous results.
Unfortunately, this mentality is preponderant in developed countries, which campaign for the excessive use of sanitary items. At the slightest turn of roads, we turn to antibiotics. Our attempts to make everything excessively clean and polished favor the development of pathogens.
Our guts house over 100 trillion (yes, trillion) microorganisms with over 1,000 different species of bacteria. The good bacteria that resides there acts as a barrier which prevents the various pathogens from growing in numbers. Therefore, the bottom line here is that all forms of excessive cleanliness should be followed by some probiotic doses that can help replace the thinning number of good bacteria.
Where Can We Find Probiotics?
The best way to administer probiotics is through supplements and this is because they contain the necessary amount to actually start showing some positive effects. However, you can absorb your needed intake through various foods too, though their probiotic percentage is much lower. We don’t exactly recommend over-indulging in yogurt when supplements are so accessible in all kinds of ways.
As far as foods are concerned, you can find the most doses of good bacteria in fermented foods. For example, take kefir, which is a fermented type of dairy product that you can easily find in stores. If you wish for something a little bit tastier, there is also a coconut assortment available which might make it all more flavorful.
Other foods that contain good bacteria:
- fermented vegetables (such as sauerkraut, fermented cabbage, or kimchi, a fermented assortment of multiple vegetables);
- natto (Japanese fermented soy beans);
- carrot and beet kvass;
- sauerrüben (lacto-fermented turnips);
- fermented pickles.
NOTE: You can find commercially fermented products in stores, but you need to be mindful of whether they went through a pasteurization process too. Pasteurization eliminates all kinds of bacteria from a product, regardless of whether they’re beneficial or not, so you’d be doing all for nothing.
The Yogurt Myth
You’ve probably noticed that yogurt was nowhere to be found on this list. An ecological and organic type of yogurt might contain some traces of probiotics in it, but, unfortunately, this is an isolated case. The milk used for yogurt preparation is generally heavily pasteurized and, thus, there are barely any healthy living organisms left in at the end of the process.
The only way you can be sure that the yogurt you’re eating is actually benefiting you in any way is by preparing it yourself. And, hey, it’s actually not as difficult as it sounds. The main thing is to ensure that you use grass-fed milk.
Health Benefits Of Probiotics
We learned that we can’t exactly live without probiotics, but are they there just to stabilize a status-quo? Not at all. There are many benefits which can arise from a proper dosage of probiotics for women and men alike. So, let’s run a bit through the general wonders probiotics can perform on our health before we dive into the specifics of benefits of probiotics for women.
#1 Digestive Health
Perhaps the most important point we can make is that probiotics help your digestive system stay balanced and healthy. The average human fosters over one thousand different species of bacteria in their stomach, some good and some bad. Unfortunately, every time we start taking antibiotics for various reasons, we end up killing not only the bad bacteria, but the good one too. If you’ve ever needed to take antibiotics, it’s very likely that you’ve heard your doctor recommend probiotics so that you can “repopulate” the good bacteria in your gut.
An alarming 30% of people who are on antibiotic treatments report diarrhea or some other kinds of gastro-intestinal health imbalances, claims a JAMA study on the topic of antibiotic-related diarrhea. All of these health issues are a direct result of antibiotics doing more harm than good by killing flora, the main bacteria which helps break down food and digest it.
A common and very unpleasant condition is the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which is a hard-to-treat ailment that displays symptoms such as frequent cramps, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation. Several studies have noted an alleviation of abdominal pain when the test subjects would take probiotic supplements of the bifidobacterium infantis kind.
Even without any chronic or urgent conditions, probiotics can help with prevention. The reasoning is fairly simple. Bacteria tend to “latch on” to your stomach and if you populate it with the good one, there’d be essentially no room left for the harmful microorganisms to settle in.
#2 Urinary Health
Urinary infections are, unfortunately, pretty common, especially among women. By the same logic as above, probiotics can help both with treatment and prevention. A good chunk of urinary infections disappear as a result of an antibiotic treatment and you can help fortify your defensive mechanism by administering probiotics as well.
#3 Other Benefits
Research regarding other afferent benefits is still preliminary, but scholars have managed to link probiotic use to the reduction of several conditions. Such examples include various skin issues (like eczema), allergies, depression, or oral health.
Health Benefits Of Probiotics For Women
Women need the benefits of probiotics more than anyone. They are both much more susceptible to several of the conditions previously listen and they also need to take care of their intimate areas. Here are why probiotics for women are a necessary topic to touch on and what they can do for them.
Compared to men, women need to be extra mindful of their intimate flora. Because of positioning, it’s more likely for harmful bacteria to infiltrate and to lead to the development of two afferent health issues. Bacterial vaginosis is a condition that’s pretty dangerous and uncomfortable in itself, but it can get even more dangerous with its risk of growing into a yeast infection.
Through the beneficial microbes that come with probiotics, the vagina can develop an acidic environment which makes it difficult for pathogens to develop. Unfortunately, things aren’t simple enough to end just here. Too many beneficial microbes without a proper pH level can lead to an imbalance that can actually backfire and end up supporting the growth of yeast infection instead. As a result, it’s important to note that every probiotic treatment needs to be joined by an alkaline diet.
We now have to face a little bit of an issue. Traditionally, antibiotics were the go-to solutions to these delicate problems, but the fact that antibiotic resistance is a growing phenomenon makes it all more difficult. Other supplements might be required to sustain the proper action of antibiotics. Therefore, the best approach for now remains prevention. Through probiotics, we get the necessary amount of good bacteria to naturally fend off the harmful ones.
In fact, probiotics are on their way to being able to become direct combatants against vaginitis. The good bacteria contained in them seems to be able to tackle down, sometime in the near future, the bad bacteria that’s at the core of the ailment.
It’s a topic that we’ve already covered in the section about the general health benefits, but there are some probiotics for women in particular on this issue. The ladies show greater risks to develop constipation, IBS, or other gastro-intestinal issues.
Naturally, there are several digestive issues which require special care in the form of specialized drugs. But if it’s constipation and mild IBS we’re talking about, probiotics work extremely well. The good bacteria known as lactobacillus plantarum have shown excellent results in easing abdominal pain that’s the result of IBS symptoms.
In the case of constipation, even these symptoms can go away, except this time with the help of the bacteria bifidobacterium lactis. Its beneficial effects mostly target stool frequency, which also creates a great foundation for preventive measures.
Health Risks Of Probiotics
Probiotics aren’t directly harmful, but they can unleash some indirect after-effects. Whenever the good bacteria neutralizes the harmful microbes in your body (viruses, yeasts, and others), this can cause the the Jarisch–Herxheimer reaction. In short, the dying harmful bacteria start oozing an amount of toxins and this happens at a faster rate than your body can eliminate said toxins.
This can lead to a variety of symptoms and health issues, such as:
- Muscle aches;
- Skin eruptions and rashes;
- Excess mucus production;
- Brain fog and lethargy;
- Trouble dealing with stress;
- Increased gastrointestinal problems (diarrhea, constipation, etc.)
You should also always consult your doctor before starting a probiotic treatment. But, in general, there are some categories which should avoid probiotics at all costs:
- Those with weak or compromised immune systems;
- People that suffer from severe illnesses;
- Those that live with a condition known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO);
- People diagnosed with cardiac valvular disease.
Even if you do not belong to either of these categories, preventive measures have never hurt anyone.
Probiotics for women are much more important than for anyone else. They are more vulnerable against the various digestive health issues that probiotics fight against. Also, they have their genital flora to look out for. Unfortunately, everyone is game when it comes to the likelihood of developing bacteria-related afflictions. Thus, we should start considering some preventive yogurts.