The Surprising Link Between Probiotics & Gynecological Disorders
Your gut influences basically every function in your body. Your mental health, your skin health, your immune health… You get the point. Gut and vaginal health are also more intertwined than you may think, which is why people with vaginas may take probiotics to balance and replenish beneficial bacteria that make up the vaginal microbiome.
The link between probiotics & gynecological disorders
The review assessed 16 total human and animal studies: six on vaginal infections, seven on PCOS, and another three related to endometriosis.
The vaginal infections studies involved women of reproductive age or older and who had been diagnosed with either bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, trichomoniasis, or a combination of these conditions. Probiotics were shown to be helpful against all of the infections, thanks to their ability to foster healthy microbes.
As board-certified OB/GYN Renita White, M.D., once told us: "The vaginal microbiome is made up of a mix of bacteria but is dominated by Lactobacillus species. This type of bacteria produces lactic acid2, which helps to keep vaginal pH more acidic in order to ward off infections." By balancing this bacteria, you can help your vaginal microbiome thrive without complications.
The six studies on PCOS also showed a positive effect on symptoms—researchers even suggest that probiotic supplements may be used as an alternative or complementary treatment for PCOS. See, a common symptom of PCOS is weight gain and insulin resistance, both of which probiotics can address.
Finally, we have research on probiotics and endometriosis, a condition that affects 1 in 10 women in America. While the data is limited at this point, some studies have shown a positive correlation.
To put it simply, endometriosis is a condition where tissue that normally lines the uterus grows in other parts of the body. This tissue also bleeds when you menstruate, which causes irritation to the local nerves—and this can be extremely painful. Research shows that a dysbiotic gut microbiome can lead to excess estrogen in the body5, and this promotes the growth of this endometrial tissue outside the uterus. (It's why endometriosis is often associated with hormonal imbalance.)
That's where probiotics come into play, as balancing the gut microbiome can support hormonal balance, therefore helping to keep endometrial tissue in check.
OK, that was a lot of science speak! But when you wade through the research, you'll find that probiotics can significantly influence your vaginal health and even ease symptoms of some pretty serious gynecological disorders. It's not the absolute answer to these problems (many health concerns often take a multifaceted approach), but tending to your gut is never a bad idea. Start here, with these nine science-backed probiotics for women to find one that works for your specific goals and lifestyle.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and more. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.