It's safe to say that in nearly every aspect of life, women and men have some major differences between them. When it comes to health, gender is a front-and-center factor at pretty much every phase of clinical study. So, it's surprising that there's not a whole lot of published studies that differentiate between men and women in the world of probiotics.
For some context: More and more research on the microbiome—aka the trillions of bacteria and other microbes that take up residence in our body—is linking the health of our gut to everything from immunity to mood to clear skin to brain health and beyond. You could argue that supporting healthy bacteria levels with probiotics, whether through probiotic-rich foods or daily supplements, is practically the new normal in the modern wellness routine.
Trendy kombuchas and coconut yogurts aside, it's one thing to agree that taking a daily probiotic is a great idea for overall health—it's a whole different story to figure out which one makes sense for your lifestyle, goals, and health needs. Since our microbiomes are as unique as our fingerprint, there's no one-size-fits-all formula, dosage, or product. If this fact alone isn't enough to convince you that women and men could benefit from differing probiotic formulas, read on for some fascinating reasons different formulas matter:
1. Women experience digestive issues very differently (and let's face it: more often).
When it comes to the gut stuff, women really get the short end of the stick. Case in point: Constipation, IBS, and other gastrointestinal issues are all more common in women than in men—not to mention it's just normal to experience bloating and changes in bathroom habits at different points in a woman's cycle thanks to hormones in flux.
That's crappy news to hear (sorry), but there's a lot we can do to take control. Aside from eating a healthful diet of real foods, restoring your gut microbiome with healthy bacteria is a solid first step in digestive wellness. The 10 specially selected strains of good bacteria in RenewLife's Ultimate Flora Women's Care 25 Billion—the No. 1-selling women's probiotic—help make it 2.5 times stronger* than the leading brand's probiotic with 10 billion CFUs. That means digestive benefits and relief you actually feel, while actively promoting balance where ups and downs are par for the course.
2. The stress gap between men and women is real.
Stress is a common factor that causes IBS and digestive discomfort, and for women, stress is no small thing. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that women are more likely than men to feel stressed out and experience physical and emotional symptoms related to stress—everything from getting a headache, feeling like they could cry, and (yup) having an upset stomach or indigestion.
Almost half of all women (49%) reported that their stress has risen in the last five years, compared to 39% of men. And the stress gap gets bigger when it comes to emotional labor, a term coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild in the 1980s that refers to the work someone does that goes unnoticed, whether professionally, in relationships, or at home.
No matter who you are, stress management is a huge—if not essential—part of wellness. It's why we take self-care seriously (and why we believe relationship care is just as important—see here some of our all-time favorite ways to empower the women in your life). The good news? Both probiotics and prebiotic-rich foods have been shown to help reduce cortisol levels.
3. Don't forget about the vaginal microbiome.
This one is specifically women-only, and it's nothing to be embarrassed about: 75% of all women will have a yeast infection (also known as candida overgrowth) down there at some point in their lives—scientists even estimate that one in five women normally have a vaginal yeast infection but without any symptoms. It's one of the biggest reasons a gender-specific formula holds some serious weight.
Probiotics for women are often recommended to prevent yeast overgrowth by promoting a healthy balance of gut microflora—but there are tons of extra benefits of having a healthy vaginal microbiome (think fertility health and fewer bladder infections, too). Lactobacilli are the most prevalent good bacteria found in a healthy vagina and urinary tract, so look for a women's probiotic with plenty of Lactobacillus strains to keep all the signs (and, yep, smells!) of a healthy vag going. The Ultimate Flora Women's Care Probiotic from RenewLife is mostly a Lactobacilli formula (specifically containing strains of Lactobacillus acidophilus shown to colonize the vagina) that's designed to help support vaginal health and fight yeast infections.
The bottom line? We're still in the midst of learning about our microbiomes and all the benefits probiotics can deliver. But one thing is pretty clear: While we can't control every single factor that affects our health, we can affect some of the major ones. And thanks to ongoing research, we're discovering that probiotics play a part in the overall health of both men and women alike.