How do probiotics help with vaginal health? 

Woman in a white bra and underwear squeezing midsection

If you’ve got a female reproductive system, you know that the care and keeping of your hormones, your happiness, and your health all throughout your cycle can be, well, a lot

Whether you need a quick Hormones-101 review or are already an expert in the link between the gut and vaginal health, stick around: We’ve got info that should help make your day (and your month!). 

Let’s get down to business. It’s time to talk about your gut, your vaginal health, your hormones—and the mystical, magical, mind-blowing connection these things share. 

  • Probiotics help to reduce symptoms for those who already have a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis (BV) 
  • Aid in preventing future infection through proper pH balance 

Gut Health and Vaginal Health

As it turns out, your intestinal health and your vaginal or hormonal health are more interconnected than you might think. Let’s dive in: 

  • Your gut microbiome is a major player in the way your body regulates estrogen. Estrogen is a critically important hormone: Having just the right amount can assist with general health, menstrual regularity, fertility, and more. If you have poor gut health and (as a result) unhelpful levels of estrogen, you may be at an increased risk of diseases that are related to estrogen, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, and some types of cancer. 
  • You might know that your gut flora play a considerable role in your biological ecosystem. So does your vaginal microbiota! These two systems talk to each other—a lot. The “conversations” between these two bacterial communities impact your metabolism, your immune system, and other physiological processes in your body.
  • One 2020 research review even found that bacterial strains from the gut can transfer to the vagina, with serious ramifications for vaginal and immune system health. Keeping your gut microbiota healthy can benefit both systems. A different 2020 review found that, taken orally, the probiotic Lactobacillus, for vaginal health, can help boost the quality of vaginal flora.

Wondering what we mean by vaginal flora? We’ll get there in a minute. Spoiler: there’s an entire wonderful world of beneficial bacteria teeming not only in your gut but in your vagina as well, and it plays a large part in keeping you happy and healthy.

What is the vaginal microbiome?

Just like it’s your gut microbiome’s job to help manage digestion (and influence many of the body’s other systems, too), the vaginal microbiome exists for a very specific purpose. 

The various types of bacteria in the vaginal microbiome, including lactobacilli, work to make sure the pH of the vagina is exactly where it should be. That might not seem like a big deal, but think of it the way Goldilocks would: anything even a little bit too high or a little too low can really throw off your day. As one expert noted, “It’s ideal to have the vaginal pH in the 3.5 to 4.5 range.” Why? Another researcher gives us the answer: “An acidic vagina is a first line of defense against infection.”

A vagina without the appropriately-functioning flora, or normal vaginal flora” as some call it, can easily become infected, irritated, or worse. Here’s a quick list of the symptoms you might want to keep an eye out for: 

  • Vaginal dryness and itchiness
  • Abnormal discharge
  • An increase in sexually transmitted infections
  • An increase in yeast infections
  • An increase in urinary tract infections
  • Bacterial vaginosis

The crosstalk between the gut microbiota and the vaginal flora plays a huge role in how prepared your vagina is to fend off unwanted, infection-causing bacteria. 

This may not seem intuitive, but it points towards a simple, effective life hack: 

What if caring for your gut health could also help boost your vaginal health? 

Can taking practical steps to protect your vaginal microbiome have an effect on your overall health, too? 

Shield Your Vaginal Microbiome With These Practical Habits

Before we start talking about nutrition and your revamped hormonal-health grocery list, let’s look at a few different ways you can keep your vaginal microbiota happy. 

  1. Avoid using cleaning products that have a lot of synthetic dyes, perfumes, or chemicals. While making your laundry smell like lavender is tempting, these products can wreak havoc on your delicate vaginal microbiota. 
  1. Stick to cotton underwear, at least most of the time—and make sure it’s loose enough to allow for some airflow. Your underwear sits right next to very delicate skin all day, so keeping the fabric natural and gentle can make a difference. Similarly, giving your sensitive skin at least a little room to breathe can make your vaginal environment a little less hot, cramped, and moist (not coincidentally, the perfect conditions for unwanted bacterial intruders.) 
  1. Remember that your vagina is a self-cleaning entity. Not only is this incredibly cool, it makes products like douches redundant and even dangerous. Douching disrupts your vaginal flora and makes it easier for infections to take hold, so that’s a practice you can likely kick to the curb. 

There’s some evidence that you can also boost your vaginal health by sticking to a low glycemic diet and prioritizing gut-friendly foods. How would that work? Let’s talk about the way your snacking habits are connected to your hormonal and vaginal health. 

Best diet for vaginal health

There are three main ways your diet (and, therefore, your gut flora) may affect the general health and pH balance of your vaginal environment: 

  1. Yeast loves a good sugary snack. Who doesn’t? Like many of us, vaginal yeast has a magnetic drive towards high-sugar foods. This can result in yeast infections and systemic inflammation, compounding the issue further. On the whole, it may be a good idea to reserve sugary foods for special occasions and reach for a nice piece of fruit whenever you’d like a sweet snack! 
  1. Refined flour isn’t actually that different from sugar. Don’t have an overactive sweet tooth? Unfortunately, you’re not necessarily in the clear. Both refined flour and gluten may lead to an overgrowth of unhelpful vaginal bacteria. If you’re up for a dietary experiment, it may be worth going low-gluten or no-gluten, or prioritizing whole grains over processed ones for a few weeks to see if you notice changes in your vaginal health. 
  1. The hormones in dairy can block estrogen. Some dairy products contain xenoestrogens, or artificial hormones that resemble estrogen. If your body senses these xenoestrogens in your body, it may not make enough natural estrogen to support its own natural processes. This can impact your vaginal lining, making it drier, itchier, and more susceptible to infection. 

For a more in-depth review read our What to Eat to Achieve Vaginal Health and Hormonal Balance blog!

Foods for a healthy vagina

Interested in cutting down on the dairy, gluten, and sugar in your diet? Fortunately, there’s a wealth of yummy, colorful foods that can more than take their place. As you start grocery shopping with your hormonal health in mind, see if you can load up your cart with the following gut-friendly foods: 

  1. Leafy greens. You probably expected to see this top our list of health-boosting foods, but here’s why: Foods like kale and spinach promote blood circulation, which can directly promote a healthy mucosal lining in your vagina. 
  1. Foods full of carotenoids. You’ll be able to suss out sustenance full of carotenoids pretty easily: These foods will be primarily yellow and orange. Your carrots, your sweet potatoes, your yellow peppers—all are full of vitamins A and C, which can boost your immune system, reducing your chances of a nasty infection. 
  1. Colorful fruits. You’ve got your greens and yellows; now what? Go for some berries or purple cabbage: These antioxidant- and phytonutrient-rich foods can help reduce systemic inflammation, benefiting both vaginal and gut flora in turn. (The same goes for red fruits, too, so load up on tomatoes, peppers, and raspberries as well!) 

Finally, if you remember only three food-related rules for healthy, “normal” vaginal flora, they should be these: 

  • Your flora loves a good fermented entree. Add some kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, or yogurt to your meal. They’ll impart a delicious tang to whatever you’re eating—and help support optimal gut and vaginal bacterial health. 
  • The same goes for fiber. Hungry between meals? Snack on fresh fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. This will keep your gut moving on a regular basis and help your vaginal and gut microbiome flourish. (Plus, each of these whole foods includes healthy fats and nutrients, part of a healthy diet for you and your good bacteria.) 
  • Keep hydrated. You are what you eat—and drink. Drinking a healthy amount of water each day helps lubricate the inside of your intestines, making it much easier for your gut to work its daily magic on your digestion, metabolism, and more.

Interested in Taking Things Up a Notch?

A high-quality probiotic can help jumpstart your hormonal health while you’re making these other lifestyle changes. Just make sure you’re taking a gut-friendly probiotic from a source you trust—and pair your supercharging supplement with the healthy hormonal habits we’ve recommended above for the best results!

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