In recent years, research underscoring the integral relationship between our gut microbiota and our overall health has increased profoundly. If you’ve ever been prescribed oral antibiotics by your doctor, you’ve probably been told at some point to make sure to either consume plenty of yogurt and fermented foods or to take a probiotic supplement in order to avoid developing a yeast infection during the course of the treatment. The reason antibiotics are often the culprit of yeast infections is because rather than targeting the specific strain of bacteria (say, e-coli) that’s responsible for causing your infection, they wipe out all of our bacteria — both bad and good. An unbalanced gut ecosystem devoid of the “good bacteria” can actually lead to slew of different ailments including leaky gut syndrome, IBS, unexplained weight gain, acne, hormonal imbalances, and fatigue. Poor gut health, (gut dysbiosis) can even interfere with the production and secretion of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, which can affect mood and energy levels.
Investing a daily probiotic supplement can really benefit anyone, but they’re especially valuable for women. A healthy gut offers a laundry list of different health benefits, including promoting regularity (and helping to reduce occasional bouts of constipation), alleviating frequent bloating and indigestion, strengthening our immune systems, and keeping yeast and bacteria levels in the vaginal flora balanced. When the pH and bacteria balance in the vagina is compromised, this leads to an increased risk for developing yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis (BV), and trichomoniasis.
There are a number of different probiotic-based supplements on the market, but unlike looking for a multivitamin or even a decent adaptogenic supplements, shopping for a solid probiotic can be especially confusing. I mean, what the heck is a CFU and what do all of these alleged different strains of impossible-to-pronounce configurations of words and hyphens even mean? Without delving too deep into the clinical research landscape, we’ve highlighted a few cheat-sheet-style tenets to look for.
It’s generally recommended for women to look for a supplement that contains at least 20-50 billion CFUs (colony forming units). The strain is also an important consideration, as certain forms have been shown to benefit different concerns. Generally speaking, for women looking to maintain a balanced vaginal flora, lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1, lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 are the most well-researched for their association with offering defense against vaginal infections. For digestive concerns including constipation and bloating, L. acidophilus, L. reuteri, L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus and B. animalis have all been shown to improve these GI issues.
And, as if these basic considerations weren’t confusing enough, there’s also a wide array of women-specific formulations that contain additional ingredients to further promote overall feminine health. Some of these supplements contain clinically backed ingredients linked with offering defense against painful UTI’s and bladder infections like D-manose and cranberry extracts, while other forms contain prebiotics, a type of fiber that feeds nutrients to the good gut bacteria in our colon and digestive tract to keep our systems functioning at their best. Here are some of the best shelf-stable and advanced probiotic supplements for women.
Vitamin Bounty Probiotic & Prebiotic With Cranberry
Not only does this shelf-stable supplement contain 5 different strains of probiotics and prebiotics, but it also contains cranberry to help promote better urinary health. Some studies have shown that the active ingredient in cranberries (proanthocyanidins) can help prevent UTI-causing bacteria (usually e-coli) from sticking to the urethra walls, therefore helping to reduce the risk of developing a bladder infection. We also love that this supplement is contained in a time-release capsule, which helps prevent your stomach’s digestive acids from weakening the effectiveness of the probiotic cultures.
Physician’s Choice Women’s Probiotic With Pacran & D-Manose
This comprehensive probiotic-based capsule contains 50 Billition CFU and 7 different strains. It also contains a blend of natural minerals and additives to help support vaginal, digestive, and urinary health. The prebiotic fiber blend helps to amplify the probiotic’s effectiveness. It also contains two proven ingredients linked with UTI-defense: Pacran and D-Manose. Pacran is a powder extract derived from whole cranberries, but is more concentrated and thus, more effective in promoting a healthy urinary tract. Approximately 50mg of Pacran is equivalent to 2500 mg of cranberry, according to the manufacturer. This supplement also contains D-Manose, another ingredient clinically shown to help reduce the symptoms of acute UTI’s. For those suffering with frequent or urinary discomfort or recurring UTI’s, this is a great maintenance option.
Rephresh Pro-B Feminine Probiotic Supplement
This doctor-developed daily supplement contains strains two different strains of lactobacillus (L. rhamnosus GR-1 and L. reuteri RC-14). Both of these strains have been clinically shown to specifically promote better yeast and bacteria levels in the body overall, as well as in vaginal flora. Balancing yeast levels in our body is important when it comes to keeping vaginal and yeast infections at bay. This targeted formula is especially beneficial for those taking antibiotics (antibiotics kill all of our bacteria — good and bad) expectant women or those prone to frequent yeast infections.