- The gut microbiome plays a major role in the maintenance of our body’s health.
- The gut microbiome supports our digestive health, immune health, hormone production, and vaginal health.
- Probiotics and prebiotics are essential for your gut health and vaginal health.
- Researchers have shown that taking probiotics might relieve diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome. They are also helpful in maintaining the relapse of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- The beneficial effects of probiotics are not limited only to digestive health, they can also help you in maintaining urogenital health.
- A probiotic may take 2–3 weeks to show its effects, however, strong beneficial effects on immune, digestive, vaginal and overall health are attained over the years.
- To get most out of the probiotics, you should follow good hygiene practices, avoid douching, and limit your number of sex partners.
- What Is the Gut Microbiome?
- What Leads To an Unhealthy Gut Microbiome?
- What Is the Vaginal Microbiome?
- What Leads To an Unhealthy Vaginal Microbiome?
- How Are Gut Health and Vaginal Health Linked?
- The Role of Probiotics and Prebiotics in Gut and Vaginal Health
- What Are Prebiotics?
- Common Myths About Probiotic Use
- What To Look For in a Probiotic
- How Long Does it Take for Probiotics To Work?
- Simple Ways To Maintain Your Vaginal Health
- How Happy V Can Improve Your Gut Health and Vaginal Health
- Make Happy V Your Vaginal Health Partner
At this very moment, your body is teeming with trillions of microorganisms. But before you run to the shower, consider this: these bacteria actually keep you healthy and free from infection, all while keeping your heart pumping and your body thriving! Amazing, right?
If you’ve heard the term “microbiome” before, then you may know it describes the unique composition of bacteria present in your body. But did you know different organ systems in your body have their own unique microbiome? Two of these systems, the gut and the vagina, rely on bacteria for everything from digesting food to getting you pregnant. And strangely enough, these important systems rely on each other to keep one another functioning properly! So how are your gut microbiome and your vaginal microbiome related, and what should you do to keep them both healthy? Let’s find out!
What Is the Gut Microbiome?
All microorganisms inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoans, are collectively known as the gut microbiome. Gut microbiomes contain a mix of bacteria that come from four different phyla, or groups—Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, and Bacteroidetes. The most common types of bacteria and organisms found in the gut microbiome are lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, coliform bacteria, streptococci, yeasts, proteus, clostridia, and staphylococci. Although almost all individuals share these common microorganisms, the composition of each individuals’ microbiomes may differ depending on their diet, environment, stress level, and more. (1)
The gut microbiome plays a significant role in the maintenance of women’s health. Our gut bacteria control our metabolism, immune system, and hormone production as well as help our body fight off bad bacteria and diseases. However, some things may lead to an imbalance, called dysbiosis, in the gut microbiome, which can potentially lead to diseases and/or dysbiosis in the vaginal microbiome too.
What Leads To an Unhealthy Gut Microbiome?
You may think you don’t have much control over what goes on inside your body, but you’d be wrong. Your gut is a fragile ecosystem of good and bad bacteria, and your everyday actions play a huge role in whether your healthy bacteria are able to thrive, maintaining your digestion and preventing infection. Some factors that may negatively impact your gut microbiome include:
- Antibiotic use. Antibiotic treatment might be necessary in some cases, but over-exposure can lead to dysbiosis in the gut. Antibiotics are non-specific in nature, meaning they cannot eliminate one specific type of bacteria. When you take antibiotics for a bacterial infection, both the infection-causing bacteria and good bacteria may be wiped out. This can create a vacuum in which opportunistic bacteria may grow and cause new infections.
- A lack of prebiotics/probiotics in the diet. Prebiotics are food for good bacteria, which are called probiotics. High levels of probiotics in the body help prevent unnecessary infections from developing. Adding pre- and probiotic-rich foods to your diet can help you maintain a store of good bacteria that may ward off common infections like bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and more. Many vegetables, fruits, and whole grains contain fibrous fibers rich in prebiotics, including onions, bananas, oatmeal, and asparagus. Similarly, foods like yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, and pickles are rich in probiotics.
- Insufficient exercise. Exercise not only keeps your immune system healthy and produces anti-inflammatory compounds, it increases the growth of good lactobacillus bacteria. (2) No matter what type of exercise you choose, whether cycling, jogging, swimming, aerobics, or walking, exercise can benefit your gut microbiome.
- Eating unhealthy processed foods. Diets rich in fats, processed sugars, salt, and other ultra-processed ingredients nourish bad bacteria. (3) If the bad bacteria start to outnumber the beneficial bacteria, infections may become more likely.
What Is the Vaginal Microbiome?
The vaginal microbiome is the totality of microorganism species present within the vagina. Bacterial species such as lactobacilli, including L. acidophilus, L. crispatus, and L. rhamnosus usually dominate the vaginal microbiome of healthy, reproductive-age women. Similar to the gut microbiome, two females can have vastly different vaginal microbiome compositions depending on factors like diet, stress, exercise, hygiene, and more.
Most vaginal infections, including bacterial vaginosis or vaginal yeast infections, are caused by an imbalance of good and harmful bacteria in the vagina. Like with the gut microbiome, supporting the growth of good lactobacillus bacteria can help prevent bad bacteria from overgrowing and causing infection.
What Leads To an Unhealthy Vaginal Microbiome?
There are multiple factors that can cause dysbiosis in the vaginal microbiome, including your diet, the use of antibiotics, and lifestyle practices like having sexual intercourse with multiple sex partners, douching, and failing to practice adequate vaginal hygiene.
- Diet. Just like with your gut microbiome, a diet rich in fats, sugar, and processed foods such as fast food support the growth of bad bacteria.
- Antibiotics. As stated above, antibiotics cannot differentiate between good and bad bacteria. Over-exposure to antibiotics may slow the growth of good bacteria or kill them all together, leading to an overgrowth of bad bacteria.
- Douching. We can’t state this enough—your vagina knows how to clean itself. Douching is an unnecessary and unhealthy practice that vaginal health experts recommend against. (4) That’s because douching, like antibiotic use, removes both good and bad bacteria from your vagina, giving harmful microbes the opportunity to grow and cause bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, or other health conditions. The process of douching can also force infection-causing bacteria further up into your vagina, which can increase the severity of vaginal infections if they occur.
- Vaginal hygiene. Harmful vaginal bacteria thrive in damp, moist environments, so making sure to change out of sweaty clothes immediately after exercising or wet swimsuits after swimming can help you circumvent vaginal infections. Additionally, wearing tight undergarments made of synthetic fibers can support the growth of harmful bacteria.
How Are Gut Health and Vaginal Health Linked?
Now that you understand what your gut and vaginal microbiome are, what do they have to do with one another? After all, your gut microbiome breaks down food, while your vaginal microbiome protects you from infection.
To keep things simple, just remember this: Maintaining overall equilibrium in your body will help keep your good bacteria levels high in every one of your body systems. So intentionally choosing lifestyle practices that help your body develop strong microbiomes can benefit both your gut health and your vaginal health.
The Role of Probiotics and Prebiotics in Gut and Vaginal Health
There are two types of bacteria we haven’t discussed at length yet that are of vital importance to your vaginal and digestive health: prebiotics and probiotics. Supplementing your daily diet with these vital microorganisms can help ensure your gut and vaginal microbiomes remain balanced.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are tiny living organisms that are good for your digestive and immune health. These microbes are essential for controlling the growth of bad bacteria and enhancing your body’s immunity from infection.
Probiotics can either be obtained from fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi or through probiotic supplements. Probiotics are labeled by different classes depending on which probiotic bacterial strain they contain. For example, lactobacilli and bifidobacterium are common probiotic bacteria, whereas saccharomyces boulardii is a common probiotic yeast.
Probiotic supplements and probiotic-rich foods are used extensively for their innumerable benefits on the gut and overall health. For instance, researchers have found that taking probiotics might relieve diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome. (5) They are also helpful in preventing a relapse of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
The beneficial effects of good bacteria like probiotics are not limited to digestive health. They may also help you maintain your urinogenital and overall vaginal health. For instance, lactobacillic probiotics produce lactic acid, which helps keep the vaginal environment acidic, preventing the growth of bad bacteria and reducing the incidence of vaginal infections.
Probiotics can be used to prevent and, in some cases, even treat common vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis, vaginal yeast infections and sexually transmitted infections as well as unusual vaginal odor and irritation of the vulva and/or vagina. However, before you start thinking probiotics can be used in place of thoughtful vaginal health measures, remember that the effect of probiotics can vary from person to person depending on:
- Any medications you may be taking such as antibiotics or birth control
- Feminine hygiene products, especially scented synthetic menstrual products such as tampons, pads, menstrual cups, or menstrual disks
- Your sexual practices, including the use of sex toys, lubricants, or latex condoms
- Your diet, including consumption of foods high in sugar like processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and fried foods
In order to make probiotics maximally effective, it’s important to consider your current lifestyle practices and to adjust any activities that are contraindicated.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics may be less well-known than probiotics, but they’re just as important. Prebiotics are fibrous foods that feed probiotics. To ensure your body’s probiotic stores continue to grow, a diet rich in prebiotic foods like mushrooms, pistachios, and grapefruit is essential.
Common Myths About Probiotic Use
Even though most people have heard about probiotics, myths still surface on the internet that can lead individuals to use them in—at best—unhelpful and—at worst—unsafe ways. What’s most important to note is this: Taking probiotics doesn’t mean that consuming a cup of yogurt as a snack will solve all of your digestive or vaginal problems. For probiotics to be effective, you must consume them in the right manner and in an adequate amount for an extended period of time.
Now, let’s break down the myths.
Myth #1: All probiotics are the same.
While distinguishing between different probiotic strains may feel overwhelming, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the different types in order to choose the best probiotic for you. Not all probiotic strains are created equal: Different probiotic strains have different benefits. For example, L. acidophilus aids in the digestion of lactose, enhances immunity, and keeps the vaginal environment acidic. (6) L. rhamnosus is known for its weight management, digestive, and immune health benefits. (7) L. reuteri is good for oral, heart and immune health. (8) Similarly, different strains of bifidobacterium are beneficial for immune health, digestive health, feminine health, and more. (9)
Myth #2: You must insert probiotics into the vagina to help with bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections.
This myth may do more harm than good—inserting spoonfuls or tampons coated in yogurt into your vagina is a dangerous idea. For probiotics to work, you need to have them in a sufficient quantity and for at least a specific period of time. Therefore, inserting a spoonful of yogurt in your vagina won’t help and may instead lead to irritation or pain.
Myth #3: Yogurt, in any form, is a probiotic.
Plain yogurt naturally contains beneficial probiotics, but many important species should be added to enhance its probiotic effects, so it’s important to read nutrition labels if you begin consuming yogurt for its probiotic benefits. Assuming flavored, sugary yogurt is beneficial for your health is also dangerous, since the artificial sugar in yogurt may actually feed bad bacteria and may be harmful to your vaginal health.
What To Look For in a Probiotic
When buying a probiotic it’s important to look for a few things such as the number of strains and the quantity of each strain in colony forming units (CFUs) (a measure of a probiotic’s concentration). Ideally, a probiotic should contain several probiotic strains in adequate amounts to mimic the gut microbiota.
Many labels on probiotic supplements claim to contain many effective strains, but in actuality they contain just a few. Oftentimes, these strains may be generic strains that have no scientific evidence nor clinical trials proving their effectiveness.
To be a savvy consumer, you should make sure the probiotic strains that you’re taking have gone through clinical trials and have been proven to colonize the gut and vaginal flora. For instance, Happy V’s Probiotic + Prebiotic strains have been extensively studied to verify their effectiveness.
Last but not the least, it’s important to look at CFUs. The CFU value of a probiotic indicates the number of microorganisms that are capable of growing and dividing. Some products may claim to contain huge amounts of CFUs. But keep in mind, more CFUs isn’t always better if they’re filling the CFU count with ineffective probiotic strains. If you see probiotic labels with 60, 100, or 150 billion CFUs, review the clinical studies to prove that the strains are dosed at a clinically effective dosing requirement.
How Long Does it Take for Probiotics To Work?
According to the International Probiotics Association, probiotics begin to work rather quickly. (10) However, depending on your lifestyle, the probiotic strains in play, and the problems you’re looking for probiotics to resolve, the time frame for symptom resolution may differ. For instance, minor problems like bloating or indigestion might dissipate very quickly following the intake of probiotics; however, more significant problems like irritable bowel syndrome may take weeks.
Simple Ways To Maintain Your Vaginal Health
Probiotics are one component of a healthy vagina. To nourish your vaginal health daily, try:
- Taking antibiotics only when absolutely necessary.
- Eating foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics such as yogurt, garlic, bananas, pickles, and asparagus. If you find it difficult to get adequate amounts of prebiotics and probiotics through your diet, supplement with a daily prebiotic and probiotic pill.
- Using protection each time you have sex, and having sex with only one partner at a time. Having unprotected sex with multiple sex partners can increase your exposure to potentially harmful bacteria. If you use protection, choose sexual health products that do not contain chemical ingredients that might negatively impact your vagina’s pH.
- Practicing strong vaginal hygiene. Change your undergarments after sweating or swimming, and wear cotton underwear to keep your genitals dry and clean. Change tampons, menstrual cups, and pads or panty liners frequently to avoid bacterial overgrowth.
- Letting your vagina clean itself. You don’t need to douche or use scented vaginal health creams and washes to keep yourself clean down there. The best way to keep your vagina healthy is to rinse with warm water when showering and after sex.
How Happy V Can Improve Your Gut Health and Vaginal Health
When you have a healthy gut, it’s that much easier to maintain a healthy vagina. Fortunately, at Happy V we’ve developed a revolutionary product that supports both your gut and your vaginal microbiome at the same time—Happy V’s probiotic for vaginal health.
Our formula contains the probiotic strains from HOWARU ProFem, which includes L. acidophilus LA-14, and L. rhamnosus HN-001. These strains have been clinically proven in a double-blind controlled study to be well tolerated and lead to better probiotic colonization of the vagina in nearly all participants receiving the probiotic complex compared to those who did not. (11) Taking these probiotic strains in a supplement led to an increase in beneficial bacteria in the vagina, displacing harmful bacteria and creating an acidic environment for probiotics to thrive in.
We’ve included patented HOWARU® Restore in our new and improved Probiotic + Prebiotic, which is composed of equal amounts of bacteria adapted to upper intestine support along with lower intestine support. This clinically-proven formulation has been shown to not only quickly promote digestive regularity but also to restore overall digestive comfort.
We’ve also included a prebiotic from PreforPro® in our formula. Prebiotics are important because they help fuel the probiotics in your body, allowing them to better populate your gut and your vaginal flora. PreforPro is the only non-starch and non-glucose-based prebiotic that works to improve probiotic efficacy by acting enzymatically. And unlike other prebiotics, PreforPro has clinical studies proving that it works at a 15 milligram dosage, fueling the probiotics in your body and ensuring they’re equipped to keep you healthy and happy.
Make Happy V Your Vaginal Health Partner
While the interactions between your gut health and vaginal health may be complicated, taking care of your body doesn’t need to be. With Happy V, we make maintaining your physical wellness simple with our targeted probiotic for women. To nourish your microbiome and preserve your healthy vagina, try Happy V.