Topical vs. Oral Probiotics for Intimate Health

Posted On Monday, 17 November 2014
Topical vs. Oral Probiotics for Intimate Health
"Probiotics" have become a huge buzzword in personal health. Commercials, magazines and doctors are always saying "Take your probiotics!" And you should. Probiotics are a supplement worth the hype. The average consumer has poor dietary habits, lives a stressful lifestyle and is frequently exposed to antibiotics. Both antibiotics that are prescribed for them individually and antibiotics found in many meat and dairy products. It is important that we all repopulate the healthy bacteria needed in our bodies.

Probiotics are the "good bacteria." They help support the healthy bacteria in a person's gut - as well as the healthy lactobacillus bacteria in the vagina.

Good bacteria, such as the lactobacillus species in the vaginal area, protect you against yeast and other infections. One way in which the lactobacillus bacteria (i.e. L. Acidophilus, L. Casei, etc.) do this is by the production of lactic acid, which makes the vaginal environment more acidic. This keeps yeast and bad bacteria from growing. When you take certain antibiotics, have hormonal changes, or use harsh chemicals for intimate cleansing you lose this safeguard. This is when yeast and other opportunistic infections may occur.

So What's A Girl To Do?

Take probiotics.

There are two ways to get your probiotics for vaginal health:

1) Oral probiotics that you get in food or in supplements

2) Topically applied probiotics or probiotic technology

These probiotics may be live (such as in refrigerated products such as yogurt) or may be in the form of fermented probiotics (which are stable at room temperature). It is important not to confuse probiotics with "prebiotics," which are essentially the food that is intended to "feed" the healthy bacteria.


Oral Probiotics

The first question a lot of women have is: "If I ingest a probiotic, how does it reach my vaginal area?" The short answer is some will pass through the GI system, but much of it will not.

The pro to ingesting probiotics orally is that it is relatively easy. You can get probiotics from foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, fermented foods, etc. Some foods will indicate that they contain "live active cultures" and require refrigeration. Yogurt is a simple way to get a dose of probiotics. If you'd rather take a capsule, you can also get a highly concentrated amount that way.

The downside of taking oral probiotics is that you're crossing your fingers hoping that the good bacteria makes it to your vaginal area.

This leads us to a second option:

Topical Probiotics

The logic of using probiotics topically makes sense. If you want the good bacteria to get to your vaginal area, why not just put it directly there? Numerous studies support the effectiveness of topical versus oral probiotics.

There is also a long history of women attempting to use this topical approach. For years, some alternative medicine practitioners have recommended actually applying yogurt vaginally to help restore "balance." However, this isn't necessarily recommended due to the sugar content and additives in most yogurts. The most effective option for introducing probiotics to the vaginal area for urogenital health is to use a specially formulated probiotic product. For example, these may come in creams, gels or suppositories.

Overall, applying probiotics directly helps to make sure the good bacteria grow into larger protective colonies for urogenital health. Topical probiotics are a great way to support a woman's body to prevent infections!

Valerie A.King, MD

Trained in family medicine, as well as specialty training in complementary and alternative medicine, Dr. King has always had a particular interest and focus on women's health and is an expert in natural therapies and ingredients. Dr. King currently is the Chief Medical Officer for PrevaLeaf, a company which offers intimate feminine products for women. She received her BS in Psychology/English from Tulane University and an MD from the UTMB.

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