We probably don't have to tell you twice that supplements are an expensive habit. That being said, some of them are essential to our health. As such, if there's one multifaceted supplement that'll simplify the routine, we'll try it. So what's this miracle capsule? Probiotics ($19) have long been a staple in the health and wellness communities when it comes to treating and preventing gastrointestinal issues like constipation, diarrhea, and weight-related concerns. Well, it turns out that the benefits of probiotics are more than a literal gut feeling, extending beyond the GI tract and into the realm of vaginal and mental health. Read on to find out the different strains of probiotics and which ones doctors recommend introducing to your routine for a healthy vagina and a positive mood.
Probiotics and Vaginal Health
There are a variety of probiotics that treat different strains and different ailments. When it comes to vaginal health, the specific strain of bacteria to look out for is Lactobacilli, the dominant microbe in healthy vaginas. As this article from the Harvard Health Review explains, "healthy vaginas contain this acidic bacteria" to kill off harmful pathogens and microbes. "But the system can be thrown out of balance by a number of factors, including antibiotics, spermicides, and birth control pills."
If the composition of microflora changes, "probiotics can help restore the population of Lactobacilli," which can help prevent and treat a UTI, yeast infection, or bacterial vaginosis, as evidenced in this study published in the Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Infectious Disease.
Multi-Strain Probiotic Supplements:
Probiotics and Positive Mood
According to MD Athos Bousvaros, "changes in intestinal bacteria may play a role in neuropsychiatric conditions such as anxiety or depression." As he explains in an article for the Harvard Medical Review, this is because our intestines have their own nervous systems that produce neurotransmitters like serotonin that a healthy gut as well as a positive mood. In the medical field, this is referred to as the "brain-gut axis," and this connection between the brain and the gut explains why certain mental health ailments like anxiety and depression often coincide with stomach issues such as diarrhea, abdominal pains, and constipation.
Since probiotics introduce good bacteria to our GI tract, they may also support positive mental health. In a review of a series of recent double-blind and placebo-controlled studies published in the Annals of General Psychiatry, there are "positive results on all measures of depressive symptoms; however, the strain of probiotic, the dosing, and duration of treatment varied widely, and no studies assessed sleep." As such, Bousvaros says that this is only the case when taken in addition to other clinical treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, FDA-approved prescriptions, or whatever treatment plan you and a trusted mental health professional come up with together.