For VAGINAL YEAST, full-strength probiotics taken orally are effective for deterring and resolving candida yeast overgrowth and the accompanying itching and burning. For vaginal yeast, oral probiotics boost immune function, and actually find their way to colonize the vaginal ecosystem. Some probiotic strains attach to the bladder walls to prevent colonization by gut bacteria such as E. coli, which in turn protects the vaginal canal from disturbance of its normal flora and then yeast overgrowth.
During yeast symptoms, an imbalance of the normal microbes in the vagina can displace good bacteria, called vaginal lactobacilli, which normally live there. If women are given antifungals such as diflucan or antibiotics, the medication wipes out all microbes and bacteria–both good and bad–and sets the stage for bad bacteria to grow back causing an environment conducive for yeast overgrowth. Probiotics help restore the natural bacterial environment to crowd out yeast, and they deter overgrowth of unhelpful bacteria.
For vaginal yeast, oral probiotics boost whole-body immune function, and they can also localize in the pelvic tissues to colonize the vaginal ecosystem. Probiotics can attach to the vaginal lining and make bio-surfactants that prevent invading microbes from adhering, thus blocking out excessive yeast or disruptive bacteria. Clinical trials show that oral and vaginal probiotic treatment can reestablish normal vaginal flora, and prevent future yeast overgrowth or bacterial imbalance.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is the dominant species in vaginal flora, and its production of lactic acid maintains the naturally low vaginal pH of 3.5 to 4.5 which inhibits growth of yeast and pathogens. Lactobacilli also release hydrogen peroxide that research finds makes the environment inhospitable to microbial overgrowth including Gardnerella and trichomonas; and bacteriocins that kill or inhibit growth of microbes and yeast.
Chronic candidiasis, a persistent overgrowth of the usually-benign yeast candida albicans, can also follow damage to the intestinal lining, which then impairs gut-based immune function. The typical culprits include excessive refined dietary carbohydrates or sugar, or drugs or antibiotic use. Probiotics restore a normal flora balance in the digestive tract, which in turn boosts immune function.
The term “probiotics” refers to the 100 trillion beneficial bacteria that naturally occur in and line every part of a healthy human digestive tract, from mouth to anus from birth onwards, and which encourage healthy digestion, better food breakdown, improved immune function; and bring a host of cardiovascular, skin, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and other benefits. Flooding the bowel with good bacteria can crowd out noxious microbes including candida yeast. Our gastrointestinal tracts are finely-tuned ecosystems that naturally house at least 500 species of flora. The total number of bacteria in the gut microbiome is nine time more than cells in the body! Billions reside in the small intestine, primarily the Lactobacillus family, and even greater numbers in the colon where the Bifidobacterium family are predominant. We first acquire lactobacillus from the birth canal during our birth process, then bifidobacteria are passed through breast milk. As we grow, numerous other species arrive from food and thrive in our guts. There is a finite amount of space for microbes in the gut: helpful flora colonize the gut to crowd out invading microbes and starve them as they are more proficient at obtaining nutrients.
The human body relies upon normal flora to break down food and absorb nutrients, metabolize drugs, increase the bioavailability of minerals, stabilize the intestinal barrier and reduce its permeability, and to generate vitamin K and lactase. The term “dysbiosis” means a disturbance in the healthy microbiome balance: insufficient beneficial bacteria, or too many unwanted microbes that impede food absorption, trigger inflammation, or produce toxic compounds from food breakdown. Dysbiosis can be caused by excessive sugar, refined carbohydrate or fat in the diet, or low fiber intake that slow peristalsis; antibiotics and other drugs; stress; lack of digestive secretions from the bile and pancreas; or food allergies.
Many in vitro studies, animal experiments, microbiological studies in healthy women, and clinical trials in women with candidiasis have been carried out to assess the effectiveness and safety of probiotics for prophylaxis against microorganisms capable of causing disorders of the genital or urinary tract. Most of them had encouraging findings for some specific strains of lactobacilli. The evidence from the available studies suggests that probiotics can be beneficial for preventing recurrent yeast infections in women; they also have an outstanding safety profile.1 The use of probiotics to control certain infections and to reestablish the human bacterial ecology is gaining acceptance as a first-line alternative to conventional antifungal or antibiotic therapy.
Vaginal douching with probiotics also helps restore healthy pelvic flora which further protects against vaginal yeast overgrowth, especially after antibiotics. To make a douche, one capsule of at least 20 billion count of a probiotic formula including lactobacillus is mixed in about 30ml of cool water, and introduced with a syringe or just a teaspoon to relieve odor, itching and burning.
Recommendation: A minimum of 50 billion beneficial bacteria in a slow-release vegetarian capsule, including some or all of the following species, which have particularly good resistance to digestion, adherence to intestinal cells and stability: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus plantarum, L paracasei, L. casei, L. brevis, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, L. gasseri, Bifidobacterium breve, Lactobacillus salivarius, Bifidobacterium bifidum, B. longum, and other related species; or as directed by your healthcare provider. The probiotic can be taken between meals or with cold food such as salad, fruit, smoothie, sandwich, yogurt, or apple sauce.
- Morelli L, Zonenenschain D, Del Piano M, et al. Utilization of the intestinal tract as a delivery system for urogenital probiotics. J Clin Gastroenterol 2004; 38: S107–10.
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- Falagas, Matthew E., Gregoria I. Betsi, and Stavros Athanasiou. “Probiotics for prevention of recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis: a review.” Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 58.2 (2006): 266-272.
- Antonio M, Hawes S, Hillier S. The identification of vaginal Lactobacillus species and the demographic and microbiologic characteristics of women colonised by these species. J Infect Dis 1999; 180: 1950–6.
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