Locations:
Search IconSearch

Are Probiotics Good for Vaginal Health?

Maintain a healthy vaginal microbiota with the help of good bacteria

An illustrated person stands with their arms crossed surrounded by graphics of microorganisms.

Whether found in foods like pickles, yogurt or sauerkraut, or even as a supplement, probiotics aid in gut health. Live microorganisms, probiotics survive in your gut when ingested and provide more of the good bacteria that we naturally have.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But is it possible that those same probiotics can help with the health of your vagina?

The research is promising, says Ob/Gyn Oluwatosin Goje, MD.

“Many Lactobacillus strains possess probiotic properties, and several studies demonstrate the ability of Lactobacillus to adhere to vaginal and cervical epithelial cells,” explains Dr. Goje. “Numerous Lactobacillus strains have been shown to be active against the main pathogens responsible for bacterial infections of the vaginal and urinary tract.”

Some Lactobacillus strains that can help with vaginal health include:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus.
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus.
  • Lactobacillus gasseri.
  • Lactobacillus crispatus.
  • Lactobacillus jensenii.
  • Lactobacillus reuteri.

Dr. Goje explains the research around probiotics and vaginal health.

Vaginal concerns related to microbiomes

It’s estimated that about 100 trillion microbes are found inside the human body, with many of them residing in our gut.

But there are also more than 50 different microbes that live inside of your vagina. Researchers are just beginning to study the connection between the gut microbiome and vaginal microbiome, says Dr. Goje.

“There is a possibility of ‘crosstalk’ between the gut and vagina microbiota; however, we still need more research to understand the relationship,” she continues. “The transfer of bacterial strain from the gut to the vagina has been indicated in a lab. But the question of if we can balance vaginal health via gut health is still experimental.”

Vaginal imbalances can lead to bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.

These imbalances can be caused by:

  • Having unprotected sex.
  • Changes in hormones.
  • Having a menstrual cycle.
  • Poor hygiene.

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV), a common vaginal infection, happens when normal bacteria that live in your vagina overgrow, causing a bacterial imbalance and changes in vaginal pH.

Symptoms may include:

  • Off-white, gray or greenish color vaginal discharge.
  • Discharge that smells “fishy.”
  • A “fishy” smell that is stronger after sex or during your menstrual cycle.

Advertisement

In some individuals, BV goes away without treatment. But in others, antibiotics may be needed to treat this infection.

Studies show that taking probiotics like Lactobacillus crispatus may treat and even help prevent BV.

“The vaginal application of Lactobacillus crispatus after treatment of BV with a topical antibiotic decreased recurrence for three months after the last dose of the probiotic,” notes Dr. Goje.

Yeast infections

A vaginal yeast infection is a type of vaginitis, a condition where your vagina is swollen, painful and creates a discharge. Vaginal yeast infections happen to more than 1 million individuals in the United States every year.

Symptoms may include:

  • An itchy sensation in your vagina and vulva.
  • A thick, white vaginal discharge with the consistency of cottage cheese.
  • Redness and swelling of your vagina and vulva.
  • Small cuts or tiny cracks in the skin of your vulva.
  • A burning feeling when you urinate.

Advertisement

A vaginal yeast infection traditionally is treated with an antifungal medication. This type of medication is specifically used to combat overgrowths of yeast in your body.

But Lactobacillus rhamnosus can also be helpful when it comes to yeast infections. The probiotic can survive acidic conditions in the human body leading to long-term benefits.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus, the most researched probiotic, has been found to be beneficial in the prevention of yeast infection,” explains Dr. Goje. “Research shows that Lactobacillus rhamnosus kills bacteria and yeast in the vagina. It can restore the urogenital flora in individuals with a history of BV, yeast vaginitis or urinary tract infections (UTIs).”

Lactoferrin, a protein and one of the major antimicrobial components of our immune system, has been found to kill bacteria in the vagina. A combination of oral lactoferrin with or without oral or vaginal Lactobacillus may restore balance in your vagina and prevent frequent infections.

Do I need probiotics for pH balance?

Different areas of the human body have their own pH balance, including your blood, skin and reproductive system.

You may have seen products claiming to help balance the pH of your vagina. So, is vaginal pH balance something you need to be concerned about?

Your vaginal pH levels play a role in preventing infections, supporting healthy pregnancies and any hormonal changes.

How acidic a substance is runs from 0 to 14. A pH of less than 7 is considered acidic, and a pH of more than 7 is basic. Maintaining a normal vaginal pH greater than 4.5 could help achieve a balanced vaginal environment and prevent recurrent BV.

Turning to probiotics may help with your vaginal pH balance.

Advertisement

“Probiotics, or lactobacillus found in probiotics, produce lactic acid which subsequently produces hydrogen peroxide,” says Dr. Goje. “Production of hydrogen peroxide contributes to a healthy vagina, establishing defense against pathogens.”

Strains to look for to promote overall health

There are around 500 different strains of probiotics. When it comes to promoting the overall health of your vagina, you want to look for probiotics Lactobacillus crispatus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, which have been shown in human trials to be beneficial for vaginal health.

  • Lactobacillus crispatus.This strain is one of the predominant ones found in the vaginal microbiota and produces hydrogen peroxide. Lactobacillus crispatus is available as a supplement.
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus.This strain is typically found in your intestines and produces lactase, an enzyme. Lactase can break down sugar lactose into lactic acid. Lactobacillus rhamnosus is available as a supplement, but is also added to foods like yogurt, cheese, milk and other dairy products.

“I recommend reading the labels and confirming it has Lactobacillus crispatus and or Lactobacillus rhamnosus amongst the other Lactobacillus in the probiotic,” says Dr. Goje. “Probiotics come as a combination of various Lactobacillus. Some have lactoferrin and those targeting UTI prevention may have cranberry extracts.”

While probiotics don’t have any side effects, make sure you take any supplements as directed. And if you have recurrent BV and yeast infections, even after trying medications and probiotic supplements, it’s important to see your doctor.

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person holding bottle and dropper, adding droplets into glass of water
June 11, 2024/Diet, Food & Fitness
Is Colloidal Silver Safe?

Supplements with colloidal silver offer no proven health benefits and could be harmful

Person talking with doctor on a virtual call about vitamins
May 13, 2024/Nutrition
Yes, You Can Take Too Many Vitamins

If you’re taking supplements, it’s important to understand which vitamins and minerals you can get too much of, like vitamin C and calcium

Hand holding packet of birth control pills in front of feet on a scale
April 23, 2024/Women's Health
Birth Control and Weight Gain: What the Science Says

Despite popular opinion, scientific research shows that most birth control methods don’t contribute to weight gain

Male holding pill and glass of water, with assorted alcohol behind him crossed out
April 22, 2024/Primary Care
Why You Should Avoid Alcohol on Antibiotics

Even a little alcohol can slow your recovery, so it’s best to wait until after you finish your antibiotics before imbibing

Person on scale, questioning muscle weight vs. fat weight
April 12, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
The Difference Between Muscle Weight vs. Fat Weight

Both are needed for a healthy body

Plate full of colorful and healthy fruits, veggies and grains
April 8, 2024/Women's Health
6 Ways To Boost Breast Health

Taking precautions like eating healthy, stopping smoking and getting regular screenings can help protect against breast cancer

Assorted fruits and vegetables in variety of colors
March 27, 2024/Nutrition
What Is Zeaxanthin? Benefits and Side Effects

Found in colorful foods like spinach, corn and oranges, this carotenoid helps with eye, skin and liver health

bottle of SARM tablets and liquid, with muscular people in background
March 25, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
SARMs: What’s the Harm?

If you think SARMs are a safe way to build muscle — think again

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims

Ad