You're going to want to listen up, because we've got some news for your vagina (yes, you heard us right).
Probiotics have been at the forefront of the health-and-wellness realm for a while now. There are prebiotics and probiotics, refrigerated and non-refrigerated, live cultures and soil-based organisms. With countless brands peddling the popular supplements and the craze surrounding fermented foods ever on the rise, probiotics are here to stay. Whatever kind you choose to take, those who adopt them into their daily routine generally do so solely for the gut-balancing benefits.
But did you know there are probiotics made specifically for your vagina? Yeah, we didn't either. So, to get the lowdown on this ladies-only variety, we spoke with Dr. Lauren Streicher, Associate Professor of Ob/Gyn at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Read on to find out what we learned.
More from InStyle
VIDEO: The Best and Worst Foods For Your Vagina
During our crash course in vaginal probiotics, we first wanted to know who exactly should be taking them. "Bacteria or yeast-related problems can affect every woman throughout the life cycle," she told us, so in other words, they're for everyone with a vagina (sign us up!). Specifically, if you're prone to yeast infections, then these may be particularly beneficial to you.
Dr. Streicher went on to explain how these supplements work, and they're similar to the kind you take for gut health. Just like the gut, vaginas have their very own "good bacteria" that balance things out down there. But, she says, everyday activities such as "taking oral antibiotics, the menstrual cycle, sexual activity, exercise, and swimming, and hormonal changes like pregnancy or menopause can upset the natural balance of yeast and bacteria that live in the vagina." This can lead to an overgrowth of non-pathogenic bacteria, or "bad bacteria," and that's where you run into problems.
According to Dr. Streicher, vaginal probiotics provide a bacteria called "probiotic lactobacillus," which is a strain specific to the vagina that "works with your body to balance vaginal yeast and bacteria."
"Some products [on the market] contain probiotic strains that are designed to promote digestive, immunity, or other health benefits but are not specific to vaginal health," she explained. "It is important to understand the features of these products so that you know if what you are taking is actually beneficial to your overall vaginal health."
So, where to begin? Dr. Streicher recommends RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic Feminine Supplement ($18, amazon.com). Taken orally (we know you were wondering), this particular brand "contains two patented and clinically-tested strains of probiotic lactobacillus that have been shown to maintain vaginal health," she says. "When taken daily, the probiotic strains in Pro-B are shown to introduce beneficial bacteria into the vagina, promote and sustain healthy vaginal flora, and functions as a preventative to help ward off yeast and bacterial vaginal infections."
Like with all medications and supplements, speak with your doctor before starting a vaginal probiotic regimen to see if they're right for you.