Have you ever had yeast infections, urinary tract infections or bacterial vaginosis? While it’s not a pleasant experience, more than 75 percent of women get such diseases due to an imbalance of bacteria. Luckily, the use of probiotics may help treat and prevent such infections.

Lactobacillus — a protective type of good bacteria — prevents bad bacteria from growing and producing chemicals like lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide within the vagina. If bad bacteria begins to overcrowd, the risk grows for UTIs, bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, sexually transmitted diseases and even preterm labor.

To combat urogenital infections, many women use common over-the-counter treatments. Unfortunately several of these are not effective and can even be detrimental by increasing harmful bacteria. Instead, research has shown probiotics may be the solution.

Compared to international markets, the U.S. is far behind on probiotics, but we’re slowly catching up. For example, probiotic vaginal suppositories and probiotic tampons are used in Asia and Europe to strengthen women’s defenses against infection.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

Do you feel the need to urinate often, experience pain during urination or have cloudy urine? These are all symptoms of a UTI. Usually antibiotics are recommended to treat the infection by fighting bad bacteria, including the most common bacterium to cause a UTI: E. coli. Antibiotics wipe out all bacteria, both good and bad, so taking probiotics promotes the growth of good bacteria faster if you’ve taken or are on an antibiotic.

Women are more likely to develop a UTI than men, and half of the women who do will have recurrent infections. Recent research shows recurring UTIs are reduced greatly by treatment with probiotic vaginal suppositories.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection. While antibiotics are again frequently prescribed for treatment, they only provide relief for 40 percent of women. Reports show taking probiotics in vaginal suppositories or by eating live-culture yogurt may be the new treatment for BV.

What to avoid in order to battle BV:

• Smoking
• Using IUDs
• Douching frequently
• Having sex with multiple partners
• Using spermicides

Any women with recurrent BV or yeast infections, or who are taking antibiotics, should add probiotics to their diet.

Yeast Infections

At least three in four women, particularly those with diabetes, will likely experience a yeast infection at least once in their lifetime. In one study, women who ate live-culture yogurt once a day had fewer yeast infections and normal vaginal balances. Those who ate yogurt without the live cultures had abnormal vaginal pH levels throughout the study.

You may ask, “When do yeast infections occur?” Most often after antibiotic treatment, steroid use, while using birth control pills, during times of high stress or with frequent douching. Instead of solely taking an antifungal medication, probiotics such as L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus and L. fermentum can treat and prevent future yeast infections.

Please Note: Always consult your physician before adding a supplement — including probiotics — to your diet.

Take care of your vaginal health, and start taking probiotics. Dr. Challa recommends the gourmet probiotic Probulin. Use promo code “Challa” on your order to receive 25 percent off at http://www.probulin.com/.

About the Author

Dr. Shekhar Challa is a board certified Gastroenterologist, Co-producer of probiotic video game Microwarriors: The Battle Within, and author of the new book Probiotics for Dummies. www.drchalla.com.

*Image: Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*