Probiotics, the popular natural supplements containing live friendly bacteria, have a wide spectrum of potential uses. That is what this series of articles has explored over the past several days. Here I look at some specific uses for probiotics for our female readership. And a bonus look at three common “atopic” diseases.
Urogenital infections, such as bacterial vaginosis, yeast vaginitis, and urinary tract infection, affect a staggering one billion women around the world. They do respond well to antibiotics. But these infections often recur; they keep happening, in part because the bacteria ascend from the rectum to the vagina and then the bladder. So antibiotics can’t be considered the best approach here.
A 2003 landmark study with 64 women showed that taking the probiotics “Lactobacillus rhamnosus” and “L. fermentum” every day helped reduce yeast and coliform bacteria in the vagina. A Canadian urologist first conceived the concept of restoring probiotics in the vagina as a way of preventing future infection. Since then, research has shown that certain strains of probiotics can colonize the vagina and reduce the risk of urinary tract infection, yeast vaginitis, and bacterial vaginosis. Women could reduce infections by between 50% and 80%.
Using probiotics in this way has great possibilities for patients and physicians. Women can take supplements by mouth, which then colonizes the intestine and vagina, thus maintaining urogenital health. This is a great step in the direction of therapy, because people can skip seeing the doctor and use it themselves, but the proper strain must be used for best effect.
Atopic diseases are thought to be the result of an imbalanced immune response to our environmental or dietary allergens. The three involved here are allergic rhinitis (hay fever), atopic dermatitis, and asthma. The fact that there are more atopic diseases in the developed countries as compared to underdeveloped countries may be the result of reduced microbial pressure, or exposure to microbes during childhood.
Probiotics taken during pregnancy has been shown to confer protection against atopic disease in newborn infants. Supplements with “Bifidobacterium lactis” or “Lactobacillus GG” reduced the extent and severity of atopic eczema in infants and young children.
A 2006 study found that probiotics are effective in treating allergies caused by pollen, if you can believe it! Same goes for allergies caused by dust mites.
Read the first four parts of this series here: