Probiotics & UTI: what do you need to know (Part 1)

Probiotics are quickly becoming a buzz word, but are there probiotics for UTI prevention? Yes, there are probiotics for all kinds of health benefits that vary from cardiovascular health and weight loss to oral health and, of course, vaginal health. But does it mean that eating more yogurt will improve your vaginal flora? Unfortunately, no!

Let’s explore this topic in more detail to better understand how to choose the right probiotic.

There are many kinds of probiotics

The word “probiotic” means “pro-life” and describes a large group of different microorganisms. It has been estimated that more than a thousand of different species or types of bacteria make their homes in and on humans.

Just our gut contains 30 to 40 different kinds of strains. Each type plays its own role and they all interact dynamically with each other and with our human cells. A yogurt or any other fermented product will only have 3 to 5 different strains.

Moreover, a particular strain was chosen to turn milk into yogurt (or cabbage into kimchi) due to the resulting flavor profile. No amount of yogurt or pickles would be able to substitute a probiotic product that has bacterial strains selected to target your vaginal flora, for example.

Of course, fermented foods are extremely beneficial, but don’t necessarily deliver target help where you need it most. Therefore you will definitely need a supplement.

How to read the label

First of all, look at the back label of any product that claims to have probiotics. You’ll see a bunch of Latin words. Don’t fret! Here is how to make sense of it.

When reading the labels, look for the name of the genus, species, and strains. You’ll need all three to identify the right one because the word “probiotics” just tells us that these are beneficial bacteria (like the word “animals” only generally describes living creatures).

-First Latin word (or letter) is the genus. For example, “Lactobacillus” or “L.” (it’s like “canine family” that describes the big family of dogs, wolfs, and foxes).

-Second Latin word is the name of the species. For example, “reuteri” (this is narrowing it down to “a dog”)

-And finally the last part is the strain. For example, “RC-14” (so it’s a breed like “Pit-bull” or “Pomeranian”. Both are dogs, but so different from each other!

As you see, if I tell you that I have “a dog” at home this is not enough. You need to know about this breed in order to decide if he is a dangerous dog or a cute one.

Therefore, Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 will have very different properties than Bifidobacterium animalis DN173 010 as you would expect from the difference in their names.

I hope, by now you understand that when you see a word “probiotics”, you need to look for the small print. Because nobody would be satisfied with a label on a cage at a zoo that says “animal”.

Which probiotics are good for vaginal health?

First of all, healthy vagina equals less UTIs.

To figure that out, about 35 years ago, researchers selected healthy women, took swabs from their vaginas and learned that a certain genus normally exists in the healthy vagina. The well-researched genus name is Lactobacillus (sometimes shorten to just “L.”)

“The lactobacilli are thought to maintain a favorable vaginal pH in the acidic range and to inhibit pathogens, possibly through the production of hydrogen peroxide and other antimicrobial factors”.

“The most conclusive human studies to date on the impact of lactobacilli on bacterial vaginosis showed that Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 administered in milk could pass through the intestine, ascend to the vagina and restore a normal lactobacilli microbiota in women prone to infections (read more).” Some studies also mention Lactobacillus reuteri B-54.

Here are two brands that have both of these strains:

1) RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic Feminine Supplement, 30-Count Capsules

2) Jarrow Formulas Fem-Dophilus, 60 Capsules

Now you know which “animals” to look for in your probiotic supplements.

Once you’ve learned which genus, species, and strains you have in the bottle, the next step is to find an efficient method to deliver these bacteria in sufficient quantities to the destination (precisely, your vagina). Read my next post about this!

10 thoughts on “Probiotics & UTI: what do you need to know (Part 1)”

  1. Hii thank you for all the information
    I myself am suffering from uti from past 5 months and the doctors have changed a lot of antibiotics so finally after some reseach i am starting d mannose and jack farrows probiotics
    I just wanted to knw do u take probiotics while u wee on antiobiotics or once u are done with them . Plz help i am really frustrated by this time

    1. Anastasia Visotsky

      Hi Aditi, when taking probiotics while on antibiotics just make sure to take them several hours apart. Probiotics can help you mitigate some side-effects of the antibiotics 🙂

  2. Hi I Recently Diagnosed myself with a urinary tract infection at first I thought I was drinking to much water So I was just peeing a lot. But a week went by and I couldn’t stop so I went to the Doctor and was told I do have a UTI this will be the first time I’ve ever had one . Am I prone to have another one after my first case clears up. I recently have had a new sex partner does it mean he gave it to me and he gave one? Or can it be from me taking too many baths?

  3. Hi,

    What is the correct daily maintenance dose and with how much water? If you take 1 teaspoon of D mannose before bed with about 20ml of water so that it is highly concentrated, is that okay? And then flush it out with the first urination the next morning. Do you need to take it with more water before bed so that it fills the whole bladder and reaches all parts of the bladder or is just 20ml of water enough? Thanks.

    1. Hi Sam,
      Thank you for asking! Actually, just last week I asked a physician if the amount of water matters and he thought the amount of water would not matter (contrary to what I have wrote and read myself before). His comment was that D-Mannose taken by mouth has to pass through the liver before it is expelled with urine, therefore the amount of D-Mannose in your urine would mainly depend on your metabolic processes rather than amount of water. However, if your drink A LOT of water right away then you are obviously diluting your urine. I personally take it in a half glass of water and it seem to be working so far. Maybe try that? 20 ml of water sounds too little, probably wouldn’t be enough to even dissolve the powder. Bottom line, one glass or half a glass should not really matter.
      Best wishes,

  4. Hi Anastasia,
    I am a little confused as I do have a UTI but am unsure as to why you discuss putting back the flora in the vaginal tract when it’s bacteria in the urinal tract that is causing my problem?? Please can you enlighten me as to why you talk about this for a UTI?
    Kind Regards jo

    1. Hi Jo,
      Sure! Here is a post explaining the mechanics of UTI:
      How UTIs happen
      1) Bacteria E. coli is a part of normal bacterial flora in our intestines and rectum and is always found in human poop.
      2) It is easy for E. coli to travel to your vagina opening and from there, especially during sex-play, to your urethra. This is normally how it spreads, that’s why a UTI after sex is such a common thing.
      3) E. coli normally cannot survive in the healthy vagina for too long (too acidic for its taste), but it feels perfectly fine residing in the urethra and bladder. You, on the other hand, get all the nasty symptoms of UTI if E. coli is colonizing your urethra or bladder
      So by supporting a healthy vaginal flora you get rid of the bacteria while it is mid-way towards your urethra. This is the reason #1.
      The reason #2 is that your bladder has it’s own microbiome that supports healthy balance and prevents E. coli from reproducing. A bit more on this topic is in my recent post here
      However, most of the probiotics are targeting the reason #1 since the strains responsible for a healthy vaginal flora are more researched than the microbiome of bladder.

    1. Hi Celeste, I’ll re-post my answer from a previous thread here.
      There are multiple factors that affect vaginal flora, therefore there is no “one size fits all” answer!
      Here are the factors:
      1) Microbiological characteristics of every vagina is different to begin with ????
      2) By adding certain probiotic strains as a supplement one tries to introduce helpful bacteria into their microbiome. Nobody really knows what does the “perfect balance” of bacteria constitute.
      3) Some probiotic strains are more researched than others in their effect on vaginal and bladder flora, yet so far it is more art then science.
      4) Probiotic’s potency varies! Methods of administering probiotics will also influence how quickly you’ll deliver the beneficial bacteria where they most needed.
      5) Your lifestyle (what you eat, your levels of stress, medications) continuously affects your microbiome resulting in varying levels of beneficial and pathogenic bacteria with time.
      With all this being said, here is an article that describes an experiment of promoting growth of certain type of beneficial probiotic strains in a group of women who suffered from bacterial vaginosis. According to the study, they were able to see positive results within a week. For myself, I do a 30 day cycle every quarter more or less and repeat in times of stress, or after eating/drinking too much sugar and starch and if taking antibiotics or any prescription drugs.

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