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!