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!

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

  1. Hi there! Great work with this site! It’s been so incredibly helpful. I was wondering if you could offer any insight on my situation. I got a UTI a year ago, and while Cipro worked well, there was still this lingering burning at the end of peeing. The doctor told me to drink cranberry juice but it just masks the symptoms. As soon as I stop, I feel the burn again.

    Been on more antibiotics, but the burning hasn’t gone away. Now I feel it even when I feel the urge to go and my urethra muscles automatically clench, which sends a chill up my body. So basically I feel a sting/burn both before and at the end of peeing. I’m currently on long-term nitrofurantoin for a month. I’ve had ultrasounds done (normal), stopped cranberry, take D-mannose daily, probiotics every day/alternate days, drink 2L of water. My culture showed 13,000 CFU E. Coli.

    Have you got any ideas as to how I can go about solving this?

    I also have a question – marshmallow root was suggested in your post about the holistic approach but I have read that if there are biofilms, the gel-like texture adds to the biofilm ‘slime’ and makes it harder to break it down. Could you shed more light on this?

    1. Anastasia Visotsky

      Hi Tara, happy new year! I’d suggest Aloe vera capsules if your doctor is ok with that. But you have to take them for a couple months to start seeing results. Also think about other ways you could reduce inflammation (food that you eat, eliminate sugars). Cranberry juice is IMHO at most is a placebo, I wouldn’t build a preventive strategy around it. I’d suggest to increase the amount and variety of fiber in your diet, decrease the number of grains and starches and slowly restore the microbiome in your gut that will eventually affect the microbiome of your bladder. It’s a long process, but something I’d highly recommend looking into especially after a month of antibiotics.
      As to your worries about marshmallow, please provide a link to the source, but I’d doubt it works like that. You are not covering your bladder walls with gel, your urine doesn’t turn into a gel :)) but some plants can help with decreasing inflammation due to the whatever microelements that end up in the urine after liver metabolizes the plant extract. There are not many factual studies to prove that this plant can help but it’s one of those things that are most likely a low risk to try (with your doc permission).

      1. Hello! Happy New Year to you as well! Thank you for responding. All of what you say makes very good sense. Currently, the burning at the end has stopped, but I feel a sting when my urethra muscles clench when I feel the urge to go. Any idea what’s causing this? It’s a new symptom that came about just recently. For about 11 months, the only symptom I had was burning at the end. Now it burns at the start, lol. Here is the link to the info about marshmallow root (it also has aloe vera juice mentioned in the same topic)

        1. Anastasia Visotsky

          🙂 Sure. The author talks about mucus in the gut, there would be no mucus in the bladder. Your burning sensation is probably due to some residual inflammation , it is not surprising that this is the symptom that came after several UTI episodes. Imagine that you’d bite your cheek in the same spot many times, the more it happens, the longer it takes to heal and the longer it feels raw.

          1. That makes a lot of sense! So if I’ve understood correctly, marshmallow root would increase mucus in the gut, but not in the bladder, and only microelements of it would end up in the bladder/urine which could help. I’m suspecting some biofilms since the UTI burning hasn’t ever gone away for a whole year now. I’m definitely trying not to strain when peeing. I think it was so inflamed in there that I was subconsciously straining and squeezing trying to get everything out. Since stopping that, it’s been a lot less painful. And sitz baths are helping so much!

            Thank you so much for your help!! xx

          2. Anastasia Visotsky

            Tara, if relaxation helps, check out also physical therapy for IC (you can google it, I haven’t written about it) and maybe even homeopathy or acupuncture. Biofilms have no symptoms besides recurring infections.

          3. I would also like to suggest pelvic floor physical therapy. I sought out pelvic floor therapy for pelvic pain but in our first meeting when she was asking me about other symptoms and I mentioned lingering stinging months after a UTI she said that can be caused by inflammation and trigger points in the pelvic floor muscles. Basically you have lived with pain and a way of coping with the pain is “guarding” the muscles a bit, which leads to trigger points much in the same way neck pain can lead to “knots” in your back and shoulder muscles. Sure enough, there were numerous trigger points when she started some myfacial release work on me but the direct PT over several weeks and home exercises completely helped! I would only trust it to a PT who has had specific training in pelvic floor therapy (mine was at a PT clinic dedicated to pelvic therapy) but I’m a total believer.

          4. Anastasia Visotsky

            Hi Lyn, I agree, this is a very good point. Lots of women in our FB group tried it and found very useful in reducing their symptoms.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.