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You might have seen a few advertisements on television lately about the importance of balancing the good and bad bacteria in your gut.
Or you may have heard a coworker raving about the benefits of probiotics. You may have even read that claims women need probiotics more than men!
Whatever you do, you’re excited about that, and you’re ready to go, because you’re going to give you all the information you need about what probiotics are and how you can introduce them into your life to improve your gut and overall health.
Article at a glance
- 1 What are probiotics?
- 2 Do I need probiotics?
- 3 When to take probiotics
- 4 Types of probiotic strains
- 5 Tips and tricks for purchasing probiotics
- 6 Best Probiotics for Women
- 6.1 #5 Renew Life: Ultimate Flora Probiotic
- 6.2 What does this mean for you?
- 6.3 #4 Sedona Labs: Iflora Women
- 6.4 What does this mean for you?
- 6.5 #3 Renew Life: Women’s Vaginal Ultimate Flora Probiotic
- 6.6 What does this mean for you?
- 6.7 #2 Hyperbiotics: Pro-Women
- 6.8 What does this mean for you?
- 6.9 #1 Garden of Life: Raw Probiotics for Women
- 6.10 What does this mean for you?
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that live within your small and large intestines aiding with digestion and absorption of nutrients, among other things.
We know what you’re thinking, bacteria equals gross!
But actually, these good bacteria are essential for maintaining good gut health and defending your body against bad bacteria.
Groupings of these beneficial strains of bacteria, yeast and live microorganisms are called ‘gut flora’.
In a healthy person there are 400 species of probiotics in the body and around 40 trillion good and bad bacterial cells.
Probiotics help to produce a heap of vitamins such as A, K and B1, they are also responsible for around 70% of the body’s immune function as well as helping to regulate hormones in women .
So if probiotics are so important and useful, why are they just gaining the spotlight in the last few years?
Well, it’s partly because of all the awesome developments in general health awareness but mainly because clinical studies of probiotics are very time consuming and expensive due to how thorough they need to be.
So research into their benefits has been slow to be released but every new morsel of information has been very promising .
Probiotics can be found naturally in foods such as:
- Sauerkraut (pickled cabbage)
- Kefir (cultured, fermented beverage akin to a yoghurt drink)
- Kombucha (fermented tea drink)
- Kimchi (popular spicy Korean dish of spicy, fermented cabbage)
And do not forget your prebiotics, if you’re getting your probiotics from food it’s great to consume some prebiotics as well as help the friendly bacteria thrive and multiply in your gut.
You can get prebiotics from foods like bananas, onions, garlic, wholegrain oatmeal and asparagus.
Not every woman has the time to make sure her diet is healthy and perfectly balanced. Work, kids, social commitments and life in general can get in the way of ensuring you’re getting all the nutrients you need from your diet.
They are a great way to help you along and ensure the good and bad bacteria in your gut are balanced, by taking a probiotic supplement specifically designed for women.
A probiotic supplement is going to be most helpful when you’re lacking a healthy diet, however, even if you’re on top of your health, the daily dose of probiotics will boost your body’s energy at absorbing nutrients from your food .
The perfect booster to make sure your health efforts are fully capitalized on.
Probiotics can also assist with keeping your vaginal health in check , preventing nasty yeast infections that can cause thrush – which may otherwise wreak all kinds of havoc down there.
And if you’re a regular sufferer from the dreaded urinary tract infection (UTI’s), something that is much more common in women than men, then probiotics can help lessen their severity and even prevent further infections .
When to take probiotics
The great thing about taking a probiotic is that you never have to worry you’re going to overdo it.
Basically, the probiotics in a daily supplement do not actually set up camp in your gut, instead they pass through and crowd out nasty microorganisms so that when they leave your system the normal way, they take some of the bad bacteria with them.
In saying that, it’s always best to start off slow and gradually work your way up to allow your body to get used to your new supplement.
Probiotics are great for when you’ve been on a course of antibiotics and need to allow your gut flora to replenish but do not want to give bad bacteria the chance to overpopulate the neighborhood.
Or, if you have a viral infection such as diarrhea, have been stressed or exposed to an extremely poor diet that’s left you with lots of toxins in your body.
All these factors are indicators that you need a daily hit of probiotics to get your body back on track before it all starts to go downhill.
Here are a few of the conditions that probiotics are said to assist in treating:
- Urinary / vaginal health
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Obesity / weight loss
- Immune health
- Oral health
- Common cold
If you’re still unsure whether a probiotic supplement is the way to go, pop down to your doctor for an official recommendation. Your doctor will be able to let you know if and how it would benefit you and what kind of you are.
This is especially important if you are using a probiotic to treat a specific health issue – you need to know exactly what probiotic strains to take are not all equal, which is explained below.
Types of probiotic strains
So this is the confusing part. Within probiotics, there are certain strains that each serves a different function and treat different conditions .
Not all strains can be used together. Some will negate the effects of another. It is important to find a supplement that contains all the strains you need that work together in harmony instead of buying a couple of different probiotic supplements – that’s a big no-no.
To make it a little easier, we’ve broken down the strains and their uses:
This is the most important bacterium species. They live in the small intestine and are responsible for producing lactase which is the enzyme that breaks down lactose – the sugar in milk.
They are also the bacteria that create an acidic environment in your digestive tract to discourage nasty microorganisms, they do this by fermenting the carbohydrates you consume which produces lactic acid.
This lactic acid also helps your body absorb calcium, iron and magnesium which are all very important minerals for a healthy body.
Lactobacillus strains and what they can help with:
- Acidophilus – Overall digestion and immune health, urinary and vaginal health, absorbing nutrients, relief for cramping, gas and diarrhea
- Fermentum – Overall digestion, neutralizes toxins generated from digestion of food
- Plantarum – Overall digestion and immune health
- Rhamnosus – One of the best Lactobacillus strains for vaginal health, helps with traveler’s diarrhea
- Salivarius – Immune and oral health
- Paracasei – Liver health
- Gasseri – The best Lactobacillus strain for healthy vaginal microflora, help decrease diarrhea
- Reuteri – Overall digestion and immune health, oral health
These bacteria reside in your large intestine and protect your body against nasty bacteria and microorganisms like yeast. They do this by producing lactic acid which generates 70% of the energy needed by cells that create a natural barrier in your gut.
Bifidobacterium also produces B vitamins that assist with digestion and fuel production for the body and vitamin K which is essential for strong and healthy skin, hair, bones and more.
Bifidobacterium strains and what they can help with:
- Bifidum – Overall digestion and nutrient absorption, relief from diarrhea
- Longum – Overall digestion and immune health, neutralizes toxins generated from digestion of food
- Infants – Overall digestion, decreases bloating and constipation
These lactic acid producing bacteria live in your small intestine, they are highly resistant to stomach acid and remain in your system longer than other bacteria.
Bacillus strain and what it helps with:
- Coagulans – Overall digestion, relief from constipation, highly effective for good vaginal health
Another bacterium that produces lactic acid, has been said to assist with the immune system and colon health as they are great at protecting the tissue in your intestine.
Streptoccocus strains and what they can help with:
- Salivarius K12 – Overall oral and immune health
- Salivarius M18 – Healthy teeth and gums
Tips and tricks for purchasing probiotics
Check out the culture count
You need at least 10 billion colony forming units (CFU’s) to get any kind of effect, but aim for as many as you can. Some brands can contain over 80 billion CFU’s.
Check how many and which strains
At least 10 strains is a great place to start but aim for as many as possible. If you’re choosing a probiotic for specific health conditions, make sure to get the correct strains using our guide above.
Coating on capsules
The probiotics can be killed off by stomach acid, so make sure the capsules have an acid-resistant coating. This also reduces your chances of getting an upset stomach.
Shelf life / refrigeration
Check the shelf life of your probiotic supplements and the expiry date. Choose the one that is furthest away from expiry as the potency can be reduced after being on the shelf for a long time. Most probiotics keep best when refrigerated so make sure they are stored properly before purchase.
Check the label
Always read the label thoroughly. You want to make sure all probiotic strains are within the Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, E. Coli and Bifidobacterium species to ensure you’re getting native bacteria. Also take note of extra ingredients and fillers. If you can avoid fillers, that’s the best way to go but pick a probiotic with added vitamins and minerals.
You will need some kind of prebiotic included with your supplement, like inulin, this will help the bacteria so they can of their job effectively.
As the probiotics do not stay within your body, you need to be taking them daily. Aim for one that’s no more than three/four capsules per day to decrease your chances of missing the dose.
Best Probiotics for Women
Claiming to have around 50 billion CFU’s and 10 probiotic strains, this is great for overall immune and digestive health with delayed release delivery.
A more targeted probiotic, it includes a good level of diversity within its strains including Bifidobacteria (5 billion) and Lactobacilli (45 billion) cultures to support immune and vaginal health.
What does this mean for you?
This targeted probiotic for women has a good level of CFU’s and strain diversity. This is a great beginners probiotic and only requires one a day dosage. If you’re the kind of person that often forgets to take medication, this might be a good option. The high concentration of lactobacilli also great if you suffer from a compromised immune system.
- Once daily capsule
- Medium potency formula
- Stomach acid resistant
- Might be a bit harsh for beginners – can cause digestive issues
- Has to be refrigerated
This probiotic is resistant to stomach acid and is advertised to support healthy digestion, bowel function and both vaginal and urinary tract health.
It claims to hold around 30 billion effective CFU’s and as many as 6 targeted strains.
It incorporates good level of probiotic strain / CFU diversity and does not require refrigeration.
What does this mean for you?
If you can’t take your probiotic supplement with food or you find that this is inconvenient this probiotic might be a good option. The capsule is resistant to stomach acid which means you dont have to remember to take it with your breakfast or lunch.
- Small pills
- Gentle formula
- Does not require refrigeration
- Targets vaginal and urinary tract health
- Reccomends to be taken twice daily (15 billion CFU’s per capsule)
- Only 6 strains (less than some others below)
A more well rounded probiotic with 90 billion CFU’s and 12 strains. It has a fantastic level of diversity in its CFUs and probiotic strains with a focus on Lactobacilli (54 billion) to help support urinary and vaginal health.
It is usually taken once daily through a vegetarian sustained release capsule.
It is recommended to keep refrigerated for best results.
What does this mean for you?
If you’re looking for a more potent probiotic that targets vaginal health, this might be your best bet due to the lactobacilli focus. However you will have to keep this at home in the refrigerator.
- Time release delivery
- Focuses on vaginal health
- Must be refrigerated
Touted as the ‘controlled-release probiotics that get you where you need them most’. This probiotic claims to work 15 times better than other brands. This unique probiotic is heavily focused on preventing yeast infections.
Although advertised as 5 billion CFU’s, its product claims to have 5 billion effective CFU’s ‘per bio-tract’ (around 75 billion CFU’s per standard capsule) and 6 probiotic strains.
What does this mean for you?
If you have a yeast related concern this might be the best choice for you. In addition if you’re looking to shed some extra weight, this probiotic should help. You also won’t need to keep this in the fridge, do you can take it with you wherever you go.
- Don’t have to refrigerate
- Shown to help with yeast and weight issues
- No added sugars
- Controlled release probiotics
- Eleven per day (sustained release)
- Moderate potency
- Fewer effective strains
- Relatively large capsule size
The great thing about this probiotic is that it mimics the function and benefits of eating fermented whole foods.
It’s formula is designed for women with no added fillers.
Boasting over 85 billion effective CFU’s and 32 probiotic strains, this supplement clearly tops our list for the best probiotic supplement for women.
What does this mean for you?
If you’re looking for an all-round extra potent top of the range supplement, this is for you. You don’t have to take it with food. If you’re looking for the best supplement money can buy, this might be the one you’re looking for.
- 85 billion CFU’s
- 32 probiotic strains
- Gluten free, no fillers
- Do not have to take it with food
- Pills are quite large
- Have to be refrigerated