Probiotics for Treating Yeast Infections


The destruction of “good” bacteria is what allows yeast to mutate. When that happens it gets to spread throughout the body and wreak havoc. We can use probiotics to help fight against these yeast infections. It's a simple treatment but one that can prove very effective. Probiotics simply help to restore the good bacteria that look after immune and digestive health. Replenishing stocks not only heals but also assists in the long-term prevention of a relapse. Around 75 percent of all women will experience a yeast infection at least once in her lifetime [1].

Women also have plenty of bacteria in their gut too, just as men do. A healthy adult has around 70 – 100 trillion good bacteria living inside their digestive system. If we were to weigh it all it would come in at between 3 – 5 pounds. That's a lot of bacteria but don’t let it alarm you. These colonies comprise of many different species, all helping each other to survive. They are essential to good health and each species does a different job. Here are a few of the roles of your good bacteria:

  • Cleans up protein waste
  • Cleans up carbohydrate waste
  • Cleans up dairy waste
  • Lowers ph. levels so others can survive
  • Kills yeasts
  • Digests food
  • Helps other bacteria perform their job

We've known for some time of the benefits that probiotics provide for healing and maintaining good gut health. In women, probiotics can also be of benefit for maintaining urogenital health too. The vagina, just like the intestinal tract, is a finely balanced ecosystem. Also like the gut, the vaginal colonies of bacteria can get thrown out of balance by various factors. Some of these include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Spermicides
  • Birth control pills

Probiotic treatment helps to restore the fine balance of microflora. Restoring this balance may be beneficial for common urogenital problems in women. Some of these include yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis and even urinary tract infection [2].

You can look at your good bacteria like a functioning community, much like the peoples living in a big city. Like us, the bacteria live among each other, and when all's well with the world these communities live in complete harmony. Each of these bacteria performs a separate task or job so that the community as a whole can survive and prosper. It's a bit like us, out here in the bricks and mortar world.

About Vaginal Yeast Infections

Yeast is a fungus and it's something that all women have residing inside their vaginas, albeit in small numbers. Yeast gets out of control when too many cells grow for whatever reasons. This is how vaginal yeast infections occur. These infections are not uncommon or life-threatening but they can be bothersome all the same. The good news is that in most cases they are not serious and easily treatable. Yeast called Candida Albicans causes the majority of these upsets.

In a healthy vagina there are lots of bacteria but only a small amount of yeast cells. The dominant bacterium is one called Lactobacillus acidophilus. This is the bacterium which helps to keep other organisms under control so as to maintain a healthy environment [3].

Common Causes of Yeast Infections Include:

  • Taking antibiotics
  • High estrogen levels caused by pregnancy or hormone therapy
  • Various health issues like diabetes or HIV infection

A yeast infection often has some unpleasant side effects. Common symptoms include:

  • Itching or soreness in the vagina
  • Pain or burning when urinating or having sex
  • Thick, clumpy, odorless white discharge

Symptoms like the above typically occur one week before the woman's menstrual period.

Choosing the Right Probiotics for Yeast Infection

There is a plethora of different probiotics available to high street consumers. These all come with varying potency and different ingredients, thus making it hard for first timers to decide. Here are a few things to look out for when choosing your probiotic supplements.

Billions per Capsule

The numbers are huge here, and you will see products with anything from 1bn – 100bn or even more bacteria per capsule. If this is your first time, then it's best to start with a lower number, just until you have had time to check there is no severe die-off reaction (see below). No one can tell you what strains to take; only your body is able to do that. This is why it's best to start low and build up. Before we go on, let's just pause for a moment to look at what die-off reaction is and why you need to look out for it.

About Die-Off Reaction (Herxheimer Reaction)

Candida die-off symptoms vary from person to person. A sudden and large dosage of probiotics may cause a severe die-off reaction in some women. Not everyone reacts in the same way, which is why you have to look out for any symptoms. Here are some of the most common:

  • Cold feeling in your extremities, sudden chills
  • Fever
  • Gas, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Headaches, dizziness and/or fatigue
  • Higher than normal heart rate
  • Irritation (itchiness), rashes or hives
  • Muscle and joint pains
  • Nausea
  • Recurrent vaginal and sinus infections
  • Skin breakouts
  • Sweating
  • Swollen glands

Starting with a lower dose should prevent any severe die-off reactions. Once you are comfortable with your low dosage then you can increase it. Keep going like this until you are able to take the higher doses with confidence.

Should you experience any severe die-off symptoms, there's a good chance that your dose is too high. The solution is to slow down your treatment and reduce your dosage of probiotics and antifungals.

Soil-Based Probiotics

You may have noticed that soil-based probiotics have a much lower bacteria count. This is true, but that doesn't mean you'll necessarily get any less bacteria. The reason is because soil-based probiotics are much more resilient than non-soil-based probiotics. This means they're more likely to survive the journey to your gut than regular options. The common probiotics can and often do die quickly when exposed to low pH such as stomach acid [4].

Coating the probiotic capsules is one way to ensure safer delivery, though not all coatings are equal. Look out for enteric coating, which is a polymer barrier found on the oral supplements. Another is alginate. If in doubt, check the probiotics with an authority source so that you can make a better informed decision.

Which Bacteria Strains

OK, we've looked at the number of bacteria per capsule, now we need to look at the strains. Some probiotics contain a single strain. Others will contain many strains, sometimes more than 15. Naturopaths advocate going with more strains. They believe it's the most effective way to get Candida overgrowth under control. To be honest, there is no one-strain fits all here. You are all women but you won't all react in the exact same way to probiotics. This is a case of finding what works for you, but there are some guidelines you can follow. The general rule of thumb is to make sure your probiotic supplements contain some of the most potent strains, including these two:

  • Acidophilus
  • Bifidum

Make sure the probiotic has at least five individual strains including the two above.

Lactobacillus Acidophilus

This is a member of the Lactobacillus genus of bacteria. These bacteria live in the mouth, intestine and vagina. Evidence suggests that L. acidophilus is effective in treating common vaginal infections [5].

B. Bifidum

This is by far the most common probiotic bacteria in the human body, in both men and women. It lives in the colon, the lower small intestine, and is also found in breast milk. Bifidobacterium Bifidum is a bacterium that thrives in healthy vaginas. You need B. Bifidum because it competes with Candida & yeast overgrowth. In actual fact, Candida infections are often the result of low concentrations of B. Bifidum [6].

Other Ingredients

You may see some probiotics products that contain ‘prebiotics.' These prebiotics are healthy, non-digestible foods that actually feed the probiotics. One example of a prebiotic is Inulin. Not all probiotics contain prebiotics and nor do they have to if you eat a healthy diet [7].

Powders or Capsules

You can buy probiotic supplements in either powdered or capsule form. Which is best? In general the coated capsules will be your best choice as they offer a more reliable delivery system. It's no good ingesting these bacteria if they're only going to get destroyed by stomach acids.

Summing Up

Science and technology is changing all the time so make sure you're up to date with the news when you need to take probiotic supplements to treat yeast infections. Remember too that you want your probiotic supplements to include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium plus at least three other strains.

Think about preventative health too, and not only treatments for vaginal infections after they occur.

Resources

  1. http://www.medicinenet.com/yeast_infection_in_women_and_men/article.htm
  2. http://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics
  3. http://www.webmd.com/women/tc/vaginal-yeast-infections-topic-overview
  4. http://www.thecandidadiet.com/candida-die-off.htm
  5. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/acidophilus/background/hrb-20058615
  6. http://probiotics.org/b-bifidum/

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