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What are Probiotics & How do they Benefit Women?

Probiotics, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), are defined as live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.¹


Many of us know that probiotics are beneficial to our gut health and may reach for a bottle of Yakult when we are experiencing constipation or stomach discomfort.

Vaginal infection

However, did you know that apart from the benefits of probiotics on gut health, certain probiotics can help with female urogenital health?


Clinical research has shown that there are certain strains of probiotics that are able to migrate to the urogenital regions of a woman after oral consumption. These specific probiotic strains have the ability to colonize the vagina, thus leading to beneficial urogenital effects for females.²


Though, not all probiotics can produce the same beneficial effects on female urogenital health. These probiotics must be able to survive the harsh conditions of the gut due to gastric and bile acid plus be able to migrate to the female vaginal region, where they colonize and populate. Once these beneficial probiotics are at the urogenital region, they compete with harmful bacteria for important nutrients and space. Thus, depriving these harmful bacteria of resources they need to proliferate.


An example of such probiotics is the combination of GR-1® & RC-14® in Pro-Uro™, which has been clinically proven to help with women’s urogenital health.


GR-1® & RC-14® probiotics have been studied in more than 60 scientific studies & over 30 human clinical trials. Being extensively backed by science, GR-1® & RC-14® have the following benefits on females:


Maintain balanced, healthy vaginal microflora

Did you know that your vaginal region is colonized by a complex mix of microorganisms?³ Some of these microorganisms are good while others are harmful that may cause urogenital infections.

Under normal circumstances, the balance between the good and bad bacteria in our urogenital tract is well maintained. However, multiple factors such as stress, a change in hormone levels, lowered immunity due to illnesses like cold or the use of antibiotics can alter this delicate balance which may cause the overgrowth of harmful bacteria, thus, causing urogenital infections.


Probiotics such as GR-1® & RC-14® in Pro-Uro™ can help by replenishing the vaginal microflora with beneficial Lactobacillus, which are good bacteria that help to discourage the growth of harmful bacteria. GR-1® & RC-14® probiotics can also produce chemical substances that help to maintain the optimal pH of the vagina, thus reducing microbial growth and common symptoms such as vaginal itch and irritation as well as unpleasant smell.


Prevent and manage bacterial infections such as Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a common urogenital condition affecting females. Even in developed nations such as Singapore, about 30% of the female population experience BV at least once in their lifetime.⁴


BV is associated with an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in our vagina. The classic characteristics of BV includes a fishy smell and thin, white or grey discharge. If you are bothered by symptoms of BV, do see a doctor who will most likely prescribe you with some antibiotics if the symptoms are severe.


However, apart from antibiotics, certain probiotics specially targeting female urogenital health could also help alleviate your infection.


A clinical trial, involving 125 women between the age of 18 to 44 years old, found that GR-1® & RC-14® were able to increase the cure rate of BV and amount of beneficial Lactobacillus, found in vaginal swabs of these patients.⁵

Graph showing benefits of GR-1® & RC-14® on BV

This clinical study shows that GR-1® & RC-14® are able to help manage BV and repopulate the vagina with beneficial bacteria to maintain a healthy, balanced vaginal microflora. Antibiotics treatment kills bad bacteria in the urogenital tract. However, the good bacteria are not spared either. Thus, by adding probiotics like GR-1® & RC-14® to antibiotics, the urogenital tract will be repopulated with beneficial probiotics. This allows for a healthier urogenital tract.


Prevent and manage yeast infections such as Vulvovaginal Candidiasis (VVC)

Vulvovaginal Candidiasis (VVC) is the 2nd most common urogenital condition in females, right after BV. Statistics have found that up to 75% of women experience at least 1 episode of VVC in their lifetime.⁶ VVC is characterized by the itching, burning, soreness or irritation of the female genital, accompanied by a thick, white, cheese-like discharge.


The common treatment for VVC would be anti-fungal therapy, where the doctor may either prescribe oral or topical anti-fungal depending on the severity of your condition.


Interestingly, a clinical study found that despite having oral anti-fungal treatment and a vaginal swab no longer having yeast, 50% of the patients were still having symptoms of yeast infection. Researchers proposed that these symptoms could be due to the increased sensitivity of the vaginal cells.⁷


Specific probiotics for urogenital health such as GR-1® & RC-14® in Pro-Uro™ are thus able to help with these symptoms of VVC better than anti-fungal as GR-1® & RC-14® probiotics are able to modulate the immune response. Therefore, minimizing these unwanted symptoms.

Graph showing benefits of GR-1® & RC-14® on VVC

When used together with an anti-fungal, GR-1® & RC-14® in Pro-Uro™ are also able to increase the cure rate of VVC as compared to just using anti-fungal treatment alone.


Prevent and manage Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) happens when harmful bacteria travels from our gastrointestinal tract or our vaginal tract into our bladder, causing an infection. UTI is a common urogenital infection with around 1 in every 2 women suffering from UTI at least once in their lifetime.


Clinical studies have found that GR-1® & RC-14® in Pro-Uro™ are the most effective probiotic strains that can help to prevent recurrent UTI.⁸ A clinical study compared preventive therapies against recurrent UTI using antibiotics vs GR-1® & RC-14® probiotics as seen in the graph below.


Graph comparing efficacy of antibiotics and probiotics, GR-1® & RC-14®, in the prevention of UTI

It was found that the group receiving antibiotics to prevent UTI had a high percentage of antibiotic resistance which may lead to more severe infections. On the other hand, the group receiving GR-1® & RC-14® probiotics had no antibiotic resistance and the number of recurrent UTI in both groups were comparable.


This shows that GR-1® & RC-14® probiotics are as effective as antibiotics in the prevention of UTI with an added advantage of not causing antibiotic resistance.


We hope that now you have a better idea of how probiotics can help in women’s health after reading this article! If you wish to find out more about these conditions and how probiotics can help, stay tuned for our subsequent articles where we dive deeper into the different types of urogenital infections.


References

1. Hill, C., Guarner, F., Reid, G., Gibson, G., Merenstein, D., Pot, B., Morelli, L., Canani, R., Flint, H., Salminen, S., Calder, P. and Sanders, M., 2022. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic

2. Reid, G., Charbonneau, D., Erb, J., Kochanowski, B., Beuerman, D., Poehner, R. and Bruce, A., 2022. Oral use of Lactobacillus rhamnosusGR-1 and L. fermentumRC-14 significantly alters vaginal flora: randomized, placebo-controlled trial in 64 healthy women

3. Larsen, B. and Monif, G., 2022. Understanding the Bacterial Flora of the Female Genital Tract

4. Bilardi, J., Walker, S., Temple-Smith, M., McNair, R., Mooney-Somers, J., Bellhouse, C., Fairley, C., Chen, M. and Bradshaw, C., 2022. The Burden of Bacterial Vaginosis: Women’s Experience of the Physical, Emotional, Sexual and Social Impact of Living with Recurrent Bacterial Vaginosis

5. Anukam, K., Osazuwa, E., Ahonkhai, I., Ngwu, M., Osemene, G., Bruce, A. and Reid, G., 2006. Augmentation of antimicrobial metronidazole therapy of bacterial vaginosis with oral probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14: randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Microbes and Infection, 8(6), pp.1450-1454

6. 2021. Vulvovaginal Candidiasis (VVC). [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment-guidelines/candidiasis.htm>

7. Anukam, K., Duru, M., Eze, C., Egharevba, J., Aiyebelehin, A., Bruce, A. and Reid, G., 2009. Oral use of probiotics as an adjunctive therapy to fluconazole in the treatment of yeast vaginitis: A study of Nigerian women in an outdoor clinic. Microbial Ecology in Health &amp; Disease, 21(2)

8. Falagas, M., Betsi, G., Tokas, T. and Athanasiou, S., 2006. Probiotics for Prevention of Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections in Women. Drugs, 66(9), pp.1253-1261


Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational or educational purposes only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals. The disclaimer also provides that no warranties are given in relation to the medical information supplied in the article, and that no liability will accrue to Miraco Nutripharm Pte Ltd or any affiliated authors in the event that a user suffers any loss as a result of reliance upon the information.

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