Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/19/2022
At this stage in the game, you’ve no doubt heard the word “probiotic” in common conversation. These super supplements contain bacteria that can help facilitate a healthy microbiome in your belly, which offers plenty of body-wide benefits. But what is the best probiotic for women? Why should you even consider taking one?
While we generally think of bacteria as bad things, there are actually good bacteria. And if the bacteria in your gut is out of whack and unbalanced, you may notice a string of side effects. Probiotics can help bring balance back to your stomach.
To learn more about how probiotic supplements work, keep reading.
To understand probiotics, you first need to have a basic understanding of your gut — and the bacteria that live there. The fact is, there’s tons of it in your gut. We’re talking trillions of bacteria. This community of bacteria even has a name — it is called the gut microbiota.
These bacteria help your gut function and contribute to your immunity and digestion (among other things). There are good bacteria and bad bacteria and you need a balance of both for your gut to function properly. If that delicate balance is off, probiotics can help restore it.
There are a few ways you can ingest probiotics. A number of foods have probiotics in them — particularly fermented foods. These foods include:
In addition to consuming foods with probiotics in them, you can take a probiotic supplement. Different probiotics supplements contain different bacterial strains to help gut health.
While more research needs to be done to fully support the benefits, there is some evidence that taking a probiotic may help with a number of health issues — especially stomach issues.
It’s believed that probiotics can:
Assist with digestive health
Boost immune function and immune health
Reduce the number of colds you get
Ease gas, bloating and constipation
Lessen diarrhea while taking antibiotics
Treat or prevent irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and Chron’s disease
In addition to helping with stomach issues, it’s believed that taking probiotics may help with your vaginal health — specifically with preventing vaginal infections and urinary tract infections — by improving your vaginal flora (aka the bacteria that naturally lives in your vagina).
First, if you are experiencing discomfort or stomach issues that you think can be solved with a probiotic, you really should consult with a medical professional.
In fact, any time you want to introduce a new supplement into your routine, you should talk to a healthcare provider. They will be able to give you more information, assess whether it could interact negatively with any other medications you are taking and give you advice on what to do if you experience any side effects.
If it’s determined that probiotic supplements may benefit you, you’ll want to have a good understanding of what to look for — especially because there are so many on the market.
It’s a good idea to get a probiotic with one billion (or more!) colony forming units. Colony forming units (CFU) indicate the number of cells (or bacteria) per dosage.
With so many different types of bacteria, it can be tough to know which type of bacteria you want in your probiotic supplement. Some to look for are:
It may take a few tries to land on the right probiotic for you. If you’ve been taking one for a few weeks and don’t notice a difference, you may want to try a different kind with a different makeup of bacteria types.
Generally, probiotics are thought to be safe and to have relatively few side effects — though they aren’t recommended for those with a compromised immune system.
It’s also worth noting: because probiotics are considered supplements and not a medication or drug, they aren’t regulated or monitored by the FDA.
Probiotics are very popular right now — along with dietary supplements, there’s even probiotic skin care.
To understand probiotics, you need to know about your gut microbiome. Your gut is filled with tons of bacteria — both beneficial bacteria and harmful bacteria.
Ideally, you want there to be a balance between the two. If that balance gets out of whack, it can cause a number of issues — like digestive health problems, immune function issues, abdominal pain and more.
To help prevent or address this, some people look for a probiotic product to help. This can mean eating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, but probiotic supplements can also be packed with beneficial bacteria to help get your gut microbiome back on track.
There are tons of options on the market — including many labeled as probiotics for women. Depending on the probiotic strain you choose, you may experience some health benefits.
Having a gut that has enough healthy bacteria can improve bloating and gas, ease conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and even improve your vaginal health.
Since there are tons of strains of probiotics out there, it may be tough to find the probiotic strain that’s right for your needs. It’s possible you may need to try a few before landing on one that helps you achieve some of our gut health goals.
To determine if a probiotic supplement is a good idea for you, it’s best to speak with a healthcare professional.