Probiotics have demonstrated numerous health benefits for numerous groups of people. However, no group has benefited from probiotics for health more than women. Not only do probiotics provide improved digestive and immune system health, women experience added protection from urinary tract and yeast infections.
Probiotics are the good bacteria found in food and present in our bodies; most identified benefits of probiotics have demonstrated themselves in the digestive tract. There are an estimated 100 trillion bacteria (about three pounds!) in the digestive tract. While some of the bacteria, like probiotics, are helpful, many others are dangerous; some, like C. Diff, can prove to be fatal. While probiotics are found in the digestive and immune systems, they are also present in various food and supplement sources, including yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables and over the counter supplements. Probiotics assist in digestive health by providing healthy bacteria that neutralize harmful bacteria, keeping them from spreading and causing harm throughout the body. Fortunately, probiotics are also proving effective in shortening the duration, and even preventing, urinary tract and yeast infections.
Probiotics and Yeast Infections
Yeast infections tend to occur when probiotics, or good bacteria, are not present; allowing harmful bacteria and yeast, particularly candida, to grow and reproduce without competition. Yeast infections most often occur, and spread, when the body is exposed illness, environmental pollutants, or a poor diet. In particular, illnesses that require treatment with antibiotics really increase the need for probiotics to prevent yeast infection. When the level of good, healthy bacteria is depleted, yeast infections are common; according to the Mayo Clinic, 75% of women experience at least one yeast infection; signs and symptoms of yeast infections include:
- vaginal itching, redness and irritation
- white, odorless discharge
- burning during urination or sexual intercourse
Probiotics for Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are very common in women; in fact UTIs are so common, it is estimated that over 50% of women will experience a t least one UTI requiring medical attention and treatment with antibiotics. Like yeast infections, UTIs are caused by bacteria, and tend to spread when the immune system is compromised, or if healthy bacteria are weakened by antibiotic treatments. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, signs and symptoms of UTIs include:
- Painful burning during urination
- Lower abdominal cramps
- Blood or pus in the urine
- Urge to urinate on a frequent basis
Fortunately, reintroducing probiotics at levels effective in treating and preventing yeast infections and urinary tract infections is fairly simple and safe to do. There are many supplements and foods that provide probiotics for treatment of yeast and urinary tract infections; including yogurt, kefir and supplements to the body. When selecting a source of probiotics, ensure that the probiotic contains acidophilus and bifidobacteria. When selecting a probiotic source, look for a source that provides between 1 billion and 10 billion live probiotic cultures per serving.
 “Yeast infection (vaginal) – MayoClinic.com.” 2010. 3 Apr. 2013 <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/yeast-infection/DS01182>
 “Urinary tract infection in women.” 2007. 1 Apr. 2013 <http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/urinary-tract-000169.htm>