If there were a way to stop a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis just by drinking a magical elixir, don't you think we'd all be chugging it by now? The only way you can really treat these two infections is by using over-the-counter drugs — but luckily, probiotic foods and drinks like kombucha might help prevent them from happening in the first place.
"Probiotics help to stabilize vaginal pH, so as to allow the healthy bacteria to thrive in that environment," says Iffath Hoskins, MD, clinical associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center. Everyone's vagina has a unique pH that's influenced by a bunch of factors, like your diet, your period, and how often you're having sex, and some people need help from probiotics to get their pH a little more balanced. Imbalances in pH are why some people are more prone to getting bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections — fun!
Probiotics in general definitely help to reduce your risk of getting yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis, Dr. Hoskins says. (Other research reinforces her point that they will not cure your infections, but they're good for your vagina health.) There are specific probiotic supplements in pill form with strains designed to target infections, and there are even probiotic suppositories you can get at the drug store or make at home. The good news for people who like fermented foods and drinks (like kombucha or kimchi) is that many experts say edible probiotics are more effective than supplements, because supplements can get destroyed by your stomach acid before they get to work on your gut.
There's also another theory about how probiotics help prevent infections that's a little different: Probiotics boost gut flora, which in general boosts your body's immunity to infections (including vaginal ones), according to Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD. But again, she says it's not proven by enough research to definitively say that probiotics will actually cure infections.
Bottom line: "Regular probiotic use — oral or vaginal — can be useful for those who have recurrent vaginal infections by yeast or bacterial vaginosis," Dr. Hoskins says. Though experts can't definitively say you should have a certain amount of probiotic foods or drinks every day to prevent vaginal infections, you can assume that adding a probiotic drink into your diet will be good for your gut and your vagina in the long run. So go ahead and pour one out for all those yeast infections you won't be seeing.
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