When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
- Probiotics can help maintain a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in your body.
- Probiotics can help treat many conditions related to the gastrointestinal tract.
- Different supplements have various strains of bacteria and yeasts for helping certain conditions.
Probiotics may help women maintain good bacteria in their gut. Not only are they found in certain foods like yogurt or fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi, but you can also take them in supplement form.
Potential benefits of taking probiotics include improved cardiovascular health, a better mood, and help with digestive issues like IBS. They’re also good for your microbiome, which is made up of trillions of microorganisms (including bacteria and yeasts) that naturally live in your body.
Most microorganisms live in your gut, and although some bacteria and yeasts are helpful, others are harmful. For instance, when you have an infection, you have more bad bacteria in your body, which upsets the balance between good and bad.
But probiotics introduce good bacteria to help correct that balance. “The main role of probiotic supplements is to provide more good bacteria to your microbiome,” says registered dietitian and founding partner of nutrition marketing firm AFH Consulting, Katherine Brooking.
Though there are a variety of available supplements, some are targeted to address specific issues common among women. Below are nine, dietitian-recommended supplements worth taking.
Who can benefit from taking probiotics?
Research shows that probiotics may help treat many conditions that are common among women, including:
- Traveler’s diarrhea
- Diarrhea associated with antibiotics
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Hay fever
- Yeast infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Upper respiratory infections
- Gum disease
- Lactose intolerance
Although much research has been conducted on probiotics, some of it has not produced conclusive evidence of efficacy. But probiotics are generally considered safe, according to the Cleveland Clinic, so they may be worth trying. If you have a chronic health condition, it’s always best to check with your doctor before taking a supplement.
“Probiotic supplementation and treatments using probiotics are strain and dose specific, which means that just any supplement of probiotic isn’t necessarily going to treat a certain condition,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Southern Fried Nutrition Services, Sherry Coleman Collins. “It needs to be the specific strain that’s been researched in the right amount in order to make a difference.”
You should talk to your doctor or registered dietitian to find out the right strains of probiotics for your condition, Brooking says.
“Anytime someone struggles with gastrointestinal conditions, there’s a potential opportunity for probiotics,” Collins says. For example, “IBS is a notoriously difficult-to-treat condition, and there’s some research showing that probiotics might help. They won’t help everybody, but if they can provide relief for some people, I’ll use it.”
For help picking out the best probiotics for women, I asked the two dietitians I spoke to for a few recommendations. Here are their suggestions:
1. Culturelle Digestive Daily Probiotic Capsules
2. VSL No. 3
3. Florastor Daily Probiotic Supplement
4. Life Extension – Florassist Probiotic Women’s Health
5. NOW Probiotic-10 25 Billion
What else to consider
Some people prefer to get their probiotic supplement in drink form rather than in capsules. Probiotic drinks are widely available, but they need to be refrigerated (similar to some probiotic capsules). Here are a few drink options Collins recommends:
Probiotics can help maintain a healthy, balanced microbiome, and they have the potential to help with some conditions common among women, including IBS, yeast infections, and traveler’s diarrhea.
However, not all probiotics will work for everyone. With some conditions, “[probiotics] seem to be very personalized, and what works for one person may not work for someone else,” Collins says. She adds that she may start a patient on one probiotic product and see how it goes for six or eight weeks, and then try something else if it doesn’t work.
It can take time for a probiotic to change the overall dynamic in the gut, so you may need to wait a few weeks to see real benefits, Collins says. It’s also important to take them consistently and according to the package directions.