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Why is the microbiome important for women?

As you may know, men’s and women’s bodies are typically very different. Thus, bodies with different organs and hormones must be supplemented and taken care of in different ways. This can manifest itself in diet, exercise, vitamins, hydration, sleep, and more--and gut health is no exception.

Women’s health is often characterized by their reproductive ability, but the reproductive organs should not be the only focus when taking care of one’s body. Broadly speaking, women worldwide face a higher rate of violence, lung cancer, and healthcare denial than men. What’s more, we still don’t know as much as we could about women’s bodies because they have historically been included in only a fraction of clinical trials.

Because women face a variety of reproductive issues, it is important to address the role of bacteria in women’s health. Unfortunately, almost all women will be afflicted by vaginosis or vaginitis throughout their lifetime. Candidal vulvovaginitis, or yeast infections, are the result of a bacterial (specifically Candida) imbalance in the vagina, and is commonly treated with antibiotics. Although this sort of treatment is effective, it has the potential to cause further dysbiosis in the body and should always be supplemented with probiotics to replenish your bacterial population. An alternative method to antibiotics is balancing the vaginal microbiome with the right probiotics, such as Lactobacillus reuteri, rhamnosus, or acidophilus. Probiotics to balance the vaginal microflora can be taken orally or vaginally.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is another bacterial-fueled ailment seen in women. A broad examination of the disease revealed that Neisseria gonorrhoeae or Chlamydia trachomatis are present in 75 to 90 percent of PID cases. They are not the only bacteria found to coincide with the disease, but as you may have guessed from the Latin names, PID often follows the sexual infections gonorrhea and chlamydia. There are studies which show that probiotics may be an effective preventative measure against these and other sexually transmitted infections. But because these infections are painful and can have lasting complications, they should be treated with antibiotics for a swift expulsion. Remember, however, that it is important to restore the population of “good” bacteria in the body when you are taking prescribed antibiotics.

 

 

Although reproductive health and the role of bacteria in it is important to address, reproduction is not the sole source of women’s health issues. Another important malady is women’s tendency to be more commonly afflicted with digestive disorders such as constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux. Although plenty of temporary fixes can be found over the counter, a probiotic treatment or supplement can both manage digestive disorders and prevent their resurgence. There are a variety of “natural” maintenance options beyond a laxative or antidiarrheals: from the makeup of your diet, to pill, to liquid, to medical foods.

If you choose to manage a disorder with probiotics in particular, the strain used is more important than its delivery method. Lactobacillus paracasei, or LP-DG ®, Bifidobacterium infantis, Streptococcus boulardii, and many more have been clinically proven to remediate the symptoms of various digestive disorders. You may want to do research into your specific symptoms, however, before deciding which strain to ingest—some are better for remediating certain symptoms.

Another bacterial-influenced affliction generally seen among women is estrogen imbalance. If your gut is letting more molecules through its membrane than is healthy (an incidence commonly known as “leaky gut”), it may disrupt the population of estroblome (which metabolizes estrogen) in your gastrointestinal tract. Leaky gut in particular refers to increased permeability of the intestinal wall. If the spaces in your intestinal wall become larger than normal, it can allow bacteria and toxins into your bloodstream, with significant consequences that range from bloating and fatigue to diabetes and Crohn’s disease. The production and regulation of many important hormones, in fact, can be affected by gut dysbiosis—including insulin, serotonin, and cortisol.

For pregnant women, in particular, gut health and maintaining estroblome is especially important. The shakingly common affliction known as endometriosis has been associated with intestinal microflora: a higher population of beta-glucuronidase-producing bacteria leads to more circulating estrogen to stimulate the development of endometriosis.

On the other end of the spectrum, in postmenopausal women, the lowered levels of estrogen have been seen to increase the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. What’s more, the disruption of estroblome has been linked to multiple cancers including breast, endometrial, cervical, prostate and ovarian. In fact, there are many cancers which have been found to correlate with the high population of particular bacteria species, which indicates that we may be able to develop novel antibiotic or probiotic cancer treatments.

As you can see, probiotics can influence a manner of sex-specific health issues. Luckily, there are many ways to supplement women’s health if you live in a first world country. As always, one’s diet is a convenient and cost-efficient way to start. Choosing foods with high fiber or natural probiotic strains can aid digestion and bulk your stool. The best strains for basic gut health are in the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera, as they occur naturally in your body. Strains with a natural extracellular coating are also especially effective in the gut, as the adhesive material surrounding them helps them both colonize and survive better.

The World Health Organization claims that women are less likely to seek medical help. If you are experiencing unusual or painful activity in your body, even minimal, make sure that you contact a medical professional as soon as possible.

 

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