There are over 300 million cases of urinary tract infections (UTIs), bacterial vaginosis, and yeast vaginitis worldwide every year. These conditions affect women’s urogenital tract and cause significant pain and discomfort, and even serious complications such as kidney infections.
However, there are widely available natural remedies that can help treat urinary tract infections and yeast infections. They’re healthy bacteria called probiotics. Research shows that lactobacilli probiotics can help to prevent and treat UTIs and yeast infections by balancing microflora in the vagina.
Causes of UTIs and Vaginal Yeast Infections
Urinary tract infections are bacterial infections from the digestive tract that invade the urinary system – bladder, urethra, ureters, and kidneys. They are the second most common type of infection in the body. The microorganisms chlamydia and mycoplasma may also cause UTIs in both males and females
The main culprit behind vaginal yeast infections (the most common form of vaginitis) is candida albicans, a common type of fungus. Candida albicans resides in small amounts in the mouth, digestive tract, vagina and on the skin. Other yeast infection causes include pregnancy and diabetes.
Normally, naturally-occurring probiotics in the urogenital tract inhibit harmful microorganisms. However, they may become depleted due to antibiotics, birth control pills, spermicide or diet. This imbalance increases the chance of developing a vaginal yeast infection or UTI.
Symptoms of UTIs and Vaginal Yeast Infections
UTIs cause pain and pressure in the lower belly, painful or burning urination, frequent urination or urge to urinate, and urine with a bad odor or cloudy, reddish appearance. You may also experience a fever, tiredness, shakiness, and in fewer cases, nausea and back pain.
Vaginal yeast infections result in abnormal vaginal discharge that ranges from a white, slightly watery discharge to a thick, white cottage cheese-like discharge. They may also cause redness and swelling of the vulva, vaginal and labial itching or burning, painful urination, and pain during sexual intercourse.
How Do Probiotics Treat Vaginal Yeast Infection?
Probiotics suppress the growth of candida albicans and the bacteria that contribute to UTIs, and encourage the balance of microflora in the vagina. Lactobacillus, specifically Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1, and Lactobacillus fermentum RC-14 are common probiotics for yeast infection. Some studies link yeast infection to low Lactobacilli levels in the vagina.
A clinical trial showed the effectiveness of probiotic lactobacilli treatment for UTI. Fifty-five premenopausal women took either one suppository of L. rhamnosus GR-1 and B-54 (0.5 g) or one suppository of a lactobacillus growth factor for one year. Results showed a decrease in the UTI infection rate from 6.0 per previous year to 1.6 (a 73 percent decrease) for patients given lactobacilli and 1.3 (a 79 percent decrease) for patients given Lactobacillus growth factor.
In another study conducted at the University of Washington, researchers concluded that lactobacillus re-colonization through yogurt or capsules was a safe, promising treatment for yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
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