How Probiotics Affect Reproductive Function
An increasing number of women use in vitro fertilization (IVF) to aid in fertility and conception. Although many factors can improve fertility, some research suggests probiotics could play a critical role in fertility and pregnancy. Improving gut health with the right type of probiotics can enhance reproductive functioning and overall health.
What are probiotics?
An astounding number of bacteria live in the human body, particularly in the gut, providing many health benefits. Good gut bacteria can help with weight loss, digestion, immunity, and skin. Probiotic supplements can be consumed to introduce friendly bacteria to the gut and assist with numerous biological functions. Foods containing probiotics include kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir.
Improving gut health
A person’s gut flora, also known as the gut microbiome, is composed of various microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, helminths, and archaea. Gut flora can produce vitamins such as B and K, support a healthy immune system, and convert fibers to short-chain fats, promoting a healthy gut wall. Imbalances in the gut can be fixed by supplementing with probiotics.
Similarities in vaginal and gut microbiomes
Many probiotics in the gut can also be found in the vaginal microbiome. Bifidobacterium and lactobacillus strains can be found in both the gut and vagina. Lactobacillus strains can bind to vaginal and cervical epithelial cells and reduce the risk of bacterial infections in the vaginal and urinary tract. Lactobacillus crispatus, lactobacillus gasseri, lactobacillus acidophilus, and lactobacillus rhamnosus are strains that help with vaginal health specifically.
Taking probiotics for infertility
Many studies have concluded that consuming lactobacillus probiotics may improve the health of the vaginal microbe and, therefore, improve fertility and pregnancy. Beyond the direct reproductive benefits, certain probiotics can also improve digestion, immunity, nutrient absorption, and other bodily functions that impact a woman’s fertility.
Protecting against vaginal infections
Fertility can be negatively affected by vaginal and reproductive system infections. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) may cause preterm birth and other pregnancy complications and can decrease IVF success. BV and many other infections are a sign of low levels of good vaginal bacteria or high levels of pathogenic microbes. If recurrent vaginal infections occur, a probiotic may help.
Endometriosis and other inflammatory conditions can indicate an immune system imbalance. Inflammation can also affect levels of the progesterone and estrogen hormones. Progesterone is necessary to get the uterine lining ready for pregnancy. Probiotic supplements have been shown to reduce systemic inflammation, aiding with fertility.
Choosing probiotics at the pharmacy
Supplements do not have to go through clinical trials to prove effectiveness, but they are regulated and monitored. This means any health claims made by the manufacturer do not have to be backed up by scientific data. When selecting a probiotic, remember that brands are less relevant than strains. Look for probiotics that contain lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus reuten, and lactobacillus rhamnosus for vaginal health. Regarding the amount of colony-forming units (CFUs), more gut bacteria is not always better and should be discussed with a pharmacist or doctor.
Improving gut health for family building
Probiotics can keep gut and vaginal microbiomes healthy and help improve fertility through proper weight maintenance, metabolism, pH, sperm motility, and other biological functions. Probiotics are part of a holistic approach that can make conception a reality.