How do vaginal pro-biotics work, and are they effective for treating bacterial vaginosis?

Recently, probiotics have had a lot attention in the media recently, purportedly helping to keep a healthy gut and digestive system in general. Probiotics can be found naturally in foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and sourdough, or they can be consumed as a supplement. One particular probiotic strain, L. acidophilus, has been linked to treating vaginal imbalances such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.

The theory

Nearly 100 different variations of microbes thrive inside the vagina. Several of these organisms are a kind of bacteria named lactobacilli – they aid the vagina in keeping free of infection and healthy.

When lactobacilli numbers are low and other bacteria start to take over, this can cause disparity in the vaginal environment leading to infection and other complications. There are a number of causes for this kind of imbalance:

  • Unprotected sex
  • Hormonal disruption
  • Periods
  • Poor vaginal hygiene 

Symptoms of vaginal imbalance can include:

  • Nasty odour
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Cramps and pain
  • itching

Having a vaginal imbalance may also increase your chances of a urinary tract infection (UTI). However, it’s important to note that UTIs are not always caused by the same pathogens that cause vaginal infections.


There is some evidence that probiotics present in vaginal suppositories, capsules and yoghurt can improve levels of lactobacillus in the vagina. Individuals who regularly took supplements in this 1996 study were less likely to experience BV than women who we not including probiotics in their diet. Other studies also indicated that probiotics could speed up treatments for vaginal infections when combined with antibiotics.

Alternative treatments

Alternative and effective treatments are available for those who wish to avoid taking medication such as anti-biotics. Gel and pessary products such as Balance Activ contain lactic acid and glycogen to reinvigorate lactobacilli growth and bring back the vagina’s natural pH. Natural, topical treatments can work effectively as a standalone application or can safely be used in conjunction with antibiotics.