If you’ve ever had a yeast, vaginal bacterial, or urinary tract infection, you know how distracting they can be. Depending on the type of infection, the burning, itching, pain, or feeling of needing to find a bathroom (RIGHT. NOW.) can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, recurrence of infection is quite high, especially in women experiencing hormonal changes related to pregnancy, menopause, birth control, or even with the normal fluctuations in our monthly cycle. The question becomes, how can we prevent future infections, without sacrificing our overall health?

The most common advice – wear cotton underwear, avoid scented soaps and detergents, stay hydrated – is sound and should be followed. You may have heard that probiotics can help, too, but research shows not all probiotics are created equal.

Lactobacilli bacteria come in many strains, and only a handful have been proven to slow the growth of “bad” bacteria and prevent them from sticking around your vulva.  The strains to look for – whether you’re taking probiotics orally or applying them directly to your vagina – are L. crispatus, L. fermentum, L. rhamnosus, and L. reuteri. L. acidophilus, the strain often added to yogurt, has mixed reviews from a research perspective but won’t hurt.

If you have an ACTIVE infection, traditional antifungal and antibiotic medications may be most appropriate. In that case, supplementing those medications with the strains above can support your speedy healing.  Otherwise. . .

How to take probiotics to prevent recurring vaginal infection:

  • The strains mentioned above are most effective in some combination rather than solo. They work quickest if applied directly to the vulva, which might be best as a supplement during active infection. Otherwise, taking them orally is great. Look for a product with at least 1 billion organisms, and take it
  • Caution:
    • Spermicide can kill some probiotic strains (especially L. crispatus and L. fermentum), so avoid using it when taking probiotics. (It’s a good idea to avoid spermicide generally if you have sensitive skin or are prone to vulvar irritation.)
    • Probiotics shouldn’t be used in those with “leaky gut,” or people with significantly compromised immune systems.

Have you had experience supplementing your diet with probiotics? Any favorite products with the above strains? Tell us in the comments!



Cribby S, Taylor M, Reid G. Vaginal microbiota and the use of probiotics. Interdiscplinary Perspectives on Infectious Diseases. 2008; vol. 2008. doi: 10.1155/2008/256490.

Reid G, Bruce AW. Selection of Lactobacillus strains for urogenital probiotic applications. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2001; 183(Suppl 1):S77-80.