Avoid Perimenopause Woes

Perimenopause normally happens about six years before full menopause begins. And No! You don’t have to ingest (HRT)a pregnant mare’s urine! Besides, it’s been proven to be much too dangerous.

This has prompted many women to search for other options. Alternative health care therapies are available to perimenopausal women. Nutrition and nutritional supplementation are biggies to avoid perimenopause woes. Start as early in your younger years as you can. Or if you’re already into it, it’s not too late.

Get serious and you will begin to feel and see some changes. Besides choosing plant-based alternatives to hormone replacement therapy (HRT), also recommended:

  1. Reduce stress in your life
  2. Diet
  3. Exercise is one method of stress reduction that reduces hot flashes
  4. Nutritional supplements support and work with a woman’s body, not against it
  5. Prayer
  6. Meditation
  7. Yoga
  8. Tai chi can all be used to control your body’s stress response and reduce menopausal symptoms

Herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture, and other self-help measures support and work with a woman’s body, not against it, thereby reducing the dread of perimenopause and helping to avoid perimenopause woes! To fight hot flashes related to perimenopause woes, keep a portable fan

nearby, avoid spicy meals and alcohol, and eat foods high in hormone-balancing phytoestrogens like soy nuts or tofu. Get serious and you can avoid perimenopause woes.

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How to Protect Women and Girls From HIV/Aids

HIV and AIDS remain a persistent problem faced by almost all over the world, especially by the United States. In many countries, women have been worst affected by this disease since the beginning of the global HIV epidemic. Since March 10 is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, it is right time to make people know the basic facts about HIV/AIDS.

Know about the Disease:

HIV is a human immunodeficiency virus that attacks our immune system and destroys the T cells, a type of white blood cells, completely. This will develop into AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) due to which the immune system is too weak, thus by making people susceptible to infections and diseases. Is this disease a curable one? Even though there is currently no permanent cure, with early diagnosis and the right treatments like antiretroviral, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives. If left untreated, this will lead to death. How is HIV transmitted? This virus is found in semen, blood, rectal, vaginal fluids. Transmitted through sexual behaviors, sharing of needles and syringes, breastfeeding if the mother is living with HIV, and also blood transfusion. Why are women and girls particularly at higher risk? Mainly because of lack of access to health care services, gender inequality, cultural, social and economic status and violence faced by women and adolescent girls in the society. Poverty is also one of the reasons for trafficking and sexual exploitation of young women and adolescent girls who may be less educated and no knowledge about the risks of HIV.

Ways to Protect Women and Girls:

  • Firstly, learn about HIV/AIDS and share your knowledge with family, friends and the community;
  • If you are planning to have a baby, it is better to get an HIV test done before pregnancy for both you and your partner. This will help you to give birth an HIV-free and a healthy baby;
  • Always use condoms during sex – best way to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections;
  • Before having sex, discuss with your partner about HIV testing and get it done to avoid risk;
  • Limit your number of sexual partners;
  • Never share equipment like the syringe, needles. Always use clean, fresh needles to inject;
  • If you are an HIV affected mother, do not breastfeed your baby;

Increase Awareness:

It is all the more important to create awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS to prevent and protect women and young girls. There are many ways you can do this.

  • In this awareness day of March 10, organize an awareness campaign in your community in coordination with the healthcare professionals to make the public aware of HIV/AIDS, its impact, prevention methods and ways to protect young girls and women to save their lives from this disease. Distributing giveaway gifts, like customized wristbands in your awareness campaign is the best choice to create awareness. People love to wear this fashion accessory not only because of its attractive colors and stylish nature, but also the reach they have among people.
  • In many regions, girls are denied education due to poverty and many more reasons. Educating them is the added advantage to increase their earning ability and to prevent an early marriage that can reduce their vulnerability to HIV. Educated women have the knowledge to access health care services for themselves and their family.
  • Most of the women face gender violence like sexual abuse, trafficking, beaten by partners and otherwise abused in their lifetime. Creating awareness among them can prevent and end this gender violence once and for all.
  • It is important to educate young boys and men to respect women and to make them involve in family activities to avoid negative attitudes such as gender violence.
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Are These Weird Problems Really Symptoms of Yeast Infection in Women?

Symptoms of yeast infection in women are easy to diagnose when they manifest as a thick, cottage cheese-like discharge with vaginal itching.

However, yeast overgrowth can masquerade as a host of other symptoms and diseases that are not easily linked to the yeast.

Generally these difficult to diagnose and treat problems come after a progression of health problems and treatments that usually only make the yeast overgrowth increase.

One of the most common downward vicious spirals begins with numerous treatments with antibiotics for recurrent bladder infections, chronic sinusitis, acne or other ongoing recurring infections.

As these antibiotics pass through the gastrointestinal tract, they kill off the normal friendly bacteria that help keep the yeast in check. Then the yeast overgrow more and become more virulent.

In the correct balance in the intestines, the yeast grow as little round benign spores. But with the aid of antibiotics they send out branching tree limb-like structures that may even invade and grow into the intestinal wall.

The digestive tract is now compromised in two ways:

First of all, food is not digested well, leaving larger particles of food that travel into the blood stream. The body recognizes these larger food particles as foreign invaders and dispatches the immune system to “fight” them.

As the immune system becomes more and more stressed defending against food particles, it may start attacking the body’s own tissues leading to autoimmune disorders.

The first wonderful young nurse that I hired had been diagnosed with Lupus shortly before I hired her. She had positive ANA tests and several of the symptoms of Lupus. Even worse, periodically she developed so much dysfunction in her right leg that she had to drag it when walking.

Amazingly as she instituted the measures to subdue the yeast in her body, all of her Lupus symptoms disappeared and she no longer had elevated ANA in her blood tests. She became yeast-free and freed from the Lupus.

Yeast overgrowth can contribute to or be the main cause of other immune system disorders too.

Secondly, in the gastrointestianal tract as the more virulent yeast mycelia invade the intestinal wall they create a space between the cells. Intestinal contents that were never meant to enter the body now have access into the blood stream. This problem has been labeled “Leaky Gut Syndrome”.

Yeast toxins (by-products of their metabolism) may leak into the blood and eventually find their way to any organ. So can the larger food particles.

If either one of these abnormal substances winds up in the brain, you can feel spacey, fatigued, irritable, grouchy and even confused.

As the body becomes more and more overwhelmed by the yeast toxins (yeast chemicals), some women become sensitive to small amounts of chemicals in the environment. They can’t stand to be around perfume, even a small amount left in the clothing from washing with a scented detergent or fabric softener.

Tobacco smoke, new clothing stores, cleaning product aisles in grocery stores, and many other products make them so sick that they cannot function well enough to perform the chores of daily living. They have become chemically sensitive.

Some have such severe chemical sensitivity that they have to live as recluses in a very controlled environment.

This is just a brief review of symptoms of yeast infection in women. We might call the yeast overgrowth problem the “Great Masquerader”. Suspect it in complex diseases that have been difficult to treat.

With more knowledge and an astute holistic doctor even these very difficult problems that at first glance do not seem to relate to yeast at all, can be overcome.

As you institute the healthy lifestyle steps to reverse the yeast overgrowth and discover the yeast’s co-conspirators you are on your way to restoring abundantly good health.

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Go Red for Good Health

The month is about love and there is no better way to say I love you than to share heart healthy insight with friends, family and loved ones. For so many years when the topic was heart health most of the info was based on what the medical profession knew about men and their heart health. Fortunately health professionals have revised their outlook and there is now research and data available on women. We’ve learned that it is important for women to know the risk factors.

Now I wish I could say it was all about the medical info, but as you know you can often get the attention of women when you pair the subject with fashion. We’ve all heard about Go Red for Women, ® the designated day each February when folks are encouraged to wear red to spotlight the importance of women having healthy hearts. This month I’m encouraging you to go red, add some sizzle and put that hot color on your menu year ’round.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. One in four women in this country dies of heart disease. Risk factors contributing to heart disease include high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity. Though these factors affect both sexes, several factors can affect the heart health of women more than that of men. Factors which can play a role in the development of heart disease in women are:

• The combination of fat around your abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high triglycerides.

• Mental stress and depression. Depression makes it tough to maintain a healthy lifestyle and stick to the treatment. So talk to your doctor if you’re having symptoms of depression.

• Smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than in men.

• Low levels of estrogen after menopause may increase a woman’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels.

Women most often are the caregivers, but in reality we often overlook giving ourselves the care we need. Each of the above risk factors can be decreased by making changes in lifestyle. By adding and increasing the priority of regular exercise to the daily or weekly routine, women can help reduce fat around the abdomen, blood pressure, depression and stress. The addition of one healthy lifestyle activity can pay off by reducing at least four risk factors. Now that’s a high-heeled step in the right direction.

Smoking cessation is a must-and the benefits start immediately. After 20 minutes blood pressure decreases, after eight hours, oxygen levels in the blood rise and after 24 hours the chance of a heart attack decreases. Within 48 hours, the ability to taste and smell increases, which adds up to more enjoyment in the flavor and texture of good-for-you foods.

Stock up on colorful red fruits and vegetables. By increasing the amount of produce in the daily diet, you can maximize the nutrients, increase anti-oxidants, and fiber-all recognized picks for a healthy lifestyle. Choices include red beets, pomegranates, red cabbage, red grapefruit, strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, red apples, red grapes, tomatoes, red currants, dried cranberries and cherries. Add red to the menu and look for the eye-catching color in the freezer, produce section and on supermarket shelves.

Now changing your lifestyle is not limited to women, this is a change that is good for the entire family.

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How to Keep Female Hormones in Check

What is hormones and why are they important? Hormone are a vitally important part of our bodies. Hormones help us to grow, develop, our metabolism, mood, sexual function, even how your body response to environmental changes, not to mention our blood composition. The hormone Estrogen is what helps keep our bones hard, our skin looking young and lustrous, and also helps prevent coronary artery disease, stroke, colon cancer, hot flashes, and even night sweats (in some people).

The hormone Progesterone is also vital for female hormones in helping to prepare the body for conception and pregnancy. Your body automatically produces more

Progesterone during the second half of your menstrual cycle and after the egg is released. During the beginning of a pregnancy, the levels of progesterone remains high to help maintain pregnancy. Progesterone is important for many different functions in our bodies for example, raising body temperature during ovulation, normalizing inflammation, acting as a muscle relaxer, modulating the immune system, influencing libido, helping convert stored fat into energy and preventing endometrial cancer.

Testosterone is also an important hormone for a women even though we consider it to be more of a male hormone. Testosterone’s main functions are develop lean muscle mass, influences libido, and helps us to feel emotionally balanced. All of these hormones work together to keep our bodies at optimum health.

Women are usually the ones running children here and there, cooking dinner, fixing lunches, and the millions of other things needing to be done in the day. Because of this, women don’t always take care of their own bodies. But it is vitally important to keep your body in a healthy functioning manner.

In an attempt to keep ourselves healthy, we take medications prescribed by the doctor for these imbalances. Many of these medications are derived from animal hormones. One example is one particular drug is derived from horse urine. How nasty is that! Not only is this drug linked to higher risk of coronary artery disease, but also strokes and cancer. Synthetic progesterone like in birth control pills, have been linked to breast cancer, depression, and vaginal bleeding. These drugs can cause your risk of breast cancer. These drugs can also remain in the body for up to 10 years.

So what are we to do? What other answers do we have? Well, thankfully we have some natural remedies which are showing some great results for our low hormone levels. I use a product called Endoflex. One great thing about Endoflex is that it was safe to use while I was pregnant and it didn’t affect the baby. It also helped my hormone balance during pregnancy and kept down my post-partum depression. This is a great way to go when you are on the verge of menopause. Another product that my friend has used is called Progessence Plus. At the age of 30, she had a hysterectomy after a lot health issues. She searched for years to find something natural to keep her away from the synthetic medication. She was never able to find anything that worked well until we both started using these products. She has had great results using this. Vicki also has had great results using PD 80/20 after her hysterectomy. She using a mixture of the Endoflex and PD 80/20 for her hot flashes and balance. PD 80/20 helps to keep the body balanced while it can also help prevent premature aging.

I know everyone is different, so results may vary.

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Health Benefits You Can Reap From Maca Powder

What is it?

Maca powder is derived from a root that was discovered in Peru and has been part of ancient healing remedies for centuries. Today, it is a very common food supplement, offering a variety of health benefits that are very good for you. This supplement can be powerful so you only need a small amount of it to gain those benefits.

How much to Use?

The health benefits from maca powder can be found in as little as ½ a teaspoon per day. You shouldn’t take more than a teaspoon of it per 24 hour period. It is recommended to take it for 3 days in a row, then 2 days off, and to repeat. You can add it to smoothies, salads, and more. Avoid adding it to hot foods though because that will actually destroy the health benefits.

Vitamins and Nutrients

The volume of vitamins and nutrients found in maca powder is going to blow you away. This is a great way to naturally supplement your diet. Of course you shouldn’t be replacing foods that are good for you with this root. Yet it can be a simple way to help you get more of what your body needs.

Improve Mood

There can be many reasons why you feel stressed or anxious. You may feel depressed for no evident reason. Maca powder may help to provide the missing elements for your mood to be where you want it. This can be worth trying before you move into the area of antidepressants as there aren’t any adverse side effects to contend with.

Increase Energy

A lack of energy isn’t something you just have to deal with. Perhaps you blame it on getting olde or your busy schedule. However, it can be the result of your body not getting what it needs. This supplement can naturally help you to boost your energy without feeling shaky or being too stimulated.

What that additional energy, you may be able to finish work tasks in less time. You may find you are motivated to workout more often or to increase the amount of time you spend working out. You may discover this boost is what you need to get back to enjoying an active social life rather than being a couch potato after work.

Skin Care

This can be a natural way to help fight acne and blemishes from the inside out. It may work to open up pores. At the same time, it is flushing toxins from the body that can result in a chemical imbalance. Too much oil can result in acne being triggered. It may assist with other skin problems too such as dryness and being sensitive to the heat or the cold.

Women’s Health

Women often have an array of issues to contend with at various stages of life. This can reduce cramping and other symptoms relating to the menstrual cycle. Many women find this supplement helps them get through the various stages of menopause. It can help to reduce mood swings and hot flashes.

Sexual Well Being

Some studies indicate maca powder can help increasing libido for both men and women. It can also reduce the symptoms of erectile dysfunction for males. Some men report it helps them to keep an erection for a longer duration. It may assist with balancing out hormone levels. For those struggling with infertility, it is certainly worth a try!

However, women who are pregnant or who are nursing shouldn’t use this supplement. If you use it to help with fertility, make sure you take a pregnancy test regularly. You don’t want to continue taking it if you think you could be pregnant.

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The Yoni Egg – Improve Your Health and Increase Orgasmic Capacity

This article is dedicated to women – and the men who care about them!

Here is an introduction to the “Yoni Egg” or often also called the “Jade Egg” today. Yoni is a Sanskrit word that means “Sacred Space” and stands for a woman’s sexual center. The sound of “Sacred Space” expresses much more the sense of honoring and cherishing than our clinical term vagina does.

I want to emphasize the relevance of having strong pelvic floor muscles. And here is where the Yoni Egg comes in: It allows you to enliven and keep your Yoni alive. It assists in developing and maintaining a strong, vital PC Muscle or Kegels, which is paramount to a healthy pelvic floor. By strengthening your PC Muscle with your Yoni Egg inserted while you use the breath to move the energy through your body you will:

1. Feel more grounded and centered in yourself

2. Be more in tune with your sensuous capacity

3. Massage your Yoni from the inside

4. Increase your flow of sexual hormones

5. Develop stronger orgasms

6. Heighten the responsiveness of your G-Spot

7. Maintain healthy reproductive organs

8. Prevent incontinence in later years

9. Experience pleasant aliveness in your feminine center

You already can tell that training your Yoni muscle with the aid of the Yoni Egg creates a whole new octave of sense of groundedness in your feminine being, of expanded sensual experience and ultimately expanded orgasmic capacity with sensations that are deliciously pleasurable.

The Yoni Egg is made from rose quartz – a polished gemstone. It comes in a sari pouch in various colors with instructions. You insert the Egg covered with some lube to make the passage smooth. Once the Egg is inside your Yoni it’s being held in by the vaginal sphincter muscle. The Egg cannot disappear in your womb – the tiny opening of the cervix won’t allow for that.

So you can rest assured that the Yoni Egg stays well enveloped in your Yoni space. You can leave it inserted for an hour or a whole day – as I do at times – depending on your comfort. Keep squeezing and releasing every so often. Once you want to take the Egg out just press with your pelvic floor muscle like you do during a bowel movement. It’ll flop out – catch it in your hand.

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Minerals and Hormone Balance: What Women Need

It’s no secret that minerals are required for every bodily process, but did you know that hormone imbalances can be blamed on mineral imbalances too? That’s right – essential nutrients affect how our hormones work and that can have a huge impact on life in general. Hormonal imbalances can cause weight gain, decreased sex drive, weight gain, fatigue and PMS, to name a few.

Prescription medicines contain mind-altering pharmaceuticals that can disturb your natural hormonal balance and cause unwanted side-effects. Some people who use anti-depressants may experience increased suicidal tendencies, while lacking sexual desire and weight gain. Evidence has shown time and again that many conditions that are treated with pharmaceuticals could be avoided with proper nutrition.

Let’s take a look at some of the hormones, and how you can address them using mineral supplements. A hair mineralysis is a great way to assess any imbalances and deficiencies that will help address symptoms.

Serotonin boosts excitement and enthusiasm. People who lack serotonin often experience sadness, poor sleep, lethargy, irritable bowel syndrome, PMS and sugar or carbohydrate cravings. Magnesium is essential for hormone development and nerve communication.

Dopamine functions in improving energy, self-confidence and self-discipline. Dopamine deficiency is evident when symptoms such as addiction, depression, hyperactivity and obesity are present. Selenium helps improve dopamine and research has shown that a low selenium intake is linked to depression.

Women in particular need essential minerals for optimum health. During her reproductive years, a woman is more likely to lack iron, while a menopausal woman will have to avoid iron supplementation. Here are some more reasons why women should consider mineral supplements:

Iodine assists hormone regulation, detoxification an nerve activation.

Selenium has powerful antioxidant properties for immune health and it helps to regulate thyroid hormone activity. There is a strong relationship between selenium and hormone regulation, particularly of hormones such as follicle-stimulating hormone, estrogen, luteotropic hormone, thyroid hormone and progesterone.

Zinc is often depleted by birth control, poor dietary habits, HRT, medications and alcohol consumption. Low levels of zinc have been linked to PMS, infertility and increased estrogen activity, as well as increased effects of ageing and an inability to handle stress.

Magnesium has been found to fight the effects of ageing in women, as it helps with muscle cramps and spasms, migraines and blood pressure, as well as PMS.

If you think that your hormones are out of balance, or that you might be mineral deficient, it’s a good idea to consider a hair mineral analysis. This quick, accurate and painless procedure will show you exactly what your body needs to become healthy, energetic and performing at optimum level.

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Do’s and Don’ts Of A Prolapsed Uterus Women Should Know

A Prolapsed Uterus is one of the most common Vaginal Prolapse a woman ever faces in their lifetime. This is a condition, in which their uterus slips down from its actual position into the vagina because of the weakening of the pelvic muscles. Majorly women of old age face this condition because of the loss of estrogen level after the menopause, however, it also occurs in younger girls due to a number of reasons like Vaginal Delivery, Obesity, Straining, etc. It is very important to cure the condition on time because it is not only embarrassing but also very painful to handle. If you don’t know anything about the condition, so, here we share the guide of Do’s and Don’ts of A Prolapsed Uterus that a woman should know to manage its symptoms. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s take a look.

Do:

  • Kegel Exercise: In an order to reverse the Prolapsed Uterus without any surgery, it is important that you start doing Kegel exercise with your health care approval. Make sure you perform the right exercise and in the right manner and if you don’t have enough knowledge consult your expert. The exercise is very simple and helps to strengthen your pelvic muscles naturally that further cure the condition permanently.
  • Take Medicines On Time: In non surgical treatment your health care provider will surely prescribe you the herbal medicines that are free from any side-effects and in an order to see quick and effective results, you should take them on time.
  • Manage Your Weight: If you are dealing with the Prolapsed Uterus, so, it is important for you to manage your weight because obesity or being overweight is one of the reasons that cause the condition. Ask your health care provider and if necessary, lose some healthy weight.

Don’ts:

  • Avoid Weight Lifting: If you are suffering from the Prolapsed Uterus, so, it is recommended to avoid weight lifting as it puts a strain on your pelvic muscles and prevents them from repairing. It is important to follow protection strategies and avoid inappropriate strength exercise to see quick results.
  • Avoid Unsafe Abdominal Exercises: If you want to cure the condition of a prolapsed uterus permanently, so, you should avoid unsafe abdominal exercise. Make sure you know the right techniques of performing the Kegel exercise as it helps you to see the right results in no time.

These are a few things a woman should keep in mind if she is suffering from the prolapsed uterus as it helps them to recover faster.

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Urogenital Probiotics For Women

Probiotics are useful for more than just gastrointestinal health. In fact, there are specific probiotic products that can help prevent and treat female urogenital conditions like bacterial vaginosis, vulvovaginal candidiasis, urinary tract infections and related complications of all three.

This should not come as a huge surprise. The amount of good research being conducted on gastrointestinal probiotics continues to increase every year. And although the vaginal tract is not internally connected to the alimentary canal the two are intimately related. Bacteria that pass through the digestive system can ascend via the perineum to the vagina. So it’s almost a no-brainer to expect what promotes gastrointestinal health to have relevance for urogenital health. However, they are not the same. Even though the intestinal microbiota has similarities to the vaginal microbiota, simply taking care of the intestinal microbiota may not be enough to ensure urogenital health.

Vaginal Microbiota: What Is It?

The microbiota typically found in the vaginal consists of large numbers of lactobacilli (gram-positive rods) and small numbers of gram-negative rods and gram-positive coccobacilli. A milliliter of vaginal fluid contains, on average, around 100 million microorganisms from 5-10 species, 95% of which are from the genus Lactobacillus (Anukam, 2006).

The bacteria that live in the vagina are substantially similar in all women around the globe. This is indicative of a relationship that was established long ago and which has remained robust over time. From an evolutionary perspective, such a trend suggests an adaptive advantage for both bacteria and humans. But why? A simple answer is that certain bacteria get a warm, moist place to live and in exchange, protect the vagina and help inhibit the growth of pathogens.

Health From The Few

It has been a long held belief that lactobacilli, in bulk, promote vaginal health by helping to maintain an acidic pH in the vagina. The logic seems sound: increased vaginal pH and decreased numbers of lactobacilli are symptomatic of various infections ergo lactic acid producing lactobacilli likely prevent infection by maintaining a low vaginal pH. This rationale has led to recommending the consumption of yogurt with the expectation that the lactobacilli, particularly L. acidophilus, and other “active cultures” should promote vaginal health.

Poking under the hood of this theory led to some interesting observations. Researchers discovered that the interaction of microorganisms in the vagina is more complex than simple pH modulation. The watershed: finding healthy women who appeared to lack colonization by lactobacilli. If large numbers of lactobacilli were necessary to regulate vaginal pH in most women, how could these exceptions be reconciled? It turns out that these women did not lack lactobacilli, they were merely present as an extremely small minority. But the fact that they existed in such small quantities suggested that there were mechanisms of vaginal health more potent than simple lactic acid production.

Lactic acid production was not found to be unimportant; rather something akin to a urogenital 90:10 rule had been identified. Most lactobacillus strains produce lactic acid, but only some strains produce bacteriocins and other specific regulating factors that inhibit the adhesion, colonization, growth and survival of undesirable species. Such specific factors can have prominent effects even at very low concentrations. And the strains that produce them can be present in minuscule amounts, but still have a large effect on urogenital health. Those healthy women with very few lactobacilli helped elucidate this.

Bacterial Vaginosis: Under the Radar

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection and is believed to be a problem for roughly 10-29% of the female population at any given time (Allsworth, 2007; Reid and Heinemenn, 1998). It is important to be aware that lactobacilli levels tend to track estrogen levels. This means that even for women that feel healthy, there can be an increased risk of infection when estrogen levels are low, like at the beginning and end of the menstrual cycle, or after undergoing menopause. BV is estimated to burden the health care system to the tune of more than 4 million office visits per year in the U.S. alone (Van Kessel, 2003). Yet despite these numbers, it is believed that many cases of BV still go untreated or mistreated.

BV can be one problem that arises when the vaginal microbiota becomes unbalanced. BV is characterized by a shift in the vaginal microbiota from predominantly commensal microorganisms like lactobacilli, to others such as species in the genera Gardnerella, Atopobium and Prevotella. Some of these organisms produce amines that raise the pH in the vagina and cause a “fishy” smell. Clinically, the Amsel criteria or Nugent scoring is used to diagnose BV.

The symptoms of BV are somewhat similar to those of a yeast infection, of which more women are aware. Since these symptoms tend to be a sensitive topic and because over-the-counter anti-fungal treatments are readily available, many women attempt to treat BV with anti-yeast remedies. Unfortunately, anti-fungal treatments do not help treat BV and can even make it worse.

Ounce of Prevention

Although not internally connected, bacteria that pass through the alimentary canal can ascend to the vagina over the short external distance of the perineum. This is entirely normal and not an issue of poor hygiene. In fact, this is the typical route to the vagina for most inhabitants. Knowing this, it stands to reason that a healthy urogenital environment can begin with a healthy digestive tract.

Beneficial intestinal microbiota, are more apt to flourish when exposed to a diet high in fiber (especially prebiotic fibers) and low in simple sugars and refined carbohydrates. Pathogenic bacteria tend to proliferate at a greater rate than probiotic bacteria when exposed to these hallmarks of a diet high in processed foods. The healthier the intestinal microbiota is, the lower the concentration of disruptive organisms that pass from the digestive tract to the vagina. Eating yogurt with live active cultures may help, although the clinical evidence to support this is somewhat equivocal. Digestive health may be better served by taking a probiotic product or supplement that contains multiple strains which are clinically documented to support health.

Women can also act preventatively against BV with probiotic products that have been specifically evaluated for vaginal health and found to promote healthy vaginal microbiota. An ideal choice would be a strain that was originally isolated from a healthy woman and is well characterized to act against vaginal offenders. There are very few products on the market made with probiotic strains that actually meet this standard. Two strains that do are Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14. Used together, L. rhamnosus GR-1 and L. reuteri RC-14 have been shown to promote healthy vaginal microbiota which is important in helping prevent BV (see “Research Review”).

BV Treatment & Probiotics

Standard treatment for bacterial vaginosis involves antibiotic therapy, either orally administered or locally applied. The oral route typically involves daily ingestion of metronidazole or clindamycin for one week. Locally, a metronidazole gel or 2% clindamycin cream may also be prescribed for a similar duration. Some reports find that using clindamycin leads to a greater rate of recurrence than metronidazole. In addition, local use of clindamycin is contraindicated for pregnant women because of a possible connection to birth defects. Regardless of which antibiotic option is used, statistics show that roughly 30% of BV infections recur within one month and approximately 80% within 9 months.

Increasing numbers of physicians are recommending that their patients follow a regimen of antibiotics with a course of probiotics for gastrointestinal health, to bolster beneficial bacteria that have been killed off. The same advice applies to urogenital probiotics. The vaginal microbiota is just as susceptible to broad-spectrum antibiotics as the intestinal microbiota. And although there is not any solid evidence to suggest probiotics alone are effective as treatment for an existing infection, probiotic supplementation can provide dividends before, during and after antibiotic treatment. As summarized in the “Research Review,” some probiotic strains can even improve the effectiveness of BV treatment with antibiotics.

Secondary Effects of BV: Preterm Labor & STI Acquisition Risk

Awareness about BV is particularly important because it can cause health concerns that are more serious than the immediate symptoms that women tend to notice: irritation, decreased well-being, and diminished sexual health. BV can lead to local inflammation, increased susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections and a heightened risk of preterm labor in pregnant women.

In the U.S. 7-10% of all babies are delivered preterm, while it is estimated that women threatening preterm labor cost the U.S. healthcare system $360 M annually. The total number of preterm deliveries has actually risen in the U.S. over the past ten years, as well. This is a bit troubling, although not incredible. Pregnant women are increasingly being given antibiotics to fend off group B streptococci found in their vaginas and also as a precautionary measure when the amniotic sac ruptures prematurely. Increased antibiotic use on average means more frequent assaults on the vaginal microbiota of pregnant women leading to a greater overall risk of BV.

Despite medical science not having a good grasp of what causes preterm labor, it has been known for some time that there is a correlation between the incidence of BV in an expectant mother and preterm delivery (Chaim, 1997; Hillier, 1992; Purwar, 2001). As mentioned above, antibiotics used to treat BV or other conditions can cause complications during pregnancy and disrupt the microbiota of the mother. Disruption of the microbiota is a concern because transmission of endogenous bacteria from mother to newborn occurs during birth and shortly thereafter, helping to establish the newborns own microbiota and immune system. Because of this association, the use of antibiotics to treat pregnant women has drawbacks. It has previously been hypothesized that probiotic therapy could help eliminate the conditions that cause preterm labor and hence avoid preterm labor itself (Reid, AJOG, 2003). Some preliminary research suggests that urogenital probiotics can help diminish the risk of preterm labor (see “Research Review”).

Sexually Transmitted Infections

The incidence of BV has also been associated with a greater occurrence of sexually transmitted infections like HIV (Anukam, Sex Transm Dis, 2006; Sewankambo, 1997), cytomegalovirus (Ross, 2005), chlamydia (Nilsson, 1997; Joesoef, 1996), gonorrhea (Joesoef, 1996) and pelvic inflammatory disease (Brotman, 2007). For the most part, the connection between BV and increased risk of STI remains a question of causation or correlation. Research continues into understanding the mechanisms of BV and STI acquisition and the connection between the two.

Vulvovaginal Candidiasis: Bacteria v. Yeast

More commonly known as yeast vaginitis or colloquially as a “yeast infection,” about 75% of women have an occurrence of vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) in their lifetime. Recurring problems of the bacterial microbiota, like BV, can make VVC more common, recurrences more likely, and outbreaks more difficult to treat. Standard prescription treatment includes oral antimycotics like fluconazole used daily for two weeks. Local antifungal creams and pessaries are common by prescription or available over-the-counter. Topical treatments have a tendency to eliminate superficial parts without reaching embedded parts of the causative organisms. VVC treatment can also inhibit the growth of endogenous lactobacilli present in the vagina.

VVC results from an over proliferation of Candida species (Candida albicans accounts for 85-90% of infections), a group of organisms that are commonly present in the vagina at low levels. A Candida bloom often causes increased inflammation of the vaginal mucosa and can lead to vaginal discharge and irritation. VVC is often characterized by a thick, whitish and non-uniform discharge that does not typically possess a “fishy” odor. Irritation during sexual intercourse and itchiness/inflammation of the vagina and surrounding area is common. Clinically, microscopic examination of a vaginal smear after treatment with 10% KOH can allow visualization of Candida hyphae.

A healthy urogenital microbiota decreases the risk of VVC. As discussed previously, there are some steps women can take to promote a healthy urogenital microbiota including taking targeted probiotic strains. Prophylactic probiotic use is one way to support a healthy microbiota and inhibit the uncontrolled growth of Candida yeasts (Reid, 2003, FEMS). No probiotic studies to date have shown efficacy in treating an existing infection alone, but there have been some preliminary results that suggest standard antifungal treatment in combination with a L. rhamnosus GR-1/L. reuteri RC-14 probiotic resulted in significantly less symptoms of yeast infection as compared to standard treatment alone (see “Research Review”).

Bacteria Out of Place

It is estimated that 25-30% of women between the ages of 20 and 40 have had at least one urinary tract infection (UTI). In 85% of cases, the bacteria responsible for a UTI originate in one’s own intestine or vagina. Recurrent infections are common. Nearly 20% of women who have one UTI will have another.

UTI can be another casualty of an unhealthy urogenital microbiota. A UTI is a bacterial infection of the urinary system including the kidneys, ureter, bladder, and urethra. Urinary tract infections are one of the most common causes of doctor visits for women. UTI usually presents with a frequent need to urinate along with a burning sensation upon urination. Urine can appear cloudy or off-smelling. Pain, tenderness and pressure near the bladder are also common. Typical clinical evaluation involves urinanalysis to detect nitrites, leukocytes and leukocyte esterase.

Standard treatment for UTI involves a regimen of oral antibiotics for 7 days, typically trimethoprim or co-trimoxazole. Recurrences may be an indication of cystitis, where bacteria invade the umbrella cells making innate immune factors and antibiotics less effective. A healthy urogenital microbiota decreases the risk of urinary tract infections. A urogenital probiotic can be used while undergoing treatment with antibiotics to hasten recovery, to decrease side effects, and to begin establishing beneficial vaginal microbiota that will help guard against recurrence.

Overall, the message that needs to be reiterated to patients is that urogenital health is not about the absence of bacteria, but rather the proper balance. Probiotic strains that have been clinically tested for their efficacy in supporting urogenital health are an excellent option for promoting a balanced urogenital microbiota and preventing infection. Prevention deserves serious consideration as the treatment options for vaginal infections can sometimes be of limited efficacy, especially for recurring infections. Urogenital probiotic strains can also be a helpful adjuvant to standard treatment in many cases, helping mitigate side effects and in some cases bolstering treatment efficacy. Urogenital problems plague many women and cause much concern; women are often very relieved to learn that there is more they could be doing. Tell them.

Urogenital Probiotics: A Research Review

Effects on Urogenital Microbiota

Forty-two clinically healthy women were randomized into three treatment groups and one control group. The treatment groups received various oral dosage regimens of a L. rhamnosus GR-1/L. reuteri RC-14 (GR-1/RC-14) probiotic supplement and the control group received L. rhamnosus GG every day for twenty-eight days. All three treatment groups saw a significant increase in healthy vaginal microbiota, while the control group remained the same. The twice-daily treatment group accrued the most beneficial effects with 90% of patients retaining a normal vaginal microbiota two weeks after treatment. The study suggests that a daily dosage of about 1 billion (109) live GR-1/RC-14 organisms is adequate as a preventative regimen (Reid, 2001, FEMS).

Lactobacilli, Yeasts & Coliforms

Sixty-four clinically healthy women were randomized into two groups. The treatment group received a once-daily oral GR-1/RC-14 supplement while the control group received a capsule containing calcium carbonate for sixty days. Microscopy analysis on day 28 found that the treatment group had an almost 10-fold increase in lactobacilli over baseline and a significantly smaller increase of yeast and coliforms compared to placebo. In contrast, the placebo group showed decreased counts of lactobacilli and larger increases in yeast and coliforms (Reid, 2003, FEMS).

Bacterial Vaginosis Prevention

In the previous study, Nugent scoring by a blinded technician was used to assess the prevention of BV. The GR-1/RC-14 group fared much better than did the control group. Of those possessing a healthy vaginal microbiota at the outset, 24% (6/25) of the women in the placebo group developed BV by day thirty-five of the study compared to 0% (0/23) in the treatment group (Reid, 2003, FEMS).

BV Treatment in Combination with Antibiotics

Following BV infection, combination treatment using GR-1/RC-14 (1 capsule, 10 billion CFUs, b.i.d.) with metronidazole (500 mg, oral, b.i.d.) more than doubled (88%) the effectiveness of metronidazole alone (40%) in returning the vaginal microbiota to a healthy state. Of the remaining 12% of patients in the treatment group whose microbiota were not judged to be healthy at follow-up, all were found to have an intermediate status with zero cases of BV (Anukam, 2006).

Preterm Labor

Thirty pregnant women, who were diagnosed with BV and identified clinically as being at high risk of preterm delivery, were randomized into two groups. The treatment group was given a once-daily oral GR-1/RC-14 capsule for 15 days. The control group was not given any type of lactobacilli, but was monitored according to the clinical standard. Upon follow-up one month later, the treatment group showed much better vaginal health with decreased indicators of BV. But more importantly, 100% of the mothers in the treatment group, as opposed to 67% of the control group, delivered at term. No adverse events were reported (Dobrokhotova, 2007).

Vulvovaginal Candidiasis

Sixty-eight women who were positive for VVC were randomized into two groups and blinded. The treatment group received fluconazole (150 mg) plus 2 gelatin capsules of GR-1/RC-14 (10 billion organisms) once-daily for 28 days. The control group received fluconazole (150 mg) plus a placebo at the same schedule. After 28 days, the treatment group showed more than a three-fold decrease in both yeast levels and vaginal discharge compared to the control group (Martinez, 2009).

Urinary Tract Infections

One study sought to compare the recurrence rate of UTI in women treated with either standard 3-day antibiotic therapy alone or along with a GR-1 combination probiotic. First, either norfloxacin or co-trimoxazole was prescribed to the 41 women in this study. The norfloxacin group had a recurrence rate of 29% while the co-trimoxazole group recurred at a rate of 41%. Afterward all women were then randomized into two groups and administered a GR-1 combination product or sterilized skim milk as a pessary. These vaginal suppositories were given twice a week for two weeks, with two additional instillations at 4 weeks and 8 weeks. The GR-1 group had a recurrence rate of 21% over the ensuing 6 months, while the skim milk group showed a 47% incidence of recurrence (Reid, 1992).

In another randomized, double-blind study, recurrence rates of UTI were again the primary endpoint. A weekly GR-1 combination probiotic (10 billion CFUs) was given as a pessary for one year. This resulted in a decreased UTI occurrence rate from 6 per year, for these patients in the year prior to the study, to only 1.6 per year during the study (Reid, 1995).

References

Allsworth JE, Peipert JF. (2007) Prevalence of bacterial vaginosis: 2001-2004 national health and nutrition examination survey data. Obstetrics and Gynecology 109: 114-120.

Anukam KC et al. (2006) Augmentation of antimicrobial metronidazole therapy of bacterial vaginosis with oral probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14: randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial. Microbes and Infection, 8: 1450-1454.

Anukam KC et al. (2006) Lactobacillus vaginal microbiota of women attending a reproductive health care service in Benin city, Nigeria. Sex Transm Dis. Jan;33(1):59-62.

Brotman RM et al. (2007) Findings associated with recurrence of bacterial vaginosis among adolescents attending sexually transmitted diseases clinics. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. Aug;20(4):225-31.

Chaim et al. (1997) The relationship between bacterial vaginosis and preterm birth. A review. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 259:51-58.

Dobrokhotova YE and Sci M. (2007) Modern approaches to the treatment of vaginal dysbiosis in pregnant of high risk groups. All-Russian Scientific Forum: Mother and Baby. October 2, 2007.

Hillier SL et al. (1992) The relationship of hydrogen peroxide-producing lactobacilli to bacterial vaginosis and genital microflora in pregnant women. Obstet Gynecol. Mar;79(3):369-73.

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Martinez RC et al. (2009). Improved treatment of vulvovaginal candidiasis with fluconazole plus probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14. Lett Appl Microbiol Mar;48(3):269-74.

Nilsson U et al. (1997) Sexual behavior risk factors associated with bacterial vaginosis and Chlamydia trachomatis infection. Sex Transm Dis. May;24(5):241-6.

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Reid G, et al. (2003) Oral use of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and L. fermentum RC-14 significantly alters vaginal flora: randomized, placebo-controlled trial in 64 healthy women. FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology 35: 131-134.

Reid G and Bocking A. (2003) The potential for probiotics to prevent bacterial vaginosis and preterm labor. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 189:1202-8.

Reid G, et al. (2001) Probiotic Lactobacillus dose required to restore and maintain a normal vaginal flora. FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology 32: 37-41.

Reid G, Heinemann C: The role of the microflora in bacterial vaginosis. In: Medical Importance of the Normal Microflora (Tannock GW, ed.), Kluwer, London, 1998, pp. 477-486.

Reid G, Bruce AW, Taylor M. (1995) Instillation of Lactobacillus and stimulation of indigenous organisms to prevent recurrence of urinary tract infections. Microecology Therapy;23:32-45.

Reid G et al. (1992) Influence of three-day antimicrobial therapy and Lactobacillus vaginal suppositories on recurrence of urinary tract infections. Clin Ther; 14 (1): 11-16.

Ross SA, et al. (2005) Association between genital tract cytomegalovirus infection and bacterial vaginosis. J Infect Dis. Nov 15;192(10):1727-30.

Sewankambo N et al. (1997) HIV-1 infection associated with abnormal vaginal flora morphology and bacterial vaginosis. Lancet 350:546-550.

Van Kessel K, Assefi N, Marrazzo J, Eckert L (2003) Common complementary and alternative therapies for yeast vaginitis and bacterial vaginosis: a systematic review. Obstet Gynecol Surv 58:351-358.

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