Probiotics for IBS and UTIs

Dealing with the little microbes

Did you know that Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most frequent clinical bacterial infections in women? They affect around 50% of all women in their lifetimes.  As you can imagine the symptoms are not very pleasant.  If you have a urinary or yeast infection, you have to visit the bathroom quite often; you only pass small amounts of cloudy and strong smelling urine even if you have intense urge to urinate. Feeling tired with abdominal pain and aching muscles are other typical symptoms of UTIs.

Bacterial infections in women are commonly associated with a deficiency in positive gut and vaginal flora. UTIs are caused by the bacteria Escherichia coli or Gardenerella vaginalis in most patients and recurrent UTIs (RUTI) are mainly caused by reinfection by the same pathogens. 

What’s more, decreased numbers of friendly bacteria species in the human colon have been reported in women with diverse digestive and intestinal disorders, especially in women suffering from bloating and constipation, typically associated with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

What’s behind UTI and IBS?

Several factors such as our diet, age, medication, stress, and lifestyle can definitely alter our gut and vaginal flora and create deep bacterial imbalance.

For instance, if you take antibiotics, they kill off bad bacteria. However, as they are not selective, they also clear up the good bacteria leading to the proliferation of pathogen microorganisms that produce abnormal changes in our bodies causing often abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhoea.

Other causes such as a diet rich in sugar and alcohol, will feed the bad bugs in your gut.

Stress and fluctuating hormone levels can disturb your little microbes balance as well. Research shows that oestrogen deficiency plays a potential role in the development of bacteria putting premenopausal women more at risk. In fact, a large amount of premenopausal women around the world suffer from a vaginal infection commonly known as Bacterial Vaginosis (BV).

And we know there are many phases in a woman’s life when they regularly undergo complete hormonal metamorphosis. Whether they are expecting a baby or go through the menopause. This explains the fact why women (as opposed to men) are naturally more prone to experience flora imbalance associated with gastrointestinal distress such as bloating with a greater incidence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and yeast infections (Thrush/ Candidiasis).

What can be done?

When it comes to urinary infections, antibiotic therapy is the initial treatment but many patients and practitioners are considering alternative strategies to reduce intake of antibiotics.

Many would refer to probiotics, also called friendly bacteria. They are defined by The World Health Organisation as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host". The two most popular species of “friendly” bacteria or probiotics are the genus Lactobacillus and the genus Bifidobacterium renowned for their probiotic properties exhibited by some of their strains. Some probiotics can reduce the pathogen bacteria and yeasts in your gut, some balance your intestinal PH, and some reduce inflammation. Each bacterium has unique clinical relevance and we know that different species of bacteria work in synergy.

Many foods in the market are enriched with probiotics or contain naturally friendly bacteria. Several studies indicate that taking probiotics, or consuming fermented foods rich in good bacteria such as live yogurt, fermented cabbage, pickles, miso, tempeh or dietary fibre can increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut and help fight off pathogens and disease causing bacteria; which in turn may help reduce symptoms of severe abdominal discomfort or urinary infections associated with flora imbalance. 

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests probiotics may especially protect against UTIs by restoring proper microbial balance. They have shown a promise in approaching this condition by fighting the main causative bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Gardnerella vaginalis.

Therefore, if you are a woman experiencing recurrent yeast and urinary infections, it would be a good idea to add to your diet fermented foods as they naturally provide you with the beneficial little microbes. You can also start taking for few months a quality probioticcombining multispecies as they are more effective than monospecies probiotics.


Any information or product suggested in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition. Never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Consult your primary healthcare physician before using any supplements or making any changes to your regime.

This blog post was written for Molly Mojo by HealthAid's Nutritionist Nawel NeggacheClick here to view all HealthAid products.

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