Probiotics & Urogenital Yeast Infections – Can It Help?

Unveiling The Role Fungi In Urogenital Infections:

Probiotics & Urogenital Yeast InfectionsOur body is a home to many micro-organisms (bacteria and fungi). When the number of fungi increases the desired level, it paves way to infections at the site as the environment of the body is altered. Urogenital system (UGS) includes organs of the urinary and reproductive system such as vagina, bladder, urethra and so on. Since UGS is the home of most fungi, Candida albicanns is most common cause of infection in these organs. Women are more susceptible to fungal infections because of the proximity of the reproductive and urinary systems. If you experience itching and curdy white discharge, it is most likely that you have yeast infections. Urogenital infections can be caused from being sick, being tired and/or unable to take sufficient rest or proper nutrition. Patients with diabetes or women who take birth control pills call for recurrent yeast infections. Hot and humid weather and sexual intercourse with multiple partners increases the risk of such diseases. Significant here is to know that in patients with HIV, these infections present the first sign of infection. Vaginitis is an infection that is caused by the overgrowth of either bacteria (bacterial vaginosis) or fungi (fungal vaginosis) in vagina.

Paving The Path For Managing Urogenital Infections:

Treatment modality of such infections is the use of azoles such as fluconazole, itraconazole and clotrimazole. Though these drugs are effective, they are not very successful in checkin the recurrence of the yeast infections. Some serious side-effects such as painful and frequent urination limit the use of anti-fungal agents. Hence the benefit-risk ratio is crucial in these conditions. Recurrence of the disease suggests that there must be an underlying immunological problem that allows the repeated growth of these fungi.

Managing The Menace of Yeast Infections by Probiotics:

Probiotics are judiciously found in vagina as well as other parts of the body providing protection. Not long ago, imbalance in the number of organisms ie fungi and bacteria in the body was supposed to the result of infection, however now it is considered as the cause of it. According to one article published in 2002, the authors suggested that probiotics can be used as an alternative management modality to antimicrobial treatment as well as prophylaxis. Exogenous application of the agents such as lactobacilli to the host may work wonders.The three-point method by which the probiotics help to manage these infections is detailed below:

1. Probiotics produce antibiotics: The good bacteria produce indigenous antibiotics in the body that selectively kill bad micro-organisms, rendering the good ones safe.

2. Probiotics lower the pH: Probiotics help to lower the pH rendering the region acidic by producing lactic-acid. The low pH inhibits the growth of pathogens but does not have any effect on probiotics. In the absence of any protection from the acidic environment, these pathogens die. Lactic acid inhibits Candida albicans, which is the main cause of the urogenital infection. According to a study published in J Chemother., it has been found that the lactobacillus strains such as L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri can help to prevent and treat the menace of recurrence of these fungal infections especially those that result in bacterial vaginosis.

3. Probiotics produce hydrogen peroxide: In our day-to-day lives, we apply hydrogen peroxide to wounds to avoid infections. Similarly, in vagina for example, probiotics produce hydrogen peroxide and kills the pathogenic bacteria, thereby combating infections, though probiotics themselves appear resistant to hydrogen peroxide.

Yogurt with active micro-organisms is an excellent source of probiotics. Traditionally, it is recommended to have at least a serving of yogurt in a day to be able to supply for these useful bacteria in patients with urogenital infections. Recent advances in the drug delivery systems have paved way to the use of suppositories with lyophilized acidophilus bacteria. These suppositories provide a constant supply of the useful micro-organisms directly at the site of requirement. High level of glucose in the body provides for the rich fodder for the pathogenic fungi and bacteria. It is therefore observed that in patients with diabetes, the recurrent rate for such infections is high. Concurrent use of cranberry powder or juice with probiotics reaps excellent benefits in patients with recurrent infections. It is believed that cranberry acts as an anti-adhesion factor preventing the adherence of bad bacteria to and liberating the good ones from the surface of the membranes.

Summing up, though infections of the urogenital system can be difficult to treat, use of probiotics can help alleviate the symptoms in such patients by bringing the balance between good and bad microorganisms.

References

1.    Abad CL, Safdar N. The role of lactobacillus probiotics in the treatment or prevention of urogenital infections–a systematic review. J Chemother. 2009 Jun;21(3):243-52.
2.    Reid G. Probiotics for urogenital health. Nutr Clin Care. 2002 Jan-Feb;5(1):3-8.

Photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/teruterubouzu/1313461088/ @creativecommons

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