It's hard to have a good day if you have an itchy, angry vagina. If you have a vaginal infection or irritation, yogurt — with good bacteria that act as probiotics in your body — may be helpful for restoring balance down there so you can stop the cycle of discomfort and scratching and get on with your day.
Read more: 6 Benefits of Yogurt and How Different Types Compare
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Types of Vaginal Infections
Vaginal infections are also referred to as vaginitis. The Mayo Clinic lists three common types:
- Bacterial vaginosis: caused by a change or overgrowth of bacteria
- Yeast infections: caused by candida albicans, a naturally occurring fungus
- Trichomoniasis: caused by a parasite, transmitted during sexual activity
Vaginitis isn't always caused by an infection. It can also be caused by inflammation from irritants found in douches, spermicidal products, detergents and soap, or lower levels of estrogen after menopause.
Probiotics for Vaginal Health
Yogurt may be beneficial for vaginal health, but the yogurt itself isn't what can help get you back on track — it's the probiotics within it. There are many kinds of these helpful bacteria in our bodies, doing various jobs like helping us digest food or fight off diseases, according to the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health.
Though research is limited when it comes to the specific benefits of yogurt for vaginal health, "research on probiotics and their benefit for vaginal health is very promising," says Jodie Horton, MD, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and chief wellness advisor for Love Wellness in Washington, D.C. Several studies have found that Lactobacillus acidophilus can help prevent and treat vaginal imbalances, like yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis, she says.
A January 2014 research review in the Journal of Lower Tract Genital Disease found that both oral and vaginally administered probiotic products may have benefits for preventing and treating bacterial vaginosis, and the authors stress getting daily probiotics for better health.
When it comes to yeast infections, not much research has been done involving humans. A July 2016 study in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology found that, in a lab setting, L. acidophilus slowed the growth and formation of the fungus that causes yeast infections. The American Urological Association notes that eating yogurt may be beneficial for yeast infections and the genital tract in general, but also that antifungal creams, suppositories or pills may be needed for treatment when infections persist.
That leaves trichomoniasis. If you suspect you have trichomoniasis, you will likely need antibiotics, per the Mayo Clinic, to fully clear up your symptoms and stop you from spreading it.
How Yogurt May Help Vaginal pH
Your vagina is healthiest when it's slightly acidic. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), lactobacilli bacteria in the vagina help maintain that acidic pH level.
"Lactobacilli [play] a critical role in protecting the female genital tract," Dr. Horton says. They produce the lactic acid that lowers vaginal pH to a healthy range that inhibits overgrowth of bacteria and yeast.
"When vaginal pH is out of whack, infections are more likely to occur. Greek yogurt has probiotics like L. acidophilus and L. casei that help maintain a normal vaginal pH and prevent infections. Studies suggest eating yogurt at least 3 times a week can help you achieve benefits," Dr. Horton says.
How to Use Yogurt for Vaginal Health
If you're looking to add yogurt to your vaginitis recovery regimen, stick with snacking on it. Reach for Greek yogurt with live and active cultures, which means it has the specific probiotics that help maintain your ideal vaginal pH.
If you're still squirming, talk to your doctor about other treatment options and natural remedies.
- Mayo Clinic: “Vaginitis”
- National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health: “Probiotics: What You Need To Know”
- Jodie Horton, MD, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist, chief wellness advisor, Love Wellness, Washington, D.C.
- Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease: “Effects of Probiotics on the Recurrence of Bacterial Vaginosis: A Review”
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology: “Probiotic Lactobacilli Inhibit Early Stages of Candida albicans Biofilm Development by Reducing Their Growth, Cell Adhesion, and Filamentation”
- American Urological Association: “Yeast Infections”
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Vulvovaginal Health”
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.