It seems as though we are always hearing about the newest product or craze on the health and wellness block, something which usually promises us optimal health. The problem is, not that many of these items actually work out for everyone, and they disappear from the radar, never really to be heard of again. One which has stuck around for a while now is probiotics.
If you don’t know what probiotics are, it’s time to arm yourself with some knowledge, because whether you increase your probiotic intake through your diet or you choose to take a supplement, there are some fantastic benefits to be had.
Probiotics are live bacteria, but instead of being the type of bacteria that we all run and hide from, these types of bacteria are actually healthy and do good work within your body, specifically within the gut. The bad bacteria is balanced up with the good, preventing illness and certain conditions, whilst also ensuring the general smooth running of the entire digestive system. The benefits don’t stop there however, as many studies have shown benefits taking place all across the body.
One of those benefits is linked to the reproductive system, and fertility in particular. So, can probiotics really help with fertility issues?
The Story Behind Probiotics and Fertility
The main reason why probiotics help to improve fertility is that they work to reduce the amount of general inflammation within the body. This has a knock on effect on fertility in general. In addition, general bacterial infections can affect both the male and female reproductive systems, and taking a regular probiotic could help to boost the immune system and fight such infections, thus rendering them less serious than they would otherwise be. Many studies have shown this to be the case. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is one of the most common infections found in the female genital tract, and this can, when left untreated, lead to difficulties becoming pregnant.
Having said that, it is inflammation which plays the biggest part. The main reason is that when a woman experiences a high level of general inflammation within her body, this affects her immune system and it also affects her menstrual cycle. The more irregular this becomes, the harder it can be for that woman to conceive, and therefore stress also creeps in. It’s a vicious cycle because the more stressed you are, the more unlikely it becomes too!
There’s a male side to this also.
In many cases, difficulty achieving pregnancy isn’t due to a problem with the woman’s reproductive system, but it is down a sperm problem on the male side. It is thought that taking a lactobacillus strain of probiotic could help to create healthier sperm, and therefore improve general male fertility overall.
Many studies are still being done into the major effects of probiotics, including the positive effects on fertility. For now however, the findings we do have are certainly very encouraging.
Which Probiotics Should You Take For Fertility Improvement?
Before you begin taking any kind of supplement, always speak to your doctor first. Everyone is different and this means that whilst one supplement might work well for one person, it doesn’t mean it will for you. Getting the all clear to begin taking probiotics is the place to begin.
You have two main options – you can increase the probiotic content in your diet, or you can take a supplement. Obviously the dietary route is the natural option of the two, but not everyone finds it easy to get the right amount of probiotic content from their diet alone. Yogurt is one food which is high in probiotics, but you should always check that the label says ‘live and active cultures’, as not every type of yogurt has the best content within it. Aside from that, anything fermented, e.g. pickles and sauerkraut are good options.
Supplements vary according to the types of probiotics contained within them, e.g. the strains. There are countless supplements on the market and it’s a good idea to shop around and find the best options in terms of the benefits you want to achieve. There are also supplements which are targeted mainly for men, and probiotic supplements for women. Again, shop around and find the best option.
Overall, the following probiotic strains are considered a good option for fertility improvement:
- L. rhamnosus
- L. reuteri
- L. plantarum
When doing your research into the best probiotic for your needs, look for these strains in particular. Of course, ensuring that you live a healthy and active lifestyle alongside taking regular probiotics is vital in terms of your overall health and wellbeing, but also for your fertility and chances of conceiving in the future.
Are There Any Side Effects?
There isn’t a lot of research available in terms of the possible side effects of probiotics, and even the benefits have only really come to the fore over the last few years. A lot more research is going into probiotics and the effects that we might not yet be aware of. Having said that, the studies that have been done don’t really show a lot in the way of adverse effect.
Always remember to read the label on the supplement you choose and follow the instructions, as there is no uniform way to take a probiotic. There is also no solid dose currently known, so again, it’s about reading the instructions and following advice. If you’re at all unsure, have a chat with your doctor first and ask for advice. You could also focus on your diet too, and try and increase the amount of probiotics you consume on a daily basis.
Whilst gut health is the best known benefit of taking regular probiotics, an increase in immune system function is another, which helps to reduce inflammation and fights infection. These are all factors which affect fertility, and by taking these benefits on board, you could be drastically improving your chances of conceiving, when taken in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle.