Probiotics have never really been on my radar. They’ve kind of hovered in my peripheral vision, making me aware of their presence on TV and in magazine ads, but I’ve never given them much more attention than that. So why now? Why am I doing a probiotic review? What made this probiotic catch my eye over any of the others out there?
One word… perimenopause.
Perimenopause caught up with me about 3 years ago. When I look back now, I realise that it crept up on me slowly, so much so that I didn’t realise it was a problem until I was well and truly in the eye of the storm. You see, many of the symptoms of perimenopause could easily be mistaken for other things. And at the time, even though it was only 3 years ago, doctors weren’t half as clued up about perimenopause as they are these days. I was told I was too young (I was 42 at the time) and the only thing they were willing to prescribe for me were antidepressants (sadly an all too familiar story for a lot of women). I declined and went private, convinced by then that there was more going on. I got prescribed HRT and fast forward to now, I’ve been using it for roughly 2 years and touch wood all seems fine.
Well, I say fine, it’s fine in that HRT has made the symptoms much more manageable. The thing with perimenopause is that it likes to keep you on your toes. And whilst it has helped tremendously with the debilitating anxiety I was experiencing there are still some issues that flare up. Just to a much lesser degree, and so I shrug them off and think ‘I can cope with these’.
So here I am today, with this WiseHuman Women’s Daily Support Probiotic sat in front of me. Because as we’re being told more and more, good overall health is linked to the health of our guts. Basically, healthy and happy gut flora = healthy and happy human. Which is why I wanted to explore whether taking a probiotic can help alleviate some of the symptoms I still struggle with, such as bloating and weight gain, and also some of the other perimenopausal symptoms many other women suffer with, such as vaginal dryness and menstrual migraines. Let’s take a closer look.
What Are Probiotics And Why Do We Need Them?
It’s probably best to start off by finding out a bit more about what probiotics are as well as establishing why we might need them in our diets.
Every single one of us has a microbiome, which if you haven’t come across this word before is basically colonies of microorganisms that live inside our bodies. This isn’t as bad as it sounds! In fact this collection of bacteria, yeasts, viruses and fungi (or gut flora as they are also collectively known) have a massive job. But as with most things in life, it’s all about the balance. A well balanced microbiome, one that has the right composition of gut flora, will help to…
- Metabolise indigestible carbohydrates
- Produce vitamins such as B2, B12, K, and folic acid
- Protect against disease causing bacteria
- Promote healthy cell function.
Unfortunately, there are certain external factors that unsettle the balance of our microbiomes; things like age, exercise, lifestyle, diet, disease. And as the bad bacteria starts to outnumber the good we may begin to notice changes in our bodies, including:
- Digestive troubles – bloating, wind, cramps, constipation.
- Sugar cravings – a consequence of digestion problems is that you may crave sugar more and if you give into this craving the result can be weight gain, dental issues, skin problems and a whole host of other issues.
- Skin problems – itchiness, rashes, acne.
- Vaginal dryness – can lead to UTIs and the need for antibiotics (which actually unsettles the balance even more so!)
With over 10 trillion microbiota, living mostly in the gut but also in the mouth and, in women, the vagina, it’s clear how this careful balance could easily be swayed. This is where probiotics come in. Probiotics can either give us a handy top up of good bacteria when our system is out of whack, thus resetting the balance. Or they can be used on an ongoing basis to help protect the delicate balance between good and bad, thus preventing future destabilization. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, and kombucha, however it is unlikely that we we would get enough from food sources alone and this is how probiotic supplements like the WiseHuman Women’s Daily Support Probiotic can help.
What Is WiseHuman Women’s Daily Support Probiotic?
When looking for a probiotic supplement it’s important to choose one that is right for your needs. For example, if you are specifically having digestive issues go for one that helps with that. Alternatively, if your issues are more vaginal based, look for one that deals with that instead.
What I like about the WiseHuman Women’s Daily Support Probiotic is that the type of probiotics it contains is aimed specifically at women. It is a triple class probiotic, meaning it contains 3 different types of probiotic:
- Saccharomyces boulardii – This probiotic yeast helps to protect the intestinal lining against harmful bacteria. It also increases the production of digestive enzymes, which helps break down dietary sugars.
- Bifidobacterium – This bacteria is the very first bacteria to colonize in an infant’s gut. It is found in the colon and is good for preventing inflammation and helping to regulate weight.
- Lactobacillus – The WiseHuman Women’s Daily Support Probiotic contains a blend of 6 different Lactobacillus bacteria, one of which is Lactobacillus gasseri, which is found in the vagina and is good for reducing bloating by helping to break down food more easily and aiding nutrient absorption.
Each pack contains 30 daily capsules, so enough to cover you for the month, and each capsule contains 20 billion CFU. CFU stands for Colony Forming Units and it is basically the number of cells that can multiply to form a colony.
Some probiotics require refrigeration, mainly those that have a high moisture content. The benefit of taking probiotics in capsule form, like these from WiseHuman, is that they don’t require refrigeration and so make transportation and storage of them much easier. Probiotics can also be affected by temperature, which is why Wisehuman package their capsules in individually sealed blister seals instead of the more common de-humidifying vial.
The capsules are formulated to help support the immune system, aid regular and healthy digestion, and to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. However, what I am most interested in, certainly from a perimenopause perspective, is that the capsules contain ingredients that support healthy vaginal flora and promote feminine health.
How Should I Be Taking Probiotics?
Whenever you introduce something new to your body, there is inevitably a period of adjustment. And with probiotics it’s no different. You will notice some changes going on in your body. I certainly did. But it’s worth persevering, to reap the benefits.
The WiseHuman Women’s Daily Support Probiotic capsules are taken once a day, with or without food, it literally makes no difference. I personally find it easiest taking them in the morning with my breakfast, but it’s all about finding a time that you’re most likely to remember taking them and that fits in with your lifestyle. They’re easy to swallow with a drink and because they are in the form of a patented delayed capsule, the live bacteria is able to bypass the digestive system and go straight to the gut where it’s needed. How soon you start to notice any changes within yourself will vary from person to person. Some people notice benefits after just a few days, whereas for others it may take up to 2 weeks. Likewise, some people may have no initial side effects, whereas others may experience things like bloating, wind, constipation, headaches, and increased thirst. This is all normal. You are introducing extra probiotics to your gut and it needs time to process. This is all part of the rebalancing process, so stick with it.
From personal experience, I had about a week of feeling more bloated than normal. To the point that I started to question whether I should carry on with them. After all, one of the big reasons for me taking them was to alleviate bloating! Fortunately, I’d read in advance that this could be a side effect, so I carried on taking them until I came through that period of adjustment and I don’t think I’ve had a day of feeling bloated since. I am 2 months into my probiotic plan and I am feeling less bloated, more energetic, and to put it bluntly, I’m pooing great!
Another way you can help support your gut health is by taking prebiotics alongside probiotics. Prebiotic fibre supplements, such as WiseHuman Prebiotic Fiber Boost, provides food for the good bacteria. Inclusion of this in your healthy gut regime increases the likelihood of the good bacteria surviving and prospering, which translates to a healthier, better feeling you. Aside from this, it also helps keep you regular, which is never a bad thing.
OK, so how is taking a probiotic going to help traverse through perimenopause a bit more smoothly? Well, I used to really suffer with bloating in the lead up to my period. And since entering perimenopause I’ve been getting 2 periods a month, which means there was a whole lot of bloating going on. Also, I don’t know about anyone else, and forgive me for the tmi, but I also notice my bowel movements change a couple of days before and during my period. They become looser and I need to go more frequently. Basically, I needed to address this gut issue that seemed to be developing from out of nowhere. My diet hadn’t changed, I was exercising the same, the only thing that was changing was my age (which of course I couldn’t do anything about) and my hormones. Ah ha, there we have it. If I refer back to something I mentioned at the beginning of this post – “there are certain external factors that unsettle the balance of our microbiomes; things like age, exercise, lifestyle, diet, disease” – there’s the answer. My gut health had seemingly been fine, I’d certainly never noticed any issues with it, not until the point at which my perimenopause symptoms had started anyway. But here I was with an unsettled, unbalanced gut.
This is what I’m learning. That HRT alone is not the answer. It’s a massive part for sure, but not the total solution. I have realised that there are other things I can do and other things I can supplement my body with that help make up the total solution. For me that includes taking collagen, a multi vitamin, and I have now added a good quality probiotic to the list too. This, along with HRT, regular exercise (both for my body and mind), and a healthy (ish!) diet, all contribute to a healthier, happier me. These are my perimenopause essentials.
Although the research between probiotics and perimenopause isn’t fully conclusive, from what I’ve read and from my own personal experience I believe it helps. I’ve learned that decreased levels of oestrogen can affect the pH level of the vagina, which in turn can increase the risk of vaginal infections and contribute towards vaginal dryness, both of which are perimenopausal symptoms. I’ve also discovered that it is our gut flora that helps to regulate oestrogen levels, and so when these levels start to decline during perimenopause, it’s more important than ever for our microbiome to be working effectively. You see, oestrogen is responsible for so many things that happen in the female body, like weight management, bone strength, mood, temperature regulation, menstrual cycles, healthy skin, to name but a few. And so when this goes into decline, and certainly if our gut microbiome has become unbalanced either as a consequence of this or for any of the other reasons, it can make any perimenopausal symptoms you’re experiencing a whole lot worse.
Let me make this clear, taking a probiotic supplement is not going to cure your symptoms. But what it may do is alleviate them, make them much more manageable, and when combined with other key lifestyle factors like exercise, diet, sleep etc., and HRT (if that is the path you want to go down) it will improve your quality of life and make you feel more like the woman you were before all this perimenopausal stuff crept in.
If you’d like to find out more about WiseHuman Women’s Daily Support Probiotic as well as the other range of probiotics they offer, head over to the WiseHuman website.
*product gifted for review