Can You Take Probiotics While on Your Period?

Written by: Kari Raman, PharmD, RPh
Published July 10, 2023

As a pharmacist, I often get a lot of questions about probiotics at the pharmacy counter. One question that I’ve noticed popping up more frequently is: “Can you take probiotics while on your period?” Well, I’m here to answer this, and spoiler alert, the answer is yes. And, as a woman and a probiotic user, I am living proof that you can take them at any time of the month. Let’s go through some facts and studies to better understand this.

Firstly, it’s important to know what probiotics are. Probiotics are live microorganisms, often bacteria or yeasts, that may be able to confer health benefits when consumed in sufficient amounts. They are usually found in supplements and fermented foods and are considered good for gut health, immunity, and more. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are two of the most common types. I’ve read a lot of the best research on them, and my summary would be that for some people, the right ones may be helpful, especially when it comes to gut health. And I’ve found other research suggesting that they can also help improve your mood or immune system, although a lot of this research is still emerging. But a big note – if you are having a health issue, talk to your doctor to rule out any serious underlying problems! 

Now, let’s dig deeper into the topic at hand.

Probiotics during the menstrual cycle

Despite the fact that half the world’s population (women!) have to deal with a menstrual cycle, there is surprisingly little research on how the monthly cycle impacts a woman’s gut microbiome. Some small studies like this one suggest that the microbiome doesn’t change based on the time of the menstrual cycle, but other scientific research suggests that hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can affect gut microbiota. Regardless, many women experience serious intestinal discomfort during or just prior to their period – and I don’t need a research paper to say that! If a period leads to digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea, then it seems possible that a probiotic supplement can help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, and therefore could potentially alleviate these symptoms.

BUT, I haven’t found a study that actually proves that probiotics reduce menstrual cramps, bloating, diarrhea, etc. I did come across a study that is in progress, being conducted by some researchers mainly from the University of Florida, but they have not yet published their research. 

Will probiotics help with your period?

It’s possible that the right strains of probiotics might help with problems you experience during your period, especially gut problems. Maintaining a stable gut microbiome during your period may help manage symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits that some women experience, although as I’ve already pointed out, the clinical trial data isn’t there to say this conclusively. If you have severe discomfort before or during your cycle, talk to your doctor – this could be a sign of a more serious condition that you should seek help for. 

Which probiotics will help with period symptoms?

Again, there isn’t definitive research saying that specific probiotic strains are going to stop menstrual discomfort, but in general, if you are looking to improve your gut during your period consider the following strains:

  1. Lactobacillus acidophilus: This strain helps in maintaining gut health and has been shown to help reduce bloating and abdominal pain, which some women experience during their menstrual cycle.
  2. Bifidobacterium bifidum: Known to improve gut health and strengthen the immune system, this strain can help mitigate digestive symptoms and might indirectly affect period symptoms.
  3. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG: This probiotic strain may help to reduce inflammation, improve gut health, and manage irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, which can flare up for some women during their period.
  4. Lactobacillus reuteri: This strain may reduce menstrual pain and discomfort, along with supporting overall gut health.
  5. Bifidobacterium longum: This is another beneficial strain for gut health and reducing IBS symptoms, which may be beneficial during menstruation.

It’s important to remember that every woman is different and the effectiveness of probiotics can vary from person to person. If you are going to try to use one of these supplements, you will need to take it for several months before you can really know if it’s working (read my article on how long it takes for probiotics to work).

Which probiotics should you take on your period?

One probiotic that I can recommend for women on their period is Love Wellness’s Good Girl Vaginal Probiotics. You can read my review of Good Girl Probiotics here. With a blend of bacteria strains – many of which are well studied, it stands out for several reasons:

  • Dose Strength: Offering 1 billion CFUs per serving, it meets the general recommendation for a probiotic supplement. CFUs determine the potency of a probiotic and how much live and active cultures are present. A minimum of 1 billion CFUs ensures a therapeutic dose for health benefits.
  • Strain Diversity: Not all probiotics are the same, and having diverse strains make it more likely that there will be some that help with any particular woman’s period. The strains present in Good Girl Probiotics, ranging from Lactobacillus acidophilus to Lactobacillus paracasei, have clinical backing suggesting potential benefits for both gut and vaginal health. This also includes the potential to reduce the risk of UTIs.
  • Cost-Effective: Depending on where you purchase it, it’s only about $1 per day off of Love Wellness’ website
  • A Focus on Vaginal Health: The vaginal microbiome plays a crucial role in feminine health. Good Girl Probiotics, with its emphasis on strains dominant in a healthy vaginal environment, offers a smart approach to maintaining this delicate balance.
  • Potential UTI Protection: A healthy vaginal microbiome can act as a barrier against UTI-causing pathogens. The strains present in this probiotic may help reduce the risk of UTIs by maintaining an acidic environment and outcompeting harmful bacteria.

However, like any supplement, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Individual responses can vary, and while the product offers numerous potential benefits, always consult with a healthcare professional when introducing a new supplement to your regimen.

Can you take probiotics while on your period?

Yes, if you are wondering “should I take probiotics while on my period,” yes, you can. In fact, not only can you take probiotics while on your period, but it might actually be a good idea. Maintaining a balanced gut microbiota can help manage digestive issues that may arise during menstruation. Before starting any supplement, pharmacists like me recommended talking to your healthcare provider. They can provide personalized advice based on your health status and needs.

Probiotics and Period Symptoms

Although probiotics are commonly associated with gut health, research suggests that they may also provide other benefits that could help manage period symptoms. Here are some findings:

Digestive health: As I mentioned earlier, hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can affect gut microbiota, leading to issues like bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. By maintaining a balanced gut microbiota, probiotics could potentially help manage these symptoms. While I didn’t find any great research that actually proved that these supplements will help, I’m excited to see that the research is underway.

Menstrual pain and discomfort: Again, there isn’t enough research to prove that taking a supplement will help relieve or reduce discomfort, but it is very unlikely that it will hurt. 

Mood regulation: Some women experience mood swings during their periods. Emerging research indicates a possible connection between gut health and mood regulation (which I have written about here), suggesting that probiotics could potentially help manage mood swings. There is absolutely no research proving that probiotics will reduce the moods you feel during your cycle, but it’s very unlikely that they will cause harm.  

It’s important to note that while these findings are promising, more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits of probiotics for period symptoms. 

What are Probiotics, and what do they have to do with your period?

Given the increasing popularity of probiotics, many people often find themselves wondering exactly what they are and how they might be beneficial. Probiotics are not a new concept, even though they might seem like a recent health trend. In fact, the idea behind probiotics traces back thousands of years with the consumption of fermented foods. I’m amazed at how many patients at the pharmacy ask me about them these days – we are seeing a real increase of awareness in them and their possible health benefits!

Definition: Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms, primarily bacteria and yeasts, that may provide health benefits to the host (in this case, humans) when consumed in appropriate amounts. Think of them as the “good” or “friendly” bacteria that may help maintain a balanced environment in your digestive system.

Sources: Probiotics are naturally found in a variety of fermented foods, but they can also be taken as dietary supplements. Common food sources include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and some cheeses.

Types: While there are numerous types of probiotics, the most widely researched and recognized are the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families. Within these families, various strains exist that may serve different purposes in the body.

Benefits: Probiotics offer a range of potential health benefits, including:

  1. Digestive Health: They may help balance the “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut, ensuring that your digestive system functions properly. This can be especially beneficial for individuals who have been on antibiotics, which can disrupt the natural balance of gut bacteria.
  2. Immunity Boost: A healthy gut may contribute to a strong immune system. By maintaining a balanced gut microbiota, probiotics might enhance the body’s natural defenses.
  3. Mental Health: Emerging research suggests a possible connection between gut health and mental well-being. Probiotics might play a role in mood regulation by affecting the gut-brain axis.
  4. Other Benefits: Probiotics can also potentially assist in nutrient absorption, lactose digestion, and the production of essential vitamins.

Safety: Probiotics are generally considered safe for most individuals. However, in rare cases, they can cause infections, especially in people with weakened immune systems.

In essence, probiotics play a potential role in maintaining overall health, and their consumption might be particularly beneficial for ensuring a healthy gut, which is the foundation of overall well-being. As always, it’s a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement or making significant dietary changes.

How to take probiotics

The dosage of probiotics can vary based on the strain and the specific health concern. In general, a typical dose might range from 1 to 10 billion colony forming units (CFUs) per day. Probiotic supplements should be taken as directed by your healthcare provider or as instructed on the product label.

Probiotics can be taken at any time of the day, with or without food. I do think that the best time of day to take them is in the evening, before bed, but it’s not a problem if you take them wherever is best for you. They are generally considered safe for daily consumption, although some people may experience mild side effects such as gas and bloating, particularly when first starting a probiotic supplement.

Probiotic-Rich Foods

In addition to supplements, probiotics can also be obtained from certain foods. In fact, healthy foods are probably the best way to get them! Here are a few examples:

  • Yogurt: Look for yogurts that contain “live and active cultures.” 
  • Kefir: This fermented milk drink contains a variety of beneficial bacteria.
  • Sauerkraut and kimchi: These fermented cabbage products are rich in probiotics.
  • Miso and tempeh: These fermented soy products also contain beneficial bacteria.

One of the most popular yogurt brands, Chobani, has really focused on getting probiotics into their products – I’ve reviewed Chobani’s products and am pretty impressed. So this is an easy way to get some beneficial bacteria (and yeast) while on your period!

It’s important to remember that while probiotics are generally considered safe for most people, they may not be suitable for everyone. Individuals with weakened immune systems or certain underlying health conditions should consult their healthcare provider before starting any supplement.

To sum up, while taking probiotics during your period may potentially help manage some period-related symptoms, every woman is unique. Therefore, the effectiveness is going to vary, and they may not help you at all. As always, I would recommend talking to your doctor or healthcare provider before starting any new supplement, including probiotics. 

Other ways to make your period better

Taking a supplement is probably not the best way to improve your period. Here are some of the other things you should probably try before turning to a supplement: 

  • Incorporate regular aerobic exercises into your daily routine. Not only do these exercises enhance your overall health, but they also combat symptoms such as low mood, difficulty in focusing, and fatigue.
  • Adopt a healthier diet. Primarily consuming nutritious foods and drinks while reducing intake of caffeine, salt, and sugar particularly in the fortnight leading up to your period can alleviate many period symptoms. Check out resources on healthy eating specifically designed for women.
  • Ensure you get ample sleep. Aim for approximately eight hours of sleep every night. Sleep deprivation can cause depression and anxiety, which could exacerbate mood swings often associated with PMS.
  • Develop effective stress management techniques. Engage in constructive dialogues with your friends, keep a journal, or try yoga, massage, and meditation—these practices have proven beneficial for some women.
  • Refrain from smoking. According to a substantial study, women who smoked experienced more frequent and severe PMS symptoms compared to their non-smoking counterparts.

Pharmacist Kari Raman

I’m Kari Raman PharmD, RPh, and I am a licensed, practicing pharmacist. I hold a Doctorate in Pharmacy from The University of the Pacific, and I’ve served patients in retail, compounding and hospital pharmacies.

Probiotics are confusing!

One of the most common questions I get asked by patients is about probiotics. And the truth is, probiotics are not as well understood by the healthcare community as they should be.

So I’ve been reading a lot of probiotic clinical trials, and sharing what I’m learning here.

I hope Pharmacist Probiotics helps you find out if there is a type of probiotic that works for you!