Last week, probiotic supplement Sweet Peach was introduced at the DEMO Conference in San Jose, California. Unveiled by Cambrian Genomics founders (and men) Austen Heinz and Gilad Gome, the supplement was initially pitched as an artificial fragrance (like, say, a peach) for the vagina, replacing the organ’s natural scent.
Understandably, people were outraged. But this turned out to be incorrect. Audrey Hutchinson, the actual founder of Sweet Peach Probiotics (and a woman), described how Sweet Peach would work thusly:
“A user will take a sample of her vaginal microbiome and send it in for analysis. After determining the makeup of her microbiome–in effect, taking a census of the microorganisms that reside in her vagina–the company will supply a personalized regimen of probiotic supplements designed to promote optimal health.”
The ultimate goal is that using Sweet Peach would help women avoid health issues caused by microorganisms, such as yeast infections.
Sweet Peach’s goals parallels recent news and studies done about replacing “bad” gut with “good” bacteria in the digestive tract to ease gastrointestinal issues.
But could it work for the vagina as well?
It’s too early to tell. Right now, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Oral Probiotics page says that probiotics have mainly been used for oral and the aforementioned gastrointestinal issues. These probiotics are mostly taken in the form of oral pills or live cultures (such as yogurt).
The NCCAM notes that some probiotics studied have the potential to aid in healing, as a 2013 UCLA study shows. The study found that women who ingested probiotics through yogurt had more beneficial brain function during rest states and emotion-recognition tests.
But this study worked off the previously established gut-mind connection, which can responsible for stress and fight-or-flight responses.
As of now, there’s no known gut-vagina connection.
A recent op-ed by microbe expert Ed Yong in “The New York Times” recently alluded to the difficulty using microbes to boost vaginal health:
“The results would be hard to interpret and might be outdated by the time they arrived.”
In short, the NCCAM reminds us that we’re still pretty far from answering certain existing questions:
“The rapid growth in marketing and consumer interest and use has outpaced scientific research on the safety and efficacy of probiotics for specific health applications.”