Probiotics are a huge health trend and have been getting more and more popular over the last few years. You may have noticed fermented drinks such as kombucha popping up in your local grocery store, and aisles full of different kinds of probiotic supplements. There are so many products, each claiming different benefits—probiotics for digestive health, probiotics for immune system boosting, probiotics for women. It can be confusing. Why women need probiotics every day, and what are the best probiotics for women?
Article at a Glance
- Why is gut health essential and what health conditions do women suffer from because of bad gut health?
- What are probiotics? I explain how you can help these friendly bacteria to recolonize your gut and restore optimum gut health.
- How do prebiotics differ from probiotics? Discover the relationship between prebiotics and probiotics, and how you can maintain gut health after taking a course of probiotic supplements.
- Are there special probiotics just for women? We review the best best probiotic on the market and how to take them for maximum effect.
What Are the Benefits of Probiotics for Women?
More and more women are taking probiotics daily, to establish and maintain a healthy gut. But many more are suffering because they aren’t.
Kombucha, kefir, live yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi are the fermented foods making a comeback with all the popular high profile personalities. And us common people have been reminded that we need to be following suit!
Do You Have One Of These?
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
- Crohn’s Disease
- Yeast Infections – oral or vaginal
- Depression, including post-natal
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
ll these illnesses are linked to having lousy gut health, which means your microflora has been depleted and you need to recolonize your gut with new bacteria. You need a course of probiotics to start this process.
First: I explain what probiotics are and why gut health is key to good immunity and good health.
Second: we look at why women need probiotics more than men.
Third: we jump into what strains we need to take for specific female ailments and how to choose an effective probiotic product.
Fourth: we review our top choices of Probiotics for Women, and lastly we shed some light on how to take them effectively and how prebiotic foods can help keep the microflora alive and balanced for gut health maintenance.
What Are Probiotics, And Why Do They Matter?
“Probiotics” is not just the new buzzword in health circles. They are the unsung heroes of our gut walls, friendly bacteria helping to boost immunity from the inside out.
Without them, you will fall prey to overcrowding from their “not so friendly” counterparts who feast on sugar, cause yeast infections and turn us into hormonal beasts!
This friendly probiotic microflora, made up of 100’s of strains of bacteria, colonize the gut and eat up the “bad” bacteria that lurks in our bowels and feeds on the sugary, processed foods we eat.
A healthy gut means strong immunity and healthy energy levels.
Trendy brands of probiotic kombucha, live yogurt, and water kefir are now readily available, making it easy to make probiotics a regular part of your supplement regime.
Sauerkraut and Kimchi are also types of probiotic foods that assist gut health. These probiotics are the natural, raw, live strains. Preferred by many to maintain gut health.
But when gut health is impaired it becomes necessary to take a course of probiotics that contain billions of live cultures needed to recolonize the gut.
Prebiotics are the foods that probiotics feed on. Many fresh, natural foods are prebiotic. Further on I’ll share these in more detail.
Probiotics for women target female health issues caused by poor gut health. We are only now, on a mainstream level, learning how important healthy bacteria is to a holistic lifestyle. It is here, in the gut, that we must begin to repair the damage caused by
- Hormonal imbalances
- Yeast infections
- And a host of other health issues experienced mainly by women.
By repopulating the gut’s colonies of microflora, the body can start to communicate and function with ease again. Restoring friendly bacteria by taking probiotics reboots the signaling process, and production and synthesis of hormones and vitamins, like vitamin K, biotin, folate and vitamin B12.
Everyone is realizing how important healthy bacteria is to maintain balance from within. But it is difficult to explain what exactly probiotics are and why we need them without first explaining the importance of gut health.
Bottom Line: Probiotics must be reintroduced to re-establish healthy gut flora.
An Unhealthy Gut Is Responsible For
- Digestive problems
- Yeast infections
- Auto-immune diseases
- Hormonal imbalances
A Healthy Gut Will
- Boost the immune system
- Raise energy levels
- Improve digestion, absorption, production, and metabolism throughout the body
Why Is Gut Health So Important?
Simply put, and maybe surprising to some of you, the gut is the “brains” of our operation when it come to staying healthy.
Our food is our fuel and our medicine. It signals the cells and hormones into action. There is a nerve in the stomach that acts as the transmitting station and sends this information to the brain and the rest of the organs. This nerve is called the Vagus nerve.
When our gut flora is depleted, the Vagus nerve can’t send the right signals because the immune system becomes confused by infected cells. And a chain reaction is felt throughout the body as one system after the next fall out of sync and into disease conditions.
We need good bacteria to keep our immune system fighting fit. We need them to maintain an acid environment in the gut, this, in turn, prevents the alkaline loving, fast growing yeast called Candida from overpopulating and turning into a yeast infection, like candidiasis or thrush.
Bottom Line: Probiotics restores the intestinal microflora in our guts which in turn allows the vagus nerve to do its job. This boosts immunity, helps hormones to reset and improves all the body’s systems.
What Are The Benefits Of Probiotics?
There are numerous ways bacteria help us:
- They digest our food
- Bacteria can prevent the overgrowth of other organisms, like yeast
- Bacteria can synthesize vitamin B12 and vitamin K in the gut1
- Some strains, (like e.coli) actually make the gut environment friendly for other strains of bacteria
- They help to clear up skin conditions like eczema
- Bacteria help us fight seasonal allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, and diarrhea.
The gut is one of our largest organs, and probiotics can help it better achieve some of its many, many jobs.
The gut is responsible for most of our body’s immune function, and probiotics can help strengthen it and prevent us from getting infections.
There are “good” types and “bad” types of bacteria that can live in our gut, and when we eat lots of probiotics (good types), they help crowd out the bad types and keep them from spreading.
Having lots of good bacteria in the gut is also important because fermentation in the large intestine creates many needed nutrients.
Probiotics can help our guts create vitamin K, biotin, and short-chain fatty acids—all of which can aid immune function.
Why Do Women Need to Take Probiotic suplements?
Short Answer: Our Lifestyles Are Too Stressful, Our Diets Too High In Sugar, And There Is A Pill For Everything
The reasons that follow show that women are prone to unhealthy gut flora more than men are and this produces a set of health issues primarily faced by women.
Probiotics developed specifically with women in mind will be more beneficial than general probiotics. This is due to the different strains of bacteria and their specific functions, which are described further on.
8 Reasons why Women need probiotics more than men
Most people can get enough probiotics from their diet. However, if you don’t regularly consume any fermented foods, a probiotic supplement may be a good idea.
Probiotics can also be beneficial for women with gastrointestinal diseases like IBS or ulcers, or for women who get frequent UTIs or yeast infections.
Of course, before beginning any supplement, you’ll want to discuss it with your doctor. Taking supplements can interfere with other medications you may be on.
Some people may choose to take probiotics for a short period of time to “get back to normal” after an illness that disrupts their gut.
Have you ever had a doctor tell you to eat more yogurt after completing a round of antibiotics?
That’s because antibiotics wipe out both good and bad bacteria from our gut, leaving us susceptible to yeast infections.
Taking probiotics after finishing antibiotic treatment can help re-populate our guts with good bacteria and prevent yeast infections. Probiotics can also help our guts after viral illnesses such as diarrhea.
Besides this here are 8 more reasons...
Women Get Prescribed Antibiotics 35% More Times Than Men
In our guts, we have killed our infection fighting allies, the microflora, with our diets and by taking copious amounts of antibiotics.
Why only now are probiotics becoming popular?
Well because antibiotics are no longer working. Bad bacteria develop immunity against antibiotics, the antibiotics get stronger, this, in turn, makes the next generation of “bugs” stronger.
And all the while our poor guts are being left with a barren landscape, free of friendly bacteria and susceptible to the bacteria that thrive on the processed, refined, high sugar foods we eat.
Women Suffer More from Constipation Than Men
According to Integrative Therapeutics, “4.5 million people suffer from constipation that is severe enough to warrant medical attention, and two thirds of them are women. That is over 60%!
Candida is a fungal infection that can appear as vaginal thrush, oral thrush or full blown candidiasis. The fungal infection thrives in moist, dark, sugar laden environments.
They kill our good gut bacteria as they overpopulate the lining and walls of our intestines.
Candidiasis leads to UTI’s, can be transmitted during sex with your partner and leads to fatigue and other symptoms that all impair the immune system and can develop into other chronic illnesses down the road.
Women Suffer More From Depression Than Men
Estrogen dominance is life these days due to the many foods and environmental pollutants that mimic estrogen.
Add to this the hormonal dances that take place through a woman’s reproductive years and add to that poor gut health and the body’s inability to produce natural serotonin levels, and you get way more depression in women than in men.
Women Find It More Difficult To Lose Weight Than Men Do
Another hormonal challenge for women is their propensity to become leptin resistant. This hormone helps with weight control. Men seem to have better-balanced leptin levels and find it easier to lose weight.
This is because their leptin levels function correctly. When weight becomes hard to budge it can often be linked to hormonal fluctuations and leptin resistance. And once again this can be linked back to a need for probiotics.
Women Fall Pregnant
Pregnancy presents many health issues men probably never think about. Conditions during and after pregnancy change a woman’s body, often almost beyond repair.
Restoring the microbial intestinal balance with probiotics can improve health. And the health of your baby in the womb and after birth, when breastfeeding.
The following issues all affect the microbes in our guts:
Women Take Contraceptives
Contraceptive pills are akin to taking antibiotics, in that they will destroy your microbial flora. Taking probiotics that are resistant to certain antibiotics will ensure the good bacteria remain alive even though you take a pill daily.
We Have Become Germaphobes
In our homes, we have sterilized our immediate environments to a point where there are no germs lurking, germs that, in fact, boost the immune system and make it resilient to infections.
We then visit the doctor who prescribes antibiotics and we then proceed to kill the “good germs” in our guts.
Without the microflora to destroy bad bacteria and process crucial hormones and vitamins, our bodies are left defenseless. Slowly we see symptoms of dis-ease creeping in.
- Women, now more than ever, need to be taking the correct probiotics for their unique hormonal make-up. Not only to boost immunity but also to restore gut health and then keep it healthy!
- As women, we don’t have time to get sick so looking after our health to prevent illness is a wise choice. Probiotics can restore friendly bacteria to the gut.
- Probiotics can combat depression, relieve constipation, which is a precursor to many other ailments.
What is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?
You may also have heard of prebiotics. Prebiotics are dietary fiber and other carbohydrates that are not digested, but can stay in the gut and “feed” probiotics.
Getting enough probiotics can help ensure that our probiotics are effective. Prebiotics are found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They can also be added to probiotic supplements.
These are foods that feed our friendly bacteria. Eat prebiotic foods daily. Include foods high in fiber. Some prebiotic foods are:
- Apples, apple cider vinegar, artichokes, asparagus
- Bananas, barley, seaweed
- Chicory root, dandelion greens, konjac root
- Wheat bran, oats
- Garlic, onions, leeks
Where can I find probiotics?
Probiotics are naturally found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Some of these foods can be found fortified with extra probiotics added.
Probiotics can also be taken as supplements, usually in pill form. Supplements are also available as powders and liquids.
Lactobacillus is very beneficial for digestion. They create lactase, the enzyme that helps us digest lactose from dairy products.
They also help us absorb minerals like calcium and iron from our food.
Lactobacillus also prevent bad bacteria from growing in our guts by creating an acidic environment where the bad bacteria can’t survive.
Types Of Probiotic Strains: What They Do For Women
Probiotics used to be referred to as “live cultures”. These live cultures are the beneficial strains of bacteria and yeasts. Not all live cultures are probiotics, only those which show beneficial properties are classified as probiotic.
The Strains and Their Gains
Just like plants, bacteria have a genus and a species. The strains are the different variations of the same species. One species can have 100’s of strains, all with varying degrees of differences between them.
Probiotics are usually combinations of different strains and species. Before choosing a probiotic, know exactly what you need it for.
For example; you may have had a course of antibiotics and as a result, developed a yeast infection. So you would need a strain that combats the effects of the drug as well as a strain that will take out the unfriendly yeast fungus.
Let’s go through the most common and most beneficial strains of probiotics for women.
Lactobacillus acidophilus – How It Works?
Lactobacillus acidophilus – How It Works: Once in the gut it ferments carbohydrates and turns them into lactic acid. Lactic acid is what increases bioavailabilty and mineral absorption.
Lactic acid creates a hostile environment for “bad” bacteria.
So the good bacteria clean the GI tract, nutrient absorption improves, and the body can signal clearly and transport more nutrients around, thus increasing the efficiency of all body systems from digestion to immunity to excretion
This is the most common species used in probiotics and it is vital in clearing up conditions like IBS. It is commonly taken to counteract the effects antibiotics have on the gut flora. And as a general tonic, it will restore gut health and improve immune function.
It works best when taken with other genus, species and strains of bacteria.
From L.acidophilus, many strains have been isolated and research has discovered the specific benefits and quality of each strain.
It is a quality probiotic because it can survive bile, low pH and aids in lactose metabolism.
These qualities and others give it product stability. So once ingested it will get to the gut and start to do its job.
Which is to multiply and boost immune function. When combined with Bifidobacterium species it then gains the added benefit of protecting against infections like flu in children.
.....It also reduces bloating in adults with bowel dysfunction.
The L acidophilus to look out for in products is L acidophilus NCFM, especially for digestive disturbances. Take with Bifidobacterium when wanting to boost immunity and fight infections.
L.acidophilus La-14 creates lactic acid which causes a hostile environment for harmful strains like C. albans, responsible for yeast infection.
Other Lactobacillus species include:
Lactobacillus rhamnosus ROSELL-11 for gut health.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus – GR1 for vaginal health.
Lactobacillus d. bulgaricus – Ever heard of Bulgarian yogurt? It is the fermented yogurt that uses this starter culture, along with Streptococcus thermophillus.
L.bulgaricus combats the effects of antibiotics, like diarrhea. It also helps with allergies, eczema, liver function and oral health.
Lactobacillus d. bulgaricus – Ever heard of Bulgarian yogurt? It is the fermented yogurt that uses this starter culture, along with Streptococcus thermophillus. L.bulgaricus combats the effects of antibiotics, like diarrhea.
It also helps with allergies, eczema, liver function and oral health.
Other Probiotic Strains You Want In Your Probiotic Supplement
found naturally in fermented yogurt, along with L. bulgaricus. In supplements, it will aid the actions of other strains and thus is beneficial in the treatment of IBS, colds, infections, skin condition and perhaps even cancer.
Bifidobacterium lactis HN019
Unlike L. acidophilus, Bifidobacterium is anaerobic, so it needs sugar, not oxygen, to survive.
It is a well tolerated strain that works well in supplements and decreases the symptoms of many GI infections and disorders, from H.pylori to IBS.
It combats stress, helps with gastrointestinal (GI) disorders in the GI tract and has antioxidant properties. It fights infections in stomach, like Helicobacter pylori, which is the infection associated with peptic ulcers
Bifidobacterium longum NC3001
B.longum also has antioxidant properties, it promotes health through the GI tract. But it also deals with depression and can alter brain activity.
It is interesting to note that depression has been linked to IBS. So when you fix your gut your brain bets better! Double bonus!
This yeast fungus shows stability and strong resilience to stomach acid, humidity and heat which makes it a good quality strain for probiotic supplementation.
Colony Forming Units (CFU’s)
When you read 20 billion CFU’s or 50 billion CFU’s on your probiotic supplement, that is the indication of how many live bacteria you will be getting per dose. The total count includes all the strains.
So for example in a 20 billion CFU probiotic, you may well have 4 different strains of 5 billion live cultures each. The higher the CFU, the stronger the probiotic.
If you are taking probiotics for general well being, a lower dose will be okay.
But if you are taking them to restore you microflora after a course of antibiotics, or if you are suffering from recurring colds, IBS and other GI infections a stronger product will work better.
How To Take Probiotics?
When: Most probiotics should be taken early in the morning, on an empty stomach or half an hour before meals.
Dosages: If taking in capsule form, as opposed to liquid, it may be good to start with
- 1x capsule per day for a week.
- Then go on to 1x capsule 2x a day for a week.
- Then increase to 2x capsules 2x a day for another week.
- After that continue with stronger dose until infections and other symptoms clear up.
Why: This is to get your system used to the influx of bacteria and keep bloating and gas to a minimum, while your body adjusts.
- If you are taking probiotics to clear up a yeast infection choose a probiotic specifically designed for yeast infection.
- If you have finished a course of antibiotics take a broad spectrum probiotic with a high CFU count.
- If you feel you are pretty healthy but just want to boost your system a simple 5 strain probiotic with the most common strains will be adequate.
- If you are suffering from depression and GI tract infections look for a probiotic that specifies that there blend will be effective for digestive problems.
Extra Brownie Points
Try adding the fermented probiotic foods to your daily diet. Try kombucha, live yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, water kefir or milk kefir.
You can even buy starter kits online and make your own. I make water kefir and kombucha and am thinking about doing my own yogurt too.
It works out so much cheaper in the long run, and once you get the knack of keeping your probiotic production corner in the kitchen clean and organized, it basically makes itself!!
What things should I consider when choosing the Best Probiotic Supplements for Women?
Soil Based, High CFU Count, Broad Spectrum/Strain Purity, Freshness, and GMP
Women are no strangers to living a busy lifestyle. A lot of time is spent taking care of those around us.
Our bodies need attention as well, and probiotics are a great, convenient way to give our bodies just the boost it needs. When deciding which brand is right for you, there are a few things to look for:
Soil Based Probiotics
Will be more resilient and stable. They will thrive in acid conditions of the lower intestines and don’t need to be stored in the fridge.
Note: Check probiotics before buying if they're meant to be stored in fridge and are on shelf, chances are the CFU count will not match that which is printed on bottle.
Number of Colony Forming Units (CFU)
First, look at the number of colony-forming units (CFU’s) the supplement contains. The more the better. Some professionals recommend choosing a supplement with at least 10 billion (yes, billion!) CFU’s.
Some women may need more, but others don’t—ask your doctor for a recommendation. Also, keep in mind that as the CFU count goes up, price often does as well.
There are a ton of bacterial strains out there, and researchers are still figuring out which ones are the best at making us healthier.
Rather than looking for specific strains, look for brands that provide you with strains from a variety of categories. Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus, Bacillus and Saccharomyces are ideal, just to name a few.
Broad Spectrum/Strain Purity
Choosing a probiotic that has a variety of strains that all assist with your specific ailment. If you want a probiotic for a yeast infection specifically then you may look for products that have been developed with a certain ratio of different strains.
You don’t have to get too technical here as we have simplified this process in our review section.
Sell By Date
Always check the manufactured date and the best before date. If the products are too old your “live” cultures will be dead.
This lets you know the product was produced in clean conditions, meeting the standards required to attain GMP rating. GMP stands for Good Manufacturing Practices.
And without further ado, let’s review my top picks for Best Probiotics for Women
Jigsaw Health Essential Blend Probiotics- Best Probiotics yeast infections
Jigsaw Health was started in 2005 by Pat Sullivan. This company focuses on a small but specific range of health products.
This Jigsaw Health product also has a high CFU count—25 billion per capsule—and can be beneficial for people whose doctors recommend high counts of probiotics.
It uses five strains of bacteria. These capsules have a 2-year shelf life and are using a Designed Release Capsule to delay them from breaking down until they’ve reached the gut.
Their probiotic proprietary blend restores immune function and digestive health. Good to take after antibiotic use.
It helps with vitamin B synthesis, which is vital to turn our food into fuel. It digests dairy well, creating ideal conditions for good bacteria and deadly conditions for the bad yeasts and other strains that attack the stomach and cause GI disturbances.
GMP: Each dose is freeze-dried and nitrogen sealed in DRC (design release capsules) to insure the integrity of live cultures are maintained.
Jigsaw Health capsules only have half the number of probiotic strains as BlueBiotics and Ultimate Flora capsules, but are much more affordable. And, compared to the vast majority of probiotic supplements sold, 5 strains is a fairly high number.
This is an excellent middle-range option for a probiotic supplement.
Other benefits: vegan, gluten-free, made in the USA
Dose: 1 capsule/day
RepHresh Pro-B Probiotic Feminine Supplement- Dairy-Free Version Best for Women's Health
The RepHresh line contains two strains of bacteria aimed explicitly at vaginal health. This product may be beneficial for women who suffer from chronic yeast infections, persistent itch/odor, and other vaginal issues.
These capsules should be used within 90 days of opening. This product does contain milk, but there is a non-dairy option available as well.
Many women stated in online reviews that this product helped resolve many feminine health issues that were unaffected by other treatments.
Consult with your doctor before taking this product if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Dose: Only 1 capsule a day and safe to take every day
Renew Life – Ultimate Care For Women – Best women's probiotics for Digestive and Immune health
Our Rating: 4.5/5
User Rating: 4.2/5
- 25 billion CFU’s, guaranteed live cultures, winner of 2016 Vity Awards.
- 10 probiotic strains, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains which are both known for working well together to combat infections and promote digestive health.
- Targeted delivery, thanks to slow release capsules which allow the bacteria to reach the intestinal tract intact.
- Must be kept in dry, cool conditions. Refrigerate if possible.
- Soy, gluten and dairy free.
The Renew Life capsules, like the BlueBiotics ones, have high CFU counts and many different strains of bacteria.
These capsules are slightly more affordable, with 50 billion CFU’s per capsule and 10 different strains of bacteria. These capsules are also coated for protection from stomach acid.
Consumer’s Health Report tests showed that many of the bacteria in these supplements were no longer active upon purchase; however, the resultant CFU count, despite being lower than advertised, is still higher than in many other, cheaper brands.
Renew Life has a range of probiotics to choose from but their Ultimate Care for Woman is aimed specifically at promoting vaginal and urinary tract health.
Dose: Take 1 capsule daily with or without food. One month supply.
Garden of Life Once Daily For Women- Best probiotics for Lowering Cholesterol
Our Rating: 4/5
User Rating: 4.2/5
- Shelf stable, no refrigeration needed
- 50 billion CFU’s
- 16 probiotic strains
- Added prebiotic fiber in the form of resistant starch from tubers and Acacia Senegal, both organic
- Non-GMO, gluten, soy and dairy free.
- Vegetarian capsules
- Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains complement each other and promote digestive health while L.reuterii and L.fermentum promote vaginal health.
- Shipped in dessicant lined bottles to insure bacteria arrives alive!
Garden of Life for Women contains 50 billion CFU’s, 16 probiotic strains and prebiotic fiber for extra support.
Garden of Life probiotics has been formulated by leading microbiome expert and board-certified neurologist, Dr. David Perlmutter.
They also have a potent probiotic that may alleviate mild depression related to hormonal imbalances and GI disorders like IBS. Their mood lifting probiotic contains 50 billion CFU’s and 16 probiotic strains.
Great news for expecting moms, Garden of Life Prenatal Probiotics are available and safe to take throughout pregnancy and lactation.
Dose: 1 capsule, once a day. One month supply
Florastor Daily Probiotic Supplement – Best for Anxiety and Allergies
Our Rating: 4/5
User Rating: 4.5/5
- Each capsule contains 250mg of the unique S.boulardii strain.
- This strain breaks down carbs and sugars, reducing risk of infections and C.albans overgrowth that causes the most common yeast infections.
- Available in capsule form and in sachets, thanks to the stability and resilience of S.boulardii.
- Promotes production of Immunoglobulin A, an essential digestive antibody responsible for defending gut from infections.
- No refrigeration needed.
- Can be taken with antibiotics.
- Promotes digestive health and immune function by increasing absorption of nutrients and digestive enzymes.
- Gluten-free, non-GMO. Vegetarian capsules available for lactose intolerant women.
Florastor is another brand that has a wide range of probiotics that use the Saccharomyces boulardii strain. They have products for men, women, and kids.
Their unique strain, S.boulardii lyo CNCM I-745, has larger cells making them more effective. This strain is very stable and very resilient, ensuring it survives the journey from mouth to GI tract.
Dose: Take 2 capsules 1 or 2x a day. 100 capsules per box.
Safety Tips for Probiotics in General
As with most natural-living-based supplements, they cannot be approved by the FDA as they are not considered medicine.
This also means they cannot promote the ability to cure any specific disease. As with all supplements, it is good to check the safety for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
I hope this review has left you with enough knowledge to choose an effective probiotic. Please leave your comments and let me know which probiotic has given you the best results.
Remember that gut health is paramount to overall health and all supplements should be part of a balanced healthy diet. Drink plenty of water and stay active.