One of the most common true probiotics is known as Lactobacillus acidophilus, or L. acidophilus. It helps to make sure there is a good balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria in the “gut” – the term commonly used to describe the gastrointestinal tract. True probiotics such as L. acidophilus produce several important substances, such as hydrogen peroxide and lactic acid, during the process of breaking down food. These substances keep the bad bacteria in our system in check. These are just some of the reasons why you should get as much L. acidophilus in your gut as possible, whether through food or through probiotic supplements.
Why True Probiotics Are So Important
acidophilus is just one of the many true probiotics in the gut. The harmful ones get most of the notoriety because they can result in so many different types of health problems, but there are billions of good ones as well. These two types of bacteria continually fight for control, and if the harmful ones outnumber the good, bad things can happen. These include digestive system problems as well as several different kinds of diseases.
In addition to L. acidophilus, other beneficial bacteria include Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus reuteri, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium longum. The gut is also home to beneficial yeasts, including Saccharomyces boulardii. There are also substances known as “prebiotics” that are important to maintaining a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria. These are fibers found in many types of food that good bacteria use as fuel.
L. Acidophilus Benefits
L. acidophilus hasn’t been approved for any specific medical uses. However, research indicates that it can provide many benefits to the body. Here are just a few of them.
Diarrhea – There are some studies that suggest L. acidophilus can help inhibit the growth of bad bacteria that can cause a form of diarrhea commonly referred to as “Montezuma’s revenge,” or traveler’s diarrhea.1 This is an illness that usually strikes people who visit another country and either drink local water or eat local cuisine. There is another type of diarrhea known as infectious diarrhea, but study results are mixed regarding the effectiveness of L. acidophilus. Some studies do show, however, that it and other true probiotics may be able to help reduce symptoms in children and adults.2
Vaginal infections – Studies show that suppositories containing L. acidophilus could be effective for women suffering from bacterial vaginosis.3 This is a mild infection that usually clears up on its own. In some instances, however, it can lead to serious problems. These include an increased risk of miscarriage, pelvic infections, and others.
Other potential benefits – L. acidophilus has been associated with other health benefits as well. For example, research indicates it can help boost the immune system when used in conjunction with other true probiotics.4 In one study, researchers found that children between 3-6 years of age who took probiotic supplements, including L. acidophilus and other beneficial bacteria, missed fewer school days due to respiratory infections.5. L. acidophilus may also help lower levels of bad cholesterol, reduce the risk of newborns developing a skin condition known as eczema, and also reduce the risk of developing certain types of allergies.6-8
How to Get L. Acidophilus
L. acidophilus and other true probiotics are found in many types of foods, such as yogurt, milk, tempeh, and miso. But it can be hard to get the amount you need through food alone. As a result, many companies offer probiotic supplements that are found in many forms. These include tablets, capsules, powders, drinks, and more. Many of these products need to be refrigerated in order to keep the probiotic bacteria contained in them alive, but some are freeze-dried so that the bacteria will remain viable at room temperature. Look closely at the labeling to make sure you store the product correctly.
It’s very important that you speak with a doctor before you either start a true probiotics regimen for yourself, or if you plan to give them to your child. Some people suffering from immune system problems or severe intestinal issues have reported serious complications. However, probiotics are considered to be safe for people who are in generally good health.
There is no “one size fits all” approach to how you should take true probiotics containing L. acidophilus and other beneficial bacteria. You should always look at the labeling for dosage recommendations. But if you are suffering from diarrhea, many experts suggest that you take probiotic products containing anywhere between 1-15 billion CFUs, or colony-forming units. This is the number of beneficial bacteria you’ll be ingesting per dose.
Antibiotics can sometimes kill beneficial bacteria as well as harmful ones, so, in many instances, prescribing physicians will recommend taking probiotics as a way to replenish your supply of good bacteria. Doctors will typically suggest taking a probiotic a couple of hours after taking an antibiotic. Again, though, you’ll need to look at the labeling for information on the recommended dosage.
While probiotics are generally safe, they can sometimes lead to minor side effects such as gas and minor nausea. On the whole, however, the benefits of L. acidophilus and other true probiotics will usually more than make up for any discomfort you may experience.