A Closer Look at Acidophilus

A Closer Look at Acidophilus

By now you have probably heard the term “probiotics”, but do you know what these are and how they work with your digestion for a healthy gut? Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that can help your digestive system. Acidophilus (Lactobacillus acidophilus) is one known strain of probiotic that is widely used. Acidophilus is found in the mouth, intestine, and vagina.

Brief History

In 1890, Dr. Ernst Moro discovered Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus). He studied this more extensively than any other Lactobacilli because of its importance to human health and well-being. Research indicated significant health benefits for those who consumed products containing L. acidophilus. L. acidophilus can protect the host as it improves digestion specifically with lactose, improving bowel discomfort, blood lipid chemistry, stimulating immune responses, and potentially killing cancer cells as they develop. 

As this organism attracted great commercial interest, the main problem encountered was maintaining viability in a dried state. Many attempts were made to encapsulate and condition the environment of these dried cultures and to be used in a wider variety of shelf-stable processed food products.

Acidophilus green bottle

Primary Roles of Acidophilus

Acidophilus is a beneficial probiotic that is known primarily to improve digestive health. Medically speaking, it is used to treat diarrhea, however, there are many other health benefits associated with acidophilus. However, some of these claims are still under investigation and further studies are needed to substantiate the health benefits.

Treatment for Lactose Intolerance

Lactose is a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Around 65% of adults worldwide find it difficult to digest lactose following infancy, which can cause intestinal pain, diarrhea, or gas with bloating. Lactic acidophilus bacteria break down the carbohydrates into simpler components that humans can more easily absorb, reducing symptoms associated with intolerance by up to 20%.

Helps Reduce Blood Cholesterol

High cholesterol levels may increase the risk of heart disease. This is especially true for “bad” LDL cholesterol, which can lead to a buildup at an artery site and over time build plaque. Lactobacillus acidophilus has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels by up to 7%.

Controls Weight

The bacterium in your gut helps break down food and keep other bodily processes running smoothly, including weight control. Evidence shows that probiotics may help you lose weight, especially when there is a combination of multiple species being consumed. However, consuming acidophilus alone concerning weight loss or weight gain is still unclear and more rigorous studies are needed.

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Treatment for Depression

Some studies show gut bacteria can influence brain chemistry, which suggests a possible link between your gut health and depression. Also, research shows that taking probiotics can lower the risk or even help treat symptoms of depression.

Improves Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is an uncomfortable, long-term digestive disorder that can cause diarrhea, constipation, and other symptoms. It’s not fully understood what causes IBS, but there’s currently no cure for this condition. The gut microbiota is what makes up our stomach and intestines. Research has shown a possible link between an imbalance of the gut microbiota to IBS symptoms. One study suggests that consuming acidophilus alone in a low dose for a short duration may improve IBS symptoms the most.

Helps Prevent and Reduce Allergy Symptoms

Allergies are a chronic condition that can be debilitating. Research shows that acidophilus helps reduce these allergy symptoms. It was observed that the probiotic interestingly reduced the amount of antibody called immunoglobulin A, which is primarily involved in allergic reactions. It was also observed in one study that consuming fermented milk with acidophilus showed improvement in pollen allergy.

Helps in Treating Yeast Infections

Vaginal infections are quite common and are often observed following antibiotic treatments. A series of studies have found taking L. acidophilus as a probiotic supplement can prevent and treat vaginal infections by increasing lactobacilli in the vagina. However other studies suggest otherwise.

Probiotics are not only beneficial for digestion. They help keep the balance of bacteria in your body. They also produce vitamins such as vitamin K2 (important for bone health) and B6 that help keep the nervous system functioning properly. They also help boost immunity against inflammation. 

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Potential Adverse Effects

The potential benefits of L. acidophilus are widely known and continuously believed to be effective for many, but for some, though minimal, side effects have been reported. These side effects include gas, bloating, and other mild digestive problems. Allergic reactions to this are incredibly rare.

Anyone with a serious underlying health condition will need close monitoring when taking probiotics as they can trigger the risk of more severe side effects. Those who should be careful include:

  • Critically ill people
  • Sick infants
  • People who have recently had surgery
  • Those with weakened immune systems

Side Effects of Probiotics

Food Sources of Acidophilus

L. Acidophilus is naturally found in the mouth, intestines, and vagina. But they can also be found in an array of fermented foods, including:

Some Cottage Cheese – There are varieties of cheese that are produced by using different bacteria. L. acidophilus. It is not commonly used as a cheese starter culture, but several studies have examined the effects of adding it as a probiotic

Kefir – This is made of “grains” of bacteria and yeast that are added to milk or water to produce a healthy fermented drink. The types of bacteria and yeast in kefir can vary, but it commonly contains L. acidophilus, among others.

Sauerkraut – A fermented food made from cabbage. Most of the bacteria in sauerkraut are Lactobacillus species, including L. acidophilus.

Miso – A paste that originates from Japan and is made by fermenting soybeans. Although the primary microbe in miso is a fungus called Aspergillus oryzae, miso can also contain many bacteria, including L. acidophilus.

Tempeh – Another food made from fermented soybeans. It can contain several different microorganisms, including L. acidophilus.

Yogurt – Yogurt is typically made from bacteria such as L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus, but it also contains L. acidophilus.

Probiotic supplements are also in great demand and are available as capsules, tablets, wafers, powders, and vaginal suppositories. These supplements can be found in any health store, pharmacies, and even online.

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To maximize the potential positive outcomes of L. acidophilus supplements, it’s important to take them regularly (at least once per day). Eating lots of fermented foods like sauerkraut or sour cream will also provide beneficial microbes. The use of L. acidophilus, either as part of a daily diet or to treat specific conditions, is generally safe, but before starting any supplements, be sure you talk to your doctor.

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