Lactobacillus acidophilus: Health benefits and sources
L. acidophilus occurs naturally in the human body as well as many fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and miso. Manufacturers also add L. acidophilus to yogurt and other dairy products.
Probiotics are beneficial strains of live yeast and bacteria. Studies indicate that consuming probiotics, such as L. acidophilus, can help support digestion and may offer a range of other health benefits.
In this article, we explore the potential health benefits of L. acidophilus. We also cover side effects, sources, and how to use this probiotic.
What is L. acidophilus?
L. acidophilus is a probiotic bacteria that naturally occurs in the human gut and other parts of the body. This bacteria helps the digestive system break down sugars, such as lactose, into lactic acid.
Trillions of bacteria and other micro-organisms live in every person’s gut. Research indicates that consuming probiotics can help improve the balance between the beneficial and harmful bacteria that live in the gut. This may help to support digestion as well as provide other health benefits, such as boosting the immune system.
According to the National Cancer Institute, L. acidophilus may also help protect against harmful germs. This is because they create an acidic environment that the germs do not like.
CFS is a long-term condition that can cause a variety of different symptoms, such as:
- extreme tiredness and lethargy
- concentration and memory difficulties
- muscle or joint pain
- feeling generally unwell
- sleep problems
Doctors do not fully understand CFS or what causes it. However, some researchers believe that gut health, and specifically gut bacteria, may play a role in its development.
In a 2012 study, researchers induced CFS-like symptoms in rats. The study found that giving the rats L. acidophilus significantly reduced these symptoms.
L. acidophilus helps the body metabolize and break down lactose. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, around 65 percent of adults worldwide find it difficult to digest lactose following infancy. Lactose intolerance can cause intestinal pain, diarrhea, gas, and bloating.
L. acidophilus supplements may help relieve the effects of lactose intolerance by helping the body metabolize lactose. A 2016 study compared taking L. acidophilus supplements with a placebo in people with lactose intolerance. Following 4 weeks of supplementation, people who took L. acidophilus had statistically significant reductions in symptoms of lactose intolerance, such as cramping and vomiting.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a long-term digestive disorder that can cause diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and other symptoms. Doctors do not fully understand what causes it, and there is currently no cure.
The gut microbiota is the community of bacteria and other microbes that live in the stomach and intestines. Research is beginning to suggest that problems with the natural balance of the gut microbiota may play a role in the development of IBS.
Several studies reveal that consuming L. acidophilus and other probiotics may improve symptoms of IBS. However, the studies have been small, and researchers do not fully understand the role of gut microbes in IBS.
Manufacturers add L. acidophilus to yogurt and many other dairy products. It also occurs naturally in a range of fermented foods and pickles, including:
- some cottage cheese
Dietary supplements containing L. acidophilus are also widely available from health stores and pharmacies. A range of these dietary supplements is also available to purchase online.
How to use
People can easily add L. acidophilus and other probiotics to their diet. A convenient and popular way of doing this is through yogurts and yogurt drinks, but some other fermented foods also contain L. acidophilus. However, always check the label to ensure the product does contain L. acidophilus.
When taking L. acidophilus dietary supplements, choose a reputable brand, and always follow the package directions. A doctor, pharmacist, or herbalist can also help with choosing the right L. acidophilus supplement.
L. acidophilus is a well-tested probiotic that is safe for most people. Research suggests that probiotics can support digestion and may help prevent or treat some other conditions.
Some individuals use L. acidophilus as a general health aid, while others take it to treat specific medical conditions, such as IBS or IBD. Both uses are generally safe.
Anyone who experiences side effects or a worsening of existing symptoms should stop using L. acidophilus and see a doctor.
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