The “friendly” bacteria called acidophilus help create a healthy environment in the gastrointestinal tract. For this reason, taking acidophilus supplements may combat a number of digestive disorders, control recurring vaginal yeast infections and help the body resist assorted diseases caused by “unfriendly” bacteria.
What is acidophilus?
About 500 species of bacteria inhabit the digestive tract. Of these, the most beneficial are two particular strains of lactobacillus bacteria, acidophilus and bifidus. Both strains are probiotics, meaning that they help provide a proper balance of health-promoting bacteria in the intestine. They also manufacture natural antibiotics that are able to kill dangerous microbes.
Yogurt, the traditional source of acidophilus, has been used as an elixir in folk medicine for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years. It can be difficult, however, to determine how much acidophilus is really in yogurt.
Acidophilus is sometimes sold in combination with bifidus or with ingredients that promote the growth of friendly bacteria called prebiotics, such as FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides), inulin or slippery elm.
What acidophilus does
Acidophilus aids in restoring a normal balance of healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and vagina, thereby helping fight digestive disorders and control yeast infections. It may contain cancer-fighting agents and may lower serum cholesterol levels. Acidophilus also supplies certain vitamins, including B12, K, thiamine and folic acid.
Benefits of acidophilus
Lactobacilli may be especially useful for anyone who is taking antibiotics to treat an infection. A healthy colon should contain lactobacilli (including acidophilus and bifidus) and coliform bacteria (including healthy types of Escherichia coli and other bacterial strains). In many people (and particularly those on antibiotics) these counts can be upset, causing flatulence, diarrhea, constipation and poor absorption of nutrients. Lactobacilli create an inhospitable environment for harmful types of E. coli bacteria, as well as for salmonella, streptococcus and many other strains of bacteria that can be dangerous.
Lactobacilli is also used to help treat acute diarrhea (including travellers’ diarrhea), irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and Helicobacter pylori infection. Along with a high-fibre diet, lactobacilli contribute to overall colon health, which is necessary to help avert diverticulosis, a disorder in which the mucous lining of the colon bulges into the colon wall and creates small sacs (diverticula).
How to take acidophilus
* You can find acidophilus as a capsule, tablet, liquid or powder.
* Doses of Lactobacillus acidophilus preparations are based on the number of live bacteria.
* When using supplements, always read labels carefully. A therapeutic form should contain at least 1 billion organisms in each dose; smaller amounts may not be potent enough to have beneficial effects. Probiotic products should say they contain “live cultures” or “active cultures.” Make sure you check for an expiration date.
* Whatever form you purchase, store it in a cool, dry place, such as the refrigerator. Heat or freezing temperatures can easily kill live acidophilus and other probiotics.