isn't often that an alternative health treatment gets the green
light from traditional health sources.
bacteria called Lactobacillus Acidophilus, often shortened to the
slightly more pronounceable L. Acidophilus or simply Acidophilus,
has in the past decade hit the jackpot with scientists and health
and Web sites discussing the benefits of this bacteria are easy
to find. Consumers add supplements containing the little helpful
bacteria to their diets. Yogurts containing the friendly bacteria
continue to fly off the shelves.
L. Acidophilus is one of the bacteria that lives in the human intestine
and vagina. It is called a probiotic, or "friendly" bacteria
because it to helps our bodies to function properly. Other common
probiotics are Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus
casei, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus
to boost immune function, break down foods and produce enzymes in
the intestines and help to create an unfriendly environment for
other harmful bacteria that cause illness.
a Nobel Prize prize winner, was the first researcher to link probiotics
with a longer lifespan. His work at the Pasteur Institute in the
early 1900s linked the soured milk yogurt eaten by Bulgarian peasants
with their ability to live decades longer than the "expected"
lifespan at the time.
His work was
followed by Dr. Khem M. Shahani, considered by many to be the father
of modern probiotics research. Beginning in the 1950s, Dr. Shahani
produced more than 200 papers related to the health benefits of
disease fighting claims
True believers claim that this little miracle bacteria can cure
a wide range of illness, lower cholesterol, provide increased energy
and boost immune system functions. Though there is little or no
scientific backup for many of these claims, acidophilus is used
by many for treating:
overgrowth in the bowel
study found yogurt containing acidophilus slightly reduced cholesterol,
but determined that the change could be significant in human terms..."Reductions
of serum cholesterol concentrations of 3 to 4% are clinically meaningful
since every 1% reduction in serum cholesterol concentrations leads
to a 2 to 3% reduction in estimated risk for coronary heart disease.
Thus, regular intake of FM [fermented milk products such as yogurt]
containing an active cholesterol-reducing L. acidophilus could decrease
estimated risk for coronary heart disease by 6 to 10%."
report that employees taking probiotics missed less work due to
illness than those taking a placebo. Experiments with groups of
patients experiencing irritable bowel syndrome, pediatric diarrhea,
and some allergy sufferers were found to have reduced symptoms with
Among its many
functions, L. Acidophilus produces lactase, the enzyme that breaks
down milk sugar (lactose) into simple sugars. People who are lactose
intolerant do not normally make this enzyme. Taking supplements
containing L. Acidophilus may ease the symptoms that occur with
A study in the
Journal of Family Practice reviewed information on this and
other probiotics as a possible treatment for lactose
intolerance. The review suggested that acidophilus may actually
work. The hydrogen breath test is the standard tool for diagnosing
lactose intolerance. Strains of L. acidophilus showed reduced amount
concluded that, "...probiotics in general do not reduce
lactose intolerance... However, some evidence suggests that specific
strains and concentrations are effective..."
While many of
the claims for this bacteria remain unproven, it is generally accepted
that certain vaginal infections do respond well to this treatment
when it is applied directly as a suppository.
You Find L. Acidophilus & Supplements
The bacteria is commonly found in fermented milk products. The most
common sources are yogurt and milk enriched with acidophilus, miso,
and tempeh. You can also find prepared capsules of dried bacteria
in many health food stores and other places where natural dietary
supplements are sold.
can have side effects
Researchers are not sure that probiotics such as L. Acidophilus
work the same when they are taken as supplements as when they grow
naturally in the body. There is some good research on the effects
of taking these supplements, but more is needed.
If you are thinking
about adding supplements to your diet, check with your doctor. Even
"natural" supplements have side effects and there have
been reports of allergic reactions with probiotics.