It isn't often that an alternative health treatment gets the green light from traditional health sources.
A microscopic 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 food experts.
Newspaper articles 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.
Probiotics work 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.
Eli Mechnikov, 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 these bacteria.
disease fighting claims
One 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%."
Other studies 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 acidophilus.
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 this disorder.
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 of hydrogen.
The authors 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
can have side effects
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.
About The Author...
The Chiff.com Editorial Team
also see -> Irritable Bowel Syndrome
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information is intended as reference and not as medical advice.