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Can Acidophilus Make You Healthy?

Lactobacillus AcidophilusIt 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.

The story behind acidophilus
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 thermophilus.

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.

Wonder bug's 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:

  • Acne

  • Constipation

  • Indigestion

  • AIDS

  • Crohn's disease

  • Infections

  • Asthma

  • Diverticulitis

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

  • Bacterial overgrowth in the bowel

  • Fever blisters

  • Stomach ulcers

  • Cancer

  • Heartburn

  • Thrush

  • Canker sores

  • High Cholesterol

  • Ulcerative colitis

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Hives

  • Urinary tract infection

  • Colon cancer

  • Immune system

  • Vaginal yeast infections

  • 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.

    Where Can 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.

    Acidophilus 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.

    About The Author...
    The Chiff.com Editorial Team

    also see -> Irritable Bowel Syndrome

    All about Acidophilus around the Web:

    Lactobacillus acidophilus - Wikipedia

    Lactobacillus acidophilus - University of Maryland

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    This information is intended as reference and not as medical advice.
    All treatment decisions should be made by medical professionals.


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