Lactobacillus acidophilus is a beneficial bacterium that is found in the mouth, large intestine, small intestine, and genitalia of the humans and animals. Also found in yogurt, fermented foods, and supplements, Lactobacillus acidophilus helps to balance harmful bacteria in the gut that can cause illness. Besides improving digestion, this probiotic also provides many other health benefits. Read on to learn more about Lactobacillus acidophilus and its health benefits.
What is Lactobacillus acidophilus?
Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus) are bacteria that live in our digestive, urinary, and genital systems. Commonly used as a probiotic, it is available as capsules, tablets, powders, wafers, and a vaginal suppository. It is also found in many dairy products like yogurt.
L. acidophilus helps the digestive system by breaking down sugars like lactose into lactic acid. According to the National Cancer Institute, lactobacillus acidophilus produces lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and other substances during fermentation, which creates an acidic environment. Besides, this bacterium also forms a protective barrier in the GI tract and prevents the attachment of pathogens (1).
History of L. acidophilus
L. acidophilus was first isolated by discovered by Slovenian pediatrician Ernst Moro in the 1900s. He was studying the bacteria involved in digestion and gastrointestinal disorders that would plague infants and children. His discovery of this bacterium helped us to understand this fermentative species and its beneficial effect on humans and animals.
Health benefits of L. acidophilus
Several studies have shown that probiotics like L. acidophilus can help prevent diarrhea (2). When taken along with antibiotics, L. acidophilus can reduce diarrhea, bloating, and cramps. It can also reduce the occurrence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and C. difficile infection in people that are hospitalized (3).
According to a meta-analysis that involved 304 children aged 1 to 48 months, L. acidophilus reduced the duration of diarrhea in hospitalized children but not outpatient children (4). L. acidophilus, taken along with Bifidobacterium bifidum, also reduces the incidence of radiation-induced diarrhea and the need for anti-diarrheal medication and improves stool consistency as well (5).
2. Helps fight IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. It affects 7 to 21 percent of people worldwide. A significant amount of studies have examined how probiotics can help treat and manage IBS. According to research, people with IBS have lower amounts of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in their guts and high levels of harmful Streptococcus, E. coli, and Clostridium (6).
Probiotics like L. acidophilus improve symptoms by inhibiting the growth of disease-causing bacteria, fighting inflammation, enhancing the immune system’s barrier functions, and reducing gas production. According to a 2011 study, when 60 patients with functional bowel disorders like IBS were given probiotics like L. acidophilus twice a day for eight weeks, it improved the symptoms of bloating (7).
3. Boosts immunity
Studies have shown that L. acidophilus can boost immunity and reduce the risk of infection. According to a 2015 study, when swordtail fish were fed L. acidophilus for ten weeks, it increased their skin mucus immune parameters. It also improved their stress resistance and gut microbiota (8).
Some studies suggest that probiotics can prevent and improve the symptoms of the common cold (9, 10). Another study examined the effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in healthy children during winter. The study showed that daily L. acidophilus probiotics reduced fever by 53%, coughing by 41%, absent from school days by 32%, and antibiotic use by 68% (11).
4. Helps manage inflammatory bowel disease
Research has shown that L. acidophilus may be an effective therapy for inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. During a study, researchers from Northwestern University deleted a gene in L. acidophilus and fed it to mice having two different models of colitis. After just 13 days of treatment, this strain of L. acidophilus eliminated colon inflammation in the mice and halted the progression of this disease by 95 percent (12).
A 2013 meta-analysis of 23 trials administration of probiotics results in additional benefit in inducing remission of patients with ulcerative colitis (13).
Researchers have found that lactobacillus acidophilus may be useful in treating vaginal infections like vaginosis and vulvovaginal candidosis. Lactobacilli are bacteria that are commonly found in the vagina. They produce lactic acid, which can prevent the growth of other harmful bacteria. During vaginal infections, harmful bacteria outnumber the beneficial bacteria.
Studies have shown that taking L. acidophilus capsules can prevent urogenital infections (14, 15). Researchers have also found that eating yogurt containing lactobacillus can also stop these infections from occurring again.
6. Relieves symptoms of lactose intolerance
Lactose intolerance is a type of lactose maldigestion in which people experience symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal cramping, flatulence, vomiting, and bowel sounds following lactose consumption. Around 30% of the population in the US and Mediterranean countries suffer from this condition.
During a 2016 study, volunteers between the age of 18 to 75 with lactose intolerance took L. acidophilus supplements for four weeks. The results of the study showed a significant reduction in the symptoms of lactose intolerance, such as cramping and vomiting (16).
Probiotics are also known to improve lipid metabolism by decreasing total and LDL cholesterol concentrations. L. acidophilus may be more effective than other probiotics in lowering cholesterol levels (17, 18).
During a 2015 study, 64 hypercholesterolemic patients took either a probiotic supplement or a placebo for six weeks. The results showed that a combination of lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum decreased total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol levels in hypercholesterolemic patients (19).
Combining L. acidophilus with prebiotics can also help increase HDL cholesterol and lower blood sugar (20).
8. Lowers allergy symptoms
Probiotics are beneficial in reducing the symptoms of many allergic diseases. According to a 2005 study from Japan, when 23 volunteers drank 100 ml of milk fermented with L. acidophilus twice a day for six weeks, they showed an improvement in the symptoms of Japanese cedar pollinosis (21). Another study showed that oral administration of L. acidophilus could alleviate the symptoms of perennial allergic rhinitis (22).
During another study, 47 children with birch pollen allergy received either a probiotic combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis or a placebo for four months. The results showed that the combination of probiotics could help reduce various symptoms of nasal allergy, like runny nose (23).
9. Chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a long-term condition that can cause symptoms like extreme tiredness, muscle and joint pain, difficulty in concentration, memory issues, trouble sleeping. Scientists believe that gut bacteria may be responsible for the development of this disease.
During a 2012 study, researchers induced chronic fatigue syndrome in rats. These rats were then treated with lactobacillus acidophilus. The results showed a significant improvement in symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (24).
10. Prevents are reduces eczema
Eczema is a skin condition in which people develop dry, red itchy scales on their skin. Research suggests 31.6 people in the US have eczema. Several studies have shown that probiotics can be used to treat eczema symptoms (25).
According to a 2012 study from Korea, giving a mix of lactobacillus acidophilus and other probiotics to pregnant women and their infants during the first three months of life reduced eczema by 22% by the time the infants reached the age of one (26).
Side effects of lactobacillus acidophilus
For most healthy people, lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria are safe and do not cause any significant side effects. Some people may develop gas, bloating, and digestive issues, but they do not need any medical attention. These side effects go away once our body adjusts to the supplements.
However, for people who have underlying health conditions can develop more severe side effects when they take probiotics. People who are critically ill, have recently had surgery or have weakened immune systems should check with their doctor before taking lactobacillus supplements. Since probiotics are considered dietary supplements, the US FDA does not regulate them strictly. It is, therefore, essential that you choose a reputable brand of supplements.
Food sources of lactobacillus acidophilus
Though there are several supplements of lactobacillus acidophilus available at health stores and pharmacies, you can also enjoy its benefits through food sources. These include:
L. acidophilus is a bacterium that lives in our digestive, urinary, and genital systems. Commonly used as a probiotic, L. acidophilus is available as capsules, tablets, powders, wafers, and a vaginal suppository.
It offers several health benefits, including preventing diarrhea, fighting IBS, lowering the symptoms of lactose intolerance, reducing cholesterol levels, managing IBD, lowering the symptoms of allergy and eczema, and boosting the immune system. To benefits from lactobacillus acidophilus, you can take supplements. You can also eat food rich in probiotics like yogurt, cheese, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir.