Acidophilus is part of the family of good bacteria that exist naturally in the human body often referred to as probiotics. Primarily found in the intestines and vagina, these bacteria have many health benefits. They’re a part of the intestines’ natural flora, helping to break down food. They also generate high levels of acidity, creating a hostile environment for the bad bacteria that develops when a person is sick and for the growth of Candida bacteria and fungus, which leads to yeast infections.
Although acidophilus is found naturally in the human body, it is also available in supplement form. Most health food stores carry a range of acidophilus products, in liquid, capsule or powder form. Acidophilus is known to work quickly. Each gram contains as many as one billion bacteria.
Outside of the body, acidophilus occurs naturally in fermented milk products like yogurt, cheese and kefir. It is also contained, to a lesser extent, in soybeans, rice starch and garbanzo beans. Eating these products can helpful in the same ways as taking acidophilus supplements.
Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria is the active reagent in acidophilus supplements. As it helps break down sugars in the digestive track, it creates high levels of acidity, which suppresses the growth of unwanted bacteria, thus keeping you healthy. It also helps control the growth of Candida bacteria which, when it overgrows, causes what are known as yeast infections. For digestive purposes, it is advisable to take acidophilus supplements on an empty stomach before breakfast and an hour before other meals. For treating yeast infections, acidophilus can be taken orally or in a suppository form.
- Protects against harmful bacteria: Acidophilus can help protect the body against harmful bacteria, parasites, and other organisms. As it breaks down sugars in the intestines, it releases things such as hydrogen peroxide that create a toxic environment for unhealthy creatures in the body, helping to drive them out. For this reason its often called a “good bacteria”.
- Assists digestion: Many people take acidophilus supplements when they are on antibiotics. The thinking is that because antibiotic kills off all bacteria in their quest to rid of whatever is making you sick, they also kill of the natural occurring good bacteria, or flora, which is essential to digestion. Acidophilus is also especially helpful for people who are lactose intolerant or lactose mal-absorbent.
- Controls growth of Candida fungus: Acidophilus helps control the overgrowth of Candida fungus (also known as a yeast infection) in the digestive track, vagina and mouth (known as oral thrush).
- Reduction of cholesterol: A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reported that yogurt containing acidophilus helped to reduce cholesterol concentration in the blood stream. Lowering cholesterol reduces the risk heart disease.
- Bolstering the immune System: Acidophilus bacteria have been referred to as a “second immune system” because they helps prevent the spread of infectious bacteria like salmonella and shigella. Acidophilus has also been associated with increased cytokine and phagocytic activity, as well as antibody production – all of which have positive effects on the immune system
- Vaginal yeast infections: Acidophilus supplements or yogurt are often used to treat vaginal yeast infections.
- Digestive problems: Acidophilus can be used to treat digestive problems resulting from parasites or unhealthy bacteria. It helps create a high Ph balance that inhibits the growth of these and other nasty bacteria.
- Coronary heart disease: Lactobacillus acidophilus is sometimes used to control cholesterol levels.
- Lactose mal digestion and intolerance: People suffering from lactose intolerance and lactose mal-absorption often use acidophilus to help improve digestion of lactose products like milk or cheese.
- Diarrhea: Acidophilus can be used to treat diarrhea.
Acidophilus is not known to have many side effects. It may however take your body some time to get used to.
- Gas, bloating, diarrhea: During the first few weeks of using acidophilus, you make experience bloating and/or gas. This is because acidophilus is encouraging the breakdown of foods in your intestines, a process that naturally produces gas, which causes bloating.
- Herx reaction: Because acidophilus alters the ratio of different yeast/bacteria in your body’s digestive track, you may experience some side effects as the body adjust to the new ratio. Symptoms include lethargy, headaches, fever, aches and pains. These symptoms should only be short term.
- Vaginal burning or itching: Women who use acidophilus to relieve vaginal yeast infections may feel burning or itching in the vaginal region. These are likely symptoms of an allergic reaction. A doctor should be consulted.
There are no known drug interactions for acidophilus.
You could have a doctor test the level of bacteria in your system to help you decide what amount of acidophilus would benefit you. Because it is a naturally occurring bacterium, acidophilus is one of the most natural ways to bacterial imbalances in the body.