Probiotics are becoming popular food supplements.
Interestingly, each probiotic can have different effects on your body.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most common types of probiotics and can be found in fermented foods, yogurt and supplements.
What Is Lactobacillus Acidophilus?
Lactobacillus acidophilus is a type of bacteria found in your intestines.
It’s a member of the Lactobacillus genus of bacteria, and it plays an important role in human health.
Its name gives an indication of what it produces — lactic acid. It does this by producing an enzyme called lactase. Lactase breaks down lactose, a sugar found in milk, into lactic acid.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is also sometimes referred to as L. acidophilus or simply acidophilus.
Lactobacilli, particularly L. acidophilus, are often used as probiotics.
The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health beneﬁt on the host”.
Unfortunately, food manufacturers have overused the word “probiotic,” applying it to bacteria that haven’t been scientifically proven to have any specific health benefits.
This has led the European Food Safety Authority to ban the word “probiotic” on all foods in the EU.
L. acidophilus has been extensively studied as a probiotic, and evidence has shown that it may provide a number of health benefits. However, there are many different strains of L. acidophilus, and they can each have different effects on your body.
In addition to probiotic supplements, L. acidophilus can be found naturally in a number of fermented foods, including sauerkraut, miso and tempeh.
Also, it’s added to other foods like cheese and yogurt as a probiotic.
Below are 9 ways in which Lactobacillus acidophilus may benefit your health.
1. It May Help Reduce Cholesterol
High cholesterol levels may increase the risk of heart disease. This is especially true for “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Fortunately, studies suggest that certain probiotics can help reduce cholesterol levels and that L. acidophilus may be more effective than other types of probiotics.
Some of these studies have examined probiotics on their own, while others have used milk drinks fermented by probiotics.
One study found that taking L. acidophilus and another probiotic for six weeks significantly lowered total and LDL cholesterol, but also “good” HDL cholesterol.
A similar six-week study found that L. acidophilus on its own had no effect.
However, there is evidence that combining L. acidophilus with prebiotics, or indigestible carbs that help good bacteria grow, can help increase HDL cholesterol and lower blood sugar.
This has been demonstrated in studies using probiotics and prebiotics, both as supplements and in fermented milk drinks.
Furthermore, a number of other studies have shown that yogurt supplemented with L. acidophilus helped reduce cholesterol levels by up to 7% more than ordinary yogurt.
This suggests that L. acidophilus — not another ingredient in the yogurt — was responsible for the beneficial effect.
Summary: L. acidophilus consumed on its own, in milk or yogurt or in combination with prebiotics may help lower cholesterol.
2. It May Prevent and Reduce Diarrhea
Diarrhea affects people for a number of reasons, including bacterial infections.
It can be dangerous if it lasts a long time, as it results in fluid loss and, in some cases, dehydration.
A number of studies have shown that probiotics like L. acidophilus may help prevent and reduce diarrhea that’s associated with various diseases.
Evidence on the ability of L. acidophilus to treat acute diarrhea in children is mixed. Some studies have shown a beneficial effect, while others have shown no effect.
One meta-analysis involving more than 300 children found that L. acidophilus helped reduce diarrhea, but only in hospitalized children.
What’s more, when consumed in combination with another probiotic, L. acidophilus may help reduce diarrhea caused by radiotherapy in adult cancer patients.
Similarly, it may help reduce diarrhea associated with antibiotics and a common infection called Clostridium difficile, or C. diff.
Diarrhea is also common in people who travel to different countries and are exposed to new foods and environments.
A review of 12 studies found that probiotics are effective at preventing traveler’s diarrhea and that Lactobacillus acidophilus, in combination with another probiotic, was most effective at doing so.
Summary: When consumed in combination with other probiotics, L. acidophilus may help prevent and treat diarrhea.
3. It Can Improve Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects up to one in five people in certain countries. Its symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating and unusual bowel movements.
While little is known about the cause of IBS, some research suggests it might be caused by certain types of bacteria in the intestines.
Therefore, a number of studies have examined whether probiotics can help improve its symptoms.
In a study in 60 people with functional bowel disorders including IBS, taking a combination of L. acidophilus and another probiotic for one to two months improved bloating.
A similar study found that L. acidophilus alone also reduced abdominal pain in IBS patients.
On the other hand, a study that examined a mixture of L. acidophilus and other probiotics found that it had no effect IBS symptoms.
This might be explained by another study suggesting that taking a low dose of single-strain probiotics for a short duration may improve IBS symptoms the most.
Specifically, the study indicates that the best way to take probiotics for IBS is to use single-strain probiotics, rather than a mix, for less than eight weeks, as well as a dose of less than 10 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per day.
However, it’s important to choose a probiotic supplement that has been scientifically proven to benefit IBS.
Summary: L. acidophilus probiotics may improve symptoms of IBS, such as abdominal pain and bloating.