The concept of “more is better” is not valid in the world of probiotics. A good probiotic is about having a specific strain with scientifically proven health benefits.
There are different probiotic strains with diverse superpowers backed by various levels of scientific evidence. So you might be a bit overwhelmed with how you will choose a marvelous one.
Let me clear it up for you. This article will walk you through one of the most researched probiotic strains that exist to date – Lactobacillus acidophilus.
What is Lactobacillus acidophilus?
Lactobacillus acidophilus is a type of bacteria found naturally in your digestive tract, genitourinary tract, and other places of the body.
It belongs to the Lactobacillus family of bacteria and is also a part of the microbiome: a collection of trillions of microbes inside and outside your body.
L. acidophilus is one of the most commonly used probiotics to help treat many medical conditions.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that confer health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts.
The contract between friendly bacteria and humans
When microbes in our body outnumber our cells by ten to one, we have to create a perfect symbiotic (beneficial) relationship for us to co-exist. So we signed a contract with these friendly bacteria. We will give them a place to live and food. In exchange, they have to abide by the following rules.
They have to make our digestion process more efficient.
They have to bring down pathogenic bacteria and restore the balance of the microbiome.
They have to disintegrate the fiber that we cannot digest. They can ferment dietary fiber into metabolites called short-chain fatty acids. SCFAs are the prime energy source of the gut wall. They maintain gut barrier integrity and prevent leaky gut.
They have to decrease inflammation in our bodies.
They have to boost our immune system.
They have to convey messages to the brain via the gut-brain axis.
Unique facts about Lactobacillus acidophilus
The name Lactobacillus acidophilus originates from lactose (milk), bacillus ( rod shape), and acidophilus (acid-loving).
It is because this acid-loving milk bacillus can make lactic acid by breaking down lactose, a sugar found in milk.
It confers the sour taste to natural, Lactobacillus-containing yogurt.
And lactic acid reduces the pH of the environment that microbes inhabit and prevents the growth of pathogenic microbes. It is why lactobacillus probiotics are incredible in gastrointestinal, vaginal, and urinary tract infections.
What is Lactobacillus acidophilus used for?
- Acute infectious diarrhea
Although it does not seem to, diarrhea is a health concern because it can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance (loss of sodium, potassium, and magnesium that play vital roles in bodily functions), especially if diarrhea lasts long.
So it is dangerous to have diarrhea for a long time. Lactobacillus acidophilus can produce lactic acid and create an acidic environment in the gut where pathogenic microbes cannot thrive. Moreover, by increasing good bacteria, acidophilus can restore the balance of the gut flora.
Lactobacillus probiotics not only alleviate diarrhea symptoms but also shorten the duration.
Clinically proven ✅
In a Cochrane review of the effects of probiotics in acute watery diarrhea, data from 63 studies indicated that probiotics reduced the frequency of stools on the second day of treatment and the risk of developing persistent diarrhea. It has been observed specifically in patients treated with Lactobacillus in the early stage of diarrhea.
A recent meta-analysis in 2022 studied the efficacy of L. acidophilus in children with acute gastroenteritis. After analysis of 15 trials, researchers concluded Lactobacillus acidophilus reduced the duration and frequency of diarrhea when administered at a daily dosage of ≥109 CFU/day.
Even if you don’t have diarrhea, probiotics like L. acidophilus are a great choice to improve your gut health and prevent diarrhea.
- Antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD)
Antibiotic administration is followed in up to 40% of cases by diarrhea. Antibiotics can disrupt the gut flora, a natural barrier to infection.
Pseudomembranous colitis secondary to Clostridium difficile is a significant cause of AD-related deaths.
Fortunately, you can cut the risk by taking probiotics along with antibiotics. Probiotics can replenish the natural gut flora with healthy bacteria.
Practice Changer ✅
In one meta-analysis, researchers looked at 82 studies to identify the risk of AAD in patients who received probiotics. The probiotics used were Lactobacillus and other strains. The final analysis found a reduction of 66% in C difficile-associated diarrhea in patients taking probiotics with antibiotics.
These findings make a practice changer for me. I witness a significant reduction in AAD by pairing probiotics with antibiotics.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
About 20% of people in the whole world are struggling with IBS. It is a chronic digestive disorder that often presents with abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.
It is challenging to manage because the exact cause is unknown. All the investigation results are ordinary and patients often ask if it is all in their heads.
Then, the gut flora brings the good news. Researchers found that disruption of gut microbiota can be the main trigger for IBS by increasing inflammation, impairing digestion, and interfering the gut-brain connection.
Probiotics can correct this disruption by increasing more good bacteria.
Good evidence ✅
In a study of 60 participants with functional bowel disorders like IBS, a combination of L. acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis for eight weeks showed improved symptoms of bloating.
A similar study of 40 IBS patients showed alleviation in abdominal pain by taking L. acidophilus.
Probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus have good evidence for relieving symptoms of IBS and improving the quality of life in these patients.
4. Vaginal infections
Lactobacillus bacteria commonly colonize the vagina of healthy women. Thanks to these lactic acid-producing bacteria, the acidic pH in your vagina prevents the growth of other harmful bacteria.
Predisposing factors, such as menstruation, pregnancy, sexual practices, vaginal douching, and uncontrolled use of antibiotics, can rapidly alter the vaginal microbial community. It depletes Lactobacillus and causes overgrowth of other pathogenic microbes resulting in vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis.
Taking Lactobacillus acidophilus as a probiotic can prevent and treat vaginal infections by increasing lactobacilli in the vagina.
Medically valid use ✅
A 2017 research trial inquired into the antimicrobial effects of Lactobacillus acidophilus GLA-14 against the pathogens responsible for bacterial vaginosis and aerobic vaginitis. The results strongly suggested that L. acidophilus GLA-14, alone or combined with another lactobacillus, was effective against vaginal pathogens.
In medical practice, antimicrobials are quite effective for vaginal infections, but recurrence remains. By colonizing the vagina, L. acidophilus can be a long-term defending barrier for recurrent vaginal infections.
Like your gut microbiome, your urinary tract also has its microbiota which maintains the health and balance of the urinary system. The most frequently isolated bacteria are lactobacilli.
Antibiotics can reduce the number of lactobacilli and disrupt the natural barrier of the urinary system formed against infections. It can lead to recurrent UTIs, and frequent use of antibiotics can bring resistance.
In patients with recurrent UTIs, probiotics like lactobacilli maintain natural barrier function and reduce the number of relapses and subsequent antibiotic resistance.
Great with lactobacillus strains, but limited with L. acidophilus ✅
Compared with other lactobacillus strains, there are much fewer studies examining the use of Lactobacillus acidophilus in the management of UTIs.
However, taking probiotic foods and supplements containing adequate amounts of Lactobacillus strains will undoubtedly benefit your urinary health.
6. Lactose intolerance
Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products. It is broken down into glucose and galactose ( absorbable forms) in your small intestine by an enzyme called lactase. If your body does not have enough lactase, your small intestine cannot absorb lactose. Undigested lactose then moves to the large gut and is metabolized by bacteria. It results in symptoms of flatulence, bloating, and diarrhea.
Interestingly, fermented dairy products containing L. acidophilus are well-tolerated in patients with lactose intolerance. It is because L. acidophilus has lactase enzyme activity to help break down lactose, and lactose in these fermented dairy products is also easier to digest.
Safe to consume ✅
A clinical trial in 2016 studied the DDS-1 strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus and found that it is safe to consume for lactose intolerance and improves symptoms of abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
So, if you are struggling with lactose intolerance, trying probiotics like L. acidophilus is worth it.
Allergic diseases are common in many industrialized countries. The widely held theory is the hygiene hypothesis. Excessive hygiene reduced early childhood exposure to microorganisms and normal intestinal colonization of microbiomes. It causes failure to induce tolerance of innocuous allergens and causes an overactive immune response to allergens.
Research has shown that Lactobacillus acidophilus strain L-92 has potent anti-allergic activity. This friendly bacteria can maintain immune homeostasis and alleviate inflammation with a subsequent reduction in allergic responses.
Calm your allergy with probiotics ✅
One large study randomly allocated patients with perennial allergic rhinitis to receive either fermented milk containing L-92 or a placebo for 8 wk. The patients who received fermented milk with acidophilus showed significant amelioration in allergy symptoms.
As an allergy sufferer, using probiotics is an option you might want to consider as they’ve been found to significantly reduce symptoms.
Sources of Lactobacillus acidophilus
You can reap the health benefits of L. acidophilus by consuming either probiotic foods or supplements.
Best food sources
- Cottage cheese
- Miso soup (fermented soybeans)
- Tempeh (fermented soybeans)
- Kefir (fermented milk drink)
- Kimchi (fermented cabbage)
- Sauerkraut (sour cabbage)
Lactobacillus acidophilus supplements
L. acidophilus probiotics are available either alone or in combination with other probiotics. There are different forms of supplements like capsules, tablets, wafers, powder, and vaginal suppositories.
How much Lactobacillus acidophilus should I take per day?
It depends upon the reason for treatment and the tolerability of your stomach. My best advice is to consult your healthcare provider to track down the correct dose for your condition.
Generally, if you are pursuing L. acidophilus as a supplement, you can take up to 60 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) daily. CFU refers to the approximate amount of bacteria per capsule. Typically, you can take it for six months.
Children can take smaller doses of up to 30 billion CFUs per day for three months.
For vaginal infections, vaginal forms of L. acidophilus capsules or yogurt containing acidophilus cultures can be helpful.
Is Lactobacillus acidophilus safe?
L. acidophilus is generally considered safe.
But, never go to excess, and let moderation be your guide. Probiotics are good for health but in moderation, not too much and not too less.
Potential side effects
Possible side effects of too many good bugs in your gut are
- Mild upset stomach
- Gas and bloating
But, these side effects are usually well-tolerated.
Weak immune system
Probiotics have been used safely for years. Safety outcomes are consistently reported in clinical trials except in one scenario: a weak immune system.
Since probiotics are live organisms, they can invade the bloodstream and cause bacteremia and sepsis ( a life-threatening condition ) if your immune system is very fragile.
All the reported cases of lactobacilli bacteremia occurred in immunocompromised patients.
Damaged heart valves
Though extremely rare, a risk of infection of the heart valves (endocarditis) by taking probiotics exists.
In 2020, Pubmed Central presented a case report of infective endocarditis caused by L. acidophilus in a patient with a bioprosthetic heart valve. However, this patient has poorly controlled diabetes (an immunocompromised condition) and has a history of IV drug use ( a well-recognized risk factor for endocarditis).
So always speak to your doctor before taking a probiotic supplement.
Can I take L. acidophilus during pregnancy and breastfeeding?
L. acidophilus is generally safe in pregnancy or breastfeeding under medical supervision.
In a large study, researchers analyzed 21 studies looking at the effects of probiotics use in pregnancy and found neither infant nor maternal adverse pregnancy outcomes.
In healthy patients, probiotics do not enter the circulation and generally cannot reach the breast milk. They do not appear to pose safety concerns for lactating mothers.
My personal Experience
A lot of my patients expect a rapid response when they take probiotics. But it is not a quick fix.
My advice is “ You should give it at least 30 days because probiotics need time to restore the balance in your microbiome. If there is any difference within 30 days, you can continue it. If not, it is okay to stop it “.
As “Good Things Take Time” , you cannot reap the health benefits of probiotics by taking a single pill or just a few weeks.
And most importantly, before expecting good results, you must ascertain that you are taking the right probiotic.