Probiotics are generally what we call friendly bacteria. Your body is full of bacteria – millions and millions of them. Some of them are harmful and they cause disease. Some, especially those found in the gut, the mouth and the vagina, are a friendly sort. They provide you with immunity and they also help control and heal inflammation.
We are all born with these friendly bacteria, but as we grow older, they reduce significantly. This is mainly because of lifestyle change, choices in diet and even certain medications. By the time we are halfway through our lives, we have about half the number of probiotics we started off with. By the age of 70, we are almost at nil.
So why does lactobacillus acidophilus stand out? Because out of all the probiotic strains studied so far, it seems to cure and prevent a wide range of illnesses. It is found in milk and fermented products, and it is easily killed off by the use of antibiotics.
This is what causes many people to have lactose intolerance – the enzymes produced by lactobacillus acidophilus to turn lactose into lactase and eventually into nutrients that the body can absorb. These enzymes are also responsible for synthesis of some vitamins, like vitamin K.
The presence of lactobacillus acidophilus will also keep heal vaginal conditions associated with yeast, like bacterial vaginosis. It can be consumed as suppositories placed in the vagina, or it can be consumed in yoghurt and other milk products, but it seems to be more effective when suppositories are used.
It is also useful in treating diarrhoea, constipation and IBS.
Who should take lactobacillus acidophilus?
Although we should all consume milk products that contain lactobacillus acidophilus to make sure we are always at optimal levels, there are some people who should be particularly keen to take it always.
- Elderly people – if you are over 50 years old, you have worked through more than half of the probiotics that you need to sustain you and you need to replace them. The older you get the more keen you should be about eating cheese, yoghurt and other milk products that contain lactobacillus acidophilus. Fortunately, these bacteria occur together, so in most cases, so long as you take a supplement or include probiotics in your diet, you are taking in lactobacillus acidophilus. If you’re buying supplements, you can check the label to be sure.
- If you suffer frequent yeast infections either in the mouth or in the vagina, a consistent diet of milk products will help you replace the bacteria that can protect you from these attacks. Garlic works well too – during an attack, peel a clove, dice it in cubes and swallow as tablets once a day. The infection takes about 2 or 3 days to clear, but you won’t have a recurrence for a while. Different vinegars also contain probiotics, so use them in your salads.
- If you have completed a course of antibiotics, start taking L. acidophilus. Also, if you have a weakened immune system, you are more susceptible to fungal attacks. Make sure that you get a regular intake of lactobacillus acidophilus. It will provide you with the bacteria that fight off disease.
If lactobacillus acidophilus is a part of your diet, you need to include it in one of the meals every day. If you want to take it in supplement form, always read what the label says about dosage. Depending on the condition, you need to take between 1-20 billion cells a day. Different companies will package this differently – some may need you to take one pill once a day and others two or three. Make sure not to overdose, because you can get diarrhoea.
Does it have any side effects?
You only risk side effects if you overdose. Research has not seen any harm that comes from taking probiotics containing lactobacillus acidophilus. You may suffer a bit of gas and bloating, but as soon as the bacteria settle down and line your gut, you will be ok.
Can I take it as supplements?
Yes, you can, especially if you’re on the move all the time and don’t usually have the time for proper meals. You can get it in the form of capsules, powders or pills. Make sure to read the labels and any safety warnings that come with any supplement.
Find out more about probiotic supplements here