Lactobacillus acidophilus is a beneficial bacterium often included in probiotic foods and supplements. L. acidophilus is typically used to treat gastrointestinal and vaginal problems such as infections. Although substantial evidence suggests that probiotics are effective, more research is needed to verify these findings. Consult your doctor about whether taking probiotics is right for you.
Probiotics are "friendly" microbes that promote survival of" helpful" bacteria normally present in your intestines. They also suppress growth of "bad" bacteria that may cause disease. The helpful bacteria, also called your normal flora, promote digestive health and are an important part of your intestinal environment. However, some situations, such as taking antibiotics or consuming contaminated foods, may kill your normal flora and cause over-colonization by bad bacteria. In these cases, probiotics may be helpful in restoring balance to your intestinal tract.
L. acidophilus may be beneficial in treating vaginal bacterial infections. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that using either vaginal suppositories or yogurt that contains L. acidophilus may treat bacterial vaginosis. As of August 2011, more research is needed to evaluate whether L. acidophilus is effective against vaginal yeast infections as well.
Diarrhea may result when the bacteria in your normal flora is destroyed by an antibiotic treatment or replaced by unfamiliar bacteria from consuming contaminated food. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that taking supplements or foods that contain L. acidophilus may help prevent or reduce the occurrence of diarrhea by helping friendly bacteria to recolonize your intestines.
L. acidophilus may also help treat lactose intolerance by producing an enzyme that helps digest the lactose sugars in your intestines. It may also be beneficial for people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. Other possible benefits of L. acidophilus include boosting your immune system, helping reduce allergic responses to pollen, treating or reducing the risk of a skin disorder called eczema, and treating Helicobacter pylori infection, the Mayo Clinic reports on its website. It may also help prevent premature birth caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina.
L. acidophilus is usually considered safe; however, gas, upset stomach and diarrhea may result if you take high doses of this probiotic on a daily basis. Recommended dosage for adults to treat diarrhea and/or vaginal infections is 1 billion to 2 billion cells, or colony-forming units, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. To treat antibiotic-related diarrhea, your doctor may recommended you take anywhere from 1 billion to 15 billion cells daily.