Lactobacillus acidophilus is a type of beneficial bacteria that lives naturally in your intestines and vagina. You can take acidophilus capsules for a variety of health purposes. But because L. acidophilus supplements contain the live bacteria, the capsules have a limited active shelf life. Before you begin taking acidophilus capsules, consult your doctor about the possible health risks, proper dosage and expiration timeframe.
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Acidophilus helps to synthesize lactase, vitamin K and certain antimicrobial substances in your body, such as bacteriocin and acidolphilin, MayoClinic.com says. Acidophilus is a type of probiotic, which means it’s considered a “friendly” bacterium that helps to fight harmful microorganisms in your body. Acidophilus helps to digest foods in your intestines, creating lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide and other substances, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. In this way, acidophilus creates an acidic environment in your body, in which harmful bacteria cannot grow or survive, explains the University of Michigan Health System.
Acidophilus supplements are most commonly used to prevent or treat vaginal yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and infectious diarrhea, mainly “traveler’s diarrhea,” according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Acidophilus may also help to restore helpful bacteria in your intestines after you’ve taken antibiotics, notes the University of Michigan Health System. Talk with your physician before taking acidophilus for any of these purposes.
Acidophilus capsules are measured in the amount of live or viable bacteria contained in the supplement, often in dosages of millions of colony-forming units (CFUs), MayoClinic.com says. Because Lactobacillus acidophilus are live bacteria, they have a limited shelf life. Acidophilus products can die while on the shelf, but reputable products should indicate on their labels not only their date of manufacture but their viability date for the time of purchase, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Therefore, to determine whether acidophilus capsules are still active, you should look on the label for an expiration date or a guarantee the bacteria will be viable until a specific date. Proper storage of acidophilus capsules may also play a role in prolonging their activity. You should keep acidophilus supplements in a sealed container and away from light, heat and moisture, advises the University of Michigan Health System. The best place to store acidophilus is in your refrigerator.
Acidophilus supplements may potentially help if you have irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, indigestion, chronic constipation, a suppressed immune system, allergies, high cholesterol or eczema, as well as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. Other potential uses for acidophilus supplements include treating Behcet’s syndrome, canker sores, stomach ulcers, diverticular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, yeast hypersensitivity syndrome and insomnia, as well as preventing colds and colon cancer, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. No widely-accepted medical research supports the use of Lactobacillus acidophilus capsules for preventing or treating any of these health conditions, however.
Acidophilus capsules don’t usually cause significant side effects, other than gastrointestinal gas, says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. However, if you have a suppressed immune system, you could develop an infection from the bacteria after taking acidophilus. If you have artificial heart valves, taking acidophilus capsules could cause a bacterial infection, warns the University of Maryland Medical Center. Avoid taking acidophilus supplements if you have intestinal damage or have had recent intestinal surgery, MayoClinic.com cautions. Additionally, acidophilus may interact negatively with sulfasalazine, a medication for treating ulcerative colitis.