Probiotic drinks are extensively marketed by companies and made available in supermarkets, yet there are those who think twice before adding it to their shopping cart. Is probiotic drink meant for all age groups? Is it safe to take a probiotic supplement without a doctor’s approval? What are the benefits of a probiotic supplement? Who should ideally take this supplement?
To answer some of these common confusions & queries related to probiotic supplements, we present in this article all details related to the commonly found probiotic supplement – Acidophilus (Lactobacillus).
What Is Acidophilus (Lactobacillus)?
Acidophilus is also known as Bifidobacterium and as prebiotics/probiotics in the market. The word Probiotic includes all friendly organisms that humans can use to treat common ailments. Apart from Lactobacillus acidophilus, the term probiotic also includes some types of yeast cells too. Lactobacillus acidophilus is mostly found in natural food sources, but they are also widely available as supplements and probiotic drinks in the market.
To know the usefulness of Acidophilus in humans, consider this simple description – Bad bacteria causes illness and many infections in human beings. To counter this threat, our body helps the good bacteria to thrive in human intestine & vagina so that it can fight the bad ones. Acidophilus supplements or probiotic drinks are popular in the market because they are one of the friendliest bacteria strains known to humans.
Lactobacillus acidophilus has the ability to produce lactase, Vitamin K and anti microbial components like bacteriocin, acidolin, acidolphilin, lactocidin and bacteriocin. It helps in breaking down the food particles in our intestine in such a way that it releases lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide, and they in turn inhibit the growth of the bad bacteria in our body. L.acidophilus is responsible for preventing infections in the human body along with boosting the immune system and the digestive system.
L.acidophilus is more needed in our body when we take antibiotics to counter any infection. Antibiotics are important for curing infections but in the process they also kill many good bacteria in our body as they are unable to differentiate between good and bad bacteria. Therefore, taking probiotic supplements when you have been asked to take antibiotics helps the body to restore the balance.
Benefits Of Using L.acidophilus Supplements
Treating Vaginal Infections
If L.acidophilus is found in the intestine and vagina of a healthy female in considerable amount, the chances of acquiring vaginal infections (bacterial vaginosis) is relatively low. However, those who get vaginal yeast infections should take L.acidophilus supplements regularly to keep the balance between the good and the bad bacteria in the body.
Counters The Side Effect Of Antibiotics
Those who are prone to frequent and severe cases of infections are usually prescribed antibiotics. However, Antibiotics work by killing all types of bacteria in the intestine without differentiating between the good and the bad. To counter this side effect of antibiotics, taking regular L.acidophilus supplements along with the usual antibiotic dosage can be a lot more helpful.
Some studies have claimed that L.acidophilus supplements (and also Lactoabcillus GG supplements) help in reversing the symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea (as a result of eating contaminated food). Thus, children and even adults suffering from infectious diarrhea (and rotavirus) must try taking L.acidophilus supplements.
Since, these bacteria are needed in the human intestine for processing and breaking the food particles, a deficiency of these good bacteria may result in gastrointestinal infections. In such cases, taking regular L.acidophilus supplements may reverse the symptoms.
Some studies have also shown that taking regular supplements of L.acidophilus increases the immune power of an individual. Children usually benefit from taking L.acidophilus supplements as studies have shown a considerable reduction in the number of missed school days owing to a reduction in fever and cold instances.
Some of the other benefits of using L.acidophilus supplements include treating the following conditions – extreme fatigue, gum problems, genital infections, cedar pollen allergy, kidney stones, crohn’s disease, lowering cholesterol levels, colitis, high BP and colon cancer, Lactose intolerance, childhood eczema, skin yeast infections etc.
Natural Sources of L.acidophilus
L.acidophilus is naturally found in the following food sources – beer, wine, kefir, breast milk, wheat grass, onion, tomato, banana, honey, garlic, barley and dairy products (mainly yogurt).
Deficiency Symptoms of Lactobacillus acidophilus
People who do not take sufficient amounts of fiber in their diet are most likely to suffer from digestion related problems. Fiber helps in food processing inside our intestine and if they are not present in sufficient quantity in our diet, the chances of getting more bad bacteria increase. Therefore, those individuals who take less or no fiber rich diet are generally found to be deficient in Lactobacillus acidophilus. Similarly, deficiency symptoms can also be found in those who suffer from frequent viral infections.
The deficiency of L.acidophilus can be overcome by taking regular supplements that contain the good bacteria. L.acidophilus supplements are available in stores in the following form – tablet, liquid, capsule, vaginal suppositories and in powder form. The L.acidophilus supplements are usually required to be taken along with the regular meals.
Generally, there are no side effects of Lactobacillus acidophilus supplements. However, in few extreme cases the following side effects were noticed – gas, diarrhea and stomach discomfort including stomach ulcer. In one case a person using inulin (which is a type of probiotic) was found to suffer from serious allergic reactions including shortness of breath.
The general recommended per day dosage level taken by mouth is somewhere between 1 and 10 billion live Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria in divided doses. For those taking the supplement to treat some underlying health condition must take prior approval from their doctor. And those suffering from vaginal infection should use one such branded vaginal pill containing the bacteria every day till the dosage period is complete.
The following daily dosage levels were also used in some studies – diarrhea (1 – 2 billion CFUs) and intestinal disorders (1 – 15 billion CFUs).
The general assumption is that it is safe to take Lactobacillus acidophilus supplements and there are no side effects. To a large extent this assumption is true, but probiotic supplements should be avoided in people who suffer from an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria, a poor immune system and any other intestinal ailments. Such patients should generally consult a qualified medical practitioner before starting with a probiotic supplement.
There are different strains of these bacteria available in the market and therefore, for severe ailments one must always consult a qualified medical practitioner. Also, L.acidophilus supplements should be stored as per the instructions given on the pack as these supplements always require storage in the refrigerator.
One must always take the opinion of a qualified medical practitioner before going ahead with any supplementation, including Lactobacillus acidophilus supplements in the following – Pregnant women, lactating mothers, infants, those with weak immune system due to chemotherapy and those with artificial heart valves. Similary, L.acidophilus supplements should not be taken along with Sulfasalazine. Also, always take L.acidophilus supplements two hours before or after taking any antibiotic dose.