Encyclopedia / A / Acidophilus



Lactobacillus acidophilus is a lactic acid producing bacteria thought to have beneficial effects on digestion and overall health.


Many factors decrease the number of lactic acid producing bacteria that live and work in the gastrointestinal tract and protect us from harmful disease-causing bacteria, aging, alcohol, antibiotics, diet deficiencies, drugs, medications, narcotics, nicotine, and stressful living.

Food is digested in the alimentary canal, mouth and stomach, and finally in the intestines. In the intestines, partially-digested food is metabolized by millions and millions of microorganisms, working simultaneously and synergistically.

If there is too small a colony of L. acidophilus and other friendly bacteria, such as L. bulgaricus and L. bifidus, digestion can be impaired, short-changing us of the full nutritional value from foods. Fewer key vitamins will be synthesized and the immune system may be rendered less effective.


How do you determine whether or not I have enough lactic acid?

What tests are done to determine this?

Are there any side effects to taking acidophilus?

Should acidophilus be taken only when a decreased amount of lactic acid is suspected?

What form of acidophilus will help?

Some health professionals claim that acidophilus aids the digestive process, helps correct constipation, diarrhea, mucous colitis and diverticulitis, reduces blood cholesterol, enhances the absorption of nutrients, sweetens bad breath, treats acne and other skin disorders, conquers harmful bacteria and certain viruses, helps alleviate candidiasis and other vaginal infections, and may even prevent cancer. However, it should be pointed out that solid scientific evidence for these claims is lacking.

Lactic acid-producing microorganisms, such as L. acidophilus, have been called a "second immune system" because they put the brakes on growth of disease-causing bacteria, such as salmonella and shigella-caused dysentery, various types of diarrhea, and even virus-caused flu. Yogurt with acidophilus culture and acidophilus on its own has been shown to clear up yeast infections and vaginitis in children and adults. However, L. acidophilus is not present in all brands of yogurt (check the labels).

Acidophilus supplements usually work quickly and effectively because they contain as many as one billion individual friendly bacteria per gram. For those who cannot use milk products, acidophilus is available from carrots, soybeans, rice starch, garbanzo beans and other sources.

Health food stores carry a variety of acidophilus supplements in capsule, liquid and powder form. Some of the formulas contain bifidobacteria, another helpful bacteria, as well as vitamin C and other nutrients. Using the powder, you can make your own yogurt-type drink. For best results, acidophilus supplements should be taken on an empty stomach before breakfast and an hour before other meals.

Many who have difficulty digesting ordinary dairy products often have success with cultured milk products, such as yogurt or acidophilus milk. Acidophilus milk, cultured with the bacterium Lactobacillus acidophilus, may be a digestible alternative to fresh milk.