Lactobacillus acidophilus is a naturally occurring bacterium found in the human digestive system and also in some dairy products, such as yogurt. As the bacteria ferment, they produce lactase, hydrogen peroxide and other acids. In the body, the acids and enzymes released by acidophilus help keep the level of other bacteria and micro-organisms in check.
Uses: Acidophilus is used to aid digestion, reduce symptoms associated with lactose intolerance and treat yeast infections. It also is taken to help prevent traveler’s diarrhea and diarrhea associated with antibiotic use. Some alternative health providers recommend acidophilus for treating acne and canker sores, but there are no scientifically rigorous studies to support such claims.
Dose: Acidophilus comes in powder and pill form and can be found in dairy products containing live cultures of the bacteria. Recommended daily doses range from 1 million to 1 billion live organisms, divided into a few separate doses.
Precautions: Many acidophilus products require refrigeration to maintain potency, so check pills and powders for storage requirements. Some researchers recommend taking acidophilus alone instead of in products containing combinations of bacteria, as combos are less likely to contain effective strains. In some people, acidophilus may cause gas.
Research: There is evidence that acidophilus products can provide relief for people with lactose intolerance and help with digestion in general. Some research has associated acidophilus with improved cholesterol levels. A few small studies have found that acidophilus also may help fight off yeast infections, but the evidence is inconclusive.
Dietary supplement makers are not required by the U.S. government to demonstrate that their products are safe or effective. Ask your health-care provider for advice on selecting a brand.
-- Elena Conis