What You Need to Know about Lactobacillus acidophilus and What Cool Things It Can Do
Let us introduce you to the most famous probiotic of all, Lactobacillus acidophilus. Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most commonly recognized species of probiotics- it deserves a star on the microbiome walk of fame. The name Lactobacillus acidophilus means “acid-loving”. Made famous for their presence in fermenting dairy products these teeny, tiny microbes can be found in the human body. Come on! Grab a microscope and take a closer look at a Lactobacillus acidophilus microbe – you’ll see its rod-like shape, with rounded ends. Despite its tiny size and friendly-looking appearance, Lactobacillus acidophilus have some powerful abilities. Let’s ramp up the magnification on our microscope and take a closer look at what researchers know about Lactobacillus acidophilus and your health.
Where can I find Lactobacillus acidophilus?
Put your microscope over a dairy product, such as L. acidophilus-containing milk or yogurt, and you will likely find Lactobacillus acidophilus there. You’ll also find it in your gut. What’s really impressive is how Lactobacillus acidophilus can move into your intestinal tract, a place as populace with bacteria as New York City is with people, and become a big influencer in about a day. (This is great news when you have certain types diarrhea – more below). No wonder Lactobacillus acidophilus is so popular!
Why is Lactobacillus acidophilus so popular?
When certain types of diarrhea strike, and you’re running to the bathroom, bent over with digestive pain, quick relief is key. Lactobacillus acidophilus may help. Diarrhea can strike when too many bad guys (called pathogenic bacteria) decide to take over too much territory in your intestinal tract. You can just imagine how an unwanted and disorderly parade could take over Fifth Avenue and disrupt function in New York City. But, how does such a parade start? In some cases, it’s antibiotics that are great at destroying bacteria causing illness but can’t decipher between those and other bacteria including innate bacteria found in the intestine and “good” bacteria. The result is lower levels of “good” bacteria in the body, which makes it easier for pathogenic microbes to move into the neighborhood. Perhaps the reason Lactobacillus acidophilus is so popular is that it, among other probiotics, is great at protecting your gut from bad guys who want to disrupt your intestinal tract’s usual healthy flow. Talk about being the good guys in town. Lactobacillus acidophilus is the kind of neighbor- you want to have live in your internal microbial city.
Can Lactobacillus acidophilus help with constipation?
It’s really cool what this teeny, tiny microbe does for you! Our famous little microbe, Lactobacillus acidophilus does a lot in your gut. Research shows Lactobacillus acidophilus, along with its friend Bifidobacterium bifidum, can help accelerate the flow of contents through the intestine. That’s awesome – particularly if you’re struggling with constipation. Thank you, little microbe, for making the next time we visit the porcelain throne a more royal experience.
What is Lactobacillus acidophilus good for?
In most epic tales, good prevails over evil, and the story of the intestinal microflora is very similar. In your gut, one character playing the role of a good guy is Lactobacillus acidophilus. Well adapted to live in the human body, once Lactobacillus acidophilus moves into the intestinal tract, it’s capable of inhibiting pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli and Enterobacter ssp. These pathogenic bacteria are the bad guys in this epic tale. Present in some of the food we eat, pathogenic bacteria are always trying to sneak their way into a good spot in your intestinal tract, where it can set up camp, grow its army, establish a settlement, and plot a siege. As in storybooks, when evil prevails, conditions deteriorate – the same is true in your gut. When pathogenic bacteria are allowed to infiltrate the gut, the lining becomes less healthy, nutrient absorption is reduced, and the immune system is activated inducing an inflammatory reaction. All in all, your gut can feel awful, food isn’t digested as well, the immune system is working hard, and messages to other parts of your body, such as your brain, are not as positive. Thank goodness this tale has the option of an ending of, “lived happily ever after” when our hero Lactobacillus acidophilus, and other probiotic species, are around in adequate amounts.
Similar to a castle, the gut has battlements. Well, it is not exactly the tooth-shaped parapets like a historical castle battlement, but regardless the mucus barrier of the gut is pretty effective at keeping the bad guys out. You can thank probiotics, such as our hero of this tale, Lactobacillus acidophilus, who work to keep the integral mucus layer of the gut strong. Studies have shown probiotics are involved in the maturation and function of the mucosal layer. When the mucosal layer is dysfunctional, as seen in human studies of colitis, the gut lining becomes inflamed and infection can occur. Ouch! The low-fiber Western diet common in modern society doesn’t help – researchers have found it contributes to defects in the mucosal layer. Yikes! What can we do about it? Probiotics enjoy a diet that’s rich in fiber. Health experts, such as those at the Mayo Clinic suggest it’s a healthy choice to eat more fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. In our little microbial tale, eating fiber is almost like arming your gut’s good guys so they can better defend the castle.
The mucosal surface of the gastrointestinal tract is only the first line of defense. The second way our hero, Lactobacillus acidophilus fends off pathogenic bacteria is with the production of antimicrobial proteins, called bacteriocins, and lactic acid (by breaking down carbohydrates from the food you eat). One can just imagine our friendly, teeny, tiny probiotics throwing flaming balls (bacteriocins) over the castle walls at an approaching enemy. Some bacteriocins produced by Lactobacillus acidophilus attack the cell wall of pathogenic bacteria, affecting its formation and permeability. This intestinal warfare might sound gruesome, but it ultimately causes them to somewhat leak to death. Understandably, pathogenic bacteria don’t like this hostile environment and are less likely to try to move in and disrupt health.
More Cool Things Lactobacillus acidophilus Does for You
Before we go, let’s give a round of applause to our amazing neighbor, the good guy in our epic tale, Lactobacillus acidophilus who promotes health in the human body. In your mouth, Lactobacillus acidophilus prevents the bad guy, Streptococcus mutans, from setting up camp and creating plaque that leads to the formation of dental caries (cavities). Another cool skill of Lactobacillus acidophilus is it produces the enzyme lactase. Lactase is like scissors that help break down lactose, the sugar in milk, into smaller pieces so it is easier to digest. You can thank Lactobacillus acidophilus, for making warm summer afternoons spent licking ice cream more enjoyable. (They may not have ears, but your gut microbes might appreciate the thank you).
6 More Ways Certain Strains of Lactobacillus acidophilus Promote Health in the Body
Here are a few other ways Lactobacillus acidophilus promotes health in the body (in case you weren’t already in love with our walk of fame, monthly microbe):
- Battles Vaginal Yeast Infections
- Fights Heart Burn (caused by pathogenic bacteria)
- Enhances Immune Function
- Promotes Weight Management
- Battles Diarrhea/Constipation
- Reduces Digestive Symptoms for Runners
- Lowers Cholesterol
Is Lactobacillus acidophilus safe?
These residents of the human microbiome, are amazingly helpful to have around, and should not be feared. The human body cannot function optimally without them. Significant amounts of scientific evidence show Lactobacillus acidophilus is not only safe but improves the health of the host (you).
What are the side effects of Lactobacillus acidophilus?
Probiotics have few side effects, rarely causing minor gastrointestinal symptoms, such as gas. Individuals with underlying health conditions should consult their health practitioner regarding probiotic use.
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