The 'friendly' bacteria called acidophilus help to create a healthy environment within the gastrointestinal tract. Taking acidophilus may combat digestive disorders, controls vaginal yeast infections and help the body to resist diseases caused by 'unfriendly' bacteria.
What it is?
Some 500 species of bacteria inhabit the digestive tract. Of these, the most beneficial are two strains of Lactobacilli bacteria: acidophilus and bifidus. Both are probiotics, meaning that they help to provide a proper balance of health-promoting bacteria in the intestine. They also manufacture natural antibiotics that kill dangerous microbes.
Foods that encourage the growth of lactobacillus in the body are green leafy vegetables (which contain chlorophyll); slippery elm powder and Jerusalem artichokes (containing fructo-oligosaccharides, or FOS; milk products such as yoghurt and whey powder; and miso and sauerkraut.
Yoghurt, the traditional source of acidophilus, has been used as an exilir in folk medicine for hundreds – possibly thousands – of years. It can be difficult, however, to determine how much acidophilus yoghurt really contains. When using supplements, read the labels carefully. A therapeutic form should contain at least 1 billion live organisms in each pill; smaller amounts may not be potent enough to have beneficial effects. Acidophilus is sometimes sold in combination with bifidus or fructo-aligosaccharides.
What it does?
Acidophilus helps to restore a normal balance of healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and vagina, which combats digestive disorders and vaginal yeast infections. It may contain cancer-fighting agents, and may possibly lower serum cholesterol levels. Acidophilus also helps to manufacture certain vitamins in the intestines, including vitamins B12 and K, thiamine and folic acid.
Some studies show that, when taken orally or inserted into the vagina as a suppository or douche, acidophilus may prevent or control vaginal yeast infections caused byCandida albicans. This property is particularly helpful if you're taking certain types of antibiotics that suppress acidophilus and allow yeast to flourish.
Indeed, acidophilus may be especially useful for anyone taking antibiotics to treat an infection. In many people – and particularly those on antibiotics – the balance of bacteria can be upset, causing flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation, and poor absorption of nutrients. Acidophilus creates an inhospitable environment for harmful types ofEscherichia coli, as well as for Salmonella, Streptococcus, and many other strains of bacteria that can be dangerous or even life-threatening.
Acidophilus can alleviate the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, a chronic inflammation of the intestines. Along with a high-fibre diet, acidophilus contributes to overall colon health, which is necessary to help protect against diverticulosis, a disorder in which the mucous lining og the colon bulges into the colon wall and creates small sacs (diverticula). Acidophilus may also relieve diarrhoea triggered by irritable bowel syndrome and food poisoning, and may replenish beneficial intestinal micro-organisms that diarrhoea flushes out of the body.
Acidophilus may also be valuable in combating some cancers. When given to patients who had had surgery for bladder cancer, acidophilus helped to prevent the recurrence of single tumours. This may be because acidophilus prevents harmful bacteria from creating cancer-causing substances when the bacteria react with foods. It may also lower blood cholesterol levels, because certain strains of these bacteria absorb cholesterol in the intestine before it reaches the arteries and causes damage.
- Treats chronic gastrointestinal tract disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, recurrent wind and bloating, and inflammatory bowel disease.
- Controls vaginal yeast infections
- If you have a vaginal infection for the first time, see your doctor before treating it yourself.
Acidophilus is useful against the yeast Candida albicans, but has little effect on other types of vaginal problems.
- Reminder: If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking supplements.
How to take it?
To make a vaginal douche: Mix 2 teaspoons of acidophilus/bifidus powder in 1 litre of warm water; use twice a day for up to 10 days to restore normal bacterial growth.
To promote intestinal health: Mix acidophilus/bifidus powder in water and drink; see label for exact dose. In capsule form, take one or two, each containing at least 1 billion live organisms, one to three times daily. For other forms, follow label directions.
Guidelines for use:
Douche only to treat vaginal yeast infections, or when you are taking antibiotics. When using acidophilus orally, take it 30-60 minutes before eating. If you're on antibiotics, don't take them at the same time of day as acidophilus. Keep taking acidophilus for six to eight weeks after you finish the antibiotics.
Possible side effects
Ingested in large quantities, acidophilus may cause diarrnoea or other gastrointestinal problems. Prolonged douching can irritate the vagina; this can be corrected by reducing the concentration of acidophilus.
- Acidophilus product labels should say that they contain 'live cultures' or 'active cultures'. Be sure to check the expiry date.
Whatever form of acidophilus you buy, store it in cool, dry place, such as the refrigerator. Heat can easily kill live acidophilus, as can temperatures below freezing.
- A recent study showed that eating yoghurt containing live acidophilus greatly reduced the recurrence of vaginal yeast infections. The women in study ate 8 ounces (250 g) of yoghurt every day for six months. Researchers theorise that additional acidophilus bacteria grow in the intestines, boosting the number of normalLactobacilli flora but leaving no room for the growth of yeast.
- When used in a recent study of patients undergoing cancer radiation treatments, acidophilus prevented the diarrhoea that is a typical side effect of this therapy. Patients drank a fermented milk product containing live acidophilus bacteria daily.
Did you know?
Because heat kills acidophilus cultures, some commercial yoghurt manufacturers add active cultures after pasteurization.